Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Okay soldier, give five happy baby poses!

Today's run (street): 2.7 miles at 9:38

Most mornings I wake up before my alarm goes off and that makes it easier to get up. The vestiges of sleep are already gone by the time I make my way down to the kitchen for my coffee and I'm already thinking about the route I'll run. Today I needed the alarm and as I poured my cup, my still-sleepy mind lobbied for just another rest day. The thought of returning to bed was tempting but I view ad hoc rest days warily. Too many of them could lead to a permanent change to my running schedule. It's a slippery slope. I just called on my favorite motivator, guilt, and was quickly out the door.

When I stepped outside I saw that conditions were good, with cooler air and low humidity. I'm not focused on speed right now so I felt no pressure to push my pace (and I didn't.) I did a variation to my normal route and that kept it interesting. At the two mile point I actually felt stronger than when I'd started and I took a slightly longer route to finish my run of 2.7 miles. The lengthy run on Saturday with 15 total miles over the weekend put me in a different state in terms getting through today's run. I found it easy to go on auto pilot and think about other things as I went along and this made today's run even more enjoyable. Tomorrow I am out of the office and I plan to run a little longer in the morning and build some more mileage.

There was an article in today's NY Times about the Army's new methods of training that involve less traditional exercise like sit ups and more yoga and Pilate's. It's not about the Army being more new age-y, it's a necessary change to accommodate the more out of shape recruits that are coming on board. The article also had this quote: “We haven’t eliminated running,” General Hertling said. “But it’s trying to get away from that being the only thing we do.”  I hope they don't continue in that direction. Yoga and Pilate's may be beneficial, but for a soldier, running is essential.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The incremental distance conundrum

I covered more than 20 miles last week, putting me about three miles ahead of my normal weekly total. The long run on Saturday accounted for almost a third of my week's distance and it really underscored the fact that while I run often, I usually don't run that far. I've concluded that the progress I've made on speed has not helped to increase my stamina. I really need to improve my endurance if I want to run well at my next race. Looking at my history on Garmin Connect I see that my average run length is about 3.5 miles but my median distance is slightly less than three. This is no surprise because many of my runs happen in the early morning hours when I hit the streets at 4:00 AM and have no more than 25 minutes to get in a run. Best case, were I to push my speed to 8:30 (a reasonably fast pace at 4AM) I would only cover 2.94 miles within that time. I do want to increase mileage and I think it will take some combination of the following:

- Earlier rising to get out sooner, providing more time to run.
- Sleeping in my running clothes to reduce amount of prep time before I run.
- Running faster.
- Giving up some post-run recovery time in favor of more run time.
- Running on my rest day (Monday).
- Running on my cross-training day (Thursday).
- Doing no less than 5 miles on my weekend runs.
- Focusing on adding a mile every week from my prior week's total.

I'm sure doing these things will help increase my weekly distance total but not every option is practical. In reality, it's not adding the incremental fractions of a mile that will make a difference, it's increasing the frequency and distance of my longer runs. My friend FS said that a focus on time running, rather than specific distance or speed, may be the key. That's good advice. I'm hoping to get three 50+ minute runs in this week. It's a start.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Running and sailing redux

The Emerging Runner runs along the pond at Eisenhower Park

Today's run (Eisenhower Park): 3.75 miles at 9:10

After putting in twelve miles of running between Friday noon and Saturday morning I went for the weekend trifecta with another run with my friend KWL. It's been an active couple of days. Besides my running, we spent a good part of yesterday at a waterfront festival in Sayville (where we met senator Chuck Schumer!) and the kids got another chance to sail KWL's RC boats this morning.

KWL and I got started early, first with a side trip so I could show him the trail head to Stillwell Woods, and then over to Eisenhower Park for our run. We'd both done a lot of running over the past two weeks and looked at today as a recovery run that we planned to do at an easy pace. We started off slowly but very soon defaulted to a faster pace. Our circuit included a few loops around the fields and finished with a couple of loops around the pond. On the last loop KWL picked up the pace and put some distance between us before he circled back and we finished our 34 minute run at the same time. The difference between us in the last lap was echoed in our overall pace: his, 8:50 and mine, 9:10. I was very pleased with today's run because it showed I could string together three runs at some length without any aches, pains or noticeable fatigue. Dave's advice about doing more distance runs is my strategy for now.

We finished the morning with more remote control sailing on the pond. My kids have become more adept on the controls which helped because there were a lot of other boats in close proximity on the water today. I know that I'll need to return my focus on speed at some point but for now I'm enjoying my training for the Great Cow Harbor 10K.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Two park runs: Central and Bethpage

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3.6 miles at 9:07
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 7.9 miles at 10:00 (approximately)

It had been over two weeks since I last ran in Central Park and I was looking forward to returning there on Friday. The temperatures in the morning were cool (60's) but as the noonday sun moved overhead the heat came out with strength. I started my run at the 7th Ave crossing on Central Park South and followed the lower loop, moving along well despite the heat and the hills. Along the way the trees provided occasional shelter from the sun and, as usual, the park provided a broad array of stimuli: sights, smells (good and bad) and sounds. Touch too, if you count the feel of the hilly roads under my feet. I was so distracted by the experience that I continued to follow the lower loop until I reached the western side where I redirected north along the upper loop. I continued around the great lawn and followed that north and then east where I switched to the upper loop going south. That series of maneuvers added almost half a mile to my usual route so I was pleased at the end with the extra distance.

This morning I met my friend Dave at Bethpage State Park with a plan to run seven miles on the bike path at a leisurely pace somewhere between 10:15-10:30. Dave's Garmin GPS watch and my Garmin FR60 with foot pod differed in terms of measurement. Mine showed us covering about .4 of a mile longer than his. I have a native distrust for GPS measurement of this type after measuring runs using AllSport, MotionX and other GPS apps on my iPhone. When the data from these runs is compared to the actual measurement (via Google Earth or Gmaps) the GPS usually under represents by a little (or often) by a lot. I can see on the MotionX maps why this is the case, the GPS works in straight line vectors that often cut corners that can add up to less distance. My Garmin has actually been under-counting when paired with my Brooks so we may have actually reached 8 miles today and broken 10:00. I wouldn't be surprised because even though we weren't burning up the road we were moving along well.

