Friday, April 30, 2010

Racing through spring

Today's planned run: Central Park

I'm feeling rested after taking a break yesterday. I'm hoping that this will translate into some good running today and over the weekend. I'm planning to run again with my friend in Central Park at lunchtime. It should be 70 degrees by noon with lots of sun. Oh, for the want of a shower in my office!

It's amazing that tomorrow is already May 1st. This year is going by quickly and I attribute much of that to spending a good part of January recovering from pneumonia. It's like I lost a month. But spring is here and the weather has been nice for outside activities. I'm thinking about my racing plans between now and summer. Right now, I've got three events in my sights:

The Brooke Jackman Run for Literacy 5K - May 16
A local race in mid-May. It's a run/walk so my family can also participate.

The XTERRA Trail Race Series 8K run at Stillwell Woods - June 6
This is the second Stillwell XTERRA race this year. I did the first in March and it was tough. Add 1.5 miles  to that course and you have the June 6 race.

New Hyde Park 8K - June 13
I ran this race last year and learned my lesson about starting too fast. I bonked 2/3 of the way through the course but still ended up with a sub-9:00 pace (just barely).

This would mean I'd be running three races in one month's time. It seems like a lot but I do those distances as training runs every weekend. The XTERRA is the biggest challenge and until recently I thought I wouldn't be up for it. I will do what's necessary to be ready to run it by the 6th. After all, racing is a great way to train for other races.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Take a break, it's good for you

Today's workout: Rest day

For the third time this week my day started with the loud bleat of my my alarm clock. Yesterday's run, though short, was tough and I decided that if I woke up on my own, minutes before the alarm as I usually do, I would do my planned workout. If not I'd take a rare mid week rest day because I obviously need it this week. Even so, I struggled with the decision but, ultimately, I'm glad that I rested.

When I ran in Central Park with my friend CK last week I'd mentioned that I run or work out every day except Mondays. He was incredulous (he obviously doesn't read my blog!) and said I shouldn't run so often. I told him the distances I am covering during week days and he agreed that my schedule is probably fine. However, he did say that resting a day or two, or even for a week occasionally, can be beneficial. I guess that helped me feel better about skipping today's planned elliptical session. I'm planning to run in the city tomorrow and I'm sure this week's extra day of rest will help reset my energy level and prepare me for longer runs over the weekend.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Defining a good run

Today's run (street): 2.3 miles at 9:19/mile

By now I've done enough running to know that some runs just go better than others. I don't get upset when I struggle through a run because I know it's circumstance, not ability, that is making the going tough on that particular day. I've done long runs that seemed effortless a day after I ran a particularly difficult shorter run. What defines a good run? Is it how you feel when running or how fast you covered the distance? Or is it the way you feel at the end that matters?

I didn't feel particularly energized this morning when I went out and I started off slower than usual. I know this because my Garmin kept chirping to indicate that I was drifting out of my defined pace range. It was cold at 4 AM and with the wind, even colder. I dressed for the weather but it took me a few minutes to warm up. I usually start my runs on cold days by going north on roads that have slight elevations. This makes me work a little more and helps get my body temperature regulated. The extra work needed for the hill plus that first few minutes transitioning to aerobic breathing sometimes makes it feel hard. That was the case today and it didn't feel much better ten minutes into the run.

It was probably fatigue but my legs felt heavy and though it seemed like I was running at a brisk pace I could see that I really wasn't. I can't say that I enjoyed today's run as much as other recent workouts but when I finally reached home I had the same feeling of accomplishment that I get every time I complete a run. It's a great feeling and I didn't care about the numbers. I got through a tough one today and as I cooled down I knew I'd soon be rewarded with a hot cup of coffee. That was enough to call it a good run.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pacing discovery on the treadmill

Today's run (treadmill): 2.4 miles at 9:08/mile

Although I was fully prepared to run on the treadmill when I set up my gear last night I felt a little differently this morning. The alarm woke me up from a sound sleep and made me question whether a workout or thirty extra minutes of sleep would do me the most good. I would have liked the extra sleep but I knew if I didn't run I'd feel guilty for the rest of the day. Despite its negative connotations, I truly believe that guilt has its good side. I had a little coffee and got on the machine, resigned to running a couple of miles.

As I started my run I compared the pace on the display to the pace on my Garmin that I knew was accurately calibrated. The two readings were closer than I'd expected them to be. I increased the tread speed and saw that the paces changed in sync with each other but once I got to target speed I found that I could achieve a faster pace on the Garmin, compared to the treadmill's, just by quickening my cadence. When I resumed my default running rhythm the Garmin's readout resumed duplicating the treadmill's. It was an interesting discovery because now I know I can naturally speed up or slow down a little without needing to mess with the treadmill's controls. That makes a big difference to me because much of my frustration with the treadmill is from the tedium that comes with being forced to maintain a hardwired pace.

Although I started off tired I did rebound and got through 2.4 miles at a decent pace. I don't know why I find treadmill running so much harder than road or trail running but I do. Still, I rather it be that way than the other way around.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday run with the Emerging Runner Girl

Yesterday's runs (street): 4.4 miles at 9:02 + .75 mile fun run

Counting Friday's run in the city, I managed to cover a little more than 12 miles this weekend. Out of those twelve my favorite experience was on a distance less than a mile (more below). With last Tuesday's 4.8 miles in Central Park and another 2+ miles on Wednesday, I still fell short of my informal weekly goal of reaching 20 miles. Of course if I include the 2 miles covered on the elliptical last Thursday I'll be able to claim that goal. Okay, done. 21 miles for the week!

As hoped, the rain slowed down by early Sunday afternoon and I took the opportunity to hit the neighborhood streets. I don't generally do my best speed running at 1:30 in the afternoon but I tried to keep the pace as brisk as possible. Due to the wet roads I wore my Adidas Response 15 trail runners. That was less for protection on the slippery road service and more to keep my Brooks GTS 10's from getting wet and dirty. I ran about 1.5 miles on local neighborhood streets and then cut over the neighborhood #2 for the bulk of the run. Since I was running in trail shoes I took advantage of a few areas alongside the road that had packed dirt and grass. It was pleasing to hear the chirp of the Garmin as I passed the two mile point. The third followed surprisingly soon after the second. At one point I looked at the watch and noticed that it was giving me readouts that said "00:15 ahead" which confused me. I then realized that when I updated the FR60's firmware yesterday it switched to a default setup that included a virtual running partner. I would have had fun with the virtual partner if I better understood the interface. I again relied on my heart rate monitor to guide me in terms of effort. My pace seemed fast for those conditions but, after verifying on Gmaps, I confirmed that the Garmin was accurate.

