Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 run summary

812 miles (average 67.7 miles per month)

Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

After looking back on 2010's running record I am satisfied with my performance this year. Even though things started slow (pneumonia limited January's mileage to 22% of my monthly average) I still managed to cover over 800 running miles, plus numerous elliptical miles. The histogram above reflects a greater focus on distance starting in August when I was training for the Dirty Sock and Great Cow Harbor 10K's. Despite the rough start I did improve over 2009 in the following areas:

  • Average distance per run  (+ .48 miles)
  • Longest distance run (+ 1.7 miles)
  • Average speed per run (+ .2 MPH)
  • Average run cadence (+ 2 steps per minute)
  • Median distance per run (.45 miles)

I also attained personal bests for a 10K and longest distance covered in a single run (also single day). I'll be posting my 2011 running goals soon and also report on how I did against my 2010 goals.

This morning I went out for my final run of 2010. The temperatures have been rising over the past week and it was about 34 degrees when I stepped outside. I wore the Kinvaras that felt much better than the Karhu's that I ran in yesterday. The better feel of my running shoes combined with the crisp late December air provided an energetic start. I ran an extended version of one of my regular routes and cruised along through the neighborhood without regard to pace. I did a firmware update on my Garmin FR60 this week and haven't adjusted the display to reflect anything but time and distance. It's been fun not knowing until the end how fast I'd run my distance.

The entire run felt effortless and my cadence reflected that, averaging about 85 SPM. I ended up running about 45 seconds per mile faster than yesterday and didn't experience fatigue near the end of my run as I did on Thursday. It was a great run capping off a really good year of running. I'm hoping to do some new things in 2011, such as running a half marathon. For now I'm thankful to look forward to a full month of running in January.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Running shoes: Less is more (and more are coming soon)

An interesting line of minimalist shoes coming soon from Merrell

Today's run (street): 3.85 miles

I'm really loving the blog Minimalist Running Shoes where they review some of the lesser known brands and models on this eponymous site. Like the shoes they cover, the site is simple, with a handy method of rating the shoes against a number of criteria. I just read about Merrell's upcoming (for 2011) line of "barefoot" running shoes: the Trial, True and Tough Glove models. There are also woman's versions called Pace, Power and Pure. There are many minimalist shoes on the market or coming in 2011 and this conflicts me greatly. I already own seven pairs of running shoes (plus a few pair of retired trainers) and it's hard to justify another purchase.

I've been fortunate to acquire a number of these pairs through the review process so that's another channel to pursue. I love the Saucony Kinvaras that have helped me transition to a more neutral, mid foot, style of running and the smart thing would be to buy another pair after my current ones wear out. However, if I do that I won't have the opportunity to try the Merrell's, the New Balance Minimus, the Brooks Green Silence and a bunch of other minimalist models that sound compelling. Borrowing from that old cliche: so many running shoes, so little time.

This morning I went for my third run with the Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum Rides. My plan was to go out normally and adjust my pace with the conditions. I started out well and the shoes were fine, although I do wish the differential between the heel and front foot was smaller. The mid-sole is chunky and that helps with impact with a mid-foot strike but I've become used to a lower riding shoe. I ran in my Brooks on the treadmill yesterday and while that has a fairly built up heel, the GTS 10 feels more stable. I enjoyed the run for the first few miles. It helped to be back on the street in the cold (but not frigid) air. I did need to be careful in some spots where snow, ice and slush remained on the road. I stayed hyper alert for cars and trucks on those narrow sections but happily there were no close calls.

By the end of the third mile I began to tire and worried that I may be getting sick. The anniversary of last year's illness and the multiple times I've caught the flu during the last week of the year make me a little paranoid. I finished just shy of four miles. I'm mildly concerned that I've lost a little base conditioning over the last few weeks but I'm certain it's related to other factors. My hope is to do at least one more long distance run before I return to the office next week. In the meantime I've been focusing more on getting in a few extra daily miles during this week.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winterized for outdoor running

Today's run (treadmill): 3 miles

We needed to be out early this morning so I hopped on the treadmill after my wife finished her workout and ran for about 28 minutes. It was a nice run, a little longer than my usual weekday morning workout. Most importantly, it was a good recovery effort after yesterday's double session. The most remarkable thing about today's workout was the relative ease I had getting through the run.  I always say that treadmill minutes seem far longer than street or trail minutes. Today I felt great throughout the entire run, starting at a moderate pace and slowing building speed as I went along.