Unlike most of my runs at Bethpage, today the runners outnumbered the bikers, although there were a enough bikers to keep us alert when they came up quickly from behind. Dave ran on the inside lane and kindly took the brunt of the bike traffic. We are both running the Great Cow Harbor 10K next month and Dave provided some insight from his experience with that race. Between Dave and Brian I feel very fortunate to have so much prior knowledge of what promises to be a tough course. I'll see for myself in couple of weeks when I do a practice run there with Brian. At the end of today's run I felt very good and took to heart Dave's advice that the best way to increase my stamina is to put in more distance. Distance first, speed second. I hear that. Tomorrow I'll do less distance when I run with KWL. I've covered a lot of miles over the last few days and I need to be kind to my legs. I hope I have enough energy left for Sunday's run as keeping up with KWL can be a challenge. I'm hoping his 10K/100 mile bike ride last weekend will even us up in terms of energy levels.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Long runs and minimalist shoes

Today's run: Central Park (planned)

It's only been one day since I've run but two mornings in a row without a workout seems too long. Tomorrow's planned run will be relatively long but we'll be keeping the pace moderate. Today I'm going to Central Park to put in a few fast miles. The weather predictions are making me think it will be cooler and drier than my last CP run and I'm hoping that's the case. I'm not all that pleased to see the summer coming to a close but as a runner who prefers cooler conditions, I am looking forward to the fall.

I have my Brooks today but I may wear my Kinvaras tomorrow because I'm curious to see how they feel after seven miles. The longest run I've done with these shoes is 5.25 miles and I had no problems on that day. Adventure Girl ran a tough trail half marathon in Oregon earlier this month while wearing her Kinvaras. She liked them a lot, even over that long distance. Today on Runner's Tech Review we're posting an article from a runner who has been deployed in Iraq and has put many miles on a variety of minimalist running shoes. It's a great piece because his impressions are based on miles of running, not just the initial test findings you'd get from most shoe reviews.

Should be a good weekend of running starting today. Only 28 days to the Great Cow Harbor 10K so my focus is turning to distance and stamina.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Crossing off cross training

I went to bed last night expecting to do a morning elliptical session but I've decided to forgo my workout today. I'm still feeling some residual soreness from Sunday's race and I've been feeling tired -- more due to work intensity than running. I'm glad I rested and I have no regrets that I didn't do my cross training this morning. The weather looks promising tomorrow and I'm thinking about doing a city run around midday. I've planned a long training run on Saturday with DaveADK and another run on Saturday morning with KWL. With all that upcoming running the benefits of rest seems to outweigh the benefit of one more workout. At least that's how I'm viewing it today.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A little rain won't hurt a run

Today's run (street) 2.8 miles at 9:06

If I were asked to describe my favorite running conditions I'd probably choose to have temperatures in the 40's, low humidity and indirect sunlight. I'd rather run in the 20 degree cold than the 90 degree heat but I'll run in both. I've run during snowstorms and loved the experience and I've done runs under the noon day sun with so much humidity that I was tempted to quit and walk home. I know people who only run outdoors under ideal conditions but I think that misses the point. Running is about playing the cards you're dealt. How can you understand your capabilities and limits if you only run when the weather cooperates?

When I stepped outside today I thought I'd experience the same conditions as yesterday, cool with a light mist. It's hard to tell too much about the outside weather in the early morning darkness and as I took off on my run I felt a steady rain coming down. It wasn't pouring but it was indeed raining and I had to quickly decide whether to continue or go back inside and run on the dreaded treadmill. I don't mind rain, in fact I like it a lot. My issue with rain is practical. I wear glasses and the combination of summer heat, humidity, rain and darkness make it difficult to see in certain circumstances. After a couple of minutes I concluded that the rain was light enough to manage through, so I continued to follow my planned route. I maintained a steady pace, keeping cadence in mind, and ran without a problem until I reached the two mile mark. At that point the rain became heavier and the humidity was beginning to fog my glasses. I was able to see well enough to keep going and I continued on my planned route back to my starting point.

On the last half mile of my run I was running south along a road that connects to my street and I noticed headlights from a car that seemed to be coming north from the middle school. The effect of these lights on my glasses was diffusion due to the humidity and rain. I became concerned about being able to see my way along the road but I didn't want to run on the sidewalk because there are many uneven sections that could cause a trip. I decided to cross over to the other side and hug the road. This small change offset the direct light that I could now tell came from an unmoving car. I was glad to reach my street and turn away from the distracting light and I finished my run soaking wet but pleased with the way things went. Another decent run despite the rain and humidity. I've been edging closer to running 3 miles on these early morning runs but I always run out of time. If only I could run a little faster.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Training went well but the trains? Not so well

Today's run (street): 2.64 miles at 9:08

Yesterday morning a small fire at the Long Island Railroad' Jamaica Station  hub brought down the entire train system for five hours. I managed to get on one of the few early evening trains out of Penn Station and got home without too much of a problem. At 6:15 this morning the trains are still a mess and I thought about working from home when I got up. No commute would mean more time to run. Ultimately I decided to take my chances with the trains and I'm waiting with the other early birds in a cold drizzle at the train platform.

My decision to commute meant following my usual schedule and I hit the neighborhood roads by 4:00 AM. The news said it was 64 degrees but it felt cooler than that when I stepped outside. I felt moisture in the air and realized it was misting. That mist, combined with cool air, felt great as I took off on my run. I noticed that my feet, really my toes, were still sore from Sunday's race. Although the Dirty Sock course is fairly flat and the trails are well groomed I always end up with sore and swollen feet whenever I run there. I had my Brooks today and that really made a difference in terms of protection and comfort. I pounded on, feeling good, happy for the break from hot and humid running.

