Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some new perspective on performance goals

Today's run (street): 2.75 miles

I've been thinking about my running focus for 2011 and my goals for next year. I'd like to increase the length of my runs and also work on tactical performance. In terms of distance, I've been averaging between 6 and 7 miles for my weekly "long" runs and in the last month I've done some runs exceeding 8 miles. Lately my weekend distances have been closer to six miles due to my running 10K's twice in November. My hope is to soon cover more distance than that - 9 or 10 miles - as often as I can. The toughest part of that is finding the time to run for 90+ minutes and to find interesting routes that provide enough distance.

In terms of tactical performance, I've thought about the way I've trained over the last month, with easy runs at easy paces preparing for races where I go all-out. It seems to be working. My average training runs have been on the middle and high side of 9:00 per miles but I've managed 9:05 and 8:53 respectively on my recent 10K's. I'd like to continue the easy runs (like this morning's steady run at 9:30/mile) but in place of races (I'm not sure if I'll compete again this year) I might try some "Run as fast as you can for two miles" workouts. Rather than suffering the complexities of speed drills I'm thinking this might accomplish the mission of recruiting fast twitch muscles along with the slow. I'm going to make it a goal to run two miles under 8:00 per mile. That seems like a challenging but viable goal. Right now I'm not sure I can break 8:00 for one mile although my experience at the Long Beach 10K tells me I'm close.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Minimalist running shoes, one year later

Mizuno Wave Universe 3
Around this time last year I was reading about two models of running shoes from Brooks that were due to hit stores in early spring of 2010. These shoes, the Brooks Green Silence and the Adrenalin GTS 10, were interesting to me for different reasons. The Green Silence was the first of many shoes since marketed as "minimally constructed", a niche that was created (or helped along) through the popularity of Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run." I was intrigued by the concept of running in the mid-foot style and Brooks played up the small difference between the heel and forefoot height of this shoe. The flatter plane facilitates front, rather than heel striking. Brooks also played up the Green Silence's environmental friendliness through its heavy use of recycled materials, soy based dyes and water based adhesives. I was hooked and counted the days until the Green Silence shipped to stores.

Brooks Green Silence
Besides the Green Silence I was also interested in the GTS 10, the successor to the GTS 9's that I had worn and appreciated for their comfort and durability. When I visited Jackrabbit Sports to try the Green Silence I was dissuaded by the salesperson who said they lacked the structure I needed. I was then steered first to the Brooks Ravennas (that I didn't like) and then to the GTS 10's (that I bought). All was well with the GTS 10's until Saucony sent me a pair of Kinvaras. I started off running shorter distances (5 miles or less) with these shoes but slowly worked up to longer length runs. I expected to have soreness due to less cushioning and lack of stability control. However, I've never had a problem with these shoes and they are now my go-to trainers and racing shoes.

NB Minimus

Brooks has just launched the GTS 11's that are supposed to be even better than the 10's but, surprisingly, I'm not that interested. The higher heel of conventionally constructed shoes don't feel as good as they did prior to my running in the Kinvaras. I think that when my Saucony's wear out I'll either replace them with another pair, try the Green Silence or go super minimal with the Mizuno Wave Universe (3.8 oz. per shoe). Saucony just announced the Mirage, sort of a Kinvara for people who need stability and New Balance will soon have the Minimus based on the Vibram Five Fingers. So many choices now. I like this type of problem.

The Saucony Kinvara - my go-to shoe

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Six good miles and one hurting shin

Today's run (street): 6.07 miles

Every time I have a bad run I fear that I'll never run well again. After yesterday's difficult time at Stillwell Woods I questioned whether it would make better sense to take two days off and resume my training on Tuesday. I've been away from the office for three days and while I've run each day I haven't really covered much distance. I wanted to reach 20 miles this week so I planned to go out for 5 miles that would get me to that number. It was 29 degrees on Long Island so I wore a light short sleeved running shirt under a Columbia long sleeve jersey and together they provided a perfect combination of warmth and wicking for that temperature. I followed a different set of roads than I normally do and before I knew it I had covered 2.5 miles and was feeling good. However, I began to notice some pain in my left shin. This may be a shin splint - I'm happy to say I've never experienced one before - but the pain was not intense and I didn't feel like I was doing any damage if I continued to run.

I shaped my route so that I would return to my house after 5 miles but I felt strong and continued on, following an extra loop that put my total at 6 miles. I'm icing my shin in hopes of heading off further troubles. I'm puzzled as to why I would develop this problem this week but you never know how these things start. I'll be watching this injury closely and perhaps take an extra day of rest this week. For now I'm pleased with my run today, especially after yesterday's bad experience.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tough connexin at Stillwell Woods

Electrolytes delivered painfully
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3 miles

I was on the fence about running this morning. It's been busy week between Thanksgiving related activities and seeing friends. I'd run every day since Tuesday including Thursday's 5K. I talked all morning about whether I should go for a trail run or take a rest day. After lunch I was still talking about it and my exasperated wife finally said "Oh, just get into your running clothes and go for a run!" I had received a sample package of Sport Connexin electrolyte capsules in the mail this morning that I'd agreed to try.  I took three before my run, per the directions, and headed over Stillwell Woods.

