Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 running is done, now bring on the Hangover!

Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

It's the last day of the year and I had to get in one final run before the ball drops. Since I'm planning to participate in tomorrow's 5 mile Hangover Fun Run, I decided to keep my distance to about three miles. It's unseasonably warm for the end of December and the temperature was at 45° when I went out this morning.

I wasn't the only person looking to end the year with a run around my local streets. I encountered a couple of runners who I'd seen around the neighborhood plus plenty of people who were out walking their dogs. I didn't push the pace but it still felt challenging, even for such a short distance.

It should be fun to run around Eisenhower Park on New Year's day. Were I more adventurous, I'd consider heading into NYC tonight for the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. That's a four mile race that's run every New Year's Eve. But since that race starts long past my bedtime, I think I'm far better off waiting for tomorrow morning.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Indoors at the outdoor stores

 Today's workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

Today was a busy day that included visits to two of my favorite stores: EMS and REI. I was hoping to find some after-Christmas bargains in running and outdoor wear, but I wasn't compelled to buy. I did get a lightweight reflective vest to replace the tattered one that I've been using. The vest that I'd bought a few months ago at Paragon is a little too bulky for running, but I'm sure it will come in handy for some other use.

My wife picked up a very nice Mountain Hardware sweater at REI at a great price. I also bought three GU gels that were on sale for $0.79 -- Peppermint Stick, Peanut Butter and Mandarin Orange. I hope those flavors taste as good as they sound when put to actual use.

I've decided I will participate in Sunday's LIRRC Hangover fun run. It's a five mile course on the grounds of Eisenhower Park, with no tracking chips. It could be fun to run a "race" without the pressure of the clock. I believe that the race is timed for those who want to know how they did, but no results are posted.

I did 40 minutes on the elliptical machine this morning and set the resistance higher than I usually do. It was a nice low impact workout that still generated quite a sweat. I'll go out for a few miles tomorrow to celebrate another great year of running. On Sunday the 2012 odometer will start!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cold and wind can't keep a winter runner down

Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

Conditions were dry, cold and windy this morning but that didn't dissuade me from going out for a run. I far prefer 25° plus wind chills over 80° with high humidity. The trick is to bundle up enough to make the first mile bearable, without becoming overheated by the third. I wore my new half-zip over a long sleeved tech shirt and my new CS running pants below. These pants do a very good job of blocking wind.

I wore my Saucony Mirages that felt 100% better than the Karhu Fast 2's that I wore on yesterday's run. The Mirage's low stack height and minimal ramp angle enable a natural mid-foot fall. This is very different from the Karhu's thick mid-sole that seems to get in the way of leg extension. It's as if the road is an inch higher when your foot hits the ground -- both jarring and disconcerting.

The chilly air was energizing and the wind at my back helped to propel me. Head-on, the wind felt uncomfortable, especially where my glasses touched my face. Fortunately my route didn't have too many roads that faced west so it wasn't really an issue. My strength had improved from yesterday and my run was mostly pleasant. I had enough strength coming up on my last mile to pick up the pace considerably.

After yesterday's tough going, I'd expected today's run to be better. It turned out to be a lot better and I was pleased with my performance overall. If the rain holds off tomorrow I may go for a trail run with a friend. If not, I may spend some quality time on the elliptical machine.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stacking the deck the wrong way

Karhu Fast 2 - a contributing factor
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

This morning's temperature was a mild 44°, but the winds from the west made it feel much colder. I decided to run with my new Alpine Design half-zip that I hoped would block wind. I was pleased that it did, although I would have been better off had I just worn a couple of shirt layers. I was sweating profusely by the end of my run.

I'd inadvertently stacked the deck against having a good run by choosing the Karhu Fast 2 running shoes that I'd relegated to elliptical duty a while back. When I did a quick run in the Karhu's the other day they'd felt okay, so I thought I'd give them another try.

Other factors in play were a depleted blood supply (from my doctor's visit yesterday) and a very large, calorie-laden meal at our friends last night. This included a Guinness stout and my system isn't used to alcohol. I've only had the equivalent of five beers in all of 2011.

My route was through the neighborhood and I didn't plan to run it fast. I figured 3+ miles would be an easy workout. By mile I realized it would be difficult to get through the entire run but I was determined to do it. The wind didn't help and I felt hot and very tired. The Karhu's high platform made it difficult to maintain a fluid stride.