When I got home from my run I was met by my 11 year old daughter who had been riding her scooter and waiting for me to return. We decided to run a loop around some of the local roads and covered .75 miles between 10-10:30 mins per mile. Though it had been months since we ran together she kept up very well. My daughter has near perfect running form and she lands on her front foot naturally. I think she was happy when I told her that I learn things by watching her run. Next weekend I hope we will be able to cover more distance.

It's still very soggy in NYC and on Long Island so I'm not sure what outdoor running I'll be able to do during the week. I'm planning to get at least one Central Park run in before next weekend, assuming we see clear skies this week.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Racing decisions for May and June

Today's workout: Rain delay

I wasn't surprised to see pouring rain when I woke up this morning. All the same I was very disappointed. I'd held out hope that the weather reports would be wrong and that the storm would miss Long Island. No such luck. My issue with running in the rain comes from wearing glasses. A light rain is really no problem, it's sort of like driving through mist. But when the rain starts to come down hard it's windshield wiper time. Since my glasses don't have wipers, running through rain can be very disorienting. I'm surprised there isn't some rain protection invention for runners who wear glasses. I guess corrective goggles or using contact lenses would be my only choices. Neither option is too appealing.

The weather reports are indicating intermittent rain this afternoon so I may luck out for running later. I had hoped to run with a friend earlier this morning but it was just too wet at 6:00 AM. He and I are planning to try again next Sunday since I've decided not to do the RXR 10K race next weekend that would have conflicted with that. I may run one of the local 5K's taking place later in May or just skip this month for racing and focus on racing in June. There's the XTERRA Trail Series 8K at Stillwell on June 6 and the New Hyde Park 8K on the 13th. The Stillwell #2 race would be my toughest racing challenge to date. Stillwell #1, held this past March in the ice and snow, was very difficult even with the course cut down to 3.5 miles due to trail conditions. I ran New Hyde Park last year and struggled with pace, clocking in just under nine minutes per mile. I'll need to decide which to run in June. Maybe I'll run both.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A tale of two 3.5 mile runs

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3.5 miles at 9:12/mile

Today's Run (street): 3.5 miles at 8:45/mile

Yesterday I was excited for the chance to do another run in Central Park. It was a busy Friday and I managed to wrap up morning meetings in time to change and meet up with my friend Steve for the jog up to the park. The skies were bright and the sun was out but the 57 degree temperatures felt cold on the building-shaded streets. We started our run at the 6th Ave. entrance on Central Park South and made our way to the lower loop to run counterclockwise to the north. Steve admitted to really feeling last Friday's workout for a couple of days after our run but he said he could do six today. I told him that he may feel differently once he started to encounter the hills. We set off at a decent pace, low 9's, and enjoyed watching all the activity in the park. At one point we were set upon by a group of tourists on bicycles who didn't seem to understand the concept of sharing the road with pedestrians. We also saw a person running around wearing Kangoo Jumps that look like in-line skates with elliptically shaped spring devices on the bottom. He certainly got some energy response from the shoes. Looked like fun but I'll stick to my Brooks for now.

Once we reached the reservoir we followed the path on the southern edge and then headed south. Steve was very glad at the 2 mile point that we weren't really going to run six. He did a great job keeping up with me and I told him his reward would be downhill running to balance all the hills we'd hit on the way up. We ended up covering 3.5 miles and felt fresh, even at the end. Good thing too because we both had long afternoons ahead. We walked south back to our offices, energized for the rest of the work day.

I woke up this morning with a headache that I attributed to sinus pressure. Rather than hoping it would just go away on its own I took a Sudafed and ibuprofen and chased them with a strong cup of coffee. I headed out around 8:00 AM for my run. I warmed up after about a mile and covered a route that took me first around and then through the neighborhood. I was concerned that the effects of the Sudafed would impact my running and while I felt tired I still managed to keep a decent pace. I originally thought I'd go 40 minutes but I cut it short to ensure I'd be ready in time for this morning's activity, an Arbor Day festival at a local preserve. I was pleased with today's run. I've programed the Garmin to automatically roll through the various metrics as I run such as pace, distance, time and heart rate. I used the heart rate numbers rather than speed to guide me in terms of effort to expend. It paid off with a decent pace, close to what I achieved recently in a 5K race.

Tomorrow I have plans to meet my friend KWL at a local park for a run at 6:30 AM. The weather is supposed to be pretty bad so chances are we'll need to postpone. That would be too bad but I can't complain about all the great running weather (and great runs) I've enjoyed this week.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Will geek appeal get me to the race?

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I forgot to set my alarm this morning and slept about 15 minutes later than I usually do. Feeling tired and knowing this late start would cut into my workout, I briefly considered skipping exercise altogether. Thankfully guilt prevailed and I ended up spending about 25 minutes on the elliptical. It was sufficient to raise my heart rate and make me sweat. Other than that I can't remember a thing about it.

