Monday, May 31, 2010

A Stillwell Woods trail run wraps up the week

Today's run (Stillwell Woods trails): 4.7 miles at 9:54 per mile

It may have been the realization that the long Memorial Day weekend was coming to an end that had me feeling a little low this morning. In anticipation of a full day's activities I set out early on a trail run at the local preserve (Stillwell Woods). I had hoped that the hard activity combined with running the wooded paths would help me improve my mood.

The weather people were reporting hot conditions so I dressed accordingly. The shade from the trees held off the heat from the sun but it was still extremely humid, even at 7:30 AM. I've learned enough about the trails to navigate with some confidence and I followed a two mile route that took me east and south. I repeated that loop but picked up the wrong trail at a cross point that took me in an unfamiliar direction. At one point, as I followed a tight singletrack path, I was startled to see a large dog standing in my way. I hoped the dog was friendly and was glad when its owner appeared and quickly called it off. Later in the run I saw them again but this time I was prepared for the encounter. Occasionally I'll encounter an overly exuberant dog in my runs at Stillwell but I'm happy to say the dogs are never aggressive or threatening. Along the way I encountered a few other people running their dogs and a handful of mountain bikers bombing down the trails at speeds I would not have attempted. I eventually found my bearings and made my way back to a trail along my planned route where I continued until I reached the big field. One loop around that field and my run was done.

It's been a week packed with many runs including some fun experiences in Cambridge, at Eisenhower Park and today on the trails. I plan to rest tomorrow and then start planning for my next race, an 8K that happens on June 13. I plan to go shopping this week for a new lightweight tech shirt to help me handle the summer heat. That's always a nice way to elevate the mood and break up the work day.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tough going for an easy four

Today's run (street): 3.9 miles at 9:17 per mile

By now I expect that my friend FS and her husband are celebrating their finish at Boston's Run to Remember Half Marathon. This race, that begins and ends in Boston's World Trade Center, covers a lot of ground including a lengthy segment that has runners going over the Longfellow Bridge as they make their way along Memorial Drive. The span on Memorial goes past Harvard University and then back again to the starting point. Having covered the Charles River segment twice last week I'm a bit envious but realistic enough to know that I'm not prepared to take on 13.1 miles. I am looking forward to hearing the details next week when we all return to the office.

My running challenge this morning was far more modest. I intended to go out for a 3 to 4 mile run and ended up just short of the 4 mile mark. The Garmin was not tracking accurately so I thought I had covered 4.06 miles when in fact it was 3.9 (per Gmaps). My sub 9-minute run was actually closer to a mid-9:00 effort. But effort was the operative word and this morning it was tough going. The chirp from the Garmin that signaled that the first mile had passed surprised me because it happened faster than I'd expected. I figured I was just having a good run and I was wearing my lightweight Kinvaras so why not? By the end of mile two things had reversed themselves and I was ready to start wrapping things up. I'm not sure what accounted for that but it was possible that the increasing sun and heat combined with the extra work running in the near-flat Kinvaras were the culprits. I have not had an off day since last Monday so it may have been an issue of over-training. I was happy to have completed four miles although it turned out later to be just shy of that distance.

 The rest of the day has been spent with family and we're enjoying the long Memorial Day holiday with plenty of pool time. Tomorrow I'll aim to start even earlier to better manage the heat. Tuesday I'll rest. I think I need it.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gear matters

5.1 miles at Eisenhower Park

Today's run (Eisenhower Park): 5.1 miles @ 9:23 per mile

I've said it before but I'll say it again: gear matters. I'm beginning to understand that a person's running pace is related to both their physical abilities as well as the unique conditions and variables that make up a run. Hills and heat can slow down a runner while the right weather can make a run feel effortless. A shirt that fails to wick moisture can contribute to overheating and ill fitting socks or uncomfortable running shorts can distract from a runner's focus. Every variable can yield a positive or negative influence on performance. What is a quick drying shirt worth to you on a hot, humid day? I'd say plenty. What about running shoes?

If you asked me a month ago what I averaged for pace I would have said that I run between 9:05-9:25 per mile. In a race I'd usually beat the low end of that by 20-30 seconds. Again, it's the conditions that make the difference with all those other runners helping to sweep you along. Recently I've been alternating between my mainstay Brooks Adrenalin GTS 10's and two pairs of lightweight Saucony running shoes. When I run in the Brooks I'm a solid low-9:00 miler. If I'd needed heavy motion control shoes I might be working hard to regularly break 10 minute miles. When I run in the Saucony Kinvaras I often attain paces below 9:00 per mile. If I'd always run in the Kinvaras I'd have considered myself a sub-9 minute mile runner all along.

The Saucony Grid Tangent 4's provide an even greater boost. I regularly run 8:40 minute miles with the Tangents which I consider to be a decent 5K race pace. I haven't yet raced in these shoes but I'm hoping the combination of speed boost from the shoes plus a faster pace through competition will help me beat my racing PR of 8:19 per mile. My next race is an 8K that pushed my limits last year so it will be interesting to see how the variables work on that day.

This morning I returned to Eisenhower Park to run the paths, some of which I'd traveled on a Red Cross walkathon with my family earlier in the month. I locked onto a course defined by arrows painted on the ground and followed that all around until I found myself back near where I'd started. I took a more free range route from there, circumnavigating the big pond where people sail three foot remote controlled sailboats and then passed through the Veteran's Memorial gardens. At that point I began to hear the sound of a marching band blasting out patriotic music as was fitting on this Memorial Day weekend. I finished after completing five miles and while my speed wasn't impressive it was definitely a good workout. So perhaps I may have covered more distance at a faster speed were I wearing my Sauconys. Gear definitely matters but between the GTS 10's and the Tangent 4's, it's all good.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Running technology report from the MIT Media Lab

Interior of the new MIT Media Lab building
 Today's run (street): 4.5 miles at 8:52 per mile

My recent visit to the MIT Media Lab was fascinating (as usual) and I was happy to see friends and faculty again after so many months away. I've written a couple of posts about my great runs along the Charles River this week but today I'm going to focus on noteworthy technologies that relate to athletics. Besides hearing from the architect of the beautifully designed new Media Lab building and from visionaries such as Stewart Brand and Nicholas Negroponte (who said the Media Lab's goal was to create solutions looking for problems) there was the usual "Open House" where students show off their latest research projects. It's essentially the coolest science fair in the world.