I'll start by saying that I had a bad run and I'm not sure why. It could have been due to over training this week, running after a big lunch, the electrolyte supplement or a combination of all three. I followed my usual route into the main woods and quickly came upon markings for tomorrow's Rob's Run, a 5K XC race that is held there each November. I've already raced three times this month, including two Turkey Trots, so I decided to forgo Rob's Run even though it happens so close to home. As I made my way along the course I felt far more tired at the one mile mark than I thought I should. My legs felt heavy and the supplements, that contain calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and sodium, were backing up on me and providing a burning sensation in my throat and nose that reminded me of the effects from a highly carbonated beverage. Not pleasant. It may have been because two ingredients (potassium and sodium) are supplied as bicarbonates that may have reacted to stomach acids. No matter what I'm not going to use them again before a run.

By the time I reached the two mile mark I decided to continue only one more mile before calling it a workout. I'm still planning a long distance run tomorrow and I didn't want to push myself when I felt below par today. I may have been better off skipping today's run but you never know how things will go until you try. Hoping for a better experience tomorrow...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Over the river (East and Nissequogue) and through the neighborhood

Wednesday run (Brooklyn Bridge/lower Manhattan): 4.25 miles
Thursday's run (Nissequogue River Turkey Trot): 3.1 miles
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

I took a holiday from blogging yesterday but I've had some interesting running experiences since my last post. Wednesday was a half day in the office and at noon AG and I headed downtown to City Hall Plaza and over to the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge where we crossed over to Brooklyn and back. It's always an interesting and slightly frustrating experience to run that route with so many people strolling along the side of the path reserved for two way pedestrian traffic. It can be tempting to cross the white line over to the bike path but that should be done with multiple checks to ensure no bikes are coming in either direction.

We stopped halfway across on our return to look at the views. Looking south we could see the Verrazano Narrows Bridge where the NYC marathon starts and then leads up the Brooklyn Bridge where we stood. On the other side we viewed the Manhattan skyline that I used to see from different angles; south when I lived on 31st street and later from 74st street with my wife, where we could see west to the Hudson. AG and I resumed our run after crossing back to Manhattan and we covered Chinatown and some of Little Italy until we came to our destination - 6th street - where we stopped into an Indian restaurant for lunch. It was a great kickoff to the Thanksgiving day break. Yesterday AG ran the Prospect Park 5 mile Turkey Trot with our friend FS and her husband. AG then went on to run the route two more times!

Yesterday morning was a big day for Team Emerging Runner. We headed to Nissequogue River State Park where we ran in the 5K Turkey Trot as a family. It was very chilly while we waited for the race to start but we'd dressed well. It was the first race for my wife and my son and the first non-cross country event for my daughter. Everyone was excited as we lined up with a field that was almost 800 people deep. When the horn sounded we trotted along with the pack for a quarter mile before things opened up enough to go a little faster. We all stayed together for the first kilometer and then my daughter and I edged ahead while my wife and son followed at their pace. Shortly before the 2 mile mark we came to a water station where we stopped to wait for the others and then resumed our run together.

My daughter and I were more in running mode than my wife and son so we put a little distance between them and had almost reached the finish line when we stopped to wait for our teammates. We had agreed that we'd all cross the finish line together and I was proud of my daughter who could have beaten 40 minutes but chose to wait for her mother and brother. Once they joined us we all came over the finish line together. My wife realized that her daily treadmill runs have prepared her well for outdoor running and now she knows she can cover that distance running on pavement. 3 miles was a new distance running record for my daughter and for my son who kept moving, both walking and running, until the end. Once we came home and showered we headed over to my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a long but fun day.

This morning I decided to cover 4-5 miles at an easy pace, faster than yesterday but not as briskly as AG and I ran at times. It was raining slightly so I wore my ASICS lightweight rain jacket that was perfect for the conditions. The air was cold enough that I remained comfortable through the entire 4.5 miles. I followed a course that took me up and down lots of short roads and through one of my standard routes that I use on my 4;00 AM runs. I feel great and I'm hoping to get an 8 to 10 mile run in before the end of the long weekend. Yesterday I wore the Skecher Resistance Runners during the race and I remain positive about them as training shoe. I would never wear them if I was trying for speed. In fact the reason I wore them was to slow me down. I went back to the Kivaras today. Between the Skechers, my compression sleeves and the core exercises, my leg strength and flexibility has improved. That's good, especially if I attempt a personal distance record this week.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Asynchronous holiday week

This week has felt a little out of sync. It may be that many people are out of the office for Thanksgiving and the year end storm has temporarily hit a lull. I appreciate having some time to catch up on business but I know the storm will return in full force on Monday. Still, people are on edge, like the woman who blasted me with her horn this morning because I had the audacity to stop at a red light before turning right. Chill people!

I'm planning to run with Adventure Girl for the first time since we ran in Central Park back in May. She's running the Prospect Park Turkey Trot and is also considering extending that run to achieve a personal distance record. I've just come off two weekends of 10K races and I have an easy-paced 5K tomorrow morning. With all that, AG and I are not planning anything long or rigorous today. I'm pleased with where I am with my running right now. I did my best running last year in November and December only to crash hard after contracting pneumonia at the end of December. I'm going to try extra hard to avoid the flu or other seasonal viruses that always seem to attack me around New Year's. It would be great to be able to build on my current progress rather than lose conditioning through weeks of recovery. Maybe the healthiest thing I can do over Thanksgiving break is get a flu shot.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Six weeks to complete my 2010 running goals

It's almost the end of November and less than 6 weeks left in 2010 so I thought I'd see how I was doing against my running goals. Hopefully, anything I haven't achieved can be done in the time remaining. 