Tracking tag that's built into the bib
My racing plans have been on my mind lately. I'm still on the fence about whether I will do the RXR LI Marathon 10K the first weekend in May. I enjoy racing and I do believe it helps push me to higher levels of conditioning than I would reach were I solely a recreational runner. The thing is, I just raced a couple of weeks ago and I really just want to take a few weekends to get out and have fun on the roads and trails. It's different when preparing for a race where every run is about preparing to meet performance goals. On the other hand I've only competed in one 10K, a trail race, and I'm curious to see how I'd do in a road race at that distance. I did the LI Marathon 5K last year so the 10K would represent progress, or at least a new experience. I should be able to run 6.2 miles competitively right now without a lot of race-specific training. I have until Sunday to decide. That's when registration closes. They have a new system where your race number is also your tracking tag. The geek in me is really intrigued by that. It may be enough to get me to the starting line.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Central Park: once around for good measure

Central Park Reservoir (1.58 miles around)
Yesterday's run (Central Park): 4.8 miles at 9:18/mile

Today's run (street): 2.16 miles at 9:37/mile

Yesterday  afternoon I ran in Central Park for the second time in less than a week. I met my friend CK at the statue of the Maine in Columbus Circle and we set off with a vague plan to cover the distance to the reservoir and back. CK is still dealing with a foot injury that has forced him to scale back on his running in favor of other sports and activities. Like the last time we ran, he said he'd need to take it easy due to the foot injury. This time I knew not to believe him. CK laughed at me as I prepared the Garmin for the start. He's more old school, relying on time from his stopwatch rather than using an over-engineered running watch that captured distance, pace, etc. However, I noticed that he asked me more than once how far we'd gone during the run.

The sun was high in the sky but the heat was moderate. By the midway point I did find myself gravitating to the side of the road that had the most shade. By the time we reached the reservoir I began to feel the effort. CK managed to subtly push the pace past my default comfort zone. I wasn't exactly hurting but I felt like I was running at race pace although the Garmin's display did not reflect that. By the time we'd circled the reservoir and headed toward the east side of the upper loop I was ready to slow down. We ended our 4.8 mile run near the outlet to Central Park South and then grabbed some water to cool down. Once again I had a great Central Park run and CK pushed me hard, as always.

I tossed and turned last night and I believe that related to being so wired from the midday run. My plan for this morning was to cover two miles at an easy pace to balance the hard work from yesterday. I was suspicious that my recent recalibration of the Garmin led to under-counting my distance so I used this morning's run as a benchmark, comparing the Garmin numbers to Gmaps. Both came out exactly the same: 2.16 miles. I was hoping the Garmin was off which would explain why I felt I worked so hard yesterday and only managed a 9:18 pace. I guess I need to work a little more on speed. The hills didn't help but I can't blame them. What goes up one also comes down and it probably evened out in the end..

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Keeping up with the older crowd

Today's workout: Central Park run (scheduled)

Yesterday was a busy work day but I'll admit to occasionally checking updates on the Boston Marathon during the race. An amazing record breaking run for Robert Cheruiyot and two Americans finishing in the men's top five. Later I looked at the searchable results to get a sense of the paces that people were maintaining over 26.2 miles. It's a given that the elites can run 5 minute miles all day but I was surprised to see how many "regular" people were hitting paces that I can't manage at a fraction of the distance. I looked at my own category and saw that age is no excuse for slowness. Seeing what my contemporaries did was in equal parts inspiring and intimidating. Then again, a couple of weeks ago, a 73 year old man beat my 5K finish time by 37 seconds.

I'm heading out at lunch to run with a friend who has a few years on me but can outrun me any day of the week. We're going to Central Park to run about 4 or 5 miles. Temperatures will be in the low 60's with sun. I'm hoping I can keep up and I'm glad I've made progress on the hills because there will be a number of them. My friend has been plagued with a foot problem and he claims that will force him to hold back a little. I've heard that one before!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Which race to race?

Today's workout: Rest day

My city run last Friday was a great lead-in for a satisfying weekend of running. It's rare that I string three days of excellent running in a row like that so I appreciated it all the more. All that running has made me think about my summer racing schedule and the races and distances that I should target. We're more than halfway through April and I've still not decided how, or even if, I'll compete in May. I've considered the RXR LI Marathon's 10K, stepping up from the 5K that I ran last year. The 5K course was flat but uninspiring, more like running in an industrial park than on a race course. Except for that, there aren't many local races to choose from in distances greater than 5K. I love running 5K's but I'd like a little more variety and distance right now.

June has the opposite challenge. There are two races I'd like to do - the New Hyde Park 8K and the XTERRA trail series second Stillwell race. As I reported back in March, the first Stillwell XTERRA was pared down to about 3.5 miles due to icy conditions on the trails. Even at that length it was a great struggle to manage that course. The June race won't have the ice factor so the run will be an 8K over difficult terrain. Even with my daily running, hill training, cross training and passion for the trails I'm concerned that I could run competitively that day. I would train even harder than I did for the first one and I think I'm in better shape than I was in early March when I was still dealing with residual issues from pneumonia. The New Hyde Park 8K is a less interesting course than Stillwell but I've felt like I had a score to settle because the original race result posted me at 9:00 per mile and I really wanted to break 9 minutes. I checked the results again and they now have me listed under 9:00 so that argument is moot. I'm going to take a look at the RXR 10K course map to see if that route is more interesting than the 5K. I still have a little time to decide on June's challenge.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Breaking 9:00 at Stillwell on my pre-birthday run

Today's workout (trails): 3.9 mile at 8:58/mile

I was concerned that between Friday's long run in the city and yesterday's brisk run in the neighborhood that I'd be too tired to do much in terms of a workout today. A year ago I ran my first race, the 2009 Marcie Mazzola 4 mile run. I didn't place in my age group that day but I walked away with a prize nonetheless. It was a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant which I won because I had the closest birthday to race day. Tomorrow is my birthday but we're celebrating it today because it's the weekend. There's lots going on today so I decided to indulge in a trail run before things got too busy. Yesterday's overcast weather had transitioned to sunny skies by 8:00 AM today and the cool dry air made for perfect running weather.

I've become familiar enough with Stillwell to navigate it in a semi competent way. Between my basic knowledge of the trails and the direction of the sun I can usually make my way around without getting too lost. I successfully found the Black Trail this morning and followed it for a while. As I ran through switchbacks and roller coaster elevations I recalled that we traveled that way along the Xterra race course. I eventually reached a fork and had to choose a direction. I noticed a couple of runners a few hundred feet ahead so I began to follow them. There were lots of runners and mountain bikers on the trails today and everyone I encountered was friendly and polite. I caught up with the two runners ahead and passed them quickly. A few minutes later I came around a bend to find about six other trail runners who may have been waiting for the two that I'd just passed. We all said hello as I passed and I heard one of the woman say "I don't think I could keep up with him." Ha! If she only knew.