The combination of sun and warming temperatures have cleared a lot of snow from the local roads and I'm hoping that I'll be able to run outside by this weekend. Earlier this week I picked up some acrylic fleece, over-the-ear running hats at a great discount. They will be essential gear on those freezing runs at 4:00 AM between now and March. After inventorying my running stuff yesterday I concluded that I am now fully equipped for the winter. Too bad because I love to buy running gear. On the other hand it's good to know that I'll be well prepared to run this winter, no matter what the conditions bring.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Karhu take two: a better experience indoors

Today's workout:
Treadmill run: 3.14 miles
Elliptical: 25 minutes

It's still early in the vacation -- more days to go then have passed. We got out today for the first time since the snowstorm hit and had a great afternoon. This morning I took the time to clean out my running area in the guest room. This involved getting rid of a number of items that had been taking up space in an armoire that serves as the repository for my running gear. This cabinet also contains a large collection of technology supplies that I keep on hand in support of our network and computers. I got rid of many obsolete cables and peripherals and reduced my running shoe collection by targeting my ASICS 1130's for donation. I was able to recover enough space to organize my running shirts, shorts, cold weather gear and socks into different drawers. A much needed exercise completed.

Exercise came in all forms today, before we all headed out I spent close to an hour on an indoor workout, first on the treadmill and then on the elliptical. I wore the Karhu Fast 2's because I wanted to try them under different conditions. I had found the Karhu's to be stiff and in conflict with my form when I wore them for a street run last Friday. Today they felt better and I don't know why. Perhaps it was the treadmill surface versus running on pavement. It may be that I wasn't physically up for the run on Friday and I assumed it was the shoes. On the treadmill the stiffness did not seem noticeable and the shoes seemed to move far better with my foot than they did last time. I focused on landing on my forefoot and the Karhu's didn't impede my form in any way.

I followed the treadmill run with 25 minutes on the elliptical and by the time I finished I felt the way I do after eight miles running on the road. I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow for a workout. The thought of another treadmill session is unappealing but with all the snow the roads are narrow and the sidewalks are buried. Hopefully we'll see the temperatures rise enough to make the streets runnable. I'm not counting on that, but it would be nice.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Two feet of reasons to rest

The snowstorm seems to be winding down and despite almost two feet of accumulation and 40 MPH winds our driveway and walk are mostly clear. My wife and I headed outside around 6:00 AM this morning to deal with the snow that had fallen since we'd finished shoveling last night. With the proper clothing and our coordinated efforts we cleared the grounds in less than an hour. My wife has gone out for a final clean up and as long as the winds don't blow the drifts back onto the driveway we should be in good shape. Temperatures should rise over the next few days and that will help clear the neighborhood roads.

I thought about how fun it would be to drive to Stillwell and run the snowy trails. The canopy probably caught a good amount of snow but the volume is so great that it's probably made most of the trails impassable. Last February we got socked with a big storm just prior to the XTERRA 6K that made the course at Stillwell both slippery and difficult. The spirit of adventure makes a run in the woods compelling, but even with all-wheel drive I don't want to take any chances on the icy roads. So I'm either going to take my usual Monday rest day or do an indoor workout. In addition, I suppose all the shoveling counts for something.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pre-blizzard Sunday run

Today's run (street): 4 miles

It's only beginning
The snow is starting to come down hard after a period of light flakes. This morning I went to the local market to pick up some necessary items and the supermarket was a madhouse. I was glad I made the effort and now the house is well stocked. We may get 18 inches between today and tomorrow but at least I won't need to deal with the Long Island Railroad's inability to deal with snow in the morning. Plus the shoveling will provide some much needed some upper body exercise.

I was re-reading my posts from a year ago trying to determine when my pneumonia manifested itself. The scary thing is that just a couple of days before I was slammed by illness I had run four good miles at Stillwell. Even so, I feel far better today than I felt a year ago, but the fear of another bout with something looms large. At 9:30 AM the skies were gray but no snow was falling. I figured I should get out for a few miles because it could take days before the roads were clear again. I've experimented with some of the gels from KWL's holiday gift basket and learned that one gel and half a glass of water, consumed 30 minutes before a run, seems to provide a positive result.

I chose a route that is different from what I normally run and ended up covering four miles at a moderate overall pace. I felt like I could go forever during the first three miles but I picked up my speed after that point which took my run from nice-and-easy to semi-brisk. I wore the Kinvaras that reminded me again how perfect a minimalist running shoe can feel. By the time I returned home I was accompanied by lightly falling snow. The kids are out back playing in the already accumulated inches and my wife and I will soon do the first of many driveway shovelings between today and tomorrow. Between that and today's run I may end up with a whole body workout.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

First run with the Karhu Fast 2's plus a Stillwell holiday run

Yesterday's run (street): 3.5 miles
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 6.1 miles

Apparently today is some sort of holiday because Stillwell Woods was pretty empty this morning when I arrived for my run. Just a little seasonal humor folks. Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate and for those of us who don't, enjoy this relaxing day because tomorrow we'll all be shoveling snow.

