Friday, July 30, 2010

More reason to blame the heat

Today's run: Neighborhood (planned)

I have my son with me in the office today. Coming into work with me is one of his favorite activities over the summer. He loves the train, being in the city and the office environment itself. He has grown a lot taller since the last time I brought him in and now I have to pay for his train ticket and Metro Pass. I guess that makes sense as he did kick my butt in our recent duathlon so I have to stop treating him like a kid. That is until he drags me to Nintendo World at lunch.

I'm not sure what opportunity I'll have to run on Saturday so I skipped this morning's workout in favor of a longer run when I get home this afternoon. It's beautiful weather for outdoor activity and I hope that's still the case later. I may end up running in that 4PM - 8PM window of peak performance so it will be another opportunity to test that theory. I just read in the current issue of Runner's World that every 5 degree increase in temperature over 60 degrees can result in a 20-30 decrease in pace per mile. Were that true I'd be running even slower than I am these days but, if it is even partially true, it would further explain why I've been averaging middle to high 9:00's instead of the high 8:00 to low 9:00 minute paces I was running in the winter and early spring. With all the conditions for slow running that are out of my control, it's tempting to say that there's not much that I can do to improve my speed until it cools down and/or if I run late in the day. At least I''m not so delusional as to really believe that. Although outside conditions may influence performance I know that only hard work will make me faster.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Life on the Run - a fun read for runners

Today's workout (elliptical): 24 minutes

I've just finished Bart Yasso's book "My Life in the Run" and I recommend it as a good light read. Yasso is Runner's World's "Chief Running Officer" and he writes about his adventures running in exotic races all over the world. He is also the originator of the Yasso 800's training method that involves running a series of 800 meter intervals to help predict your marathon finishing time. For example, if you average 3:30 on this exercise you can reasonably expect to run a 3 hour, 30 minute marathon. I've often thought about trying this because I truly have no idea how I'd do in a marathon. That is, if I could even make it through one. Of course testing this theory would require me returning to the track and doing speed work. Maybe when it gets a little cooler...

At the end of the book Yasso lists a number of training programs for various races that would probably be valuable to people who are willing to follow disciplined training routines. I'm not good in that area. I prefer to train "organically" which probably explains my less than stellar times in my last few races. Yasso also talks about cross training and its importance within a runner's training cycle. So inspired. I decided to get back on the elliptical this morning and put in more of a whole body workout than I'd been getting from simply running. The humidity is unrelenting and inside is worse than outside but I did my minutes accompanied by the early morning news on TV. We're heading to Boston this weekend to see family so I'm not sure how that will impact my running schedule. My brother and I talked about doing a Memorial Drive run on Saturday which will be excellent as long as the weather cooperates. I'm bringing my son in to the office tomorrow so no Central Park run this week. I'll probably aim for a late afternoon run at home instead.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Out and back route (slow version)

Today's run (street) 2.35 miles at 9:45

I have a speaking engagement today and that usually means skipping my morning run in favor of an even earlier start. Today's talk is at noon so timing is not a factor. I did consider resting today because my sleep was interrupted by a midnight telephone call that turned out to be a wrong number. When I got up I felt no worse for wear and headed out on what was still a reasonably cool morning. I've been mixing up my routes as much as I can in the morning and today I ran some selected streets until my Garmin signaled that I'd reached a mile. I ran another fifth of a mile, turned around, and retraced my route back to where I'd started. I can't complain about my performance unless I do some speed work to improve my pace. Still, I was really surprised that I ran as slow as I did today because I felt like my form was good and my leg turnover seemed quick. You can't argue with Garmin and Gmaps though. Either way, I'm glad I ran this morning instead of taking the easy path and resting. There's something to be said for that.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Power is restored for both runner and home

Finally got our power back after 26 hours
Today's run (street): 2.75 miles at 9:26

Every weekday morning starts with a check of the weather on the local news station. In winter it's useful to see just how cold it is and how many layers I'll need beforeI go out for my morning run. In summer there is really not much I can do when it's 87 degrees and humid, but at least I know what I'll be facing. This morning, in my haste to get ready, I missed the temperature check and was happily surprised to step out to 68 degrees and low humidity. It was an enjoyable run and it made me feel like a runner again. The last three weeks have been oppressively hot and my running energy has suffered for it. Even in Colorado I was far from being at my best although I could blame the high altitude for that.