Bio-sensitive stretchable fabric
Above is a picture of a woven sensor that appears to be a piece of stretchable fabric but acts like a sensor that can pick up information such as core temperature, blood pressure/flow, heart rate, pH, etc. Imagine if your HRM or foot pod could be sewn into your running clothes? 

SportSemble performance capture system
Portable variable light illumination device
Another interesting project was the use of the SportSemble (above, top) system to capture the most minute details of movement by major league baseball players. In this project, players from the Boston Red Sox are wired with multiple sensors that capture metrics such as the speed of a pitcher's waist relative to the speed of the wrist of his throwing hand. The data is captured and correlated and the goal is to determine how certain sympathetic actions, however minute, can result in higher performing athletes. Go Sox!

In a more running related project I was given a demonstration of a lighting system that constantly reads conditions and enables lights based on the users needs. I often run with a headlamp at 4:00 AM and on dark days with no moon I really need the maximum amount of illumination. On other days, with clear skies and a full moon, I really don't need any extra light. This device can deliver, to the lumen, the exact amount of light needed at every moment. This conserves battery life and ensures that the light you need is delivered exactly where it's needed. The research assistant pictured above told me I could make this device myself with a simple microprocessor. I may need her help, especially since I've proven I can't change the battery in a Garmin 50 without destroying it.

Hugh Herr talks about devices to augment human running performance
During the Wednesday morning session Dr. Hugh Herr, who runs the Biomechatronics group at the Media Lab, talked about human augmentation. This group has developed the most advanced prosthetic legs in use today with capabilities that allow single and double amputees to walk and run with the same (or better) energy efficiency as able bodied people. Much of the research done in this lab is focused on augmenting athletes, especially runners. Imagine running a five minute mile while expending no more energy than a stroll in the park. I know my Saucony Kinvaras and Grid Tangent 4's give me a boost but that takes it to whole new level!

I thought about the science of human augmentation and the small differences in form and stride that can make a big difference in running pace. This morning I set out with my Kinvaras for a 4.5 mile run around the neighborhood and finished with an overall pace under nine minutes that just felt too easy. I definitely run faster in these lightweight trainers. Does running a little faster provide a greater training benefit than running slower? Hard to know. I loved the feeling of moving along in 50 degree temperatures on a cool, clear late May morning. Yes, the shoes are great but this morning's run was about much more than that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reasons for liking the elliptical machine

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I was tempted to rest easy this morning and simply enjoy a long cup of coffee as I watched the news. After all I'd just been through a long day of meetings and travel, the temperature at 4:00 AM was 80 degrees and I was coming off two days of 4+ mile runs. I had gone to bed expecting to do an elliptical session in the morning and I worked the pluses and minuses of rest vs. exercise in my head as I poured a cup of coffee. The air was so humid I was already sweating so I decided that if I was going to sweat it should be for a reason.

I like my weekly elliptical sessions for a number of reasons. First, the machine is self powered so I don't feel the pressure to keep up with a pace defined by a motor. I can also close my eyes and move into an alpha state without fear that I'll slip and fall as I might on the treadmill. Third, no motor means quieter operation. I can watch the news and actually hear the sound of the speaker at a volume that doesn't wake other family members. Perhaps most importantly, the elliptical workout is ephemeral. Once I'm done there's no summary or update to Garmin Connect. This allows me to go as fast or slow as I wish without feeling like I'm keeping score. The machine gives you many metrics while it's in operation but once the power goes off the numbers are gone and forgotten, leaving nothing but sweat and a great feeling of accomplishment.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

3,877 smoot run, 400 on the bridge

Today's run: (paths, river, bridges) 4.1 miles at 8:40 per mile

While I'm not a big fan of duplicating my route on consecutive days I think I could run along the Charles River every day of the week. I feel the same way about Central Park. That said, I didn't exactly duplicate yesterday's run this morning. Unlike the day before, I started my run outside my hotel and crossed directly over the Longfellow Bridge into Boston. It was a different experience for me because I usually run west on Memorial Drive and over the Mass Ave (AKA Harvard) bridge first. Crossing the Charles, I was pleased to see so much activity on the water with sailboats and rowing sculls of all sizes. Like yesterday, there were plenty of other runners, cyclists and walkers making their way around. I was prepared to run a shorter distance today because it felt much hotter than Tuesday and I basically kept to the circular route between the bridges. Along the way I covered the distance of the Harvard Bridge which has regular markings of "smoots" which is a (nonstandard) unit of measurement that represents the height of Oliver Smoot, a Lamda Chi Alpha pledge at MIT in 1958 who was used as a human ruler as a prank. According to the markings, the bridge is about 400 smoots, give or take an ear.

Upon returning close to the point where Main Street meets the Longfellow Bridge I shifted over to the feeder road and continued east until I reached my hotel. I covered 4.1 miles at a speedy 8:40 mile pace and was very happy with the run. This morning there was some discussion of technologies to increase the speed and efficiency of runners and I saw a demonstration of a leg device that allows a person to run with some speed while expending less energy than walking. Great when viewed as an alternative to city transportation but for recreational running I'd say "What's the point?" I was fortunate to get to see my brother for dinner on Monday night and do the same last night with some good friends. I'll report more on the performance and measurement technologies in the coming days.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cambridge to Boston and back at 6:00 AM

Today's run (street/path/bridge): 4.4 miles at 8:40 per mile

I've anticipated this morning's run for a while and I wasn't disappointed when I went out at 6:00 AM under sunny skies and already warm temperatures. I headed to Memorial Drive, wending my way around the roads and paths until I got to the river. Alongside the paved path are narrow packed dirt paths. I crossed over to run on those paths to take advantage of the softer landing. I'd considered running past the Mass Ave bridge but that involved crossing a road with many cars turning to go over the bridge. I ran over the bridge on the pedestrian walkway and headed west once I got to the Boston side. I ran west until I passed the 1.5 mile mark and then followed the path along the Charles going east.