1. Fully transition to mid/front foot running style.
I'm not sure if I have actually done this because it's hard to know exactly where your foot falls when you run. I must have adapted my style to some degree since I'm running primarily in the neutral Kinvaras without any problems. Landing mid foot would be a good explanation for that.

2. Raise at least $200 for charitable causes by donating $5 per race mile.
I'll be updating the donation widget at the end of this week. As of the Hope for Warriors 10K I surpassed $200 and last Sunday's 10K plus this Thursday's 5K will add $47 more.

3. PR in a race - preferably in a longer distance than 5K.
PR'd at 10K over two consecutive weeks. Better than I'd hoped for.

4. Run trails at three or more NY state parks that I have yet to visit.
Muttontown only so far. I need to actually run, not hike Caleb Smith. That still leaves a third.

5. Run a continuous 10 mile route under 9:30/mile.
This is actually two goals - distance and pace. I'm going to focus on the distance and even if I don't achieve the pace goal I'll consider it completed.

6. Participate in at least 5 races.
Completed seven already this year.

7. Finish the year as excited about running as I am right now.
Hopefully nothing will change in the next six weeks!

I'm looking to do a long run over the Thanksgiving break targeting 9+ miles. If I cover 10 it's another goal completed. If I don't do it this week I still have five more weekends to reach that milestone.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sitting at the top of the bell

Running with the fast pack yesterday was bittersweet. On one hand I was thrilled to be maintaining a pace that was almost two minutes faster than my recent training runs. My elation was mitigated by the steady flow of runners catching up and passing me throughout the race. As I ran I thought about how these people were able to glide by me so easily while I was running fairly hard. I wondered how many I would find walking along side of the road during the last miles of the race. That was the case at both the Dirty Sock and Cow Harbor 10K's. As it turned out, there were few people to pass, even at the end of yesterday's race. It was a fit bunch of runners on the boardwalk.

Race results typically group in a bell shaped curve with a small segment of the fastest and slowest runners on each tail. With one exception, where I placed second in my age category, I've usually been the person sitting near the top of the bell. I'm actually fine with that because I'm only racing myself. When I came over the line I was happy to know I'd likely PR'd but also hopeful that Dave, who finished well in front of me, also had a better time than last week (he did). I think the strategy of running easy and long with some tempo runs in the mix is the best approach to date. My pace at the halfway point in yesterday's race was 8:36 but I lost 2 minutes on the second 5K. If I can maintain my speed across an entire 10K I'll have a chance of achieving another PR at that distance. No matter what, I'll still be at the top of the bell, but happily I enjoy the view from there.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Race report: Long Beach Turkey Trot

West facing view on the boardwalk. Finish line in the distance
Today's run (Long Beach Turkey Trot): 6.2 miles at 55:10 (8:53 pace)

I ran my second 10K in as many weeks this morning in a race that provided a fast field and inspiring views. I was happy with last week's performance and wasn't looking for a PR this morning but I managed to run a personal best for the second straight week. I arrived fairly early and was fortunate to find a parking spot very close to the registration area. That came in handy as I made a few trips back to my car to help me keep warm before the start. It was definitely cold but the wind was milder than I'd expected.

Chilly competitors gathering prior to race time
I met up with Dave on the boardwalk and he suggested that we make our way to the front to get a good position for the start. There were no starting line mats so no time adjustments would be made for those who started in the back. It was good that Dave thought of that and we took off quickly heading east along the boardwalk, moving at rapid pace. It wasn't until after the race when Dave pointed out that we started near the front that I realized why I felt so slow with so many people charging past me in the first few minutes. Dave got out ahead and I tracked him for a couple of miles before I lost sight of his orange hat. I wasn't looking at my Garmin so when it chirped for one mile I was surprised and then floored to see I'd covered it at an 8:05 pace. The energy of the front of the pack runners had carried me quickly to that point but I knew that pace was not sustainable for five more miles.

I forced myself to slow down a little and was passed by speedy runners who could more easily maintain eight minute per mile paces. The course, that started along the ocean, moved north and west until we turned east along Park Ave.,  the main road through Long Beach. The miles passed quickly and before long we'd turned north on Magnolia on our way to Bay Drive that provided more views of the water. Once we reached Washington Boulevard I knew, happily, that there was less distance to run than what we'd already covered. At the four mile mark the split clock showed 34:40 and I knew I was tracking well under 9:00 per mile. As usual, the last 2.2 miles was the toughest and I kept fighting the urge to ease off the throttle. I was still getting passed more than I was passing people but I was determined to preserve my potential PR time.

Dave on right, post race. I swear we didn't plan the matching outfits
I was glad when I saw runners turning left onto a road that I knew would take us back to the boardwalk. Once I made it to the boardwalk I turned east and quickly passed the mile 5 marker. The race official was calling times that were still in the high 40:00 range and I felt I had a chance to beat last week's time. It seemed to take forever to run the final 1.2 miles and when I saw the finish line I felt the same as I did at Cow Harbor: "So close but so far." When I got to the final hundred yards I picked up the pace and came over the line running hard. I met up with Dave who also had a good race. His time was in the 53 minute range, beating his Hope for Warrior's time from last week as well. Dave was soon joined by his wife and daughters who were quite proud of their dad.