Last weekend's heat made me feel more like a jogger than a runner. My form was sloppy and my gait was off, indicated by cadences that dipped below 80 SPM. Today I had the feeling of real running -- the energy, leg turnover and coordination were all there. I felt like I do in a race when I'm usually at my best, having trained and rested for that moment. There are only so many ways to trace the roads around my neighborhood but I try to mix it up each day to keep it from being so tedious and repetitious. I chose a route with lots of (slight) inclines and was pleased with the power I had to take them on. It took me about 10 minutes to break the sweat barrier but it never got too warm over the 26 minute run. I really felt like I was achieving some speed but I ended up only averaging 9:26 per mile. Must be that darn performance-optimization window thing. It doesn't matter because it's much more practical for me to run at 4 AM than 4 PM. Our power was restored last night after 26 hours without AC, lights or hot water. It was great to take a hot shower after my run to cap off a great workout on an unexpectedly cool morning.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pancake fueled afternoon run

A stormy backyard scene on Sunday
Yesterday's run (street): 3.3 miles at 9:00

It may have been the weather but I was suffering from fatigue and a dull headache when I arose on Sunday morning. I tried to sleep a little later than my usual 5:30 weekend wake time but that didn't help much. By the time I felt ready for a run, the temperature and sun had risen to the point where I needed to execute plan B: run later in the day or not at all. By early afternoon I was feeling encouraged about conditions for running. The skies had become overcast and it wasn't oppressively hot. My family had jumped into the pool and I decided to join them. I was able to get in for about five minutes before the skies turned dark and the rain and wind came through. Fortunately we'd all retreated to the house minutes before that happened. The storm was fierce and it knocked out our power. We decided to go out for dinner because the outages were spotty and we could get to a local iHop in about 10 minutes. We had a nice time there but when we returned the power was still out.

I figured that this would be an ideal time for a run since the rain had cooled things down a bit so I set off with a target of covering 3 miles. It was cooler than before but still plenty humid. I don't like to run so soon after eating so I took it easy. Despite no attention to performance and some stomach cramping, I managed to cover my distance at 9:00 per mile, a pace I have not seen for a while. Perhaps this validated the point I made in yesterday's post about peak performance. Or it could be from all that glycogen-rich fuel from consuming whole wheat pancakes. I returned to the pool to cool off after my run which I figured to be a better option than taking a cold shower. This morning I had no choice but to take a cold shower before work. It's amazing how quickly one can shower, shave and wash when it means standing under a cold stream of water. We still have no power so tonight may be more of the same. It's a good thing we have emergency rechargeable flashlights in the house. They certainly got some use last night.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hooray! Another excuse for being a slow runner

Today's run (street): 4.4 miles at 9:47

The morning runner's lament
I was reading the current issue of Men's Journal and saw an item saying that the ideal window for working out is between 4PM and 8PM. I'd read that before and assumed that it didn't apply to "morning people" like myself who may have their ideal performance band earlier in the day. This item dismissed that notion saying that it's 4-8PM, case closed. The item also stated that early mornings were the worst time to achieve high performance during exercise or competition. That makes some sense to me because I generally run slower at 4 AM than I do at 10 AM. I'm sure it has something to do with body chemistry, oxygen levels or the activation of slow and fast twitch muscles. I'll admit it made me feel better for the string of 9:30 to 9:54 runs I've been doing over that last few weeks. Prior to reading that I'd blamed the oppressive heat and humidity. Now I just have to point to Men's Journal to excuse myself for being so slow.

After realizing that I train during a sub-optimizing time I started thinking about what that really means. What if I run 4 miles at 9:47 at 7:00 AM on Saturday and the next day run at 4:00 PM averaging 9:15 per mile? Am I a better runner on Sunday? Is there a physical benefit to running faster with (conceivably) the same level of effort? I'm not so sure and I'm thinking that it doesn't matter except on race day. To that, if all competitors start at 8:00 AM don't we all share the same advantages and disadvantages? I'm thinking the 4-8 PM performance window is definitely more about competition than conditioning.

I knew before I started that this morning's run would be arduous. The temperature should peak at 97 today and while it was only 88 degrees when I went out at 7:00 the sun was baking and the air was soupy. I was pleased with my Brooks Rev T shirt that manages sweat so well (along with my Adidas shorts). Eventually everything became soaked but I was happy to get 4+ miles out of the way without succumbing to the brutal heat. I called it a run when my heart rate started to climb past 80% of max and I really wanted to shower and grab a quick nap. Instead I guzzled some low sugar Gatorade that I'd picked up on sale last week and I chased that with a quart of water. I think I'll need to go out even earlier tomorrow if I want to avoid those conditions. Perhaps the weather will be better than today's. I wasn't worried too much about performance today and that's good because it wasn't great. I don't care -- now I can blame a poor showing on the time of day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hitting my stride again

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

I'm not sure why the feel of today's run was different from yesterday's but I had a far better experience this morning. Things didn't start too promising. I awoke with a sinus headache and felt sluggish. With that, I prepared for a slog of a run but was pleasantly surprised when I hit the street and felt balanced and strong. It was cooler than yesterday but only by a degree or two. Yesterday's issues with stride efficiency were gone and I was able to focus on moving along rather than thinking about the mechanics of my gait. I slightly altered my route which helps keep it interesting and when I hit my first mile it seemed to come quick. Compared to yesterday, it did, which pleased me further.