When I reached the farther bridge I thought about running Charles Street but foot traffic was too dense to make that practical. Instead, I headed back to Cambridge over the Longfellow and encountered a number of runners coming from the other direction, squeezing past on some of the narrower parts of the walk. When I reached the end of the bridge I just kept going up Main Street in Kendall Square until I reached my starting point. In all I covered 4.4 miles at a decent pace, due in part to my Saucony Grid Tangents. It was a great way to start the day and I'm planning to head out tomorrow to do it all over again.  

Monday, May 24, 2010

Business travel provides a different running experience

Today's workout: Rest day

This will be a busy week. I'll be out of the office four out of the five days and traveling for the first three. Today will start with an hour and a half presentation that I have to give before I head to Penn Station to hop on the Acela to Boston. It's not a bad trip and I'm planning to see some great people and do some interesting things. I'm also hoping to get some city running in while I'm there. I've mentioned the Memorial Drive run that I love and I wish I had time to extend that run on the Boston side to include a loop around Boston Common. There's something great about running where the city meets nature. Running in Central Park is always interesting to me because there's so much to see with things changing all the time. Due to business conditions I haven't traveled as much in the last year as in the past but I have another trip coming up soon. My schedule will be tight so I don't know if I'll get to run there but I'm hopeful that I can. I don't enjoy business travel or being away from my family but running in new or different places makes for a far better experience.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend ending run in the Brooks GTS 10's

Brooks GTS 10
Today's run (street): 5.44 miles at 9:11 per mile

It's been a good week for running and today was no different. After yesterday's trail run at Stillwell Woods I was ready to return to the street and spend some time in the neighborhood. I've felt tired over the past few days so I planned to take it easy today and do my distance at a reasonable pace. After running in the Saucony's on my the last few outings I returned to my Brooks GTS 10's that provide a more cushioned ride. That's no dig on the Grid Tangent 4's which are still extremely comfortable (and fast) or the Kinvaras that are minimally designed shoes that trade some cushioning for far less weight. Each pair of shoes I own has a specific purpose and I cycle through them all.

I set out for a quick loop around the northeast part of the neighborhood before heading south toward neighborhood #3 that's adjacent to the industrial park. Upon reaching the park I did the main loop to get in some hill work. It's not a steep incline but it goes on for a while before rewarding the runner with a nice downhill segment. Coming out of the park, I turned left into neighborhood #3 and ran through those streets before I headed back to my neighborhood to complete my 5.4 mile route. I didn't push hard throughout the run but I threw in a few speedy tempos that helped me maintain an overall pace that was closer to nine minutes than 9:30. The Brooks are great shoes because they are so comfortable and stable while still providing an energetic response. I've had some slight knee soreness and every time I run with the Brooks my knee feels a little better. I had the same experience with the GTS 9's. Brooks makes great shoes. I'm going to rest tomorrow since it's going to be a day of meetings and travel. I'll resume my running on Tuesday morning when I return to Cambridge for my Memorial Drive run.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Last NYC run with AG, at least until August

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3.19 miles at 8:41

Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.1 miles at 10:03 

I didn't think I'd be able to do my weekly NYC run on Friday but by 5:00 PM I had finished everything I'd wanted to get done this week. Adventure Girl will only be in the office one more week before she heads for the west coast for the summer. Since I'm traveling much of next week we figured we'd get in one more run before she leaves. We headed up to the park as fast as we could because my window of running was limited. We decided to run about 3 miles by following the east side of the lower loop to the upper loop, across the Great Lawn to the north and then back down to where we'd start. We wore our Sauconys, Grid Tangent 4's for me and AG wore her new Kinvaras. Those light shoes helped us move along at the fastest pace we'd ever run together, despite the hills we encountered both up and down our route. We ended our run at 5:44 PM and I needed to get back to the office in time to change and leave with enough time to make my train. We arrived at our building at 5:58 PM and I knew I was in trouble, but AG suggested I just commute home in my running clothes. Despite my extremely sweaty condition I agreed and made my way to the train, making it just in time. It was a exciting way to end what will be our last run together for many months. I'll miss these runs but I'm excited that AG will be running some awesome trails in the northwestern states this summer.

Perhaps as a nod to that I headed over to Stillwell Woods this morning for trail run. It's been a while since I spent time in the interior of the preserve and I followed a route that is opposite of my usual approach. My plan was to move along but not push it too hard. The many inclines would provide plenty of challenge without worrying about speed. The mountain bikers were out in force. I encountered quite a few riders, all of whom were extremely polite and courteous about sharing the trails with a runner. Along the way I navigated through the Snake Pit, the curiously named but difficult Little Pink Bicycle Path, the Ewok Forest and the UH OH trail. I was plenty tired and 4 miles was tough going but I was distracted by the birds and other animals making such a racket that I actually laughed. So much for the serenity of nature. I'm probably going to run in my neighborhood tomorrow and focus more about miles than speed. So far, counting Friday, it's been a great weekend of running.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Running the Charles from Cambridge and back

Longfellow Bridge (bottom), Harvard Bridge (top)
Today's run: Central Park (tentative)

I'm planning to be up in Cambridge next week for some MIT Media Lab activities. It's always interesting to visit the Media Lab and the ideas and future technologies are both exciting and inspiring. Many of those technologies have found their way into athletic gear. The science behind the Garmin and Polar foot pods, as well as the Nike+ system, came by way of the Media Lab's Responsive Environments group. As stimulating as I find MIT, my favorite part about visiting is when I'm able to run the loop over the Harvard Bridge into Boston and then return to Cambridge over the Longfellow Bridge. The entire four mile run takes place around the Charles River with views of both city skylines looming. I often see runners wearing Red Sox hats and that always makes me feel like I'm home again.

I'm so hoping for decent weather for the early part of the week. Nothing will be as disappointing as a thunderstorm that forces me to stay inside and use the hotel treadmill. I'm not going to worry about that though. I'll get to see some great people, including family and friends. Running along Memorial Drive always brings back great memories. I'd just better not forget to pack my Red Sox cap.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Consistently inconsistent

Today's run (street): 2.45 miles at 9:07

I don't think I'll ever fully understand why some runs are faster than others. I know a person who has run the same 4 mile loop for years and can usually predict his finish time within 15 seconds. I may have opened a can of worms by suggesting that he throw in some tempos to bring down his overall pace. He did that and now he's got a different perspective. Up until that point, the run itself was the accomplishment. Now, after all this time, he's concerned about pace and performance. Did I do him a favor in helping him get more out of his runs? Or did I contribute to a mindset that replaces the joy of running with the obsession of metrics? I also told him he should think about getting lighter weight shoes for a performance bump. What have I done!?