By the time I'd finished, I was surprised by my level of exhaustion. I guess if I'd thought about it I would have chosen different gear and charted an even shorter route. But good runs usually follow bad ones, so I'll hope for better experiences throughout the week.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Indecision leads to a workout choice

Today's run (treadmill): 23 minutes

Sometimes, if you wait long enough, your decisions will be made for you. I had an 8:00 AM doctor's appointment this morning and got up at 6:00. I thought I had plenty of time to run, shower and then get to my destination. I knew that the weather was due to change today, with driving rains expected this afternoon. Given that possibility, I figured I'd get in a neighborhood run while I could. 

Two hours is a deceptive time span. It seems like all the time in the world until there's no time left. I had a leisurely cup of coffee while I watched the news. I checked the time and felt I was on track. Suddenly it was 6:30 and I realized I needed at least 10 minutes to get my outside running gear prepared. That would leave me only 45 minutes to run, shower and dress in order to get to my doctor's office by 8:00.

It was clear that the window for an an outside run had closed, so I ran upstairs and quickly dressed for an indoor workout. With limited time I cranked up the speed, averaging about 7 MPH, per the display. By the time I was done, I was ready for rest, but there was no time left to do that. A quick shower followed and off I went. I walked into the office at 7:58.

I regret missing out on an outside run today and next time I'll be more aware of just how short two hours can be. Still, I had a vigorous (if short) workout and may not have gone as hard as that if I'd had more time. Did I make to right decision? Or was the right one made for me?

Monday, December 26, 2011

100% workout using 50% of the machine

Today's workout (upper body elliptical): 21 minutes

Monday's are normally a rest day for me so I skipped my morning run. I thought I might do a workout later, depending how the day went. When my wife started on her treadmill run I was inspired to join her on the elliptical. I wanted to focus only on my upper body so I needed to get creative.

Three years ago, when we first got the elliptical machine, I was much better at balancing my cross-training. I incorporated core exercises far more often than I do today and lifted hand weights once or twice a week. Today I revisited one of the techniques that would do using the elliptical, that involves standing in front and moving the poles using only my arms.

The action of pushing and pulling the poles, with moderate resistance, reminds me of my old karate workouts alternating punches and blocks. In that case, there was no resistance unless we were doing ippon kumite, that involved a partner blocking or punching back. Seven hours later I'm still feeling today's upper body workout, and that tells me I need to do it more often.

Imagine this in black
Earlier in the day we stopped into Sports Authority and I bought an Alpine Design (a Sports Authority house brand) running half zip. It's a mid-weight layer that promises to wick sweat and it looks (and feels) similar to a $40 half-zip in the new Balance section. Except that mine was discounted to $19.99. I can't resist a bargain. Especially if it's on an item that I actually need.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Xmas Stillwell run

Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.4 miles

Today is Christmas, and though there's no snow outside, it's plenty cold. I thought about doing a neighborhood run to take advantage of the quiet roads. My wife reminded me that snow would be here before I knew it, and suggested that I run at Stillwell while I still could. That made sense to me so I geared up and headed over to the park.

It was quiet when I got there, but soon a few runners appeared, all heading toward the woods. After some dynamic stretches, I followed the runners and chose a different route than usual. This path runs along the southern part of the woods and it connects to my normal route via a steep uphill section. I'd had about five minutes to get loose enough to attack this climb and I came over it without much trouble.

From there I locked into my familiar course and encountered a few people running their dogs. I also crossed paths with a couple of runners I'd seen at the trail head. Although it was just below 30°, I was beginning to get hot. I'd worn layers anticipating wind and chillier temps within the woods, but I began to sweat after I'd covered my first mile.

I ran along the eastern side of the big field and ducked back into the woods to start my main loop. A little further in I saw the same couple running from the other direction. The woman, who I initially viewed with sympathy because she was only wearing running shorts, seemed a lot more comfortable than her partner, who was dressed more like me.

I reached the point where I needed to decide whether to wind down or add a couple more miles to my run. Although I had no time constraint, I chose to cut it short and headed west along the northern path towards the main trail head. There will be lots of opportunities to run this week and I didn't want to overdo it today.