I spend some time yesterday with my friend CMc. He's one of my "Running Gods" who has many years and many marathons behind him. I'm usually the student but got a chance to be the teacher as we headed to Union Square at mid-day for lunch at Republic followed by a walk over to Jackrabbit. CMc is in the market for a new pair of trail shoes so we looked at what was on display. I had a great time explaining the differences between the models (including non-trail shoes). I may not be an accomplished runner like my friend but I do know a fair amount about the models and their various technologies. Perhaps when I know less about the shoes and gear it will be signal that I'm a more serious runner!

Tomorrow is supposed to be a scorcher -- 97 degrees with high humidity by noon. I'm going to need to get out early for my long run. With any luck, weather conditions will be similar to today's.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Unstable run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles at 9:28

This morning brought a welcome break from the heat. According to the local news station the temperature was 71 when I went out for my run. I was hoping to experience the crisp air that occasionally appears on summer mornings when the humidity is low. It was certainly pleasant but there was too much moisture in the air to call it cool. I had a little trouble with my stride today and I can't really understand what was going on. I just felt that I was running unbalanced for some reason and my whole running process felt very inefficient. All the same I was pleased to get this run in on a day where the heat and humidity weren't overwhelming. I may run in Central Park tomorrow but if the weather reports are still calling for high temps and high humidity on Friday I'll do my run at the start of my day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New articles: Running Gone Wild and Runner's Tech Review

Today's run: Rest day

A busy evening kept me up late last night so I decided to forgo today's run in exchange for 30 minutes of extra rest. I think it was a good decision and I am happy that I've reached a point where I can spontaneously skip a workout without concern that my training is going off the rails. Barring rain tomorrow I'll be out there again. With rain, it's the dreaded treadmill.

I'm happy to report that new stuff has been posted to Running Gone Wild and Runner's Tech Review. In Running Gone Wild, Adventure Girl recounts two recent and memorable runs in the wilds of central Oregon. Adventure indeed! New on Runner's Tech Review are our impressions of Saucony's Kinvera minimalist running shoes. I've grown to really like these shoes and I'm impressed by how well Saucony has nailed the requirements for shoe that meets the needs of Born to Run mid-foot running fans.

I'm looking forward to a break in the humidity tomorrow and I hope that it lasts through the weekend. It probably won't but I'll still appreciate all this oxygen rich, low altitude air.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pleased with the Adidas Response

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles at 9:09

Yesterday was a return to my routine: the daily commute, meetings and the 4:00 AM alarm. With all that happening, I decided to maintain my scheduled Monday rest. That turned out to be a good idea because getting up was fairly a big challenge. This morning it was a different story. I felt energized from the moment my alarm went off and I picked my Kinvaras for today's run. The only shoes I brought to Colorado were my Adidas Response trail runners that are Swiss army knife-like in terms of utility. This shoe got me through every inch of walking, hiking and running while delivering a perfect balance of cushioning and support. I continue to be amazed at the value I've received from this pair. I only paid $33 (after a discount coupon) at the Adidas outlet when I bought them on a whim a year ago. They work equally great on both street and trails and serve often as a casual shoe on weekends. It proves that you don't always need to spend big dollars to get what you need.

As I mentioned above, I went out with the Kinvaras today and (probably due to my wearing the Adidas and Brooks over the last week) the lighter weight of the Sauconys was noticeable. I mentioned above that I was energized before my run and still felt strong by the time I hit the street. The air was relatively cool (70's) and the humidity was not yet a factor. I covered my route in about 23 minutes and wished I had time to go another mile. I'm beginning to think about a Central Park run on Friday and I'm hoping we get a break from the heat and humidity by then. It will be good to get some distance this weekend. I think my body is still responding well to the richer air and I'm hoping that's still the case by week's end.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Return to the Stillwell trails

Today's run (Stillwell Woods trail): 4 miles at 9:52

I returned to the trails this morning and went for a run at Stillwell Woods at 8:00 AM in hopes of beating the heat. The tree cover helped with the sun but the humidity was extreme. I followed a familiar route that's more entertaining than challenging and realized that Stillwell's trails are as beautiful as the trails I ran in Colorado Springs. Of course there are no mountains in the distance and no deer along the way (although some rabbits and chipmunks did cross my path). I had the company of other runners and lots of mountain bikers on the trails this morning, more than usual on a Sunday at that time.

As I ran through the woods I paid attention to my breathing in order to gauge the difference between running at sea level versus the 6,000 foot elevations I had encountered over the week. I found it easier to breathe but didn't perceive a great boost in my stamina. I ended up finishing with an average pace that barely stayed in the nine minute range. No problem there. I always expect to run slower on the trails so pace doesn't matter much to me except during a trail race. I decided to finish after reaching 4 miles because I didn't want to push too hard with the increasing heat and humidity. Now that I've had a taste of mountain running I know what I am missing, but being back on my home turf I can also appreciate what I have.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Running again at sea level

Pike's Peak at sunset

Exploring the Manitou cliff dwellings

Nearing the top of Pike's Peak

The Emerging Runner visits the Colorado Running Company

Weight room at US Olympic Training Center. Fence (above) was put in to prevent athletes from sneaking in after hours to train