Of course it's not the shoes that make you faster. Or is it? Since switching over to the Saucony shoes last week I've had noticeable improvement in my pace, often beating my usual times by 20-30 seconds per mile. With nothing else to explain it I had to guess it was the shoes. After three runs in the 8:40-8:50 range I assumed I had moved to another stage in my running. I'd no longer be a 9-something pacer. The new normal is 8:45 and further improvement starts there. This morning I went out feeling good, equipped with the fast Kinvaras on a clear cool morning's run. My pace felt steady and strong. At the point where I thought I'd covered a mile my Garmin said .78 miles. I felt like I was running well but I wasn't covering the ground at the rate I'd assumed. I questioned whether the Garmin was properly calibrated because I had switched it from my Brooks this morning. Ultimately, I finished with an overall pace of 9:07 that is typical of runs at that time. I continue to wonder why the range of performance is as wide as it is. I don't have any problems with today's performance. It's just that with all my tracking and even with the new lighter shoes, inconsistency is the only constant.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sole F63 - a slippery situation, once again

Sole F63, equipped with special belt slipping feature
Today's run (treadmill): 2.3 miles at 9:08

You'd think it would be easy to figure out whether it's raining without actually stepping outside to check. At 4:00 AM it's really too dark to see rain out of a window and the audial clues from the skylight were indeterminate this morning. I had already resigned myself to running on the treadmill so I started it up without further investigation of the weather. As much as I love running there are different levels of enjoyment. At the top would be a beautiful, scenic trail with groomed paths and cool weather. Below that, but still desirable, are many other scenarios involving running on trails or roads. After that is the track which has its positives but, for longer distance, can be mind numbingly boring. At the bottom (for me) is the treadmill. I can't fully explain why, but I find treadmill running very tough. Perhaps it's the tedium of an unchanging view but it's also being locked into certain pace and having the road moving under you instead of the other way around.

An added dimension to my treadmill woes is a recurring problem with the belt slipping on on my Sole 63 unit. This is a new machine that we've already had serviced to fix this problem but I noticed it again today. Like last time, I could avoid slipping on the belt if I kept to the left side. However, the tread isn't so wide that I don't occasionally cross over to the "slip zone." I did my 2+ miles just to get them done and really started wishing for drier days going forward. I'm hoping to avoid this experience until the machine is fixed...yet again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New posting on Runner's Tech Review - ATAYNE

Today's workout: Rest day

Runner's Tech Review is back with a new posting about ATAYNE's technical shirts. We've been testing these high quality shirts made out of 100% recycled materials since December. With their great feel and cool looks they've certainly found a place within our running clothes collections.

I wasn't feeling great this morning when I got up and quickly decided to rest instead of run. The weather may have contributed to a headache and although it wasn't yet raining, I knew it would start soon. I needed rest and figured not running may be more beneficial than an actual workout today. Tomorrow I plan to be back to the street. I'm going to run in my Brooks GTS 10's to see if it's the lightweight Sauconys that have been helping my performance or if I'm just getting faster. I'm betting it's the shoes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Saucony Tangent 4: Fast and comfortable

Saucony Grid Tangent 4

Today's run (street): 2.45 miles at 8:40 per mile

After two runs in the Saucony Kinvaras I'm starting to believe that a shoe can really make a difference in performance. The Kinvaras are extremely light and have very little drop-off between the heel and forefoot. This makes mid foot striking easier than when running in a shoe with a higher heel. I closely track my performance and although I'm a 9 minute miler in spirit I'm more of a 9:10-9:20 miler in practice. So what am I supposed to think when I put together two consecutive runs under 8:50 per mile? Could I have improved that quickly -- or is it the shoes?

That's the question I asked myself this morning when I set out for a morning run wearing my new Saucony Grid Tangent 4's. These are lightweight stability shoes that feel very good on the foot. Despite the light weight there was decent cushioning through both the heel and front foot. I took off and immediately noticed how quick they felt, my pace was more like a tempo run although I didn't feel as though I was working that hard. But at 4:00 AM things can be deceiving. I've done runs at that time that felt fast but weren't. I expected the same today but finished with an average pace of 8:40. That's 5K race pace for me and almost unheard of at that early hour.

It may be too early to say for sure but these lightweight shoes from Saucony really deliver speed. I like the Kinvaras for the mid foot landing and the Grid Tangents seem sturdy enough to be a regular trainer for people like me who have a lighter build. So what's to become of my beloved Brooks GTS 10's? No worries, there will always be room for them in the rotation. They just may need to wait a little longer for their turn.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New rule: double check the race date

Today's run (Park): 5.15 miles at 8:45 per mile

I was excited about racing today and curious to see how competitive I would be with my new Saucony Kinvara running shoes. Team Emerging Runner arrived at the race location about an hour before the scheduled start. My wife took a look around and said, "We must be at the wrong place, there's no one here." It turned out that were at the right place but at the wrong time because the Brooke Jackman 5K had already taken place on Saturday. I was mad at myself for failing to check the date and assuming the race would happen on a Sunday. Most of my races have been held on Sunday mornings but that's a poor excuse. Seeing that I was upset, my wife quickly suggested that we stay and explore the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park that was just north of the race location. Or more correctly, yesterday's race location. I agreed that a run on a cool spring day overlooking Oyster Bay was a great alternative to a race.

Never having run in this location, I didn't know where the trail would lead. I started by following a paved path that ran parallel to the water. This path eventually looped around to numerous small walking paths that fed back to the main trail. I completed one loop and decided to head west to see if there were any interesting routes in that direction. I eventually ran out of pavement and cut across a sandy section before reaching the road again. Once I saw how far I'd need to go to reach a decent place to run I decided to circle back to the park to find my family. At the 2 mile mark I caught up with my wife and kids, passing them in the other direction as I made my way east. I ended up looping the park a number of times and occasionally passing by my family who were playing at the water side. After 45 minutes we decided to wrap it up and I noticed that I'd covered 5.15 miles at an average of 8:45 per mile. Running conditions were near perfect and there were no hills. The only things that slowed me down were the run through the sand and a couple of sharp turnarounds that reduced my pace. The new Kinvaras are definitely helping and I'm running 20-30 seconds per mile faster than I normally run. A calibration test of my Garmin confirmed the accuracy of these numbers. So how about that!