I've been off work since Thursday afternoon and have been enjoying the time off with my family. Yesterday morning I went out for my first run with the Karhu Fast 2's. Based upon wearing them around the house, I had certain expectations for these shoes. The "Fulcrum" technology is supposed to guide a runner's landing to a spot behind the arch to facilitate forward propulsion. After lacing up the Fast 2's for my run I noticed a big difference in the feel between the front and back. I assumed that was an effect of the fulcrum and I held judgment until I took off.

My immediate reaction was to compare the shoes to the Kinvaras. While the Kinvaras are light and very flexible on toe-off, the Fast 2's are very stiff at the front. Far stiffer than any other shoe I own and I own a lot of running shoes. I tried to stay open minded about this difference and moved along fairly well until I reached a slight downhill section and noticed that the lack of flexibility was causing some misalignment in my stride. As I ran further I felt an unusual amount of strain on the ankle area at the top of my right foot. It was making my leg tired and I had barely covered a mile.

I reached a point in my route where I would run straight for a while so I picked up the pace to see how they felt in a full on run. Despite the Fast 2's promise as a speed and racing shoe I found myself missing the Kinvaras and the Adrenalins, both of which provide a more muscular response to quick turnovers. I plan to take the Fast 2's out a few more times and try them under different conditions before I judge them too harshly. They are high quality shoes and are probably ideal for runners that prefer a stiffer ride.

It seemed like a good idea to run the trails at Stillwell this morning and it turned out great. Despite 25 degree weather it all felt good. I wore my Brooks GTS 10's that I've neglected lately in favor of the Kinvaras. Even though the Adrenalins aren't trail shoes they work well on hard packed, non-technical trails like the ones I ran today. Compared to the Karhu's, the Brooks felt far more natural. I followed a course I knew well, a loop that weaves through numerous sections of the western end of the Woods. Each loop measures about two miles so I ran it three times. I only encountered a couple of mountain bikers today but I did see a surprising number of hikers and a few other runners. I felt great throughout the run and appreciated the short but steamy shower that followed. I hope that everyone is enjoying this holiday as much as I am today.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Central Park work-year ender

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3.25 miles

We didn't run too far or too fast but yesterday's run with JQ was perfect in its own way.  After a long year that started with a bout of severe pneumonia it was great to finish up with with an early winter's run around Central Park. It's been cold all week and Thursday was no exception, 33 degrees plus wind. JQ and I have run often enough that our route is assumed, starting from the southern end and following the eastern loop, crossing the top of the Great Lawn and then coming back down to our starting point. Running with others is a treat, with the conversation and the activity amplifying the positives of both. JQ is an extremely interesting person who is also a great listener. I always want to repeat our course when we come to our finish just to extend the experience.

I'm on vacation until January 3rd and I'm looking forward to some quiet time off. At the same time I'm a little anxious about getting sick because it seems like I always suffer some type of illness on this year-end break. I'm not concerned about pneumonia or the flu this year because I've been inoculated against both. That said, I'm not going to push too hard on my runs this week. I'll probably go out for a short easy run today and attempt a longer distance run tomorrow or Sunday. I have all next week to run without the constraints of commuting schedules so I might try runs at Caleb Smith or Muttontown Preserve. I'm planning to try my new Karhu Fast 2 Fulcrum_Rides on today's run. That should be an interesting experience.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holiday's, my Karhu's have arrived

The Karhu Fast 2 Ride even looks fast
Yesterday's run (Central Park): 4.5 miles

Although it's technically not a holiday present, I did receive a package last night that made me very happy. The folks at Karhu, a Finnish athletic wear company, sent me a couple of pairs of their new Fast 2 Fulcrum Ride shoes. This model is Karhu's entry into minimalist running shoes and the Fast 2's, in vivid green and orange, are appealing and unusual. I haven't run with them but after lacing them up and wearing them around the house I'm anxious to try them on pavement. Progress reports will come by way of this blog and a full review will follow on Runner's Tech Review. Adventure Girl will also be testing a pair (the orange was for her) and we'll compare experiences in the review. I'm extremely curious to see how the Fast 2's compare to the Kinvaras. I have a good feeling about this.

Until I take the Karhu's out for their first run my Kinvaras will remain my go-to trainers. I wore the Kinvaras yesterday on my Central Park run with my friend Steve. I had been wearing my Grid Tangents and SRR's over he last week so it was a nice change. Prior to yesterday's run I was concerned if I'd have the energy to cover 4 to 5 miles on that hilly course. That was not the case and things fell into place once we started. During the first half of the run I was a step or two behind Steve as we ran a 9:15 pace up the east loops and around the reservoir. By the time we reached our exit of the reservoir path I was cruising and Steve was starting to feel the effort. By the time we hit the southern end I was feeling stronger than when I started. We sprinted the last few hundred feet and finished 4.5 miles averaging a 9:11 pace.