It was a decent run and a nice break from the road. I'm not sure where I'll run in the coming days but I would like to put in at least one hour-plus run in the next few days. Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pushing the pace without really trying

Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

Was today's run hard because I was tired, or because my pace was 20 seconds per mile faster than than it felt? I'm not sure, but today's run, that I planned do do s-l-o-w-l-y, didn't end up that way.

The temperature was in the high 20's when I went out at 7:30 AM. I'd had a decent night's sleep and the chilly air felt good. Yesterday's long elliptical session had me thinking about a recovery run today. I usually dislike the first couple of minutes of every run, until my aerobic breathing kicks in, but this morning I had no such issues.

Since I had no time constraints, I followed a different route than normal that had slightly more uphill roads than usual. My stride felt fluid though my legs felt a little heavy. I planned to cover about five miles but I began to feel a little fatigued after covering just a couple. I thought, perhaps, that the full week of workouts, plus last weekend's race, were catching up to me.

I modified my course and headed back towards home after passing three miles. I picked up my pace as I got closer to the end and reached my driveway after covering 4.3 (Gmaps verified) miles. I must have run harder than I realized to attain a pace in the low 9:00 range, but it probably contributed to my lagging energy.

We have a family get-together later today, and I plan to go out for an early run tomorrow. Christmas morning is a great time to be out, since most people stay around home and the streets are clear. I don't celebrate the holiday, but I do love the peaceful time. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

A perfect running gift

Energy for the holidays
Yesterday afternoon my friend and colleague KWL presented me with a thoughtful holiday gift: GU and Roctane gels plus Kind bars.

I really appreciated it and loved the presentation. The banner at the top says "Happy Running in 2012!" That's the spirit! I'm hoping that next year KWL and I will match or exceed our running and biking adventures of 2011.

An unexpected sprint

Today's workout (elliptical): 36 minutes

It's day one of my year-end break and I started it with a longer than usual elliptical workout. It's a busy day today so I started early. This allowed me to extend past my standard 25 minutes. I put on the TV and picked one of the music channels on the cable box. Before I knew it 36 minutes had passed and I needed to move on.

I felt so good during that workout that I could have easily gone for an hour or more.  When I came downstairs my kids were about to leave for school. I said goodbye but after they'd left, my wife discovered that my son had forgotten his phone. He is getting together with a group of friends after school so we felt he needed to have it. Since I was still dressed for a workout, I grabbed the phone and ran to the school. I caught him just before he and my daughter went inside.

That sprint to the school provided a nice second workout and I sprinted home because I was cold. The temperatures were in the 40's and I was wearing shorts and a short sleeved jersey, already sweat-soaked from my elliptical session. I'm looking to cover some quality miles this weekend and throughout next week. Vacation running is the best.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

News flash - GPS watches aren't accurate

Graphic from 12/19 NY Times article
Photo credit: Martin Strauss, via Garmin and Microsoft
 Today's run (street): 2.5 miles
There was an article in Tuesday's New York Times about the accuracy (or should I say, inaccuracy?) of GPS watches. The writer made the same point that I've been making for years, that GPS technology does not provide exact measurement. The same can be said for smartphone GPS apps that show lots of metrics and graphics, but also under-count distance. The thing is, if your distance is off, so is everything else, including pace.

I'm a bit of a belt and suspenders guy when it comes to tracking my runs. I use a Garmin FR210 GPS watch to capture my run metrics and route. But later, I usually measure where I had run using Gmaps to get the most accurate distance. This way I can calculate my true pace. Why use the Garmin if I know it's inaccurate? Good question. But just try taking my Garmin away from me...

This morning I got back outside for my early run and was rewarded with dry roads and mild temperatures. There was wind coming from the north that, when traveling head-on, made things chilly. Most of my route went either south or east so it wasn't a problem. I managed an average pace, though my PE (perceived effort) was higher than that result. Then again, when you get your performance information from a GPS watch, you never know what to believe!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hard runs are only fun once you're done

Today's run (treadmill): 2.7 miles

I elected to run indoors again this morning since the rains had moved in last night. I got a jump start on my  morning run because I woke up six minutes early and started on the treadmill at 3:50 AM. That allowed me to get in a hard run and still have time to relax with coffee before heading to the shower.