Western view of the mountains at night

Along the regional trail at Bear Creek. A big deer stands guard

Picked up this pebble in my shoe during the Bear Creek trail run (actual size)

Rotating sculpture at America the Beautiful Park

Hawks circling at the incredible Garden of the Gods Park

Balanced Rock at GOTG

Early morning view of the Helen Hunt Falls

Today's run (street): 4.2 miles at 9:27

For me, the worst part of any vacation is the travel to and from our destination. The flight into Denver was punctuated by long periods of moderate turbulence and I was very happy to touch down a mile higher than where we'd started. We prepared for our return but spent almost as much time at the airport as we did on our flight due to a two hour, weather related, departure delay. By the time we had settled back in at home it was close to midnight and we were all asleep within minutes of shutting off the lights. Even though I was still on Rocky Mountain time I woke up early and went out for a run. I was curious to see if the richer air would yield any performance benefits. The lower altitude did present easier breathing but the high humidity (compared to what we'd experienced throughout the week) offset that advantage. I ran 9:18 for my first mile this morning and lost about ten seconds on the second and third before picking up the pace on the 4th. The breathing part was easy but I was tired. I guess I can claim travel fatigue but I'd rather blame the humidity. It was the first run I'd done on the street since last Saturday and I did miss the surface of the trails, even the tough ones.

We covered a lot of ground during our Colorado explorations. After our trek through Bear Creek Park on Thursday morning we headed to the America the Beautiful Park that features a huge revolving sculpture that serves as the worlds coolest water sprinkler. The kids took off their shoes and enjoyed cooling off under the hot sun. After dinner we returned to Garden of the Gods park to check out some areas we didn't get to on Monday, including Balanced Rock where we took lots of pictures. We saw so many deer in the park that night that my kids began to roll their eyes every time my wife and I would announce another sighting.  Friday morning we returned to the Helen Hunt Falls and spent some time scrambling on the rocks and enjoying the views. The visitor's center had many articles about tourists falling because they didn't heed safety warnings. Despite that danger, it's a place that we'd love to visit for days if we had time.

Oft ignored sign at Helen Hunt Falls
 It's nice to be home but the memory of our trip will last for a long time. We probably took 500 pictures between our three cameras and my iPhone. I'm looking forward to seeing the photo book my wife is making. I may head to Stillwell tomorrow to return to the trails once more. The vegetation may be different and there will be no mountains in the distance but it's my trail running home and I miss it nonetheless.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Trail head at Bear Creek Park

Shot of the regional path

Surprised to see this big buck along the path

Running with deer in Bear Creek Park

It's our last full day on our Colorado Springs vacation. We head back home tomorrow after what has been a great week. This morning we went to Bear Creek Park which has trails for hiking, running, mountain biking and riding. After speaking with the nice people at the nature center my wife and kids selected a trail and went for a walk. The docents suggested the more "running friendly" regional trail to me so I took that instead. The regional trail's surface started as crushed rock and changed to dirt (both sandy and hard-packed) as I went along. The trail was up and down with some inclines that went on for a while.

Almost immediately I encountered my first deer, a large female that crossed my path near my starting point. I followed the well marked path until I reached a crossroad that went north with a steep incline. At the cross point stood a very large buck that watched me closely as I passed by. I managed to get a shot from my iPhone before heading toward the northeast path and almost tripping on a rabbit that darted in front of me. As I made my way up (and up and up) the trail, a smaller deer jumped out in front of me and gracefully ran ahead of me on the path. I turned around after about 15 minutes and doubled back taking a slight detour to see where the trail led. It lead to a sign that said "Trail Closed" so I headed back to the trail head. I got a rock in my shoe that I was able to coax away from my heel by changing my gait. It made me think about those trail shoes with built in gaiters to prevent trail effluvia from getting in. Along the way back I ran by a creek and took a shot of that before finishing my 3 mile run. I met up with my family at the Nature Center. They had lots of fun and took some great pictures on their walk. But only I saw deer!

The rest of the day was jammed packed and I'll write about that tomorrow. Heading home on Friday. Boy I'm going to miss this place.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Up close and personal with our giraffe friends

Shot of the trail I ran this morning

Boxing rings at the Olympic Training Center

Caves, Olympians, giraffes and waterfalls

Todays run (trails) 2 miles at 10:10
I went straight to the trails this morning and with a couple of exceptions I followed the same route as yesterday. Since I knew the basic direction of the paths, I had less concern about where I was or whether the path I was on would end abruptly -- or worse -- result in a straight drop across rough rocks. I've compared this terrain to Stillwell, but honestly, it's far rougher. Where Stillwell paths may drop off sharply, the trails there are mostly dirt. Here, the trails dip and rise around areas of rock, much of it looking like sand. I've had a few close calls that could have resulted in a turned ankle (or worse) but so far I've been lucky. I did two miles today and it was still very tough. Between the terrain and the altitude I was pretty darn exhausted during the run. In addition, we've gone straight out since we landed and I haven't rested as well as I should.