Today I'll end the workday, work week and work year with another Central Park run. This time it will be with another friend, JQ, and I'm looking forward to a less intense experience from yesterday's.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gearing up for a mid-day run

It's another cold day with strong winds that are making it feel even colder outside. This is the last full workday before most people leave for the long Christmas weekend. I wish things felt more holiday festive but at the moment it's not much different than normal. Actually that's not entirely true. I left my suit and tie at home today and brought in my running clothes. I have noontime city runs planned for both today and tomorrow.

Today's run is with my friend Steve, who is also my financial advisor. He's currently into Crossfit, an exercise method that involves short but intense full body workouts. Steve and I have not run together for a few weeks and he is curious to see how, or if, Crossfit will help his speed and endurance. We're targeting around 5 miles in the park and I'm undecided how I'll dress for this cold. Normally I'd error on the warmer side in this type of weather but overheating could work against me today.

With no post-run shower option and meetings with colleagues in the afternoon I'm not going to want to sweat as much as I normally would. I've brought enough gear to allow me to decide what to include - or not - based on current conditions. My biggest concern right now is my level of energy. I'm not sure I'm fully through the effects of last week's flu shot.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar recovery

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

Since I was up and outside early this morning I was hoping I'd get a glimpse of the lunar eclipse. This is the first time in 400 years that an eclipse of the moon occurs on the same day as the winter solstice. I went out at 4:00 AM to chilly winds and cold temperatures and scanned the skies as I ran. While the horizon was clear the moon seemed to be enveloped in clouds. There may have been an eclipse going on but it just looked like a partial moon to me. So much for celestial wonders.

I had a tough run on Sunday and I'm often wary of the run that follows a bad workout. I look at it like a barometer for my current state. Will my next run be better or worse? Am I stronger or weaker, faster or slower? I've had enough experience to know that a single run doesn't mean much (unless it's a race) but a week's worth of running tells a story. I think this week's story is that my flu shot managed to undercut my training over the weekend and I'm slowly building back my strength. My run this morning was fine, better than Sunday's but definitely not a strong performance. I wore my Skecher's SRR's and still paced in the 9's so I know the effort was there. I'm due to run 5 miles in the city tomorrow with a friend who wants to "run fast." I'm not sure how ready I am to do that so he may have to compromise a little.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A perfect runner's gift

A basket full of energy
My running friend and colleague KWL gave me a clever and thoughtful holiday gift this morning -- a basket containing a variety of gels and sports beans. I've been curious to try the different brands and flavors and there's plenty in there to choose. Some selections are caffeine free and others have 2X the caffeine. I've got my eye on one of the 2X packs for my next distance challenge.

Sometimes the hardest part of a marathon is just getting in

Yesterday's tough effort reminded me of a year ago when I quickly went from a fit and healthy runner to an IV fed hospital patient. I'm not saying conditions are the same this year but I was very run down most of this weekend. Last year I would always choose the "power through" strategy and run my miles despite the way I felt. I've learned the danger of doing that and I'm fine with backing off if I must. Last week's mileage total was only 11, about half of my usual distance covered. Today I feel well and I think it's because I listened to my body, stopped my run short of planned distance, and rested appropriately.

I'm already looking to 2011 for new running accomplishments and adventures. I'll be posting my next year's goals soon. One goal is to run a half marathon, a distance I would have thought impossible three years ago. It might have been nice to make my first half the NYC ING race but the lottery opened and closed too quickly for me to react. My friend Dave put in his lottery bid and I hope he gets selected.

For those those who want to run the Boston Marathon next year but didn't qualify or didn't get a lottery pick there's another way to get in. I was contacted by Kristina Sym, manager of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary charity marathon team that will participate in this April's Boston Marathon. She said there are still a few spots left on their 50-member team. Team members must commit to raising a minimum of $5,000 for research and patient care at Mass. Eye and Ear. Fundraising and training support will be offered. Interested runners can contact or (617) 573-6364. More information can also be found at:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The effects of the pseudo flu

Today's run (street) 3.5 miles

This weekend has been very busy, but only in the best way. On Saturday we got family together to celebrate my dad's birthday - a big one. That party, combined with some ill effects from my recent flu shot, prevented me from running yesterday. Our weekend activities continued through Sunday with my brother and his family who had come in from out of town. Their 3 year old sons, supervised by our middle schoolers, made for non-stop action all through the house. After everyone left I went out for a run but it didn't go too well. I know the flu shot doesn't give you the flu or even introduce an active virus, but for three days I've felt fatigued and have suffered from headaches.

By this afternoon those effects had passed and I went out with the intention of running five to six miles. I dressed for the low 30's weather and felt okay for the first mile and a half. Soon after that I began to feel sluggish and my legs were feeling heavy. I decided to abandon the planned route and finished the run after 3.5 miles. By the end it felt as though 10 pound weights were attached to my legs. I'm obviously fighting some cold or virus and after a shower I took a quick nap to regain some energy before we headed out for another get together. As of right now I'm feeling well but I'll probably take my usual rest day on Monday.