I followed one of my standard routes and was glad to see that I'd recovered from Sunday's race with no residual aches or pains. The experience this morning was so effortless that my thoughts drifted elsewhere and I had to keep reminding myself to maintain a brisk pace. I had a few extra minutes and considered extending my run but I chose to go straight home so I could check news reports about this morning's train situation. I ended up covering 2.5+ miles at a decent pace. Near the end of the run I passed a house with a guy standing in front -- unusual to see anyone outside at 4:25 AM. Maybe he was up early trying to grab an earlier train in anticipation of a delayed commute. Speaking of which, here comes my train now. Gotta go!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lesson learned: start focusing on stamina and distance

One thing that became clear to me during yesterday's race was my need to put more focus on distance. The performance gains I had made in prior weeks were seductive and they caused me to think too much about only one dimension of my performance. Four miles run in the mid 8's was a welcome improvement over the mid-9 minute paces I had been averaging over the summer. With everything I'd been reading about the importance of speed work and tempo runs it seemed logical to work on improving pace, especially when measurable gains appeared. As I faced the last couple of miles on the trail yesterday morning I began to regret the lack of longer training runs over the last month. Sure, I could run a decent pace for three or four miles but what happens to my mechanics when that distance is doubled?

After actively returning to running two years ago I've steadily increased my speed and distances to the point where I run mostly in the low 9's and do weekend distances up to about 8 miles. Due to time constraints I've rarely been able to run more than 20 miles per week, with most of my longer runs happening on Saturdays and Sundays. Having a whole hour to run is a luxury and using yesterday's performance as a yardstick that only gets me about six miles. So finding enough time for real distance running is its own challenge. I've really enjoyed the long slow distance (LSD) runs where length, not speed, were the goal. That may be one reason why I prefer trail running; the course and the terrain are so variable that pace becomes less relevant. This weekend I'm hoping to get in at least one long run to help prepare for the Cow Harbor 10K in late September. Distance should help my stamina and once that's improved I can again start thinking about my pace.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Race summary: 2010 Dirty Sock 10K

Spying the finish line was a most welcome sight
Dirty Sock Run: 6.2 miles (10K) at 9:37 (net)

I had high hopes for a better performance than last year at today's Dirty Sock 10K. My training had gone well and I've been pacing regularly in the mid 8-minute range.  I took the last two days off from running and carefully timed my nutrition this morning for optimal benefit. This set an expectation that I'd beat last year's time, at least by a little. The Dirty Sock course is a (mostly) out and back route that begins along the western trail, runs north, circles Belmont Lake and returns the same way (except for the last 1.2 miles). The trails are well groomed, not at all technical, and while there are numerous elevation changes, most are within a 1% grade up or down. This is a great course to run at a moderate pace in the company of friends. Running it as a race, with humidity levels approaching 100%, it begins to feel less fun.

Our day started early and we arrived for registration an hour before the start. The earlier rain had slowed to a drizzle but I still had concerns about its return. The race setup was similar to last year and there's always comfort in knowing what to expect. I was disappointed that there were no bagpipers at the starting line this year but there were many people milling around, stretching, warming up and catching up with friends. My daughter and I took a walk up the trail to look for the starting line and when we returned we found my wife and son chatting with DaveADK, a friend from last year's Dirty Sock Run. Dave had a foot issue and is on the good side of recovering from an eye problem so it was great to see him there. A little later I ran into BJS who ran a practice run with me on the Dirty Sock course a few weeks ago. We walked back to the trail head together where I found Team Emerging Runner awaiting my return. I told them "See you at the finish line" and BJS and I made our way to the starting line. The trail is fairly wide but with 500 people queuing for the start it gets fairly crowded. When the gun went off it took us half a minute to reach the starting line and then we were off. BJS and I conversed for most of the first mile but the density of runners and the narrowness of the trail made it difficult from there.

I made my way past many runners and felt like I was doing better than I did last year. I caught up with DaveADK who was cruising along well and then I caught up with a group of other runners as I ran under the route 27 viaduct. Soon after I encountered race officials on bikes who were yelling "Move to the right!" as the lead runners came by on their way back from circling the lake. By the time I reached Belmont Lake I was feeling the humidity and the effort and while I was tired I knew I had enough left to complete the course. How fast I could do that was another story. I ran in my Helly Hansen's today because I thought the rain would make the trails too muddy for my Brooks. The trail condition stayed excellent throughout the race and I would have done fine in the Adrenalins after all. No harm done, the Helly's did a great job too.

I grabbed water a couple of times, they had an impressive number of water stations that helped greatly in the humid conditions. I had brought a box of raisins as a late race booster and had a small handful  as I passed the mile 5 marker. I think that made a difference because I was growing fatigued and a few people were passing me. I resumed my pace and re-passed some that had overtaken me, all the time thinking that I was about to run the longest 1.2 miles I'd run this year. Just like last year it seemed to take forever to travel the scenic last mile of this race, past the lower lake and over trails that wound and wound until FINALLY, I saw daylight and heard the race announcer on the PA. Unlike last year when I felt like I could not have run another foot longer than necessary to finish, this morning my speed just felt constrained near the end. As I approached the finish line I saw my daughter and then my wife and son and crossed the line with almost the same time as last year. Dave and BJS followed me in very soon after, hard efforts all around.

I'm sure the humidity had something to do with my slower than expected time. It was truly brutal but everyone was up against the same conditions this morning. It was my 10th race since returning to running almost two years ago and I left the event feeling good about competing, even though I really only compete with myself.  As soon as I see my family waiting for me at the finish line the memory of hard effort gives way to a feeling of accomplishment and that's why I do it. Before I know it, I'll be running the Great Cow Harbor 10K. It will be my first 10K on pavement and the course presents some real hill challenges. I need to increase my distances on my longer training runs to get more performance into the last few miles. That's for another day, now it's time to relax and enjoy the feeling of a good race run hard.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thoughts on Sunday's Dirty Sock 10K

I just got word this morning that my friend KWL ran his first 10K and broke 9 minutes per mile. Excellent. He's a sub-nine minute runner so I'm not surprised by his achievement but today's 6.2 miles was also a personal distance record. To date, the only race I've run at that distance has been the Dirty Sock Run and I get to do that again tomorrow morning. I didn't run yesterday and I'm not planning to run today. I've learned after running nine races over the last 16 months that proper rest before racing is a key component to the conditioning process. All the same I feel a certain tension today. It's not because I'm racing on Sunday, I'm certain it's because I depend on my daily run to keep me balanced and free of stress.