I wore my new iPhone armband which is better made than its predecessor but I had trouble getting it tight enough on my arm. I do have some upper arm development but this holder seemed like it was made for bigger biceps than mine. I used MotionX to record my path and I'm always surprised when I see where I ran versus where I thought I ran. I didn't go as far east as I planned but I covered a lot of ground north to south and finished with a loop around the open field trail. I ran faster than usual for a trail run and I noted again how well my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards handled all types of rock, scree, roots and sand without a problem. I've done a lot of running over the last week and I feel very good about my performance. Tomorrow is the Boston Marathon. I'll enjoy that vicariously on my rest day.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Time to calibrate the FR60

Today's workout (street): 4.17 miles at 8:57/mile

Yesterday's run felt so effortless that I wasn't ready to stop when we reached the end. Business took priority over pleasure but I did feel great for the remainder of the work day. The run itself was work and I felt the effect of all those hills this morning when I woke up. Still, I was anxious to get out for another run. My wife and kids were volunteering at my son's elementary school all morning. I had nothing on the calendar until after lunch so I headed out for my run around 9:00 AM with temperatures in the the high 30's under overcast skies. My Garmin was fairly quiet so I knew I was within pace range although a check of the display showed my pace to be a little slower than it seemed. I stepped it up after the first mile and would periodically surge for 30 seconds to a minute before falling back to my default pace. I was running faster than yesterday's city excursion and I felt the difference. All the same I didn't feel that I was working that hard and the data from my heart rate monitor confirmed it. I felt like I had covered a lot of ground but I ended up only going a little more than four miles. It was just far enough to count as a good workout.

When I finished the run I checked my Garmin and saw it displayed 4.07 miles, averaging 9:10. 9:10 isn't a bad pace and I figured that yesterday's run had wore me out more than I'd thought. I then mapped the exact route using Gmaps and saw that the Garmin under-counted the distance by 2.3%. Adjusting my pace for that variance, my overall average was under 9:00 (8:57) and my splits were 8:54, 8:57, 9:03 and 8:59. Love the FR60! I'm going to try to calibrate it a little closer so I don't have to do so much math. I haven't messed with the calibration adjustment on the FR60 yet. The default accuracy is +/- 3%. It wasn't all that easy to adjust the 50 so I'm hoping the 60's controls are better. My problem with calibration is that I switch my foot pod often between my pairs of street and trail running shoes and every change affects the calibration accuracy. Overall, I'm happy with my recent runs and glad that I've made my way down to the low 9:00's that I was running prior to my pneumonia disruption. I don't know what I'll run tomorrow. The skies are looking ominous but I'm hoping that this passes and that the trails are in good shape by Sunday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I tortured my banker but, hey, great run today!

Riverside Park, NYC
Today's workout (street): 5.5 miles at 9:33/mile

I don't think my friend and investment banker, Steven, knew quite what he was getting into when he agreed to run with me today in the city. I had proposed a route that would cover 3.5 miles with an option of running or walking another mile back to our office buildings at the end. Prior to today, Steven had not yet run three full miles and most of his running had been on the treadmill. He was willing to push himself today and the route, which should have taken us from 6th Ave. to the West Side bike path to 72nd Street and then through Central Park, looked straightforward on Gmaps.

We set out at a brisk but manageable pace, the skies were overcast, the air was cool and dry and the river provided a great view to our left.  Everything was going fine until we passed the 2 mile mark along the bike path. We could not find any signs that told us how far north we had run but I knew that we were getting close to the 70's and I started looking for a cutout that would take us under the West Side Highway and lead us east towards Central Park. There was no obvious exit point and by the time we found one we were already up around 88th Street. After some experimentation we made our way to Riverside Drive and headed south and east until we reached the park.

When we passed the three mile mark Steven was pleased with his personal distance record. The extra blocks added  two miles to our planned distance and by the four mile mark he was having some trouble with the hills. We slowed the pace until he felt comfortable and then hit a downhill stretch that he greatly appreciated. I have to say that the hills were hardly a challenge for me today. I guess all that training for last week's race has paid off. By the time we reached the bottom of the lower loop in Central Park my Garmin was showing 5.4 miles and Steve was pretty exhausted. I encouraged him to run another tenth so he could say he ran 5.5 miles. I felt remarkably good and could have easily gone another five.

I felt a little guilty for torturing my friend but I kept encouraging him to stop if he needed to rest but he carried on without complaint. If I pushed my friend too hard today it didn't discourage him as we agreed to do another run next Friday, schedules permitting. I'm planning to run with my friend CK next Tuesday. The last time we ran I was the one who had trouble keeping up. I hope I do better next week. If not, I only have karma to blame.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A little Sole and a lot of X1

My BH Fitness X-1

Today's workout: Treadmill and elliptical, 26 minutes

I haven't been on the elliptical for a while so I thought I'd return to using it this morning for a change of pace. I prefer running over most other workout options but I also recognize the benefits of cross training. The elliptical, with its no impact motion, along with some upper body resistance, provides a good workout. As a bonus, it's user powered so it operates fairly quietly compared to other gym equipment. As I prepared for my session I couldn't ignore our Sole F63 treadmill that now operates correctly since a technician realigned the belt and replaced the motor last week. I had not used the machine since this work was done so I was a little curious to re-experience running on the now-stable unit. I decided to run for about five minutes, just to confirm that the belt slipping had truly been cured. I hit the 6 MPH button and started running, edging the speed up to about 6.7 after a minute. The treadmill worked fine but I wasn't enjoying the experience at all. Unlike my wife who is able to focus daily for 45 minutes on this machine I could not wait to stop. No matter, with all the rain we're expecting this weekend I'll likely be spending a lot more time on it in the coming days.