I have two city runs planned this week before I wrap up my work and start my vacation on Friday. I'm hoping my strength will return in full. I'm also hoping that my flu shot will protect me all through the winter season. At some point this weekend I questioned if the cure was worse that the cause.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Carbon copy run

Today's run (street): 2.6 miles

I thought we'd get a break from the freezing weather by now but this morning the temperature was 19 degrees, even colder than yesterday. My gear has done an impressive job keeping me comfortable through these morning workouts and that was the case today. Despite forgetting my Garmin and having to go back up to retrieve it, I managed to get out the door on schedule. Today's run was very similar to yesterday's, a little longer and a little faster, but my form and mechanics were no different.

I'm not sure how long or even if I'll have time to run on Saturday because I've got appointments in the morning and we're hosting a party in the afternoon. Sunday may bring snow so that could undercut my distance running this weekend. I have some city runs with friends lined up next week so I'll look forward to those. By Friday I'll be on vacation and that will give me more flexibility for longer runs. I got a flu shot yesterday courtesy of my company's in-house medical department. I got a pneumonia shot from my pulmonologist earlier in the year. At least I won't be facing those risks while I'm away over the holiday break.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Back on the frozen roads

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

I gave a lecture to some NYU students last night and I didn't get home until late. I'd considered going into the office a little later this morning but decided to stay with my normal train schedule. When I got up to run today I was still tired and I had to talk myself into going outside. The conditions weren't too inviting with temperatures around 20 degrees. Colder than that when the wind blew. I put on my winter gear and headed outside hoping to get my body temperature up before the deep freeze penetrated all my layers.

Considering my tired state and the cold conditions, my run went smoothly. I wasn't looking to cover a lot of ground but this weekend's activities will limit my options for longer runs. I needed to get some distance in as I hadn't run on the road since Saturday. My only workouts since Saturday's 10 mile run were a treadmill run and an elliptical session. I was happy that I wore my warmest hat but its bulk made the headlamp strap very tight on my head. I figured I could bear it for a couple of miles. My ASICS glove/mittens performed like champs and kept my hands warm the entire time I ran. I had hoped to maintain a brisker pace than 9:30 but that's what I ended up running. The important thing is that it seemed faster. The weather will get a little warmer tomorrow so I'll look forward to that run and forgo some layers in the process. It was nice to be out on the roads again after five days away.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why I skipped my workout

I work for a company that virtually shuts down between Christmas and New Year's day. Business still goes on during that time but many people take "Dark Week" for vacation. I've always liked taking that time off, with little going on in the office I can detach fully from work and relax with my family. As it happens, I frequently end up battling a cold - or worse - during that period. I've contracted the flu more than once during the holiday week and last year was the worst ever: severe pneumonia requiring a week's stay in the hospital.

Since that experience I've become more concerned when I begin to feel out of sorts. Last year, during the break, I went from feeling well to going into a zombie-like state in a period of 24 hours. It didn't help that this happened on New Year's day when a visit to my doctor was impractical. Waiting until after the weekend to see my doctor was a terrible decision but a lesson learned. All this is leading up to my rationale for skipping today's run. I felt okay but was a little more tired than usual when I got up. I had laid out clothes for a treadmill run but I decided to forgo exercise and take the extra time to rest. I have a long and busy day today and I thought (and still think) it was the right way to go. It should warm up slightly from now through the weekend so I'll feel better about running outside on those days. Nine days until I start my end-of year vacation. I'm doing what I can to avoid a repeat of  last year's experience.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Given a choice, I'll take the elliptical

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

The weather has not been ideal for outdoor activities. On Sunday I ran indoors because of the pouring rain and high winds. Last night they were predicting morning temperatures in the teens so I laid out indoor workout clothes. I figured that I'd decide whether to run on the treadmill or use the elliptical when I got up. When I went down for my coffee this morning I opened the shade and saw that the neighborhood was blanketed in snow. Good call on an indoor workout last night.

Not surprisingly, I chose the elliptical this morning instead of the treadmill. Sunday's 30 minutes of unhappiness made it an easy decision. The session went by in a flash and I couldn't believe it when I looked at the display and saw I'd passed the 20 minute mark. I stepped it up for the last five minutes and finished hot, sweaty and satisfied that I worked as hard as I would have on the treadmill. It's supposed to be frigid through tomorrow morning so if the roads are icy on Wednesday I guess I'll need to face the treadmill once again. Fingers crossed for a heat wave.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The day after cure