We were planning a hike to Bear Mountain on Thursday but I wasn't feeling well that day. Instead we plan to revisit Caleb Smith State Park this afternoon for a hike. I had considered an easy two or three mile run today, but I'm thinking a low impact activity like hiking will be be a far better activity. I'll probably finish the day by following the Lolo Jones core exercises that I have found useful for flexibility. After three weeks of running with a focus on performance and a couple of days off from running I'm satisfied that I've properly prepared for tomorrow's event. I'm still thinking about my racing gear, pre-race nutrition, caffeine ingestion, hydration and pace strategy and I'm looking forward to seeing some running friends at the race. I don't know if my training has been good enough to help me beat last year's time tomorrow but I'll find out soon enough.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wrong turn at Stillwell

Yesterday's run (Stillwell Woods): 5.17 miles at 9:29

I had a tough time getting going on Thursday despite going to bed relatively early and sleeping past 6:00 AM. I realize now that it was related to a combination of a sinus condition and an issue with my glasses. At the time it was a mystery as to why I was so darn tired. It was hard to get moving and it took me two hours to finally get out for my run at Stillwell Woods. My plan was to follow the relatively flat eastern loop within the woods running it three times to get some mileage in before I rest until race day. If all had gone according to plan I would have totaled 6 miles at a fairly brisk pace before declaring the end of my taper. Things didn't go according to plan.

I was still feeling a little sluggish when I set off on the trail but the canopy shielded me well from the sun and the breezes channeled through the trees were cool and invigorating. The trails at Stillwell are not well marked and I'm often thrown off course. After my first loop I made a slight mistake that put me on a shorter trail back to my starting point. No harm done but it did disrupt my three loop plan. Once back on track I continued to follow the planned path but for some reason I chose the wrong trail at around mile four and the trail led to a low lying area surrounded by four steep paths. This forced me to go up one of these trails that are angled at 40 degrees or more. I picked the one that I thought would put me back towards my intended route and I managed to get up despite the fact that I was running in my Brooks GTS 9's. This hill climb took a lot out of me and once I reached the top I re-oriented myself and ran another mile back to the trail head. That last mile was at 10:16 and frankly I was surprised I broke 11:00 by the way I felt.

I was exhausted and dizzy at the end and probably overdid it on the run. I'm hoping that despite that rough experience I gained some marginal conditioning that will help me on race day.  I'll know soon enough. In the meantime I'll rest and recover and hopefully peak at 8:00 on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hamstrung performance

Today's run (street): 2.9 miles at 8:48

I thought my string of speedy runs had come to an end this morning when I took off and felt a painful twinge from my right hamstring. I'd been feeling some tenderness there over the last day but this felt worse. Instead of rushing to a full gallop I shortened my stride a little and tried to maintain a fast cadence. That helped take pressure off the problem and after a few minutes, probably because my leg muscles had warmed, the pain subsided. I maintained the upright form that I use when trying to land on my mid foot while wearing a conventional shoe like the Brooks GTS 10.

The route I'd chosen covered more distance than I usually run before work, almost 3 miles today. I thought my overall time would be markedly off compared to recent days when I knew I was meeting an aggressive pace. When I checked the Garmin at the end I was surprised to see (and later confirm on Gmaps) that I'd again beaten 9:00 by a tidy margin. That pleased me to no end because it proved that even under suboptimal conditions I can still run in the eight minute range.

I'm out of the office on Thursday and Friday and I'm planning to do a long run tomorrow. I'll probably rest on Friday and Saturday to be primed for this Sunday's race. We're planning on going hiking this week so I'll need to ice my hamstring after that. The weather report for the weekend has changed from intermittent storms to clear and sunny. It will be great if that holds. Last year it rained on Saturday which caused some puddles on the trail, but overall the paths were dry. The less mud the better on Sunday, especially if I run in the Brooks.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dirty shoes planned for the Dirty Sock 10K

My GTS 9's in pre-muddy form
Today's run (street) 2.5 miles at 8:44

I own three pairs of trail shoes but I'm thinking of running the Dirty Sock race in regular shoes this Sunday. The trail at Belmont Lake is mostly flat and well tended and there isn't a lot of surface that requires the extra traction of more purpose-built shoes. The reason I'm thinking this way is that I'm concerned that my feet may take a beating after six miles. Last year I ran this event in my New Balance 460's that are great but are a half size too small. I can get away with 3 or 4 miles on the 460's but I ended up with a black toenail after last year's race.

My Adidas Response 15's have been my MVP running shoes, serving well on both streets and trails and filling in as casual shoes when I travel. However, they also lose appeal after five miles of hard running. My feet took a beating the last time I used them for a long trail run. I have a pair of Helly Hansen Trail Lizards that impressively tear up the rough terrain at Stillwell Woods but they may be overkill for Sunday's race. I'm inclined to pull my old Brooks GTS 9's back into service instead. These shoes do very well over long distances and, even after 600 miles, they look and feel almost like new. My only concern relates to vanity as I'm reluctant to get them muddy. I suppose I can always hose them off after I run.

This morning I continued to run with a focus on speed and cadence and achieved 8:44 per mile overall, despite very high humidity. It's still a little challenging to maintain enough concentration at 4:00 AM to keep with a consistently brisk pace. I have been running in my Saucony Grid Tangent 4's over the last week but I've switched to my Kinvaras for this week's taper. I'll probably do my last training runs in my Brooks GTS 10's to get used to a little heavier shoe. My biggest concern at the moment is how the rain predicted for Saturday might affect conditions on Sunday morning. If it's muddy course on race day I may need to run in trail shoes after all.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tubes, zig-zags, bounces, shocks and resistors

K-Swiss goes tubular

A couple of weeks ago my daughter and I were on the train heading back from the city when we stopped at a station. Directly outside our window was a billboard ad for the K-Swiss Tubes running shoe. Knowing nothing of this shoe, I judged it on design alone. Built within the outsole were a series of open "tubes" that run perpendicular to the length of the shoe. The tubes were clearly designed to disperse shock and (I'm guessing) return some energy from the impact. I just remember thinking that I would never wear that shoe in public.