After about five minutes I switched over to the elliptical, setting the resistance to generate 75 watts (medium high) and starting at a fairly fast pace. The treadmill warm-up helped me get to speed quickly and I continued for about 21 minutes. I've said before that the elliptical provides a deceptively effective workout. It doesn't seem as hard as running but the sweat index is often greater. I've compared my heart rate between a treadmill run and an elliptical session (of the same perceived level of effort) and noticed running definitely provides a more elevated pulse rate. Different benefits and different effects. That's why we cross train. I'm due to run in the city tomorrow with a friend (weather permitting) and I have a Central Park run scheduled with another friend, CK, on Tuesday. That walk in Central Park on Monday made me wish I was running that run/bike loop. Next week I'll finally get to do it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My iPad moment

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles at 9:19/mile

I have not been one of those people in the media technology world who view the iPad as the Thing That Will Save Publishing. My iPhone experience has been occasionally frustrating and inconsistent but I still wouldn't go back to the Blackberry. Unlike others I know (e.g., Sedentary Man), I refused to buy an iPad because I didn't understand it from either a value or utility perspective. Imagine my surprise yesterday when my IT person stopped by with a white box containing a shiny new iPad, courtesy of the CIO. The first thing I did was boot it up and look at The Emerging Runner on the browser (no Flash - argh!). The second thing I did was go to iTunes to see if they had any interesting running apps. Not much there. AG kidded me that I really shouldn't run with it (besides there's no GPS!). I was going to use the iPad to write today's post but I found it difficult to position the tablet and type within the confined space of an LIRR train seat. I'm hoping that this tablet will find its place in my technology portfolio. More to come on the iPad/running intersection as things develop.

Although I bought a new armband to carry my iPhone on my runs to record time and distance, I still haven't used it. The Garmin FR60 is proving to be a great purchase, capturing everything but a a route map and elevation. It's a much better running watch than the 50 that it replaced. I went out this morning with temperatures reported to be in the middle 30's so I wore an additional layer over my long sleeve tech shirt and was glad I did. I forgot to wear gloves and my hands froze the entire time I was running. I have to believe it was closer to freezing than the posted 36 degrees. The run felt fine, energy level was good and I tried to push it a little near the end. That didn't translate into a fast pace overall but the handy run report on the Garmin confirmed that I did negative splits after mile one. I'm planning to return to the treadmill tomorrow since the weather may be iffy and I haven't used the new machine since it's been fixed. I have plans to run in the city on Friday, weather permitting.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Runner's envy in Central Park

Today's run (street): 2.4 miles at 9:06

I didn't run yesterday but I took a three mile walk at lunchtime to Central Park. My route followed the lower loop and I included a few side paths as well. It was perfect weather for walking, bright and sunny, but cool enough for me to be comfortable in my suit jacket and tie. I watched enviously as runners, cyclists and in-line skaters passed by. I really wished I was running on the bike path rather than walking along the pedestrian strip. The park was filled with people, but my surroundings had a quiet (but positive) feel. Central Park is truly an oasis within mid-town Manhattan and I wanted to spend more time on my walk but I really needed to head back for a meeting. The only negative was that all that walking was rough on the bottom of my feet and I was in a little pain by the time I'd returned to the office.

This morning I went out for my first run since Sunday's race. Due to resting for two days prior and one day after the race, I've only run about 10 miles over the last seven days. It was great getting out at 4:00 AM but it felt far chillier than the 49 degrees that the local Long Island television station reported. I was concerned that the irritation from yesterday's walk would have a negative impact on today's run but with a good pair of socks and my trusty GTS 10's, I had no issues at all. I started my run on a street with a slight (~2%) elevation and re-lived the running of the big hill on Sunday. Of course today's challenge was shorter and far less steep. It was just enough to get my body temperature to a comfortable place and I headed into the next series of roads, listening for the chirp that would tell me I'd passed my first mile. I encountered no cars and the only sounds were birds (and my Garmin) chirping, interrupted occasionally by the clattering sound of a lawn sprinkler. I felt I ran harder than normal and ended up averaging 9:06 per mile, which is a good pace for me at that early hour.

Note: I want to give a shout out to my friend FS who also raced on Sunday (NYRR "Run as One" 4 miler). She maintained an impressively fast pace (low 9:00's) - a possible PR for that distance.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Does race pace matter?

Posted results from yesterday's race

Today's workout: Post race rest day

I know I sometimes get too caught up in the metrics of running and miss seeing the forest for the trees. However, I know that capturing, aggregating and analyzing performance data helps motivate me to run every chance that I get. Yesterday I was prepared to end up with a middling overall race pace once I passed the mile 1 checkpoint at 9:29. That was disappointing because I always look forward to races providing a 20-30 second per mile improvement over training paces. When I passed mile 2 I heard the race official calling out times in the 17:00's and knew I was making my way back to goal pace. When I heard "25 minutes!"  shortly before the race-ending hill I was convinced I'd end up well below expectations. Ultimately, I did fine. Compared to the paces I've run recently, 8:41 is darn good. But it didn't seem so at the time.

I know running is about health, community, experience and fun. How fast you go depends upon your physical abilities and your conditioning. But a race is really about speed and competition. Some people take a different approach and view races as an opportunity for a shared experience. Their pace and finish times don't matter. For them, it's about the journey, not the destination. I sometimes wish it didn't matter whether I broke 8:30 or if I ended up in the 9:00 minute range. I know myself well enough that if it weren't for goals, targets and PR hopes I wouldn't work as hard to prepare for races. The health benefits I get from running come from all that work. All the same, I still enjoy a long, easy, slow run on a cool Sunday morning as much as anyone. But on race day, for me, it's all about the numbers.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Marcie Mazzola was 5K of fun, hills nonwithstanding

Today's run: 5K (race) at 8:41 per mile

Sometimes you do everything right and things still don't go quite the way you'd hoped - no 5K PR today. All the same, I ran the Marcie Mazzola Foundation 5K at a decent clip and had a far better experience with the hills than I did last year. Compared to 2009, I did a little better in terms of pace (8:41 vs. 8:50) but the shorter length gave me an advantage there. In terms of other 5Ks, I ran my slowest one today (prior 5K's were at 8:28 and 8:19 respectively). Some of that can be explained by the fact that the large crowd (600 starters) was squeezed into a fairly narrow starting area and being that far back probably cost me 20 seconds overall. I can't use that as an excuse because most races have that issue. I can blame myself for a slow start though. Knowing that the big hill would be coming quickly after the gun, I maintained a fairly modest pace for the first quarter mile and held that pace until I crested the hill. My first mile split was "officially" 9:29 (9:09 really, because I started recording with the Garmin when I reached the starting line, not at the gun). I picked up speed after the hill and did my second mile at 8:21 and my third at 8:28. Along the way the FR60 was chirping constantly telling me that I was behind my target pace or that my pace was in range. It also chirped at the mile splits. It was all helpful but a little noisy!