This morning my calves and hamstrings were feeling far better than I'd expected. Usually after a 10K race or a long distance run I feel pronounced soreness in my legs on the second day after the activity. I did a couple of things that may have helped the situation. First, I wore my calf compression sleeves all afternoon after my 10 mile run. Studies that prove better performance using compression gear are inconclusive but there is strong evidence that compression will help recovery. The second thing I did to help my recovery was to run a short distance the next day, at a moderate pace. I usually rest the day after my week's longest run or after a race. Running three miles yesterday may have proven therapeutic by gently re-engaging my calves, hamstrings and quads. I was glad for the opportunity to rest this morning and pleased that I wasn't wasn't dealing with muscle pain or stiffness like I'd expected. I guess a little prevention does yield some cure.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The power of negative thinking

Today's run (treadmill): 3 miles

The rain was coming down hard while I debated whether to run or rest today. I put in a good workout on Saturday and could have legitimately skipped today's workout, especially with the weather we were having. I figured the rain and strong winds would continue throughout the day and before lunch I'd made up my mind to run three miles on the treadmill. I figured it would be easy to cover a few slow miles, less than a third of the distance that I'd run the day before.

There's something about the treadmill that brings out the worst in me as a runner. I had the TV on with an NFL pre-game show, figuring the action might provide some distraction from the tedious process of running about 30 minutes while going nowhere. Almost from the start, the activity felt difficult. I  had a bad attitude about the process and as I grew warmer my mood grew worse. At the 20 minute mark I was self-negotiating a shorter span but once I was within the last mile of my distance goal I sped up the belt and got it done. I ended up running about 28 minutes and disliked every one.

Later in the afternoon I went out for an errand and the skies had cleared. The wind was gone and the temperature was a balmy 54 degrees. I would have loved to do my recovery run under those conditions but my running was done for the day. I was pleased that I got in a hard workout and could now relax for the rest of the day. My dislike of the treadmill drove me to run faster than I would have had I done my run outdoors. I guess thinking negatively can sometimes yield positive results.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Double digit run - a new personal distance record

Today's run (Bethpage State Park) 10.2 miles

The weather has been freezing this week and Sunday is supposed to be rainy. Although it's a busy Saturday I wanted to make sure that I took advantage of today's weather to get in some base-building distance. I briefly considered lots of loops around the neighborhood before heading to Bethpage State Park to run the bike trail. I've been wanting to break my distance record for a contiguous run (8.5 miles) and most miles in a day (9).  Bethpage was a better place to try that.

It was a chilly 29 degrees at 8:00 AM when I started my run and I was tempted to run at a faster pace than I'd planned.  I intended to run down to the Massapequa Preserve to a spot that I'd measured on Google Earth to be five miles from the trail start at Bethpage. That would allow me to complete an out-and-back total of ten miles. Once I'd passed the first mile I had warmed up enough to be comfortable. I kept my pace moderate to reserve enough energy for the final miles of this rolling course. The first four miles came fairly quickly and before I knew it I was crossing over the Southern State where the Massapequa Preserve starts. I ran that part of the trail until my Garmin chirped 5 miles and I reversed direction for the second half of my run.

There were many runners on the path this morning, lots of high school cross country runners in bunches. I noticed that the quarter mile markings on the path didn't align to my Garmin and after two or three comparisons I realized that my foot pod was off by .08 each mile. Over 10 miles that added up to about .8 miles so I knew I'd need to make that distance up at the end if I wanted to claim a true 10. By mile eight I was really feeling the workout. I had no doubt of the outcome but I was dreading the big hill at the end. I got up the hill in better shape than I'd expected and I finished the run with a few long loops around the lot that brought me confidently past the 10 mile mark. Just for good measure (pardon the pun) I ran until the Garmin read 11 miles, but I'm considering today's distance to officially total 10.2 miles.

A full day for both mind and body
I was wiped out after that run but today's schedule had little downtime. My wife, kids and I spent the middle of the day at the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center where we attended a class on the sense of smell. My son attended camp there this summer and we all had a great time. I'm thinking I'll sleep well tonight. So now that I'm in double digits for my personal distance record, maybe a half marathon isn't such an aspirational goal.

Friday, December 10, 2010

That runner vs. jogger thing

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

This morning Mark Remy posted a piece on Runner's World about how media covers runners as crime victims or crime discoverers. The key point he makes is that newspapers usually refer to these recreational runners as "joggers" and this insults many runners. Before I stopped posting my daily blog on Runner's World last spring I would occasionally write pieces that I knew would generate lots of comments. The two subjects that I could count on for reaction were treadmill running (love it/hate it) and the terms "jogger" vs. "runner."

I'll admit that I prefer not to be called a jogger. The term seems to diminish the athleticism of the sport. When people call runners "joggers" I assume it's because they know little about running. For me the term jogger evokes a mental picture of an overweight, velour suited, slow moving person wearing tennis shoes and carrying a latte. It's a true cliche and if I wasn't so biased I might concede that it's far better to be that jogger than a person who sits on the sofa all day. Still, I don't want to be that jogger and I don't want anyone to think I'm that jogger.