Adidas Mega Bouncer

Nike's Shox absorber
Reebok gets Ziggy
The Reebok ZigTech shoe provides a similar visual reaction. In the case of this shoe it's a rippled outsole (e.g., "zig-zag") that supposedly provides a flexible high energy experience. I've been amused by the marketing of the shoes and the fact that not one athlete who endorses them is known for their running. I don't know if the technology works but they sure look funny.

One model of a weird shoe that I have tried is the Adidas Mega Bounce. I like Adidas as a brand so I put on a pair out of curiosity. I expected springiness but all I felt was awkwardness. So much for that. I'd put the Mega Bounce into the same category as the Nike Shox. This shoe is built with shock absorbers in the back that remind me of the air shocks I installed on my Mustang when I was in high school. This shoe seem to be popular and they are fairly pricey but I rarely see them on the feet of real runners.

Skechers resists running
This weekend I saw an ad for Skechers SRR (Skechers Resistance Runners) that looks like a cross between those ubiquitous "Shape Ups" and a running shoe. Their website claims that dramatic gains in postural, gluteus medius and calf muscle activation (???) will come with the use of these shoes. Okay, good to know. I realize that all of the serious running shoe companies have their own unique science. Brooks has DNA and BiOMoGo, ASICS has their GEL and Trussic technologies, Saucony has "Pro Grid" and Mizuno has the Wave. At least these features are integrated into the shoe in such a way that they look like serious footwear. I could say I'm not one to judge but clearly I am. The question is, if K-Swiss or Skecher were to send me a pair of their latest models, would I give them a fair shake on Runner's Tech Review? The answer is yes. However, I guarantee most of my testing would be done in the early morning, in the dark, so I'd have the lowest chance of being seen with them in public.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Running and sailing -- how's that for a duathlon?

Setting sail on the Eisenhower Park pond
Today's run (Eisenhower Park): 4 miles at 8:32

This morning me and my friend KWL headed early to Eisenhower Park for a training run. We're both competing next weekend -- me in the Dirty Sock 10K and he will be running a 10K on Saturday and participating in a 100 mile cycling event on Sunday. Our plan for today was to cover about four miles around the park and then meet up with my wife and kids for a little remote control sailing. More on that below.

KWL has only been running for about a year. In fact it was just a year ago that he participated in a Fun Run that I'd organized in Central Park and, without any prior training, he beat a handful of experienced runners. He's an avid cyclist and that athleticism carries over to other activities. Our run together was well timed (for me) because KWL set a quick pace and we ran the 4 miles with split times of 8:28, 8:18, 8:31 and 8:48. We started with a couple of laps around the southern paved trails and finished with a lap and a half around the big pond. At least that was my 4 miles. KWL continued to run another mile while I waited for my family to arrive. I was very happy with my pace but less happy with my stamina. I could have run another mile when I stopped because I began to tire. I didn't want to overdo things since I'd run hard the preceding week and I'm planning to keep up the pace in my final runs prior to race day.

Tall Ships ready to set sail
After the running was completed we met up with my family. KWL opened the back of his car and showed the kids the two remote control sailboats that he and a friend had made. The kids were surprised to see that the boats stood higher than their own height. These sailboats were impressive and as I watched them glide over the water I was amazed by their speed and maneuverability. The fact that the boats had no motor for propulsion (only a small servo for turning the sails and the rudder) made it both a serene and exciting activity. Near the end my son handed over the controls of his boat and I got to do a little sailing myself. We ended our Eisenhower Park activities by 10:00 AM and still had plenty of day left. It was a great way to spend our Sunday morning with a good friend and I had yet another great training run.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Training is paying off with two speedy runs despite the hills

Friday's run (Central Park): 3.25 miles at 8:39
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles at 8:36

We have guests coming over today so I set out early to get in my run. My focus, both today and yesterday, was on maintaining a brisk pace over routes that presented some hill challenges. Yesterday I headed to Central Park around noon and followed a route that started by following the lower and upper loop on the east side. I crossed to the west north of the Great Lawn and finished my run down the loops along the west side. The temperature was around 75 degrees and that helped at the start. I ran the first mile, that has a couple of noticeable elevations, at around 8:05 per mile, which is fast for me. My split speed decreased for miles 2 and 3 but I did keep my pace well under nine minutes the whole way through. A focus on speed has definitely improved my performance and I'm happy with the numbers but I do wish I could just go out there and run for fun. But running for fun does not contribute enough to conditioning and I only have one week before the Dirty Sock 10K.

My run this morning mostly took place in a business park located near my house. it's not the most visually interesting place to run but the wide open streets and a loop that is 2/3 uphill and 1/3 downhill makes for a great training ground. I ran the loop two times and tried to maintain a rapid cadence. I averaged 88 SPM for the first mile and gradually fell to 83 SPM by the last half mile. Even so, I bettered the 80 SPM that I have averaged most of this summer. I finished my training cycle by ducking into neighborhood #3 which is mostly flat and provided a welcome relief from uphill running. From there I headed home, tired but still remaining under the 9:00 threshold.

Last night my wife told me about a 5K race that was being held at Sand's Point this morning. She suggested I run it because it's a beautiful place right on the water. I decided that I needed to do the hill training instead, to prepare for next week's race. It would have been fun to spontaneously run a 5K but part of my enjoyment of racing is the anticipation of the event and the strategy and training that precedes it. I'm really curious about how I'll do next Sunday. Will my performance training pay off or will I end up close to my time from last year? I thought I'd trained better and incorporated better strategy before the New Hyde Park 8K in June but I ended up no faster (or slower) than my 2009 run. I'm planning to run with my friend KWL tomorrow and then run on Monday through Wednesday during the week. I'll finish my taper with an elliptical session and rest for Sunday. At least that's the plan for now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

NYC running - many choices, but there's only one Central Park

Today's run: Central Park (planned)

It's looking fairly gloomy on this Friday the 13th morning. The local news station predicts that the low cloud cover will burn off by noon and that nice weather will follow. I'd be happy to keep the overcast skies and just eliminate the threat of rain. It's been a few weeks since I've done a Central Park run and I miss the experience. I'm planning to return to the park today and I have high hopes for relatively cooler temperatures and low humidity.