After yesterday's easy run with a 2% incline, I decided to push the pace today. I never re-calibrated the treadmill after replacing the console, so I don't really trust the treadmill's speed readout. 6.3 MPH on the machine feels more like a 9:00 mile on the road.

I started at 6 MPH and blipped the speed control every couple of minutes until I reached 7 MPH. I stayed with that throughout my 25 minute run. Easy runs feel good while you are doing them, but hard runs feel great when you finish. I chose to defer my enjoyment until after my workout and I'm glad I did. I'm hoping for some decent weather this weekend so I can get in some sorely needed distance runs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Of treadmills and laziness

Today's run (treadmill - 2% incline): 25 minutes

I never thought that I'd consider myself lazy for getting up at 3:45 AM and running on the treadmill. But that's the way I felt this morning as I followed my indoor routine. There's no doubt that I prefer running outdoors to indoors, and ideally on trails. But the treadmill provides something that is irreplaceable at 4:00 AM -- time savings.

The amount of time it takes me to prepare for an outdoor run in cold weather is almost twice that of a treadmill run. With the additional gear and waiting for my Garmin to acquire a signal, I can easily lose 10 precious minutes. Surprisingly, my unabated hatred for the treadmill has given way to a qualified respect for its versatility. I've come to appreciate the capability to vary speed at the touch of a button and switch elevations on command.

So maybe laziness is the wrong word to describe why I chose the treadmill today instead of an outdoor run. Maybe practicality was the reason. All the same, If there's no rain tomorrow, I'll be back to the streets in the morning.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Looking for my winter running shoe

Perhaps I need some (new) balance in my running
After trying on the Kinvara 2's only to realize it wasn't the shoe for me, I'm back to rethinking my winter footwear. I really loved my original Kinvaras. In fact, I'd still be running in them except that I wore out the Kinvara's mid-sole to the point where I began experiencing knee pain. That breakdown coincided with the timing of my half marathon that I ran while injured.

Green Silence - an opportunity lost
A couple of years ago I anticipated Brook's launch of the Green Silence, their first "minimal" shoe not made specifically for racing. I couldn't wait for them to go on sale. I ended up being dissuaded by the salesperson at Jackrabbit who steered me toward the Brooks GTS 10's, a great shoe but it rides too high. I ended up switching to the Saucony Kinvaras midway through 2010.

The Hattori - great except on really cold days

The Mirage - a really good shoe but the fit is narrow

Earlier this year I tested the Saucony Mirage, a Kinvara-like shoe with some stability features. It's a great shoe and I've put in a few hundred miles in them, but the toe width is a bit narrow. I was hoping that Brook's new Pure Project line would provide a shoe that met my needs. I tried on the Pure Connect and really disliked the fit that was narrow and very tight in the arch. The other models weren't much better so I decided to look elsewhere.

After looking at many reviews, I am thinking that the New Balance Minimus MR00 may be a "good fit" for me. My hope was to find a minimal, zero-drop, road shoe that will give me a little more insulation that the Hattori's for winter running. Given that the MR00's aren't due in stores until March, I may need to get through most of winter in the Mirages on cold days and the Hattori's on more moderate days and races.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I heart my City Sports running pants

Today's run (street): 5.25 miles

I've been very happy with most of my race performances this year, including yesterday's 5K where I came within seconds of breaking 25 minutes. The biggest change in my training in 2011 has been less focus on speed during training runs and more focus on quality. While my average pace for recreational runs has slowed by about 15 seconds per mile, my average pace in races (the half marathon being a significant exception) has improved by about 10 seconds per mile.

I gotta say they fit me better than this
On Friday I walked a couple of blocks to City Sports on 48th and 6th and bought a pair of their house brand (CS) performance running pants. These pants are usually $60 but were on sale for $39.00. I compared them to similar, but higher priced, running pants from Brooks, Saucony and Adidas and saw little difference. If anything, the CS pants were heavier and better for winter temperatures.

I wore these pants at yesterday's race and loved the fit. My wife liked the way they looked on me and I didn't feel self conscious wearing them, as I sometimes do in running tights. These pants were a definite improvement over sweats and I was happy to find them on sale.

This morning the temperature in my town was 23° so I dressed in layers and wore a fleece wicking cap and my mitten-gloves. I was a little cold at the start but the new running pants did a good job keeping my legs warm and my Layer 8 thermal zip, with a layer beneath, kept me comfortable up top.