One of  those commenting on Remy's article suggested that a 9:00 pace is the demarcation point between running and jogging. If that's the case, it appears that I often jog without realizing it. It's just a word but it does seem to generate reaction. Next time I'm attacking the rocky slopes and vertical drops at Stillwell Woods at a 9:50 pace I'll take solace in the fact that it's really just jogging.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

23 degrees in the shade

Suddenly it's freezing and at 4:00 AM it's really really freezing. I anticipated those conditions last night and selected the following for this morning's run:

- Wool running socks
- Compression sleeves (ankle to knee)
- Light weight compression shorts
- Mid-weight compression pants
- Long sleeve running shirt
- Short sleeve running shirt
- Winter weight half zip
- Heavy polypropylene running hat
- Running mittens

It may seem like overkill but when I switched on the local news they were reporting temperatures in the low 20's, not counting wind chill. I briefly considered the treadmill but decided that I'd rather have a freezing run than a tedious workout. I set out at an easier pace than yesterday but my many layers allowed me to warm up relatively quickly. Like yesterday, I was pleased with my form and mechanics and I increased my pace as I moved through the run. Between a slower start and a faster finish I averaged 9:16. Much better than the 9:30-9:45 malaise I'd been experiencing over the last few weeks, but after yesterday's 8:44 run I suffered for the difference. I'm still happy with the way I ran and my recent 10K's have convinced me that I can run at slower paces on training runs and still perform well on race day. I have no races on the calendar for the remainder of the year so, for now, I'm going to focus on running for fun, regardless of performance..

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Brisk weather, brisker run

Today's run (street) 2.7 miles

Earlier this week I traded Turkey Trot experiences with my friend CK. He runs the same Thanksgiving day five mile race every year and tries to beat the neighborhood "kids" who are now in their 20's. CK ran that hilly course in 8:20 this year, slower than he'd hoped. I was happy to tell him that I PR'd on the 10K distance and paced under 9:00 per mile. CK said wanted to break eight minutes on his race and I started thinking about what it would have taken for me to do that at Long Beach. For a 10K race (6.2 miles), using my 55:10 time as a benchmark, I would have had to run every mile one minute faster than I did to hit 7:59. Given the difficulty in achieving 8:53 overall, that's a significant challenge. Perhaps breaking 8:40 would be a better target.

This morning I went out with no plans to run fast but when I hit the street everything was working for me. Almost everything, actually, the winds were stiff coming from the north and though I'd dressed for cold the chill and force were a factor. Still, I felt strong and my energy level was greater than it had been in a while. I didn't pay attention to my speed even as I passed the first mile. It wasn't until I passed mile two so quickly that I realized I was pacing far better than usual. I continued to run hard until I reached home and checked the Garmin's readout. Gmaps confirmed the pace: 8:44 per mile. This was the fastest run I've done in a long time. In fact I'll need to look at Garmin Connect to see how long it's been since I've averaged that pace. I don't know how I'll do tomorrow but today I feel good about my abilty to run in the 8:00 range.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Back on the X1

Today's workout (elliptical): 26 minutes

Despite my bravado about running in the coldest weather I couldn't face the below 20 degree wind chills this morning. It's been at least two weeks since my last elliptical session so I decided to defy convention and use the machine on a scheduled running day. I always go into these sessions thinking I'm due for an easier workout than I'd experienced with an equivalently timed run. By the end I felt like the elliptical matches or even surpasses any run that I do at a moderate pace. The elliptical was a nice change from running and I appreciated a few moments when I listened to music while I worked out, free of any ear buds and free to close my eyes without disastrous results. I'll brave the cold tomorrow for a run and gear up accordingly. I'm hopeful that it will be less windy on Wednesday. Today the elliptical provided just the right workout, all things considered.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Seven the hard way at Stillwell

Today's run (Stillwell Woods) 7.2 miles

Due to tight schedules around yesterday's party I had to keep my run fairly short. Today I considered a trip to Bethpage to attempt a long run on the bike trail. The temperature was in the low 20's with the wind chill so I decided instead to head to Stillwell Woods. I figured that the woods would cut the wind and provide better running conditions than Bethpage. Plus Stillwell is closer and I get in for free.

I parked close to Southwoods Road, purposely locating my car as far from the trail head as I could. I figured I'd add some extra distance by running the quarter mile road along the way to the woods. I felt strong winds at my back and looked forward to warming up further as I ran. I followed my usual loops through Stillwell. After two years I know some trails well enough to run with confidence. That's what I thought anyway. I was moving along, feeling good, and after four miles I varied my route and cut through the southern part of the woods that led me back to the main trail. At that point I was feeling like I'd mastered the geography of Stillwell and despite choosing paths that had many gradual inclines I felt strong. I decided to run for a couple more miles and restarted my usual loop, but at the six mile point I found my way into unfamiliar territory. With only the sun to guide me I followed trails that I thought would bring me back to my starting point.