Yesterday morning we visited the Cave of the Winds which are natural caves that were discovered in the late 1800's. It was fun and freaky to move through these spaces. The caves themselves are situated high in the mountain and the view of the canyon (at the start) was incredible. After that we took a little time visiting Old Colorado City which has lots of interesting stores and restaurants. Then we headed east to the US Olympic Training Center and took a tour. It was fascinating to see the place where so many Olympic athletes and hopefuls train. We saw boxers, wrestlers and swimmers who were doing their training as we passed through. I'll post lots of pictures at a later time and I'll try to put a few up today if the Blogger mobile app cooperates.

After my run this morning we visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo that featured lots of different habitats. My kids got to feed the giraffes and we saw just about every animal you could think of. On our way back we stopped at the Helen Hunt Falls (named after Helen Hunt, an advocate of native Americans in the 19th century, not the movie actress). This is a natural waterfall with a footbridge that runs above the top. We spent time in the nature center where I learned that the dominant species of trees in the area were Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, Bristlecone Pine, Ponderossa Pine and White Fir. We made one more stop to check out Bear Creek Park, which will be a destination tomorrow. I think I'll do tomorrow's run there unless we decide to return to Garden of the Gods instead. Maybe we'll do both!
I'll try to put up some recent pictures from our trip. Hope it works.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Like Stillwell but with cactus

I headed down to the fitness center at 5:30 AM to run on the treadmill. When I arrived both treadmills and elliptical machines were being used so I decided to take another crack at the local trails outside.

After consulting with the sleepy clerk at the front desk about the best way to get to the trails, I set out for a real Colorado trail run. The trail starts out with a steep incline that turns into a steeper 30' drop. At the bottom the trail flattens a bit and then becomes rocky and rolling. As I followed the trail's up and down path I was determined to run the entire 2 mile out and back route despite the rough terrain and thin air. I am definitely getting used to the high altitude conditions and managed a far tougher course today than yesterday's Garden of the Gods run. The trail reminded me of some of Stillwell's rougher sections but the trees and plants (cactus and yucca) were very different. I reached a section with a ridge line that faced Pike's Peak and followed that for a bit. I stopped for a minute to post a picture tweet and soon headed back. The last section, where I needed to make my way up what was a 30' drop at the start was a great challenge at the end. It wasn't a very long run but I felt I finally had an authentic Colorado dirt trail experience. I won't bother with the fitness club tomorrow morning. Instead, I'll be heading directly to the trails.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Running among the Gods

Western view of the Garden of the Gods
Today's run (Garden of the Gods): mileage unknown (approx 2 mile)

The trail behind our hotel turned out to be a bit of a bust. I followed it about a quarter mile before it dropped off sharply near a sign that said private property. I was reluctant to trespass and a little skittish about the local wildlife. The concierge mentioned that there had been a bear sighting in that area recently. I didn't feel brave enough to find out if it was true.

We headed to Garden of the Gods this morning and walked around the Ute/Bretag/Palmer trail and the Perkins Central Garden trail. We watched some brave climbers at the top of a rock face and couldn't believe their bravery or their sanity. I decided to go for a run while my family continued their walk. I followed the same basic trails that we had walked and completed a loop that took me a little less than 20 minutes. The altitude definitely affected my stamina and while it wasn't anything close to rigorous it was one of the toughest 2-milers I've run. The challenge of the run was nothing compared to what I saw -- the most majestic rock formations and views of looming mountains surrounded by forests of Ponderossa pines and juniper trees. Absolutely incredible.

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Later we visited the Manitou cliff dwellings where we climbed through authentic structures that have stood for a couple of thousand years. At the risk of sounding like a travel agent it was amazing to experience and lots of fun.We had lunch in Manitou Springs and walked around the town, had lunch at an Egyptian diner (not a typo) and had fun observing all the neo-hippies walking around. We capped the day with a drive up the Pike's Peak highway which goes 19 miles to the top of Pike's Peak. I'll admit that I endured more than enjoyed that drive. The sheer drop off the dirt road measured almost two miles at some points. But it was incredible. Scary as heck but incredible.

Nearing the summit at Pike's Peak
It was a really fun day and more fun will follow tomorrow. We'll return to the Garden of the gods, visit the uS Olympic Training Center and do a few other things. I'm planning to take a trip the the Colorado Running Company at some point. Why not, right?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rocky Mountain high

We've settled into our Colorado digs and have looked around a bit. The mountains are amazing and I can't wait to do some running. We have trails that start right out the back of the hotel. One leads directly to the Garden of the Gods.Take a look at this tweet to see a picture out our window:

More tomorrow after I hit the road. or should I say, the dirt.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Emerging Runner Two-Athlon

Running (top), swimming (bottom), results (middle)

Today's run (street): 4.15 miles at 9:52

Yesterday afternoon the Emerging Runner Family held our first Emerging Runner Duathlon. Or as my kids insist on calling it, a Two-Athlon.  The event pitched parents (The Sunset Swimmers) against kids (The Wave Runners) on a course that included seven laps around a backyard "track" and then three laps across the length of the pool. With temperatures close to 90 degrees the running was hot but the swimming was great. Although we weren't aiming for an Ironman-level challenge, these ten laps weren't as easy as they sound. It was quite an anaerobic workout.