The race itself went by quickly and before I knew it we were crossing Main Street and running around Heckscher Park on our way to the end. The routing was a little different than last year but the final hill remained. I didn't love seeing it but I knew I could handle it and still have the energy to finish strong. The finish line was located perpendicular to last year's and the final approach was downhill. I crossed the line at 26:55, happy to see my wife and kids clapping and cheering. It was my eighth race in less than one year (Marcie Mazzola was held on April 19th last year) and my third 5K. I felt like a ran a pretty good race, ending up in the top quarter of registrants and the top third of finishers. However, I didn't place in my age division. I ran into a neighbor who also ran today. He's getting back into running after many years away and he beat 30 minutes which was his goal.

The temperature was in the high 40's and I dressed appropriately, keeping sweats and a warm-up jacket on until close to the start. I'm thinking that my next race will be the LI Marathon 10K that happens in early May. There are a number of other local races happening in April, May and June so I'll consider those as well before I commit. It was a pretty good way to spend a sunny spring Sunday morning with my family and a good workout after two days of rest.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Goody (bag) to go for the Marcie Mazzola 5K

Today's workout: Rest day, again

Well I'm down to just hours before the Marcie Mazzola Foundation 5K race on Sunday and I'm ready to run. The idea of taking two rest days prior to a race is sound but I miss running, especially on a sunny spring day like today. This morning Team Emerging Runner headed to Northport, NY to pick up the race t-shirt and gift bag. Like last year, the Cow Harbor Running and Fitness store hands out the bags the day before. Although I could have just picked it up tomorrow when I get my race number we decided to go today, primarily because it was an excuse to visit this pretty town on the water. In addition, Cow Harbor Running is a very nice running store and I LIKE running stores!

When we arrived, Nancy Mazzola, who runs the Foundation and manages the race, was there chatting with Lauren, one of the store owners.  We talked with them about the race, the expected turnout, the big hill, and why the length of the race has changed. The new route avoids some traffic control difficulties and the 5K length may attract more runners than a 4 mile race. We stayed for a while looking at shoes and gear. The store sells Etonic, Pearl Izumi, Newton and Zoot shoes. They have a much broader line of the PI's than I've seen elsewhere and I've always been interested in trying their stability models but you don't see them much in stores. Perhaps I'll try them out the next time I need to replace my road shoes. Of course it would take a lot to move me away from Brooks!

I'm ready as I'm going to be for tomorrow. People can still sign up tomorrow at the race location. It's a great event for a good cause.  

16 hours and 50 minutes and counting...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Strategic thinking for Sunday's 5K

Today's workout: Resting for 4/11 race

My new PDO armband
What a difference a week makes in terms of running gear. I now have a fully functional running watch (Garmin FR60) that's a real improvement over the 50 that it replaced. I bought a new PDO iPhone armband that seems much more durable than the iLUV model that fell apart after only being used a few dozen times. Most importantly, our Sole treadmill belt slip issue has been fixed so I can now run at faster speeds without worrying about straying too far right on the belt tread. Ironically, I'll need to wait until after Sunday to try out the repaired machine because I'm not planning on doing any running until 8:30 AM on Sunday.

I've been thinking about my racing strategy and I looked to my post about last year's event to help prepare me for the conditions. The thing I worry about most is THE BIG HILL. It took me by surprise last year and I clearly had not done the right amount of training to prepare me for the length of this monster (1/2 mile). I've done a fair number of hill runs over the last month and I'm hoping this conditioning has prepared me for what's to come. In the six races I have have run since last year's Marcie Mazzola race I have learned to moderate my pace for the first mile and not get sucked into the stream of fast moving early starters. I expect to be fatigued somewhat from the hill so I'll conserve more energy than the last time I did this race. This year the race distance is 5K, not 4 miles, so I'm hoping to push the speed a little more near the end. I anticipate that temperatures will be in the high 40's to low 50's at start time so I'm planning to run in short sleeves and racing shorts. Heat is my (and most people's) kryptonite so I'll do everything I can to minimize that issue.

Am I over thinking my strategy? Should I just get out there and run and figure it out as I go? It's hard to say whether a defined strategy makes big difference. I know that in business, when I do a public presentation, the work I do to prepare always pays off and things sometimes go badly when I wing it. I've had more negative racing experiences when I failed to think through the the various elements: weather, course, pacing, etc. I prefer to error on the side of over-strategizing and I'll know soon enough whether it made a difference.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How many furlongs is a 5K?*

Today's workout (street run): 2.4 miles at 9:21/mile

Yesterday afternoon I got a call from my friend and financial advisor who was asking whether our run on Friday was still on. We had talked about running the West Side bike path on Friday but I told him I'd prefer to try for Thursday instead because I'm abstaining from running after today. I explained that I wanted to be well rested for Sunday's race. He laughed and said it sounds like I'm talking about a racehorse and I said that a bag of oats and a leg massage certainly wouldn't hurt my chances. We ended up rescheduling for a week from this Friday.

I know it seems unnecessary to rest two full days prior to a short race like Sunday's 5K. However, I'll argue that 5K's require more prior rest than longer races because the pace is faster and more anaerobic. In two of my 2009 races I ran with either one or no day's rest and my performance took a hit as a result. This morning I did my last training run and was once again pleased with the Garmin FR60. I had set the watch to signal when my pace slowed past a certain threshold (10 min per mile) and I made sure I moved along so I wouldn't be subjected to the scolding chirp from the Garmin. Happily I avoided that (except once, just as I'd started the run). I really liked the splits alert that told me when I'd passed another mile. It's very helpful to have this feature, especially for the fact that the run summary details each mile's individual pace. I'm aiming for negative splits on Sunday, especially with that big hill to face at the beginning.