The wind was coming from the north and it was brisk at times. This created a situation where my body stayed comfortable because it was warmed by the run, but my face was freezing from the wind. Having glasses touching my face didn't help me any. It was a little uncomfortable at times, but not so bad that I needed a balaclava.

Ford GT: a cool surprise
I ran slowly to stay below my lactic threshold and give my muscles an opportunity to repair themselves. I criss-crossed the neighborhood, changing directions on a whim and totaled 5.25 miles. As I was running my final steps prior to turning onto my street, I noticed a Ford GT making its way in my direction. The driver was driving slowly but the engine was purring. As a person who loves great engineering and style, I was thrilled to experience it. The same may be said for my new running pants!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Race report:Bethpage Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5K

32° at start time, I was tempted to wear the race sweatshirt
Today's run (Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5K): 3.1 miles - 26:06 (8:24 pace)

I wanted to finish up the year with a December race because I've never competed in this month. Not counting the Nissequoge Turkey Trot that I ran for fun on Thanksgiving, today's race was my tenth of the year. I had no idea of the scale of the Bethpage Ho Ho Ho Holiday Run, but there were well over a thousand people milling around when I got there.

Our weekends can be busy and today my daughter was hosting a holiday party for her friends. Due to that, I went solo, but I did see some people I knew once I got there. I received my sweatshirt after picking up my race number and dropped off some toy donations. After that I walked back to my car to attach my bib and store the race shirt.

It was 32 degrees when we assembled on Broadway and waited for the start. I tried to get closer to the front, but the masses of people prevented any further progress. Santa is the theme of this race and at least half the runners wore seasonal clothes with Santas and elves being the costumes of choice. I had no idea that Under Armor sold running tights in red and vivid green.

As expected, it took about three minutes before I could get up to my planned speed. There were so many people on the road I was afraid of tripping. In fact, I almost stumbled over an elf who cut in front of me just as I was about to zip by two runners.

With no chip sensor at the start, I thought my first mile split time would suffer because I didn't get to full speed until I'd covered a quarter mile. When we reached the first mile I could see the split clock, but with the crowd in front of me I could only see the two numbers to the right of the colon.The numbers were just rolling past :00 and I figured that meant 9:00, but in fact it was 8:00. That was a happy surprise.

Race course: twice around with a loop in the middle
I figured I'd keep the hammer down as long as I could and the flat course helped. Our route was basically a rectangle of wide streets with one small loop that diverted us through a neighborhood. We ran the rectangle two times and passed the Middle School twice. I would have liked a more scenic route but the lack of distraction helped me focus on my speed and form.

Since we did two laps around the course, I knew where we were when we reached the final section that diverted from Broadway into the school driveway. I sprinted the last tenth and crossed the line a few ticks past the 26 minute mark for an overall pace of 8:24. It wasn't a PR but it was my fastest 5K this year and I ended up in the top third rather than my usual middle pack position.

I congratulated a colleague from the office who crossed the line a couple of minutes after me, but I couldn't find a couple of other people who I'd hoped to see. I headed home soon after, rather than wait for the awards ceremony.

Later in the day, while the party was raging at home, my son and I went to Dick's sporting goods to get a requested item. While we were there I saw that they had the Kinvara 2's on sale for $59.00, an incredible bargain. I asked for a pair in my size and tried them on to confirm the fit and was disappointed with the feel. I ran around the show department "track" a few times and decided, bargain or not, the shoe didn't work for me. Oh well, the search continues.

Tomorrow I plan to do a longer run, very slow, to help me recover from today's intense race. This was a great event and I'll plan to run it again next year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Help! I can't find my strong

I need to find my strong1 and just do it,2 because impossible is nothing3. After all, a sound mind is a sound body4. I just want to run happy5 and keep running6.

These inspiring phrases from running shoe companies simply aren't working for me this week. I have only run 2.6 miles since last weekend, less than a quarter of my usual distance leading up to the weekend.

My lack of mileage wasn't planned. Monday I took my usual rest day and Tuesday I did a treadmill run. Wednesday I felt like I was getting sick so skipped the day to help prevent that. Yesterday I'd planned to run in Central Park with AG, but the timing was a little tight so we took a pass. This morning I decided not to run because it's the day before a race.