Last summer I covered a lot of the city during these summer Friday excursions. AG, who knew most of the running routes in the NYC and surrounding areas, introduced me to the west side bike paths, the Old Croton Aqueduct trail and the experience of running over the Brooklyn and GW bridges. I ran north on the bike paths earlier in the summer with my friend Steve but other than that I haven't migrated far from Central Park.

Bike paths at Chambers Street
It might be fun to run south on the bike path to Chambers Street as we did often last year. It was a one way trip that ended downtown near Whole Foods. After the run we could walk a block to Whole Foods and get some recovery drinks (I liked the bottled water with added electrolytes) and we'd hop on the subway back to the office. I suppose I could do that today for a change of scenery. Still, Central Park is seductive and it has the hills I really need for my training. I'll wait until noon to see how I feel and whether the weather will cooperate.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A kind surprise from the Emerging Runner, Jr.

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

This morning I walked into the guest room to see my running clothes and gear laid out for my morning run. I had gone to bed early and neglected my usual setup process so I was confused to see everything neatly in its place. Then I saw a note from my daughter explaining that she was concerned that I'd forgotten to do this the night before. It was very thoughtful of her and I felt a little bad about not using some of the carefully selected items (like my headlamp) but I wanted to do some cross training this morning on the elliptical. Having all my towels and workout clothes ready certainly saved me time.

My focus on speed in preparation for the upcoming Dirty Sock and Great Cow Harbor runs has extended to my elliptical workouts. I found that I could maintain a rate that's 9% faster than I had been achieving a month ago (at the same level of resistance). It would seem as though the the extra effort I'm putting into running has improved my speed all around. I plan to test that tomorrow with a run in Central Park if the weather holds up. I've been running faster but I haven't really faced any challenging hills. Central Park provides plenty of those and I'm curious to see how I do on them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

7:04 pace for 2.8 miles? All it takes is a little math

Today's run (street): 2.8 miles at 8:59

Once again I managed to squeak under the 9:00 per mile threshold for my early morning run. While I haven't been all out sprinting during my runs I have been putting a lot more effort into the process. It makes me wonder how far I could really push it without my heart rate moving into dangerous territory. 8:59 makes me happier than 9:00 but, regardless, that pace range was characterized as "pedestrian" in an article I recently read in a running magazine. How insulting! I may run at a pedestrian pace but  according to other articles I'm really much faster than that. Based on what I've also recently read, here is the Emerging Runner Guide to rationalizing your pace:

1. Every 5 degrees above 60 adds 20-30 seconds per mile to pace
@ 75 degrees (3 x -15 seconds) =  8:59 - 45 seconds = 8:14

2. Every 10 degree difference above 60 at the same relative humidity = 35 seconds per mile
@ 75 degrees (1.5 x 30) = 8:14 - 45 seconds = 7:29

3. Age compensation (compared to fit 20-something runners) and 4:00 AM start time
Lets just subtract another 25 seconds...

Using the above guide I see that I'd actually achieved an average pace at 7:04 per mile this morning. How about that?! I guess I'll need to work a little harder or find more formulas to get me into the 6:00 range.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Doing what it takes to stay under 9:00 per mile

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles at 8:59

I'll admit that I like my current focus on speed and pace and I've been looking forward to my early morning runs even more than usual. I'm not running fast at 4:00 AM but compared to the paces I maintained throughout most of July, I am running much faster. My definition of a decent pace begins at around 9:05 per mile. I'm generally pleased when I meet or exceed that time. My psychological threshold is 9:00 minutes and that's when I feel like I've accomplished more than merely covering my distance. Right now, in the midst of summer, 9:00 per mile is much harder for me to break than when I'm running in 20-30 degree temperatures. I want to do better on the Dirty Sock run this year and I believe that consistently training at paces around 9:00 per mile will get me there. However, trails can become more difficult based on their condition. If it rains close to start time all bets are off.

I managed to break my psychological threshold this morning, clocking an 8:59 pace for two and a half miles. It was already close to 80 degrees when I left but without the sun I felt like I could push without straining. I'm focusing primarily on form (vertical alignment, arm positioning) and cadence. On my slow days in July, I hovered around 80 SPM and on longer runs would fall as low as 78. These days, as I run, I think about how quickly I'm turning over my stride, how high my trailing leg is going and how much time I can spend off the ground. Higher cadence does influence stride length but I think that's okay. In Born to Run, Christopher McDougal writes about the advantages of a shorter stride for mid-foot running and I agree that it does provide a feeling of moving along well.

My friend BJS sent me some notes that he made from his Cow Harbor 10K training last year. They are extremely helpful in understanding the course and setting expectations. He mentions a couple of big hills that must be respected. I think that will be the theme for one of my upcoming weekend training runs. The Dirty Sock course has no measurable elevations but, even so, I'm expecting that hill training will help me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

MOO(ve) over! I'm running the Cow Harbor 10K!

I missed the Great Cow Harbor 10K race last year because it conflicted with a family trip. I was eager to sign up for the 2010 version but discovered that we have a family event on the same day. Those things happen and though I was disappointed I understood the reasons. On Saturday we got the official invitation in the mail and my wife brought it over to me and said "We don't need to be there until 4:00 PM. You can run Cow Harbor." I wasted no time getting signed up and registered.

I've run nine races since returning to running in 2008. Most of these races have been of modest size, typically 200-600 participants. I did run with a relay team at last October's Cape Cod marathon which numbered almost two thousand runners but it still didn't seem all that big. Cow Harbor is big and it's also a RRCA Championship race so it attracts elite runners from all over the world. The field is big, over 5,000 participants, that I'm certain will feel like a huge crowd while I run through the quaint harbor side town of Northport in September.

Speaking of big races, I got a report from Adventure Girl that the Haulin' Aspen half marathon trail race in Bend, OR was a fantastic event. Her descriptions sounded grueling but she called it fun. Look for a full recounting in an upcoming Running Gone Wild post. Although I am excited about Cow Harbor, my sights are set on my next race: the Dirty Sock 10K that is scheduled for Sunday, August 22nd. I plan to stay with my focus on speed during this week's training runs and to begin introducing more hill training on weekends. The Dirty Sock course is relatively hill free but the Cow Harbor course will clearly present some elevation challenges.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Run, hike, run, rest!