Today's morning run was good. My pace was non-competitive but okay for 4:00 AM. Sunday's race starts at 8:30 AM and that fits well into my 8:00 AM-10:00 AM window when I do my best running. Cool dry weather is predicted for Sunday morning. I hope that prediction holds.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Liking the Garmin FR60 (so far)

Today's workout (treadmill): 2.2 miles with 2% to 5% incline

As planned, I used today's run to complete my hill training for Sunday's race. Until the new treadmill is repaired tomorrow (I'm really hoping a replacement motor will remedy the belt slips) I'm being careful not to run at faster speeds on the machine. I set a pace just below 6 MPH and pushed the incline steadily up to 5%, starting first with 2% and adding a percentage point every couple of minutes until I reached 5. Even at a slower pace, running a 5% grade was hard work. Near the end I brought the incline down to 0 and ran the last couple of minutes around 6.8 MPH. I received my Garmin FR60 yesterday and put it to work today. It was great to see it sync up with my FR 50's foot pod and while the interface on the FR60 is still fairly opaque it's an improvement over its predecessor. Once I understood the menus and navigation I realized that FR60 has some very nice features that the 50 lacked, such as automatic capture of split times. I'll need to calibrate the FR60 because its distance numbers weren't aligned with the treadmill's but I've also been suspicious of the treadmill's accuracy and that could be related to the motor problem.

The FR60 has something called "Race Mode" that sounds interesting. I plan to look online at the expanded manual to understand what that means and how it differs from normal training mode. Tomorrow I plan to go out for a regular run to finish my training for the race. I feel good and I did very well with the inclines. Although my pace was modest the effort was not. Based upon the summary metrics, adjusting for the incline (per my chart) I averaged an equivalent of 9:00 per mile on a flat course. I'm happy with that since I usually reduce my normal pace by 20-30 seconds per mile on race day.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My 500th post!

Today's workout: 2 mile tempo at 8:41 per mile

It's hard to believe but today's post is the 500th since I started The Emerging Runner in 2008. I like having a bit of history to look back upon. My original goal for this blog was for it to be a journal of my experience returning to running. I do use it for that and I find it helpful to occasionally look back on what I was doing a year ago to see if I've made any progress or if I'm looking at running differently. I'd say there's been progress and my view of running hasn't changed a bit. Both good things.

With all my hill work and trail running over the last week I felt that I needed to do a more speed-focused workout today. Last night I mapped a run that measured exactly 2 miles that I planned to cover at 5K race pace. One reason I kept the distance down to two miles was to motivate myself to run faster than I normally would at 4 AM. Another reason for the exact two mile route was to quickly compare the distance MotionX was mapping compared to my actual, known distance.

The run went well. I didn't expect to hit a record breaking pace because I generally run about 15 seconds per mile slower at this early hour. The run felt fast and I knew I'd do better than normal (and I did) but I was still disappointed with my 8:41 pace. MotionX, the GPS app I've been using on my iPhone, was again way off. It measured the run at 1.86 miles. It's easy to see why it does that. Looking at the map trace from the GPS signal shows a number of vectored corners and shortened paths that add up to less total distance. This confirmed that the GPS always under-counts distance and today's margin of inaccuracy told me that it was off by 7%. That's disappointing and it's the primary reason that I didn't buy a GPS watch to replace my Garmin 50. I've been told that the Garmin GPS watches are far more accurate than the iPhone but I'll stick to the foot pod for now.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Into the taper

Today's workout: rest day

Self destructing iLUV iPhone armband
My vacation is over but I'm still feeling the benefits of a good eight days of running. While I was off I ran 30 miles and much of that was done on challenging terrain. I'm six days away from my next race, the Marcy Mazzola Foundation 5K, and now in taper mode. After ten hard miles over the weekend and Friday I decided to take my usual rest day today and then use Tuesday through Thursday for my final training. I'll rest this coming Friday and Saturday and then race on Sunday. I'm planning to do an early street run tomorrow on a predetermined course and I'll set my target for a fairly aggressive pace. On Wednesday I'll do a treadmill run with inclines for my last hill training exercise and Thursday will be my last run of the week. I ended up buying the Garmin FR60 and I hope that it comes soon so I can familiarize myself with it before the race. Between the treadmill, my Garmin 50 and my iPhone armband it's been a bad month for running technologies.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

$2.22 per mile and worth every penny

Today's run (Bethpage trails): 3.65 miles 

I was hoping that there would be no parking fee to Bethpage State park this morning because of the holiday but the guard was there to collect my $8. In truth, I'm happy to pay for access to this park, especially with all the talk about cutting back on funding to Long Island's State Parks because they don't make enough money. I can't believe the hypocrisy in that. Parks aren't supposed to make money, they are there to provide people with a higher quality of life. Using the same logic perhaps we should close the schools because they are really unprofitable.

I paid my fee and parked in the nearly empty lot. There were a few people out running on the bike paths but I headed straight for the trails. What I remembered about Bethpage was how well they kept the trails and as I entered the main trail head I appreciated the expansive, flat and groomed path in front of me. I initially followed a marked trail that took me in a circle back to the start. I knew that would likely happen but I held hope that this trail would bring me east and north but instead it did the opposite. After entering the woods for a second time I locked onto a trail with blue markings that I followed for close to a mile. This trail was narrow but flat and it twisted and turned a number of times. Along the way the arm band that I've used to carry my iPhone finally gave way and I needed to stop for a moment and fish the device out of clump or sprouting plants. The only other interruption was when a mountain biker came up from behind and I paused to let him by. He was polite and apologetic about it and he should have been since bikes are not allowed on those trails.