I have no idea of the length of the running course but running at a full sprint in the heat with sharp turns around the pylons was harder than I'd expected. We all stayed within a few seconds of each other in terms of lap times but those seconds added up to make a difference. I'm usually reluctant to jump right in the pool but not during this race. We're all pretty strong swimmers and our times were fairly close on that segment as well. With no handicapping, the Wave Runners took the prize by beating us by a margin of three seconds. It couldn't have been much closer. My son took the overall finisher prize by winning both the running and swimming segments, beating my overall time by 8 seconds. Very humbling. My wife and daughter finished close to us which explains the razor thin margin of victory. So the kids have bragging rights until the next race.

We leave for our trip tomorrow so I thought I'd get one more east coast run in before we head to the Rockies. Just as I prepared to start my run the skies opened up with some much needed rain so I stood in the garage with my daughter and watched it come down. Soon the clouds moved on and I headed out. After a rain the air feels cooler and I enjoyed that for about ten minutes until the humidity came back in force. The heat and moisture in the air didn't make me want to stop running but it definitely affected my speed. I ended up running about 40 minutes and covered a little more than 4 miles. I thought of my friend FS who raced this morning in Central Park and probably experienced both the rain and the humidity over the 10K course. I'm glad I wasn't racing today. I'm going to try to post while I'm away using my iPhone. I hope that works, otherwise I'll be posting a lot of stuff when I return!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Injuries, pains and hot sushi

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles at 9:20
All runners worry about injuries, especially those that happen quickly and interrupt our lives. Even non-athletes experience injuries. My mother is in the process of selling her home on Cape Cod and was preparing for a yard sale when she tripped on a box and fell. This resulted in two broken wrists. She's recovering from yesterday's surgery and is facing weeks of rehab. Our family is fortunate that my brother and his family live in Boston and are taking great care of her. It's scary to think about how something as sudden and unexpected as a fall can change your life so quickly.

I've been very fortunate in terms of injuries over the last couple of years since I've returned to running. I caused my own problems early on when I went to the track for speed work and ran some intervals too fast without properly warming up. I pulled an abductor muscle on my left side and for months this injury acted up like clockwork whenever I'd reach the third mile of a run. I also developed a nagging pain in my right leg that would show up at the beginning of a run but that usually dissipated after a few minutes. I eventually solved that problem by replacing my Nikes with Brooks Adrenalins. Those Brooks cured my pain within a week and have never caused me pain. My original pair have 600+ miles and I can still run in them without a problem. I've been fortunate to have avoided any other running injuries since the ones that I've mentioned. I'm sure sure if I pushed more and did regular speed workouts I'd probably end up hurting myself again. So ultimately, being a lazy runner can be a good thing.

I guess cooked sushi defeats the concept
It's easy to be a lazy runner with the weather this week. The temperatures have dropped to the 70's in the early mornings but the humidity remains high. I got out this morning and did my miles but it was definitely a workman's effort to get through the run. I was amused by the above sign in our corporate cafeteria yesterday notifying employees that "Sushi Thursdays" were cancelled due to the heat. Not being a fan of sushi I was amused by this action. However, there were lots of disappointed people. On the bright side, while the mercury rose outside, the mercury levels of the sushi eaters didn't!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Anticipating altitude adjustment

Today's workout (elliptical): 24 minutes

Despite the heat of the last few days my running comfort has been fine. The old cliche "It's not the heat, it's the humidity" actually makes great sense. While it has been relatively dry this week, this morning's dew point of 70 and temperatures heading to the 90's makes it feel darn uncomfortable. I forgot to set up my running gear last night and when I got up I thought it would be easier and more time-efficient to do an elliptical session. That was a good decision and although the indoor air was plenty humid I had little trouble getting through my workout.

I'm thinking about running in Colorado next week and wondering  how that will go. With altitudes of 6,000 feet and higher I know I won't be running very long. AG wrote about her acclimation to high elevations in Oregon where she's doing a research project this summer. I know she has adapted well -- in fact he'll be running a half marathon there next month, but I won't be on vacation long enough to build much capacity. There is a trail very near where we're staying and I plan to run that first. The main trail is only about a couple of miles but even a four mile out-and-back may be far too much to take on without proper altitude conditioning. I may end up doing most of my workouts in the fitness center and focus my outdoor efforts on hiking. I'll have to see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mid-foot running is great but where's the speed?