I really enjoyed today's run, especially because my family was there to cheer me on each time I passed them along my route. It would have been fun to race today but I still had a great morning with the family and a great run by the water.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tomorrow is race day in Oyster Bay, NY

Today's workout: Rest/taper

I've decided to run the Brooke Jackson Race for Literacy 5K tomorrow morning in Oyster Bay. Unlike every other race I've done to date, I'll be a walk-on participant, who registers on race day. There are two reasons why I'm racing instead of using both weekend days for extended runs. First, I haven't raced this month and this may be my best opportunity to do it. Second, I've had some slight soreness in my right knee and I thought I'd give that leg a break from running. Resting today will prepare me for tomorrow's race and three miles shouldn't have much on affect the injury. I do have slight concern that running in the neutral Kinvaras yesterday may have contributed to the soreness but it may just be a case of adjusting to a shoe with almost no drop from heel to forefoot, causing me to land more on my mid-foot than I usually would. I considered running in the Tangent 4's but I'm not sure I'd want to race in shoes that I'm using for the first time. I have three miles on the Kinvara odometer so I know how they feel at that distance.

My strategy for tomorrow is to start at a moderate pace and adjust speed as I go. The Kinvaras seemed to have helped yesterday so hopefully I can draw on that advantage in the race. I have no knowledge of the course and whether it has pronounced hills or other features that may affect my performance. Perhaps it's best not to know because I won't be thinking about upcoming negatives as I run. My goals are simply to run a good race, have fun and be competitive in my category. Although I haven't anticipated this race for weeks I am excited that I'll be participating tomorrow.

Finally, I'd like to mention my friends KWL and FS who are participating in a 100 mile bike event tomorrow on Long Island. They are certainly in shape for it. I wish them great weather and safe travels.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Saucony Kinvaras make a great first impression

Saucony Kinvaras ready for their first run
Today's run (Central Park): 3.2 miles at 8:47/mile

My shipment from Saucony arrived yesterday and I'm very excited to put these two pairs of lightweight trainers to the test. Lightweight is the word, the Kinvaras practically floated out of the box when I opened it. The pictures promised a different looking shoe and the Saucony Kinvara is certainly different. The outer layer on the upper is translucent and it looks like it was air brushed. My kids thought they looked amazing and my daughter asked me if they came in kid sizes. But looks are one thing, fit and feel are another and I put them to the test today at noon in Central Park.

The Kinvara is a minimalist shoe that can be used for racing. It's more flexible on the forefoot than the other running shoes that I own with an extremely small drop off from heel to toe that encourages mid foot landing. When I put them on I had the same reaction that I had when I tried on a pair of Nike Frees - it felt more like a slipper than a running shoe. Once I began to walk in them and got a sense of how they worked with the foot I realized they were nicely responsive. I started my run at the bottom of the lower loop and was happy to note that the ride was no harder than the Brooks Adrenalin's although the feel was different. I moved along well and passed some runners, even on the hills. The sun was out and it was very humid so the run was already feeling like hard work by mile 2. However, I maintained a decent pace throughout the entire distance and was pleased to average 8:47 per mile. I have to give credit to the shoes for helping me attain that pace since I can't think of another factor that would explain it.

Over this weekend I hope to test the other pair of shoes I got from Saucony, the ProGrid Tangent 4's. Like the Kinvaras, these shoes are extremely light and have some stability control for those, like me, who pronate. The fit, like every Saucony I've ever put on my foot, feels natural and correct. As much as I'm excited about the Kinvaras I'm thinking that the Tangents may be competition for the Brooks as a daily trainer. I'll be testing both pairs in the coming weeks. I'm still not sure whether I'll race on Sunday but if I do I plan to wear the Kinvaras. Since it's just a 5K on Sunday I'm not too concerned about racing with new shoes. Today's running experience seems to validate that decision.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The better of two goods

Today's workout (elliptical): 27 minutes

I'm considering an upcoming 5K race this weekend that is taking place in an adjacent town. This event, the Brooke Jackman Race for Literacy, seems interesting and like most charity runs it benefits people in need. I chose not to run the RXR 10K earlier this month but I have no regrets that I didn't race. I ran my personal best for distance on that Sunday and felt that it was time better spent. This Sunday's race will be my only practical opportunity to compete in May. I'm already scratching on the June 6th XTERRA race because I have so little time that weekend and I'm heading out later that day on a business trip. I will definitely be running in the New Hyde Park 8K in mid-May so June is covered. My quandary for this weekend is whether I'm willing to give up a run on Saturday, when it's supposed to be beautiful, to rest enough to be competitive on Sunday. If I don't race on Sunday I would try to do a trail run at Stillwell or Muttontown on one day and explore the running experience at Eisenhower Park on the other day. Both of those runs are appealing but so is the thought of lining up for another race. I guess I'll have until early Sunday morning to decide. Either way I can't really lose.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Old Navy's performance shirts don't actually perform

Today's workout (treadmill): 2.4 miles at 9:17/mile

This morning's running experience had a few annoying moments but ultimately it turned out to be a decent workout. I woke up a few minutes early and quickly dressed for my run. I was hoping that the extra time would provide me an opportunity to cover some additional distance. Once I stepped into the garage I heard the rhythmic sound of rain and as the door began to rise I saw that it was pouring. I made my way upstairs, discarded my long sleeve shirt, headlamp and reflective vest and fired up the treadmill. Once I came up to speed I hit "Start" on the Garmin and hoped I could make up for the lost time. About 3 minutes into the run I looked at the Garmin to see what it was showing for pace so I could compare it to the treadmill's display. I saw that the Garmin hadn't actually started so I missed capturing the first third of a mile. So much for capturing my extra distance today.