Today's run (street): 4.56 miles at 9:10

It's been a great weekend for getting outdoors. Yesterday I did a 6+ mile run at Belmont Lake and later that afternoon my wife, son and I went on a long hike in Stillwell Woods. Considering that it's early August the weather was very comfortable, especially with the tree cover keeping the interior temperatures relatively cool. I considered returning to Stillwell this morning for a run but decided to stay closer to home. I wish I could run to Stillwell from my home rather than drive the five minutes to get there. If not for the major roads I'd need to cross I'd do that. After yesterday's run and hike my feet were still a little swollen so I chose my Kinvaras today. The Kinvaras are light and the toe box is flexible so I thought they would be a good alternative to my conventional shoes.

I set out to run a moderate distance and picked a route that took me west along Jericho Turnpike for about a mile until I turned into neighborhood #4. It was a nice change of scenery as I haven't run in this neighborhood in almost a year. There were some good hills to follow both up and down and I traveled the perimeter road until I reached an outlet that allowed me to cross over to my main neighborhood. Considering all the running and hiking I'd done the day before I did fairly well on today's run. I definitely slowed down in the last couple of miles but did maintain a credible pace overall. When I reached home I realized how humid it was. While running it wasn't that noticeable because there was little sun due to low cloud cover. When I finally stopped I was amazed by how much I had sweat. The sprinkler system was on in front of my house and I stood in the path of one sprinkler head to cool off a little. It took a cool shower and then some to fully restore my comfort level.

I'm glad to have got my workout completed early today so I can focus on the activities of the day. I feel great and I'm happy with my performances over the last week. A special shout out to Adventure Girl today. She's running the Haulin' Aspen half marathon in Bend, Oregon this morning. Lots of high altitude running and a start with 8 miles of steady elevation (!).  Once again, to quote Murakami, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Practice makes perfect on the Dirty Sock trail

BJS gives a thumb's up to today's run

Today's run (Belmont Lake Park trails): 6.36 miles at 9:25

It's been almost a year since I've run the trail at Belmont Lake, home of the Babylon Village Classic Dirty Sock 10K Run. With the exception of the last 1.2 miles of last year's 10K race I've enjoyed running this course more than most. It's an out-and-back run that totals 6.2 miles when you begin at the starting line along the main trail. We started our run while still outside the trail head so our distance was longer. Accompanying me this morning was BJS, an Emerging Runner friend who had also run the Dirty Sock race last year. BJS often runs with his dog but we were on our own today. We hit the trail with temperatures in the low 70's and (thankfully) low humidity. The favorable temperature and the canopy of the woods combined to make the running conditions near perfect.

BJS and I ran at a companionable pace that allowed us to converse easily. Along the way we encountered numerous others walking with dogs, biking and running.  I was surprised when my Garmin chirped to announce that our first mile had passed. It seemed like we'd only just started. I felt good and the company was great and I looked forward to the next 5. We were both amused when two strapping young runners overtook us and politely alerted us they were passing on the left. We joked for them to slow down. I'm sure they thought we were slowpokes but I stand behind our performance today. My barometer for gauging my stamina on this course is how fatigued I feel when I'm circling the northern lake. I was happy that I felt almost as fresh at that point as I did when we started. On the way back the trail is slightly more uphill, not that you would notice except on one or two stretches. We both started strong and finished strong, ending our run 59 minutes and 52 seconds after we'd begun.

We headed for shade and cooled down for a few minutes before we headed out to start our respective Saturday activities. BJS is thinking about running the trail again with his dog before the race on the 22nd. I don't know if I can get back out there before the race but it would be fun to join them. It was a great way to start the weekend and running with a person as interesting as BJS made a long run go very quickly this morning.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A year ago on The Emerging Runner

Dirty Sock 10K -- "I'm having some anxiety about how well I'll perform. I've run 6.2 miles and longer in recent months but that isn't a regular distance for me."

Frustrations with GPS apps for the iPhone -- "The MotionX was completely off with the path showing me running through people's homes and across lawns and through back yards. I thought in the early morning there would be far fewer things that would interfere with the signal."

Workplace running partners -- "It takes commitment to run during the workday because we don't have shower facilities and few people are willing to go at lunch and come back to the office soaking with sweat. I had hoped that our division Fun Run would surface some running partners but no one has taken the bait yet."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Yet another shoe buying experience at Jackrabbit Sports

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

Yesterday afternoon I paid a visit to Union Square with my friend KWL for noodles at Republic and a visit to Jackrabbit Sports. KWL is participating in a two day event later this month, running a 10K on one day and cycling 100 miles the next. His New Balance running shoes needed replacing so he thought it would be good to have his gait analyzed to help him choose the right shoe. Jackrabbit's staff are knowledgeable but they can be a bit arrogant. The person who rang up our purchases was downright nasty, enough so that I'd reconsider returning there. The person who helped KWL was fine though and after confirming that my friend is a neutral strider, he provided pairs of Brooks Ghosts, Saucony Triumphs, New Balance 759 and the ASICS Nimbus, along with the ASICS Cumulus pair that he used for gait analysis on the treadmill. KWL ended up choosing the Cumulus and he ran with them last night and gave them a good review this morning.

Today's run was done under extremely humid conditions but without the sun or oppressive heat it wasn't too bad. I continued my focus on form and cadence but today I was unable to keep to under 9:00 per mile. I did wake up feeling more tired than I normally do and worried that I was fighting off a cold. I thought about staying indoors with an elliptical session but I went with the original plan and ran. I wore my Saucony Grid Tangent 4's but they didn't give me much help on performance today. In my conversation with the Jackrabbit salesperson yesterday he mentioned that the Grid Tangents and other light stability shoes don't sell well and a few models of that type (like the Grid Tangents) are no longer sold in their stores. The only shoe in that category that does sell well is the DS Trainer. I don't expect my shoes to do the work to make me a better performer, that's up to me. So far I'm pleased with my progress this week. A little extra effort has gone a long way.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Running to the edge

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles at 8:59

I don't know if I'd call it running fast but I am definitely running with more urgency this week. Instead of falling into my normal pace I've attempted to push myself a little harder, enough to feel like I'm running and not "jogging." My expectations for performance are lower in the early morning, especially when it's hot and humid. Most of the time my pace at 4:00 AM averages about 15-20 seconds per mile slower than when I run at 8:00 AM. I also run slower in the summer months and the combination of these two factors has put me into the mid to high 9:00 range for most of my weekday runs. After reading some recent articles in Runner's World, Running Times and Men's Journal about performance and race training I decided to break free of my default morning pace and run with a constant focus on speed and form. I'm not pushing past my comfort zone but I'm traveling on the edge.