Taking a moment to enjoy the ocean view after the race
I stuck around for the awards but it started feeling too cold, even with the hooded running jacket I'd brought to wear post-race. They posted the results and I checked my time before heading home. Another mid pack finish but at least I ended up in the top half. I'm not sure how much more I can improve my 10K time but I like the direction that it's going. Well, two November races done and one to go next Thursday. That Turkey Trot will be extra fun because I'll have my family with me on the course, not just at the finish line.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

19 hours to the Turkey Trot

Today's workout (core): 20 minutes

I heard from Dave that tomorrow's 10K start has been moved up to 9:00 AM. That alters my race day schedule but I should be okay.  I'm a little concerned about how to prepare for the cold weather. I'm hoping to park close enough to be able to stow my extra layers shortly before the start of the race. My friend KWL occasionally plays golf on the Lido course that's located near the race route. He said it gets very windy when he plays so that could be something to deal with.  It's funny how quickly my concerns on race day go from worrying about high heat and humidity in September to managing against the chill in November. The difference is that many a comfortably warm start has ended with a miserably hot finish. I'll take a cold start leading to a cooler running experience any day.

This morning I ran through the Lolo core routine that I followed last weekend. I'm considering a slow and easy run a little later this afternoon. Or I may just call it a taper and do some dynamic stretches in the morning. I'm happy to be racing again tomorrow, but with last week's 10K I don't feel the pleasantly nervous edge I sometimes get prior to a race. I'm not expecting to beat last Sunday's time but I plan to try. I'm looking forward to another new experience, especially at an ocean-side venue. I need to sort out what I'll wear besides the compression sleeves and the Kinvaras. 19 hours to go to Turkey Trot #1!

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Turkey Trot season

It's hard to believe that it's almost time for Thanksgiving. The year has gone by quickly and I blame that somewhat on missing most of January recovering from a severe bout of pneumonia. Despite that setback I've run six races this year that, with my race last Sunday, matched last year's total. This Sunday I'll be running the Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot. Some of this race takes place along a boardwalk that runs parallel to the beach. I love running on wooden boardwalks with views of the water so this sounds like an interesting course. The weather prediction for Sunday calls for morning temperatures in the high 30's. The race doesn't start until 9:30 AM so I'm betting things will warm up a little by then. It could be cold near the water but I don't care about that. My biggest concern about Sunday is finding decent parking.

After this weekend's 10K I'll look forward to a Thanksgiving day Turkey Trot at Nissequoge River State Park. It's a 5K and I'm running it with my family. I'm not sure how much running and how much walking will get done in this race but when the gun sounds I know we'll all be running! Friends Adventure Girl and FS will both be running the Prospect Park five miler on Thanksgiving day and my friend CK will be running in the Rockland county 5 mile Turkey Trot for probably the 20th time. Last year I ran the Bridie Goldstein/MercyFirst 5K during Thanksgiving week where set my 5K PR. I won't be challenging that time on the 25th, but with my family all with me I'll still have many reasons to be thankful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two years of Emerging Runner

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I ended my training week with an elliptical workout this morning. I knew the day ahead would be challenging so it was nice to start things off with a good sweat. I'm never sure how 25 minutes on the elliptical stacks up to running for the same amount of time. There are days when I feel like running is harder and other days when the elliptical feels like the better workout. I won't run tomorrow and I'll miss that but I will do a core workout.

Today is the second anniversary of The Emerging Runner and I had planned to relaunch the site this week with some new features and graphics. I haven't had the bandwidth to finish all that so it will have to wait until the weekend. It's been a great two years and 720 posts later I'm even more excited about running and blogging than I was on November 18, 2008, the date of my first post. More to come!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Treadmill taper run

Today's run (treadmill): 2.4 miles

The twin furies of wind and rain forced me to stay inside this morning. I didn't mind too much. It's been months since I've run indoors and I was almost looking forward to a change of pace. One thing I did like was the reduction in time between waking and running. This is usually 10-15 minutes for outside runs because of all the extra safety gear and complexities of getting out the door. This morning it was simply shorts, shirt, socks, shoes, run.

Every time I use it, I say the same thing. I really dislike the treadmill. It scares me and it's hard. I don't like my running surface dictating my speed and if I stumble I know I'll find myself unceremoniously swept off the tread. But we bought our treadmill for a reason and that reason includes always having the option to run, even on miserable days like today.

I started slowly because the treadmill felt fast, even at a moderate speed. Each quarter mile I increased my speed by .1 MPH so that by the time I'd finished my run I was pacing in the low 9:00 range. Although my overall pace averaged in the mid 9's it felt like a hard workout. I only ran about 23 minutes in total and I enjoyed the extra time finishing my coffee while watching the local news. I wore my Brooks on today's run and didn't love them as much as I had prior to my using the Kinvara's. I'm planning to run with the Saucony's on Sunday for the 10K. After all, they're my PR shoes at that distance. Tomorrow I'll stay indoors again for a final intensity workout on the elliptical. I've never run two races on consecutive weekends before. I'm curious to see how that goes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

First run since Sunday's race

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

My first run after a race is usually tough, even if it's done at a short distance. I often have more energy on the day after I race than I do after skipping a day. That was true this morning. I set out at 4:00 AM before the rain had really started. The local news station reported temperatures in the 40's but I saw vapor illuminated by my headlamp as I breathed. There was a trickle of rain when I began and that increased in intensity by my finish, but it didn't start coming down hard until after I'd stepped inside. My legs felt a little stiff throughout the run but I was able to pick up some speed after the first mile.