Today's run (street): 2.6 miles at 9:32

Stepping out in the Kinvaras for this morning's run reminded me why real running shoes, even lightweight minimalist ones, serve an important purpose. I did well with my pool shoes on Sunday and had no residual aches or pains after my run but my feet felt far better during today's run in the Sauconys. The Kinvaras are almost flat between heel and front foot but they aren't built as low to the ground as some other lightweight trainers. The slightly higher platform allows for a little more cushioning and provides a comfortable ride. My longest run in them so far was 5.5 miles but I have no concerns about doubling that distance (except, of course, for my own limitations). It's interesting that I've lost a lot of speed in the last couple of months. My first runs in the Kinvaras were under 9 minutes per mile. Now I'm averaging closer to 9:30 miles most days regardless of the shoes I wear.

It was 85 degrees and humid when I started my run at 4:05 AM today. With no sun and a slight breeze it wasn't bad. For some reason the Garmin foot pod always over-counts distance on the Kinvaras, probably due to the flatter angle of the upper compared to my other shoes. This translates to faster paces on the FR60 display and more distance captured. I always check my route against Gmaps to find the margin of error and saw that the indicted distance and pace (2.67 mile & 9:18/mile respectively) were overstated by 3%. I can rarely tell while running at 4 AM whether I'm tracking mid 9:00 miles or high 8's so I'm often disappointed (and occasionally delighted) when I calculate based on Gmaps. Regardless of pace or distance I got out there in the heat and covered some good ground while reinforcing my mid foot striking style. The speed will come. I keep telling myself that.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The great minimalist experiment

Shoe diversity makes for happy running

Today's run (street): 2.2 miles at 9:38

I've never been much of a barefoot guy and I'm still not likely to walk around with nothing on my feet. But barefoot running and its close relation, minimalist running, remains interesting to me. My experience running with the Saucony Kinvaras has restarted my focus on front foot / mid-foot striking. Yesterday, when running for a short distance in pool shoes, I wondered how well I'd do on a real neighborhood run. I had considered going to Stillwell this morning to take advantage of the shade from the woods but ultimately chose to run closer to home. I decided that I'd conduct the great minimalist experiment by taking to the streets with these un-padded and flat water shoes. I didn't wear socks but I did keep the very thin removable insole which felt good at the beginning but contributed to some uncomfortable friction near the end of my run. I mapped out a 2.2 mile course on Gmaps and went out using my Garmin as a stopwatch. I didn't use the foot pod because I didn't want to deal with attaching it to the stretchy laces. Since I already knew the distance I'd planned to run it was easy to calculate my pace when I got back.

I was pleasantly surprised with the feel of the pool shoes on pavement as I made my way around the route. The small rocks and pebbles that I encountered underfoot did not hurt my feet in any way. I liked that my arches were doing their job without anything to support them.  I knew I was landing mostly towards the front of my foot but I'm not sure if I avoided my heel for all of my footfalls. My stride felt natural and I moved along well without feeling like I was doing too much work. I wanted to keep the run fairly short in case there was an unintended consequence to running with very little protection and no support. The only complaint I had was the insole stuck to my foot due to sweat and that made me concerned that I could develop blisters if I ran much longer. Next time I'll consider leaving the insoles home and see how that goes. Although they're thin they do provide slight protection. Without the insole I'd be running on the same material as the outsole so perhaps I'd be better off with a very thin sock.

So what happens now? I still have well cushioned shoes like my Brooks GTS 10's and Adidas Response 15's. I have supportive and lightweight stability shoes (Saucony Grid Tangent 4's) and minimal but luxurious Kinvaras. Do I stop running with the Brooks and work closer to always running on the Kinvaras (and occasionally my pool shoes)? I'm thinking no. Every shoe I own has its benefit and as long as I feel that's true I'll continue to run with them all. I'm certainly going to keep a focus on the minimalist side because I do think there's something to that. Pool shoes as running shoes? Not as crazy as you'd think.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Super minimalist running shoes for less than $20!

Today's run (street): 3.6 miles at 9:30

What Vibrams should look like
Happy 4th of July! As you'd expect it's very hot but happily not all that humid. One of my work colleagues was due to participate in a 4 mile race this morning that had a starting time of 9:30 AM. I'm assuming that it was a scorcher and I look forward to hearing how he did when I return to the office next week. We've been busy this weekend. Yesterday, after dinner, the Emerging Runner family all went on a run together around the neighborhood. Everyone did well and my son led the way, maintaining a speedy pace under 10 minutes a mile. I'm assuming that because, in a rare moment of practical normality, I decided not to track the run on my Garmin. My daughter will be going out for track next year as a 7th grader and she's already planning her summer training to be prepared for the rigors of that activity. My son has discovered that playing the trumpet has yielded an unexpected benefit -- great lung power when he runs. It won't be long until I can't keep up with my kids. That's okay, I know my wife will still run with me.

We finished our family run and headed straight to the pool. I had already cooled enough to be reluctant to jump in right away (I refuse to put in a pool heater) so I slipped on my aqua shoes and ran around the pool area until I felt hot enough to take the plunge. My kids followed me through that exercise and before long one and then the other jumped in as they ran. I went on a bit longer and discovered (probably due to the Kinvaras) that I was very comfortable running in the pool shoes. The sole is thin enough to protect from rocks and other objects but with no real padding it naturally enabled front foot landing. I think I'll try to run a mile in the shoes to see whether the experience translates well to the road. If so, I'll have found a very inexpensive alternative to Vibram 5-Fingers. Although some disagree, I think the Vibrams look too ridiculous to wear in public.