The temperature on the local station said 75 when I went outside but I immediately sensed that the humidity was back in full force. Ignoring that, I set out quickly and managed to keep my pace brisk over the first street that goes slightly uphill before it connects to another road that descends at about the same rate. I noticed that, despite the humid air, the moderate temperature and the lack of sun made for decent running conditions. I pressed on experimenting slightly with my stride and form. I followed some different roads to alleviate the tedium of always keeping to the same streets and that made it interesting. The new route helped distract me enough to maintain a fairly energetic run.

Throughout the run, I concentrated of front foot landing which was not that easy in my Brooks but I managed to land that way more often han not. I also tried to get more lift on my ascending leg while keeping my stride shorter to increase cadence. Sounds pretty technical but it translated to a decent time, just barely under 9:00 minutes, better than almost any other run I've done of late. This weekend I'll be doing a longer run in preparation for the Dirty Sock race and I don't plan to incorporate any speed technique for that. Tomorrow and Friday I will continue to push to the limit -- and hopefully push those limits even further.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Race training has begun

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles at 8:49

I've come to realize that I'll never improve my performance by running the same comfortable miles over and over again. I can use many excuses to explain why my performance has slipped but, in truth, I've done little to help my cause. I was reading an old post where I'd written about having done speed drills at the local track. That was a long time ago. I did train on hills to prepare for the Cape Cod marathon relay and more recently to prepare for the Marcie Mazzola 5K but that was months ago. Besides throwing in a few tempos on some longer runs I haven't helped really pushed myself. I've come to realize that the only way to improve is to focus on running more "quality miles" that benefit my conditioning and performance.

This morning I headed out to moderately cool temperatures. It felt nothing like Sunday's chilly air but it was certainly better than it had been a week ago. I had just read an article in Runner's World about training for a half marathon PR and realized that the type of running I'm doing isn't really contributing to my running progress. That isn't to say that the running I'm doing doesn't have benefits. It's maintaining my current level of fitness and provides a great outlet for stress. However, now's the time to step up.

I hit the street at a faster pace than I've run in a while. I thought about doing a tempo run but then figured that the distance I'd cover is short enough to push the whole way through. I didn't duplicate the effort I'd make running a 5K (going from waking up to running in 10 mins is hard enough) but I did handily beat 9:00 per mile. The run felt really good and I was left wondering whether it's more work to run easy than hard in some circumstances. I won't declare that I've moved into a new phase of performance running but conditioning will be top of mind as I prepare for the Dirty Sock run later in the month.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Preparing for the Dirty Sock Run

I've officially signed up for the Dirty Sock 10K trail race that takes place on the 22nd. This will be the third time I'll run a race that I had ran the prior year. With the other two races I'd repeated from 2009, my goal was to beat last year's pace and achieve a new PR. I did accomplish that in terms of pace for the Marcie Mazzola 5K but it wasn't a true comparison because the 2009 race was 4 miles. The New Hyde Park 8K was a true mystery to me. Last year I came out too fast and stayed that way until I hit mile 3 and suffered through the last two miles. This year my strategy was to go out slower and reserve more at the end. I did that and ended up running the exact same time to the second.

The Dirty Sock run poses some unique challenges for me. I'd like to improve on last year's time but I haven't run that distance in a while. Most of my weekend runs have been less than six miles because I've had so many problems with the heat. The other issue with this upcoming race is that I really worked hard to prepare last year and still had some struggles on the last mile. In fact that last mile felt as long as the rest of the race itself. I need to start focusing on my distance again and it's probably wise to do a training run on the course at Belmont Lake to prepare for the event. I really like that park so I look forward to following those trails and enjoying the views of the lake. A PR would be nice but a strong run and a better finish will be more than fine with me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Surprising trail run along the Charles

View along the Charles in Auburndale Park, Newton, MA

Friday's run (street): 4 miles at 9:49
Sunday's run #1 (trail): 3.25 miles at 9:34
Sunday's run #2 (street): .75 miles at 10:43

I mentioned in a prior post that my my mother had recently broken both arms and wrists when she fell while setting up for a moving sale. I haven't seen her since that accident but my brother and sister-in-law have been taking great care of her through her recovery. We traveled to Boston this weekend to see her and had a great time thanks to my family's hospitality. My kids had a great time with their three year old twin cousins and seeing my mother, who was impressively mobile and in great spirits despite her circumstance, made us all feel much better. We had great dinners,  great conversation and I had an unexpectedly great trail run this morning.

My weekend of running started on Friday afternoon. I had my son in the office for the day so I didn't do my usual Central Park run at lunchtime. We got home by late afternoon and I went out for a run at 5:00 PM. It was nice to be out without the midday sun bearing down on me but it was plenty hot and humid all the same. I did the first mile at about 9:30 but the next three were closer to 9:54. Again, I felt I was running a little faster than that, but I wasn't that surprised with my overall pace.

Saturday was consumed with travel and activities so I didn't run at all. This morning I went out to Auburndale Park in Newton MA for a 3+ mile trail run. It was cool and dry at 6:00 AM as I set out in search of trails in this park. I came in through the baseball field and ran around the perimeter until I found a trail head that lead me through the woods over pristine paths of hard packed dirt with views of the Charles River to my left. I felt like I could have run for miles but I didn't have the time to do that today. Even at that early hour on a Sunday I saw a few other runners and also encountered a number of people out walking with their dogs. I ended up doing an out-and-back route that totaled 3.25 miles. I had hoped for some decent paths but I ended up with much more than that.

When we arrived home in the late afternoon my daughter and I decided to do a loop around the immediate neighborhood to loosen up after a long car ride. We took it easy and covered .75 miles before heading in for dinner. It was a great weekend for family and a great weekend of running. I liked how cool it was when I went out this morning and I'm hoping that my morning runs this week feel the same.

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