I'm trying to decide what I will do for runs throughout this week. My strategy to rest two days prior to last Sunday's race seemed to pay off. I'll probably run again on Wednesday and finish my mini-taper with an elliptical session on Thursday. After that I'll do some low impact workouts on Friday and Saturday. The core workout I did last Saturday may have helped my run on Sunday. I'll try to repeat that this week.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A good race for many reasons

I always enjoy the day after a race because it gives me a break from running and a chance to think about the day before. One of my 2010 running goals was to PR in a race and I accomplished that yesterday. I am pleased with achieving that goal and I give due credit to the following:
  • Flat course
  • Perfect weather
  • Sufficient rest
  • Prior focus on building up my base
  • No injuries
  • Compression gear
  • Prior 10K's run on trails or on a very hilly course (Cow Harbor)
  • Positive attitude throughout the run
I was happy to average 9:05 per mile, a pace I hadn't matched since September. I would have liked to break 9:00 but I'll take what I got. You always want to leave something for a future PR. As well as I did compared with my last 10K, I still finished mid-pack. I think that due to the conditions many people had a good race day on Sunday. Next weekend I'll have a chance to challenge my 10K PR at the Long Beach Turkey Trot. I'm not focused on another PR though. If I can enjoy next Sunday's race as much as I did yesterday, that's more than enough for me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hope for Warriors 10K race report

Shot of the runners at the 10K start

Today's race (Hope for the Warriors): 6.2 miles at 56:23 (9:05 pace) UPDATED

Heading over to the start
I ran a good race today but I can't tell you how good because the race organizers haven't yet posted the results (see above update). Apparently there were some problems with the system used by Finish Line Road Race Technicians who managed that aspect of the race. This event was larger and grander than I'd expected and during the the pre-race ceremonies they said that over 2,000 people were participating. The crowd had grown large by the time acknowledgments were given to the men and women who serve in the military and to the families that support them. There were many active soldiers on hand and many of them participated in the races. This event had three race distances: 1 mile, 5K and 10K. At 9:30 AM, instructions were given to head to our respective starting lines and I met up with Dave as we waited for the gun to sound. Given the size of the crowd it looked like it took me 1:23 just to reach the starting line so I'm hoping they'll list net times in the results.

Dave went out ahead of me and I'm thinking he finished a couple of minutes faster that I did. The first mile was crowded because the 5K starters were sent ahead of us and there were lots of people walking abreast forcing runners to weave in and out to get a clear path. By the first mile things opened up as the walkers faded to the back and the 5K runners split off to the left to continue their race on different roads. I wore my compression pants and compression calf sleeves and though I did get a little warm in the legs it didn't affect my performance. Actually, I think it helped because I maintained a good level of energy throughout the run. Much of that is due to my recent focus on longer distances that are helping me build a better base. The weather must also be credited, it was sunny, dry and cool. Really perfect conditions for a race.

Seconds from the finish
I passed a lot of runners even on the 5th and 6th mile. By the time I reached Sunrise Highway I was looking forward to seeing my wife, my kids and the finish line but through the run I never had a "This is too hard" moment. When we came off the ramp onto route 27 one of the policemen yelled "You're almost there, the finish line is under the big flag!" In the distance I could see the flag and I reserved my final kick until I came into target range. Unfortunately there were two huge flags and the one I thought was the finish was actually positioned where I stood at the start. I did my best to keep my brisk stride knowing I had about a minute and a half more running time to get to the real finish. Very soon I saw my family along the side and I high fived them right before I crossed the line.

Me and Dave post-race
The display at the finish was off to the side so I didn't see my time when I'd actually crossed the line.  I'm a little nervous that the race organizers will say they lost the results. I hope that's not the case but either way I know I PR'd for 10K and that's great. It was a fun and inspiring event with soldiers carrying flags, field packs, and in one case, a dummy soldier on his shoulder. Next year I hope they provide more than five Porto-potties, far too few for the huge number of participants. Overall, it was great time and gratifying to participate in an event that benefits so many deserving soldiers. I'll post my finish time once results are posted.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Core values preparing for Sunday's 10K

Today's workout (hand weights and core): 20 minutes

I wasn't ready to fully rest this morning so I did a light upper body workout with weights and then completed a cycle of the "Lolo Jones" core exercises. These exercises were featured in an article I'd saved from Runner's World in 2009. It's a fast workout but I usually feel good after I do it. I looked at the Run for the Warriors course this morning and saw that it's a big rectangle with lots of straightaways. I understand that it's a relatively flat course and that will be a relief compared with the hilly terrain of the Cow Harbor race in Northport.