In the spirit of minimal running I wore the Kinvaras on this morning's 3.6 mile Independence Day run. I thought about running four on the 4th but I decided to cut it a little short because it was getting too hot to run. I went directly to the backyard and stripped off everything but my running pants and dove right in. A perfect way to finish a pleasant run. I have one more day before I return to the office. With Colorado less than a week away, I'm thinking of hitting the trails tomorrow.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Two good runs: Central Park then closer to home

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 4.9 miles at 9:20
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles at 9:40

Things started out very comfortably at noon on Friday as I started my run in Central Park.  The temperature was rising about one degree every 20 minutes and by noon it was up to 73. Humidity was relatively low as I set a course that started from the 7th Ave. entrance to the park and then followed the east side of the lower loop. I continued on until crossing to the upper loop at 72nd street where I encountered another set of hills. I felt good having had a few strong cups of coffee earlier in the morning and running before (rather than after) lunch.

When I reached the reservoir I ran up the steps to run the dirt path that runs around the lake. I traveled counterclockwise and was heading toward the point where I usually jump off and return to the running path on the west side. Before that I abruptly reached a barrier that forced me onto the path at 90th street. That disoriented me a little and I headed north instead of south for about two blocks until I saw my error and reversed direction. The route back is more downhill than up (I already had plenty of hills coming north) but even the southern direction has its uphill spots that were harder to breech as the sun got hotter. I got passed by a few runners in my last mile and ended up covering about 4.9 miles without feeling too exhausted.

This morning I went out for a neighborhood run a little later than I'd planned. I woke up with a sinus headache for the second day in a row and waited for the coffee, ibuprofen and Sudafed to kick in before going out at 7:40 AM. It was only 67 degrees when I left and there was plenty of shade on the streets. I let my comfort dictate my stride and maintained a mid-nine minute pace through most of my run. I covered about 4.25 miles without working too hard. I'm saving some energy so I can put in more mileage tomorrow and Monday. I know that if I want to do more distance per run I should take more days off from running and run longer when I do. It's hard not running on both weekend days because they are my fun runs that are usually not constrained by time. I haven't decided whether I'll follow through on my plan to run against a set time this weekend. If I'm feeling ready to start early tomorrow I may just try to do that.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pre-Holiday weekend Central Park run

Today's run: Central Park (planned)
The day before a holiday weekend is usually very quiet. I'd considered working from home today since I'm planning to cut out around noon anyway, but I have some things I need to get done in the office. It isn't supposed to get that hot by mid day and I'm looking forward to having a workday-ending run in Central Park with FS. It's budget planning season and that's adding to our busyness. FS and I have a few business items to discuss so we're thinking of covering those subjects during our run. Last summer Adventure Girl and I held our weekly meetings while we traversed the west side bike paths, Central Park and the GW bridge. AG would actually carry an agenda as we ran. It usually took about 4 miles to get through it all. The plan today is to go out at a comfortable, moderate pace and stay with that. I'm not sure what we'll target for distance but we'll work that out.

Or not! It turns out that FS won't be joining me today after all so I'll modify my plan and probably head to the park a little earlier. It's cool and dry and if that continues it could lead to some great running. I'm thinking I might do a loop that goes past the reservoir and then cut across on 97th street. Or I might follow the path around the reservoir itself which will probably keep my run to a tidy 4 miles. I'm raring to go as it's been a few weeks since I've run in the park. The temperature is beginning to climb into the 70's. I hope it stays there!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How far can you run in 80 minutes?

Today's workout (elliptical): 24 minutes

Back in the early '90's I was running three or four days a week on average. My runs took place primarily on the streets of NYC and, with no technologies to track my distance, I never really knew how much ground I covered. After tracing my typical route in Gmaps I now know that it wasn't much. My average run was probably two miles (if that) and progress was frequently interrupted by stops at crosswalks.

I remember once having dinner with my running partner and another couple who were also runners. The guy told me that he ran about 25 miles a week and that amazed me. I'd responded by saying that was practically like running a marathon every week. I recall wondering how he found routes that were long enough to compile that distance. Today I typically run 20 miles per week but my average distance per run is only about 3.75 miles. I do more distance on weekends with my longest run (to date) being 8.15 miles. I ran that in 74 minutes.

I'd like to push my distance further and have decided to see how far I can run in 80 minutes. I just need to find some place where I can do that without traveling the same ground over and over. I can get about seven miles out of running within my neighborhood and the two others that border it but breaking out further requires crossing some major roads which I'm loathe to do. It would be fun to run with some destination in mind but that will take some planning and coordination. With the three day weekend coming up I'm hoping to find an hour and a half to try the 80 minute plan. Even after almost two years I haven't run nine miles straight. My run-against-time plan could help me reach that goal.

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