I eventually locked onto a trail that I followed along the western perimeter all the way south to the bike path. AG and I had followed part of this trail last summer and exited at the same point, right before a steep hill that goes on for about a quarter mile. I was both annoyed and happy about this. Annoyed because I wasn't pleased to do the work but happy because the rest of my run had taken place on flat terrain and this gave me another chance to practice hill running for next Sunday's race. Once I'd crested the hill I jumped back on the dirt trail and finished my run through the woods. It was a great experience, perfect weather over really fun trails. It's back to business tomorrow but it's been a great week for running. Our treadmill is scheduled to be repaired on the 8th and I'm expecting a new running toy as early as tomorrow. Can you guess what it is?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Running and hiking make a great combination

Caleb Smith State Park has 543 acres of trails and wetlands

Today's run (street): 4.6 miles at 9:07/mile

I'm nearing the end of my vacation so we jammed a lot of activities into the day. My kids are happier because they don't return to school until next Wednesday. It's been a great week and there's still another day left before I have to head back to the office. After yesterday's moderate workout at the park I decided to only do a 4 mile run this morning because we planned to go for a hike a little later. I headed over to neighborhood #2 where I covered about three miles and finished up back in my own neighborhood after completing a total of 4.6. Conditions were near perfect, 44 degrees and dry, and I dressed correctly. I pushed my pace a little more than I have been doing and was not disappointed to average 9:07 per mile.

A few hours later we headed to Caleb Smith State Park in Smithtown, a 543 acre preserve with groomed, well marked trails. The park is beautiful, featuring ponds and streams, with lots of small side paths that take you over wooden bridges. We saw lots of interesting trees and plants and we even saw a snake. The biggest surprise for me wasn't seeing the snake in the woods, it was the fact that my kids wanted to pose next to it for a picture. There are a number of trails to follow. A circuit that includes the yellow and blue trails is 2.25 miles. I'd like to do a couple of laps around that course sometime.

I'm not sure how I'll finish my vacation in terms of running but I think a trail run would be the best choice tomorrow with temperatures in the low 70's expected. I'm not sure if I should head to Stillwell, Muttontown or Bethpage but either way I'd be making a great choice.

Resisting temptation at DSW

Friday's workout: 2.25 miles (XC/road run) plus hill workout

NB MT100
NB MR800
Yesterday was a very busy day so I didn't get a chance to post. We had an early start and I didn't get a chance to run until later in the day. While out, we stopped by DSW, one of my favorite shoe stores. I've been encouraging my wife to get a new pair of running shoes to replace her Nike Vomeros that have served her well over the last year. I was looking for a pair of casual loafers but I couldn't find any that felt right. I guess I'm spoiled by the fit of running shoes that feel so much better on my feet. Since I was there I tried a pair of New Balance MT100's that looked like a low heeled trail shoe. I'm still very curious about a shoe design that promotes front and mid-foot striking and I thought this shoe felt really good. I could tell by the way my legs felt when I tested them that the initial running experience with 100's would result in some calf soreness. I also tried a pair of the New Balance 800's. This is the "ChiRunning" shoe that promotes mid-foot running and competes against shoes like the Nike Free. I ultimately decided that I didn't need any more shoes, especially since the prices of these shoes weren't significantly lower than anywhere else.

Saucony Grid Fusion 2
My wife tried on a few pairs of Saucony's and found that the Grid Fusion 2 had the best fit and feel. I encouraged her to try some of the more high end models and she ultimately preferred the Fusion. Later in the day we all headed to the park. My daughter tried out her new Razor scooter and I did some hill runs and then did laps around one of the ball fields and also ran some other areas of the park with my wife. She liked her new running shoes and I was glad to get some running in after such a busy day. By evening we were all pretty exhausted. I plan to get out today for a longer run. I'm not sure whether I'll stay in the neighborhood or take advantage of the beautiful weather and hit the trails again.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Involuntary Garmin-slaughter

Today's workouts: Stillwell field trail loop - 3.55 miles plus speed and hill drills

My Garmin 50 display was showing "LoBattery" so I decided to change it myself. Big mistake. I had the right battery (CR2032) on hand so I thought "How hard could this be?" Replacing the battery in the heart rate monitor and the foot pod was simple but when I opened the 50 I knew it was going to be a lot more complicated. I should have stopped there and taken it to a jeweler but I was too impatient and it cost me the watch. I first had to separate the housing from the main board that held the display in order to get to the battery and when I did some tiny brackets and and a tiny spring went flying. Before I knew it the whole thing became a cruel puzzle. When I put it together in the most logical way that I could, the display failed to work. I looked up how to change the battery on this watch online but there is little documentation. In fairness to Gamin they do recommend professional battery installation.

I went through all the stages of grief: Denial (it worked before, it will work again!), Anger (stupid Garmin engineering!), Bargaining (what are Forerunner 50's going for on Amazon these days?), Depression (I have nothing to capture tomorrow's run so it will be meaningless!), Acceptance (this sucks but maybe it's a good excuse to buy a 405). Then I went online and priced out the 405, the new F60 and even saw that Garmin has a new "entry level" GPS watch called the 110. Since the 110 doesn't also work with a foot pod I'm down to deciding between the 405 and the F60.

This morning I pulled out my iPhone arm band and did my run at Stillwell using MotionX which has been improved since the last time I used it. The day was sunny and I acquired a signal quickly. I set off to run the field loop trail making four circuits with a total distance of 3.55 miles. As usual the GPS accuracy was a little off so I used Google Earth to verify the true length. It was a better experience with the iPhone than I had on previous runs. I uploaded the GPX file from MotionX to Garmin Connect and it worked great.  My online running history didn't skip a beat despite last night's Garmin problem. I may take the broken watch over to a local jeweler to see if they can make it work. If not I'll probably get the new F60 that should work with the 50's HRM and foot pod.  I did see a 405 online for $299 with a $50 rebate so maybe...

Later in the day the Emerging Runner family headed to a local park to enjoy the beautiful weather. After playing some hoops we made our way to the ball fields and had a running competition. First we ran from home plate straight out to center field (which rises to a 60+% incline over the last 30 or 40 feet) and back again. All four of us did that run, my son did it several times, and we recorded our times using my iPhone's stopwatch app. After that we all took turns on a circuit that required the runner to touch the six light poles that ringed the diamond and outfield. The total length of that circuit is .15 miles. Based on that, I calculated our paces. I ran it at 5:33, my wife at 7:40 and my son and daughter (10 & 11) at 8:20. We weren't dressed at all for running (although I did have my NB trail shoes) so this was a good benchmark for the next time we come, better prepared. It was a very active day for the family. How could we stay inside with this weather?

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