The temperatures should be in the mid to high 50's at 9:30 AM when the race is scheduled to start. I think I have my gear selected: Nike compression pants, Zensah calf sleeves, Brooks Rev-T jersey and my Saucony Kinvaras. Five months ago I would probably have chosen the Grid Tangents or the Brooks GTS 10's but I've really come to appreciate the performance of Kinveras as both a training and race day shoe. According to Dave who has previously run this race (and will be running it again this year), tomorrow's event will be inspiring as it honors veterans from all wars and features many veteran's groups. We are big supporters of those who provide service to the country and are glad to participate in an event that generates so many donations for veterans.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spandex as an energy source

Zensah product shot
Yesterday's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I've completed my training for Sunday's race and now my challenge is holding back on activity until that event. I considered running this morning because I'm not convinced that two day's rest provides any measurable advantage over just resting the day before. Still, I decided to stick with the taper plan. I've spent the last two weeks focusing on low intensity running and I don't think I've broken 9:10 on any run since mid-October. What I have done since September's Cow Harbor race is increase my base and I'm hoping that will make a difference this weekend.

Yesterday I returned to City Sports and bought a pair of Zensah calf/shin sleeves. This compression stuff isn't cheap but compared with other brands like Zoot and CEP, the Zensah gear was more affordable. But $40 for stretchy leg warmers isn't exactly what I'd call a bargain. These compression sleeves, made with spandex and nylon, are far more than that and I wore them for about five hours yesterday. I made my decision to buy the Zensah sleeves after talking to the sales person who was surprisingly knowledgeable about these products and their benefits, although she kept pronouncing lactic acid as "lasic acid." I was tempted to buy full compression socks because  the foot wrap apparently helps flush lactic (or lasic) acid from the tendons in the foot. The cost just seemed too high and I tend to like the socks that I already own.

Last night, after I'd taken off the calf sleeves, my legs felt restless, or energetic, depending on how you look at it. I plan to wear these sleeves under my Nike compression pants during the race. I know the unwritten rule is never to race with gear that you haven't previously used but I'm willing to take the chance. Restless or energetic legs are far better than the alternative.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Progression through compression

It was almost a year ago that my wife surprised me with a gift of a long sleeved Nike Fit jersey and Nike compression pants. I was due to race the MercyFirst 5K and she thought I'd appreciate having some new gear. I ran my fastest ever race pace wearing that outfit and it made me curious about the connection between compression and performance.

Last Saturday Dave and I did a long run on the Bethpage bike trail and he wore CW-X compression pants along with compression socks of the same brand. I looked online to see whether compression and performance are correlated and saw that there are studies that support that theory. The real benefit seems to be on the recovery side because compression aids blood flow and channels built up lactic acid. I know that when I run with my compression gear I feel more energetic. I went to City Sports to see what they had for socks and was surprised to see a range of socks and calf sleeves costing between $30-$60. I didn't buy anything but I'll admit that I'm curious to try them. Perhaps I'll head back today or check out Paragon's selection at lunchtime. Except for the price there seems to be more upside than downside to using this technology.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Race taper: winding down before winding up

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3.15 miles
Today's run (Street): 2.5 miles

My experiment with more moderate paces on a taper week continued this morning with a run that toggled between an easy and a mildly challenging pace. My intention was to do the whole run slow to allow for continued muscle recovery but a little voice kept prompting me to pick up the pace for short distances. It ultimately turned out to be a tempo run but my tempo that was closer to andantino than allegro.

Yesterday I ran with JQ at lunchtime in Central Park. Conditions were ideal, sunny and cool with occasional breezes. We did our usual loop and covered a range of topics as we made our way around. We came by the location of the NYC Marathon finish and I saw that they still hadn't broken down the spectator stands or cleared out a lot of the signage. Both today's and yesterday's runs felt good and I'm hoping that this strategy won't soften me up too much to be competitive on Sunday. It's been a while since I've done a run with any intensity. I'll know this weekend how well this method works.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New taper strategy - easy runs

In recent weeks I've heard a lot about how volume training can be more important than speed work. People I know advocate running longer distances 2-3 minutes slower than race pace. I've started adding more length to my weekend runs because I have more available time on those days. With this change, my weekly average has exceeded 20 miles since August. I only have enough time to run about 2.5 miles during my weekday 4:00 AM workouts so almost 2/3 of my distance is achieved over the weekend. I try to get in 8+ mile runs whenever possible. An article in the current issue of Trailrunner Magazine says that "Runners often perform workouts at speeds that are too fast to obtain the desired result." They advocate slow running saying "Remember that it is the volume of aerobic running, not the speed, that represents major stimulus for adaptation."

I know I enjoy a run more when I am able to hold a conversation or observe the sights, sounds and smells of fall running without constantly peeking at my Garmin to ensure that my pace is on track. I'm planning a lunchtime run with JQ today. The timing is perfect because we'll run at a comfortable pace that will work for my taper. In the past I've focused on more intense running for the workouts leading to a weekend race. I'm going the other way this week and hoping that these easy runs will provide a race day benefit that's greater than what I get from speed workouts.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Running your own race

Watching the NYC Marathon yesterday got me thinking about the 10K I'll be running next Sunday. Many of those marathoners who went out in the later waves probably hadn't reached the 5K mark by the time the women and men's winners had crossed the finish line. To the outside world, the race ended with the elites but for the 45,000 others on the course the race ended hours later. When you're pounding away for position among the crowded field the only race that matters is the one you're in. Every race provides an opportunity for success: completion, a PR or just participating in the experience provides a great reason to do it. I can't wait to hear from FS on her experience.