Atayne Tech Shirts
Old Navy "Tech" Shirts
The run itself was fine but the jersey I wore did not do a good job of wicking sweat. It was one of the two "bargain" performance shirts that I'd bought on sale at Old Navy some months back. They were $5 each and I understand why. Although they are 100% polyester and look like technical shirts they don't seem able to absorb and evaporate sweat any better than cotton. It's tough to understand why one manufacturer charges $60 for a technical shirt while another charges $25 that looks and feels similar. In those cases both shirts do the job but perhaps the higher end shirt does it better. I will be posting a review of my Atayne technical shirt
(made from 100% recycled materials) on Runner's Tech Review that I will compare to a few others to see if I can uncover the differences.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Will Saucony's performance shoes make me faster?

Saucony's new Kinvera minimalist performance shoe
Men's (left), Woman's (right)
Today's run (street): 2.4 miles at 9:07/mile

Saucony Grid Tangent 4
I've always been interested in Saucony shoes but have never owned a pair. Saucony has always seemed like a quality brand and I know a few people who swear by them and won't run in anything else. I'm well equipped in terms of regular trainers with my Brooks Adrenaline 9's and 10's but I've often wondered what it would be like to run in a lightweight trainer or even a racing shoe. Could a few ounces really make a difference in terms of performance? Is the trade-off of weight worth the loss of cushioning? Would running in performance shoes, with their closer heel-to-forefoot height ratio, help me become more of a mid foot striker? The answer to these questions will come after I receive a couple of pairs of performance shoes to test. The Saucony folks are sending me pairs of the new Kinvera and Grid Tangent 4 this week and I'm really looking forward to putting them through their paces, so to speak.

It's almost the middle of May but morning temperatures continue to feel quite chilly. I headed out at 4:00 AM this morning and needed long sleeves to feel comfortable throughout my run. I didn't wear gloves and I regretted that but it was fine for a two mile workout. I felt strong, as I usually do after a rest day, and considered running three or four miles instead of the 2.25 to 2.5 miles I usually run in my short window of time. I knew that if I did that my morning schedule would be disrupted so I settled for 2.4 that I covered in just under 22 minutes. Despite feeling strong and running with good energy I only averaged 9:07 per mile. Good for early morning but slower than I'd felt I'd run. No matter, it was a really pleasant workout and with my performance shoes on their way I can worry about my pace another time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Running in the movies

Marathon Man 1976
Today's workout: Rest day

Early on Sunday morning I was flipping through the channels trying to find something resembling news when I came across the movie "Marathon Man." Although I'd seen it before, the thing I'd remembered most about that movie was the famous scene with Dustin Hoffman in the dentist chair being asked "Is it safe?" As I watched it on Sunday I paid more attention to Hoffman's character as a runner. His training paid off for him near the end when he literally outruns his captors. My obsession with running metrics got the best of me while watching a scene near the beginning when Hoffman runs around the reservoir in Central Park while his girlfriend times him. I was thrilled to see that the reservoir hasn't really changed since 1976 and I'll think about the movie the next time I make that circuit. When Hoffman ran by his girlfriend she yelled "11:47, you're getting faster!" I grabbed my iPhone and, knowing one loop around equals 1.58 miles, calculated that he was running at a 7:27 pace. Not bad.

It was fun to watch a great movie that had running as part of its theme. Besides the obvious, Chariots of Fire, I haven't connected great films with running. Now, as a  runner, I notice things I've never noticed before. Thinking about it now, one of my favorite films from the '80's was The Big Chill where one of the lead characters owns a running store. I recall a scene where he gives his house guests new pairs of running shoes and most of them go out early on a Sunday morning for a group run. Perhaps I'll stumble upon that movie again as I navigate the channels on some early weekend morning.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Walking for a cause and running just because

The Emerging Runner family walks for a good cause

Yesterday's activities: 1.5 mile walk-a-thon plus  2.6 miles (street run) at 9:37/mile

Today's run (street): 4.4 miles at 9:10/mile

It's been an active weekend that started yesterday morning with the start of the Nassau County Red Cross Walk-a-Thon at Eisenhower Park. My wife works at the Red Cross as a volunteer so the Emerging Runner family spent from 8:00 - 11:00 AM helping to set up and manage participants who had come for the 1.5 mile walk. After Friday's 6+ mile run in Central Park I was feeling the residual effects of the hills but I thought the walk would be easy and fast. It turned out that 1.5 miles seemed a lot longer than I'd imagined but I enjoyed every step. It was a strange morning for weather, alternating between overcast skies, bright sun and a 15 minute downpour that had crowds of people running for cover under makeshift tents.

My wife, son and daughter and I set out on the walk at a good pace and I enjoyed seeing the park from a different perspective. There were lots of runners out in the morning and I wished that I had worn running clothes but this was really about walking and family time. We had a lot of fun and the turnout was excellent considering all the bad weather that had been expected. Later on that day I decided to do an easy run around the neighborhood. The sun had stayed out and it had grown a little warmer but the winds grew increasingly stronger throughout my 25 minutes of running, I didn't run fast but I wasn't concerned about pace. It was nice to get a run in on Saturday, however short.

This morning I headed out early because it's Mother's Day and I wanted to be as available as I could for the rest of the day. My kids set up breakfast for my wife downstairs while she did her daily workout upstairs. I slipped out and did a neighborhood run going in the opposite direction of my usual loop so that I could fold in the longish hill on Jericho Turnpike. I still felt some residual tiredness from Friday but I decided to maintain a faster clip than yesterday and completed 4.4 miles at 9:10 per mile. I was very pleased with the pace because my effort level was low while my enjoyment level was high. It was still early when I returned home. So far, we've had a full day with plenty of time left to celebrate Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Once around the park (literally)

Harlem Meer in north Central Park
Yesterday's run (Central Park): 6.15 miles at 9:20

It's always fun to break new ground in terms of running experience and that was the case for me yesterday. I've been getting to Central Park every Friday afternoon for a run and this extra mileage has helped me push closer to my weekly goal of 20 miles a week. I have stuck to the routes I'd learned through running with Adventure Girl last year but prior to Friday I had never braved the territory north of the reservoir. Classes have ended at Yale so AG is back in town for a few weeks. She'll be heading to the west coast to conduct a graduate research project over the summer. In the meantime we'll get a few runs in when we can.