It may have been the slight anxiety that comes from being lost or the fact that I encountered some steeper rises but I began to feel tired and frustrated by the lack of directional context. Maintaining my sun-based navigation method I eventually came to a path that I recognized and I followed it west until I reached the playing fields at Stillwell.  From there I ran straight across in a beeline to my car. The freezing winds hitting me head-on were brutal and that last quarter mile seemed to take a very long time. I quickly got into my car and downed an electrolyte drink, sweating and freezing at the same time. I was happy to have covered over 7 miles today, bringing my weekend total to almost 12. I guess I'll have to wait another day to run 10. Seven in the woods was plenty hard today.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

First run, then party

Today's run (mixed surfaces): 4.25 miles

It had been a very busy work week and it seemed to take a long time for the weekend to arrive. Today is also a busy day and it's going to get busier. We're hosting our annual holiday party that will start in the early afternoon. Final preparations are going on although most things are done. Happily, my wife doesn't leave too much for the last minute.  I took the opportunity to go out for a four mile run around the neighborhood this morning before I prepared for the day. I began by heading north and following the perimeter road that runs west. A good part of that road is downhill but most of the benefit that's gained through gravity was countered by stiff wins blowing east. After about a mile I headed south along another busy road whose sidewalks are covered with layers of dried leaves. I normally enjoy running on this type of surface because it's softer than pavement but the depth of leaves made the terrain unstable and I was concerned about slipping. I ran slowly and carefully through this stretch.

I turned into the neighborhood at the south end and began to follow most of my usual roads. At the 20 minute mark I looked at the Garmin and saw that I was running at about 9:55 per mile. I figured out later that the calibration on the foot-pod was off and I was actually running faster but my reaction was to pick up my speed for the second two miles. I ended up with an overall pace of 9:40.  I thought that was okay considering my slow start and the slower speed I maintained when running on the leafy sections. Today's run felt good and I know I could have gone on for a lot longer but I'm on a schedule today. Pretty soon our guests will be arriving.  If all stays on plan I'll get out for a true long run on Sunday.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What's behind a default running pace?

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

Paces are a funny thing. I often find it difficult to gauge my speed as I run. There's a default pace that I maintain when I'm not thinking about performance. That's usually my starting point for taking it up a notch in a tempo run or slowing down to conserve energy on a longer run. I'm still not sure why my stride and cadence always seem to lock in around 9:30 per mile. Why not 9:00 or 8:30? When I run I sometimes imagine that I'm in a race with other runners. I do this because in races my pace usually drops into the 8:00 range. The theory is good but the practice is usually unsuccessful. Just imagining competition doesn't seem to help my performance. I'm sure there's much more to it than simply having others (real or imagined) by your side.

This morning I took off on a very cold morning with no regard to my speed. When my Garmin chirped at the first mile I looked at the watch to see that I'd paced it at 10:06. This was a surprise and even a shock because I'd felt like I was moving faster than that. I picked things up and by the 1.5 mile mark I was running closer to 9:40 per mile. Still not fast but definitely faster. I wasn't thinking about my speed but I was concentrating on where my feet were landing. My average cadence has increased about 3% since last year which I thought should yield faster paces overall.

I think my focus on mid-foot landing might actually be preventing progress on speed because, while my steps per minute may have increased, my stride length has probably decreased. I'm okay with that because as I build my base I'm expecting to continue increasing cadence to the point where my speed does increase. Since I can rarely tell how fast I'm actually running I should probably look more often at my watch to see how I'm performing. I've always resisted that because I don't like the pressure to maintain a specific speed. I guess I need to decide what's most important.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The important thing is that I ran

Today's run (street): 2.35 miles

One interesting thing about running at 4:00 AM is how the workout connects to the day ahead. The run itself can determine what type of day I'll have. A particularly good performance or a positive experience can carry far into the day. Regardless of how I've run, whenever I return to my driveway I always think "If nothing else, at least I accomplished this today." My wife shares the same perspective about her daily treadmill runs. Besides the convenience of getting it out of the way early, morning runs provide a great platform for managing whatever comes later in the day.

This morning's run was not remarkable in any way although it felt tougher than some. My energy band is highest before noon but at 4:00 AM it's sometimes a case of the spirit being willing but the flesh remaining weak. After the transition to aerobic breathing I got into rhythm but it wasn't one of my stronger efforts. The local weather report said 39 degrees but it felt colder, even with two layers of running shirts. I tracked a somewhat random course and made it back to the house close to schedule despite starting a couple of minutes later than planned. I'm glad to get that run in since I decided to take a day off from running (and blogging) on Wednesday. The weekend is almost here. I may try again to achieve a distance record on one of those days.

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