I'm not sure how I'll do next Sunday. The 10K distance has never yielded great times for me in competition. My hope is to come in under an hour and, ideally, pace below 9:20. I'll probably finish my taper with runs on Tuesday and Wednesday at very easy paces and I'll complete my pre-race activity on Thursday with an elliptical session. I plan to run the best race I can without concern for those who cross the line in half the time it takes me to finish.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Running: street, trail and marathon

Today's run: 5 miles (street) plus 1 mile (Stillwell Woods)

It was all about running today. NBC's coverage of the NYC Marathon started at 6 AM and we watched just about all of it. I was very pleased that Shalane Flanagan took second place in the woman's race and that she also won the US Marathon championship. She's a great competitor and she ran a great race. The men's race was disappointing with Haile Gebrselassie dropping out around mile 16 and Meb Keflezighi, Dathan Ritzenhein, Tim Nelson and Jorge Torres all missing podium spots although Keflezighi and Ritzenhein both finished in the top ten. It was fun to spend the morning following the race. The athlete tracking service that allowed you to follow friends along the race failed so I couldn't keep current with marathoners FS and James. I did manage to see FS through the 5K checkpoint and James through 10K before the system went down.

Before the start of the race I went out for 5 easy miles. It was 37 degrees and sunny at 8:00 AM and I couldn't have asked for better conditions. I purposely started slowly and picked up the pace after one mile. I toggled between brisk and easy paces throughout the run and I was close to home when I reached the 4 mile mark. Instead of heading to my house I decided to extend the run and added a mile to make it a tidy 5. After lunch we headed for Stillwell Woods and me and my daughter ran a loop on the dirt trail around the big field. We encountered a couple of dogs running off leash that made my daughter very uncomfortable. I strongly suggested to the dog's owner that he leash the dogs or at least teach them to stay away from people they don't know. He apologized and in truth his dogs were only playing but it's not right to assume everyone has a comfort with dogs. Hopefully he'll consider more training.

It's been a great weekend. The extra hour from Daylight Savings Time certainly helped make today a full day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

8 miles at Bethpage, NYC Marathon Expo visit

Fun time at the NYC Marathon Expo
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 8.34 miles

After two days off from running I returned to Bethpage State Park today for a morning run with Dave. I had battled a cold over the last couple of weeks but I did run a number of times while I went through it.  I chose to rest on Thursday and Friday to prevent a relapse. We met at the start of the bike trail and noted the chill. I wore my Champion pants that offer slight compression and my Thriv short sleeve running shirt. I wasn't comfortable as we began but I knew it wouldn't take long until I warmed up. We both wore gloves because it's hard to keep them warm even as your body heats up from the run.

We adopted a comfortable pace, neither brisk nor slow, and moved along the route feeling good. The fall air is a runner's gift and we both appreciated it. We reached the 4 mile mark before we realized we'd covered any significant ground and continued over the Southern State to Linden Street where we turned around for the run back. At around the 6 mile mark Dave started getting stronger and I started feeling the effects of the run. That's the difference between us in terms of base. About .75 miles before the end Dave went for the hard finish and I set my mind on getting past the hill at the end. I ran hard considering my level of energy and I came in about half a minute after Dave. It was great to run for the first time since Wednesday and we covered over 8 miles in the process. Next week we'll both compete in the Run for Warriors 10K.

New Balance Minimus

Philip Hahm, Puma Faas designer
Yesterday I made my way to Jacob Javitts Center to experience this year's NYC Marathon Expo. It's a running geek's dream, the hall is HUGE as is the variety of vendors. After checking out the Brooks, NB, Mizuno, Adidas, Saucony, Newton and Paragon booths (plus the ASICS booth that is not much smaller than our local Target store) I sampled PowerBar, GU, Odawalla, Gatorade and other energy snacks. I stopped by Puma and spoke with Philip Hahm, the designer of the new Faas 500 running shoe. Interesting design, but it seemed more for a heel striker than mid-foot running. At the NB booth they showed a prototype of their new Minimus, a version created with Vibram (maker of the 5 Fingers sock-shoes). I like the Vibram concept but dislike the look of the separated toes. The Minimus looks like the perfect alternative.

Bart Yasso (l), Matt Long (r)
Grete Waitz (center in blue)

Sarah Stanley speaks

Untramarathoner Josh Cox
At the Runner's World booth I met Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer for the magazine and author of the book "My Life on the Run." I read that book this summer and found it a good read. I also met Matt Long, author of "The Long Run", a book about his experience recovering from a near fatal accident (he was hit by a bus while riding his bike in NYC) and came back to run the marathon. I listened to ultramarathoner Josh Cox speak and also heard ultrarunner Sarah Stanley talk about her mission to educate kids on living a healthy life. Just before I returned to the office I met Grete Waitz, 9 time winner of the NY Marathon and silver medalist in the 1984 Olympics. It's a big bang for the buck -- free shuttle buses between mid-town to the Expo, free admission, lots of cool stuff to see and sample. I only wish I was part of the crowd that's there to run in the big event on Sunday. I probably won't ever get there, but at least I can get to the Expo.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Weekend running: Bethpage, NY Marathon and time travel

I decided to skip yesterday and today's workouts to give myself a chance to further recover from my cold. I learned from my bout with pneumonia that running, instead of resting, can be a bad trade off. I originally planned a run with JQ for lunchtime but he needs to attend a meeting. I could run alone but it's probably better for me to rest. I've suffered a painful sinus condition over the last couple of days and thankfully I'm feeling much better this morning.