We headed up to Central Park under sunny skies and 69 degree temperatures. When we reached the start along the lower loop we did some dynamic stretching before starting off. While that was happening I felt something hit my back but largely ignored it. I figured it was a big bug or something that fell off a tree. Once done we headed north at a sub-9 minute clip that we maintained for the first mile or so. About one mile later we came upon a waterfall tucked in beside the path. We took a brief break to look at it and saw goldfish swimming in the stream fed by the falls. AG said that it's common and unfortunate that people dump pets like fish, lizards and snakes in Central Park because it's not ecologically sound to do this with non-indigenous species.

We were soon on our way past the Meer and I got to experience the famous "Harlem hills" that weren't all that steep but they went on for a long while. Once we got past them it was a bit easier going although there were few noticeable hills just north of the reservoir as we headed south. By the time we reached the southern end of the reservoir I was back in familiar territory and the last few miles were more downhill than up. Despite that, I was pretty exhausted and when we finished I saw that we'd covered 6.15 miles. When we arrived back at work AG followed me into my office and saw that the thing that had hit my back before we started our run was a "gift" from a bird overhead. I was lucky it hit my back and not my head and very glad that I didn't know what happened at the time.

It was great to run again with AG in the city. It was the first time since last August that we'd run in NYC and longer still since we'd run in Central Park. I'm happy to have finally run the full loop and I plan to do it again this summer. Those hills are plenty tough but after yesterday's experience they just don't scare me anymore.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Test new running shoes? Yes, please

The new Saucony Kinvara

Today's run: Central Park (planned)

I was recently contacted by a PR person from Saucony about an opportunity to try their new Kinvara lightweight trainer. This shoe is more neutral than what I'd normally wear but I'm interested in its low profile with a heel-to-forefoot ratio of 18/14 mm. I haven't forgotten about mid foot running but my Brooks GTS-10's are so great I would be reluctant to give them up. Given their unique nature, and their low profile the Kinvaras may make a great addition to the Emerging Runner's collection of running shoes. Besides the Brooks GTS-10's I also have pairs of GTS-9's and ASICS GEL-1130's. On the trail side I have Helly Hansen Trail Lizards for the toughest technical terrain, Adidas Response 15's for multi-surfaced trail and street running and some NB 460's that fit and perform really well despite being a "value priced" shoe.

Left out of this collection are any lightweight trainers or racing shoes. I was very interested in the Brooks Green Silence when it was announced but when the time came I opted for the 10's to replace my 600+ mile 9's. I signed up for (and was accepted to) Brook's test program but I have not been contacted to try anything. Even if I do I won't be able to talk about the shoes or mention them on this blog, per the terms of the program. No problem there, the chance to try Brooks experimental shoes is worth the silence, green or otherwise. I'm happy to try any running shoes or gear that companies want to send to me to review. I'd even try Nikes but not those silly ones with the shock absorbers on the heel.

I'm planning another Central Park run today and I'm hoping to cover some new ground north of the reservoir. I keep hearing about the hills up there and I'll see how well my training has paid off.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Foregoing my run today

No workout today

I decided to forgo my usual Thursday workout this morning and take an additional day of rest this week. I'm looking to add more distance to my weekend runs and I've recently added a longer run on Fridays in the city. It's taken a while but I'm beginning to understand the value of rest as an enhancement to my training. On a recent run with my friend and running advisor, CK, we talked about the frequency of my runs. CK suggested that more rest would be beneficial for recovering from longer runs and the additional rest would probably help me improve my performance. I'll see if that's true tomorrow where I plan to run the big loop around Central Park (6 miles). My goal is to average around 20 miles a week and I should be able to do that even if I take two days of rest on some weeks.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Return to Jackrabbit

Today's run (street): 2.4 miles at 9:24 per mile

Yesterday I headed over to Union Square with my friend CK for lunch and a visit to Jackrabbit Sports. CK was in need of a new pair of running shoes. The NB 1225's he was using were a year old and had a lot of mileage. He was never very happy with these shoes, mostly because of their wide toe box that can make the forefoot feel unstable. I showed him the Brooks Adrenalines that I wear and really like. He tried on a pair and initially said he felt "flat-footed" but after a few minutes he said they felt very comfortable. I could tell CK was ambivalent about the shoes and I encouraged him to try other pairs. He selected a pair of Saucouny Guide 3's and loved the fit and the energy return that he thought was better than the GTS-10's. CK bought the Guides and I picked up an Amphipod water bottle that is form fitted for carrying while running and has a strap that secures it to your hand. I'll probably use it on Friday during my Central Park run. I could have used it last weekend when temperatures were close to 90.

This morning I headed out again for my run and was surprised by how cool it was compared to Tuesday. I actually felt cold having dressed for warmer temperatures. It took a few minutes to get comfortable but once I did it felt pleasant because there was little humidity in the air. My pace felt much brisker than yesterday's and while it was still a leisurely 9:25 average per mile that was :15 per mile faster than the day before. If not for my time constraints I would have added more miles. I returned home fresh and wishing I had more time to run. I guess it's always to finish wanting more.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An illuminating run

Today's run (street): 2.4 miles at 9:40 per mile

Not quite this bright!
I know I've already made too much of Sunday's long run but this morning my legs were really sore. I tend to feel the effects of a tough workout a couple of days later and that was the case today. My first thought upon awakening was to give myself a break and take another rest day. I dismissed the thought and considered an easy elliptical or treadmill session instead. Once I saw that the temperature at 4:00 AM was in the high 60's I decided to run outside.

The last few times I'd run with my Petzl Tikka headlamp I noticed that the intensity of the LED beam seemed low, even on the brightest setting. It had been a year since I bought the Petzl unit and had not yet changed the batteries. I corrected that on Sunday and this morning I was amazed by how well the lamp illuminated the streets. I had obviously become used the diminishing beam and had actually done an early morning run recently without the headlamp and didn't notice until I returned home. It was fun seeing my neighborhood lit up this morning, the bright blue-tinged light again creating illusions of evil faces reflected off the front of BMWs and Acuras. More importantly I could see the road better and was able to avoid a torn up stretch where a gas line was recently installed.

I didn't run fast today but I really felt great while I was out there. The air was cool enough to keep things comfortable and my legs, though tired, were fine once I hit the street. It may not have been my most rigorous workout of late but it was one of my most enjoyable early morning excursions. Today I plan to visit Jackrabbit with a friend who is looking for a new pair of running shoes. Between this morning's run and an opportunity to visit a running store during the work day, I couldn't be more pleased.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lengthening my long runs

Today's workout: Rest day

A "long run" has different definitions based upon who is doing the running. For some, it's runs over 13 miles with the half marathon length serving as the demarcation point. For others (like me less than two years ago) a 5K can be considered an aspirational length. I have been thinking about yesterday's run and how it felt to break a personal distance record. Could I have gone on longer than the eight miles that I'd covered on Sunday? As a practical matter the answer is yes. I stopped when I did because I'd met my goal of eight miles - four out and four back. If my distance goal was nine or ten miles I probably could have accomplished that as well. I finished my run at eight because I had nothing more to prove on Sunday.

I have a goal of doing a 10 mile run this year. It's a distance considered by some to be a nice training run while others view it as an impossibility. I'm happy that it is at least a possible distance for me at this point.. Looking at my splits for yesterday's run, I noticed that my pace dropped measurably after an hour's running. I ran the first 6.2 miles averaging 8:57 per mile but miles seven and eight were far slower, closer to 9:30. I really liked running for longer than an hour. It surprised me that I had enough energy to pass other runners even near the end. Perhaps I'll look at increasing distance as my next focus point and worry less about pace. Well, maybe just a little less.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

1,000 calorie run at Bethpage State Park

Today's workout (Bethpage bike trail): 8.15 miles at 9:10 per mile

Not counting last year's Cape Cod marathon relay in Falmouth where I ran 9 miles across two non-consecutive legs, I established a personal distance record on today's run. Unlike Falmouth, today was an uninterrupted run that covered over eight miles in an hour and fourteen minutes. I'd made the decision not to run this morning's RXR 10K and, perhaps out of guilt for not racing, I decided to do a long distance run on my own. In order to break out of my usual 5-6 mile doldrums that have been standing in as my long weekend runs over the last couple of months, I knew that needed to leave the neighborhood to help frame out a longer run.

I headed to Bethpage State Park and paid my fee at the gate. I tried to buy an Empire Passport on the spot but they only accepted a check or cash and I only had a little cash and some credit cards. I began my run at the end of the bike trail and immediately met the sharp but mercifully short initial hill. Once level I knew that I'd enjoy a long downhill at the half mile mark. The enjoyment was bittersweet because I knew I'd need to climb that long hill upon my return when I would be depleted from an hour-plus of running. I followed the trail for four miles and passed a number of runners and walkers and winced each time a cyclist whizzed by from behind a little too close for comfort. At one point two cyclists, who were riding side by side, came toward me and would have run me off the path but I stood my ground. Unfortunately for the closer rider, the end of my elbow struck his arm and produced a yelp. I apologized by yelling "share the road!" I think they learned their lesson. At least they didn't come after me.

A funny thing about the Bethpage bike trail is that it often gives the illusion that you are running uphill even when you're not. As I made my way for the 4 mile out segment I kept thinking how I'd enjoy the downhill side of the hills I was encountering. I turned around shortly after crossing the overpass to the Southern State Parkway and was dismayed as I headed back for the second 4 miles that the path seemed to run uphill. I still had plenty of energy at the midpoint so the hills were easily met but in the back of my mind I was dreading the long uphill stretch I'd encounter between miles 7 and 8. I caught and passed a few more runners and walkers and monitored my Garmin to make sure my heart rate was staying within range. I managed to keep my pace around 9:00 per mile for most of my run but by mile seven I slowed down to the mid-9:00 range, especially on the run-ending hills. The only time I questioned whether I could finish what would be a personal best for distance was leading up the big final hill. When I got there I just dug in, took smaller steps and hoped it would soon be over.

In the end I covered 8.15 miles and when I looked at the run summary on the Garmin I saw that I'd expended exactly 1,000 calories over the course of my run. I'm pleased that I've broken the 8 mile single run barrier and I feel better than I thought I would after all that work. Some day I'll run 9 but for today, the record stands at 8.15.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Two good runs: one fast, one slow, both hot.

Yesterday's workout (Central Park): 3.25 miles at 8:52 per mile

Today's workout (street): 5.48 miles at 9:21 per mile

In terms of effort I'd say both today's and yesterday's runs were about even. It's hot today and it was hot in NYC yesterday when I trekked over to Central Park. I much prefer the cooler seasons for running but I also appreciate the way the trees and plants bloom in late spring and summer. The Park was filled with runners, cyclists and walkers when I arrived and I made my way over to the bike path on the lower loop to start my planned 3 mile run. My friend Steve had a conflict so he couldn't join me today so I decided to go it alone for a run that followed the lower and upper loops below the reservoir. I knew that the hardest part of the run would happen in the first half because a good part of that route is uphill.

Surprisingly, it took me about a mile to break a sweat but once I did I got REALLY hot. I cut across the Great Lawn and headed back down, hugging the shade and happy to know that a few downhills awaited me. I'd maintained a decent pace even with the uphill challenges and I passed a number of runners although I also got passed a couple of times near the end. By the time I returned to my starting point I was glad to finish, cool down and head back to the office. A meeting had spilled into my planned running window that caused my run+lunch timing to be very tight. I quickly changed, grabbed a fast bite and finished a minute before my 2:00 meeting. I was glad that I'd run an 8:52 pace or I might have ended up being late!

This morning I headed out for a neighborhood run with no planned route in mind. I intentionally ignored the Garmin because I didn't want to influence my pace in any way. Although it was hot and sunny I figured that I could a cover some good distance as long as I didn't push too hard. I did check my heart rate throughout the run to ensure I was keeping to around 80% of max. I traveled through my neighborhood roads and cut across to neighborhood #2 at the 2.5 mile mark. I chose some different streets that I hadn't run before, just for a change. I wound up covering 5.5 miles and finished feeling like I'd done a lot of work this morning. I need to work more on distance so I'm considering heading to Bethpage tomorrow to run the bike path where I can cover 8 to 10 miles out and back. Either that or a return to Stillwell to begin training for the next XTERRA race.

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