I'm planning to meet Dave tomorrow at Bethpage for a long run, probably seven or eight miles. I haven't done a run over six miles since Brian and I reran the Cow Harbor course a couple of weeks ago so it will be good to catch up on my miles. After this weekend I'm racing the next two (11/14 & 11/21 -- both 10K) and I'm running a 5K on Thanksgiving with my wife and kids. Another good reason to take today to rest.

If the timing works I'll head downtown around noon to the Jacob Javitts Center to visit the NY Marathon expo. My friend FS is running it for (I think) the third time and I'm excited for her. She and her husband are great competitors and they do many NYRR races. They also run marathons and half's in different parts of the country along with the occasional 100 mile bike run. I'll be cheering for her on Sunday. Also notable this weekend is a special run that Adventure Girl is leading at Yale. She's taking her Harriers running group out at 1:45 AM on a long run with the goal of returning to their starting point before they even left! Note that daylight savings time starts at 2:00 AM : )

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Running hot and cold

Yesterday's run (street): 2.4 miles
Today's run (street): 2.7 miles

Both my morning runs this week reminded me that winter isn't too far off. I've gone from wearing short sleeves and running shorts to compression pants, layers and gloves. It's still fairly mild compared to late December conditions but the chilly dry mornings are back. I experienced some throat burn yesterday, the effect of breathing hard through my mouth. This weather tends to exacerbate sinus congestion and I'm dealing with the end of a cold, so nose breathing isn't too easy right now.

Yesterday I ran with my Skecher's Resistance Runners. As I ran it occurred to me why I like them. The instability of the shoe mimics the feel of a bumpy trail surface and the suspension bridge between the mid-sole and out-sole absorbs and dissipates shock as if running on dirt. I'm not saying that the SRRs replace the trail experience in any other way. I'm not even sure I'd consider them legitimate running shoes at this point. However, I have been positively surprised with my running experience so far.

Today I set out with temperatures near the freezing mark but stayed warm throughout the run due to the way I'd dressed. If I ran another 15 minutes I would have got very hot. During yesterday's run my Garmin foot pod's battery quit so I replaced it last night. The calibration was slightly off so after mapping today's route on Gmaps I was happy to see that my pace was better than what the Garmin showed.

I saw this article in the NY Times this morning about barefoot running. Most of these articles say the same thing and this one does too. The most interesting point was the question -- if you run barefoot in a race, where do you put the timing chip?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I stand corrected

Today's run (street) 2.4 miles

Yesterday I wrote how fitness and performance levels tend to decline in middle age. I believed that to be true and, absent proper training, it probably is true. Out of curiosity I looked back on my running history on Garmin Connect and compared my performance (street runs only) between April 1 and October 31 to the same period last year. Some things surprised me. It was almost uncanny that the number of runs, year over year, were virtually identical: 119 in 2009 and 118 in 2010. However, it was the differences that caused my surprise.

Gains for the period 4/1 to 10/31 (2009 vs. 2010)
  • 12.4% more distance overall, average distance per run was up 12.5%.
  • Cumulative running time was 9% overall, average run was 9% longer.
  • Average pace was 4.6% faster.
  • Average cadence was 3.6% greater.
  • Median distance per run was up 11.5%
The only thing that declined year over year was average heart rate, dropping 1.4% this year. I use the HRM intermittently so that one comparison isn't statistically valid.

So despite what I'd read I have seen some real improvement. Emerging Runner friend and contributor James suggested that I focus more on building a base with comfortably paced runs and using that conditioning to improve my speed. James is an accomplished and dedicated runner who structures his training well. I've already started doing what he's suggesting by focusing more on distance and less on performance. In addition, almost weekly, I'm running with a friend in the city where we pace minutes slower than my current goal rate. This weekend Dave and I are planning an LSD run in preparation of our first (of two) 10K's that we're running this month. If running slow and comfortably will help me on race day I'm all for that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Extra work just to stay the same

I recently read an article stating that men past the age of 40 will lose muscle mass even if their rate of activity and exercise remains constant. The trick to maintain a specified base level is to increase the amount of effort incrementally over time. Working more just to keep from losing what I already have is not an appealing thought. I love to run and this activity helps me maintain a healthy body and mind. However, I do wonder why my paces seem to average closer to mid 9's rather than low 9's over the last year. It was a hot summer and I know that factored into my performance. I figured as the weather cooled off my run times would begin to improve. Prior to the Dirty Sock 10K I was focusing on faster paces over short distances and was regularly nailing mid to high 8's on runs below 5 miles. More recently, I've focused on longer distances (6+ miles) for my weekend runs and when I do that I find that I'm back in the 9:30-9:50 range.

The last week isn't representative of my potential because I've been fighting a bad cold. The previous weekend, when I reran the Cow Harbor 10K course, I was only able to manage a 9:33 pace for the 6.2 miles under ideal conditions. I'll agree that regularly meeting last year's numbers will require some extra work. It may be time to re-engineer my training and add more strength and speed work. Or maybe I'll just run longer and hope for the best.

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