Okay, it's only a 5K and 2.5 miles of running or 25 minutes on the elliptical today wouldn't have hurt me tomorrow. I just couldn't find my strong. I'm hoping that my commitment to tomorrow's race will serve as a finial to stop my downward slide. I don't care about my time on Saturday morning, only that I'll be back to running.

6New Balance

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What you don't want during taper week

Last night was my daughter's winter concert and this extended an already-long work day. I went to bed intending to run outside this morning but I woke up tired and with a headache. I've been feeling a little run down over the last week and, last night, I started to experience the first symptoms of a cold. I'm still planning to run in Sunday's 5K race and skipping today's run has thrown off my taper plan.

If the weather is okay tomorrow (and I'm feeling better) I'll run with Adventure Girl who has spent most of this year doing wilderness research in Big Sky Country. The best wilderness I can offer is the bridal trail in Central Park. I hope it's not too rainy because that trail can get muddy.

Between coffee, antihistamine and aspirin I'm hoping to recover enough to get through the day. This will be the first night this week where I don't have evening plans. I'll try to get some rest by turning in a little early. I'm always annoyed when I get colds, because I expect my running to provide me with an enhanced immune system. Perhaps it does. After all, I could feel a lot worse.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Biting the hand that wants to feed you

Okay, one would be nice, for old times sake
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Not too many years ago, the end of the business year meant lavish holiday parties and lots of gourmet treats provided by our suppliers. Times have changed and so has our business. The still-recovering economy did away with most of these parties. The gifts that are sent are typically modest, though no less thoughtful. Do I miss the days when walking from one end of the floor to the other meant passing dozens of trays of holiday food for the taking? I'll admit I do, a little. Harry and David, Wolfermans and Dean and Deluca gift baskets come but once a year.

The upside to this is that less holiday food means less holiday calories. I do appreciate that. The one remaining food-related thing is the holiday lunch. Not the industry parties like before, but smaller get-togethers with supplier partners at nice midtown restaurants. I'm in that phase right now, desperately trying to maintain a proper diet as I get through this week and next.

Last night I met some industry friends for drinks and that was fun. I had one beer which is 100% more alcohol than I've consumed over the last two months. I got home around the time I usually go to bed but I laid out my running clothes before retiring. This morning I did my 25 minute treadmill workout and it felt surprisingly good. If I moderate my lunch choices and maintain my workout discipline I may have a chance of getting through the holiday lunch period in as good a shape as when I started.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Seeing red at this weekend's race

Does Adidas make technical Santa suits?
There was a write-up in Sunday's paper about the Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5k that I plan to run this weekend. The piece mentioned that many participants dress up in Santa suits for the race. Sounds like fun. Perhaps I'll gain competitive advantage by not wearing a bulky suit and a floppy hat as I run.

My brother and I have discussed participating in the Santa Speedo Run that takes place in Boston every year. It's just what you might think it is. But Speedos are a little too extreme for me, although they'd be far more aerodynamic than a Santa suit. I'll stick to my less festive but more practical running gear on Saturday. If I wear blue and white, would I get partial credit for running in Chanukah colors?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recovery on Saturday yields benefits on Sunday

Today's run (street): 5.25

My run on Friday took a lot out of me. That was surprising, considering the short distance I covered. It was a sign that I was still fighting a cold. The other indication of that was waking up with a sore throat and feeling weak at the start. My Friday run went fairly well considering how I'd felt, but I think I might have pushed too hard.

Saturday morning I was under some time pressure and I still felt weak, although my throat felt better. I decided that a run would do more harm than good so I did a rare weekend skip day. I spent the middle of the day at a cooking class with my daughter, while my wife and son went into the city to shop and see the winter holiday sights. We all had great experiences.

The upside of feeling as exhausted as I did on Saturday was that I managed to sleep until 6:30 AM this morning. That may sound early to some, but my weekday wake up time is 3:45 and it's hard for me to sleep much past 5:00 AM on weekends. I felt good when I got up, and after having some coffee, I was ready to hit the road.

I stayed in the neighborhood but planned out a route that was different than usual. It was in the low 20°'s outside, so I'd dressed in layers. I didn't intend to run for performance and hoped that the extra gear would keep me comfortable without overheating me. My plan worked and I was neither too hot or  cold throughout my run.

I wore the Hattori's to see how they'd do in colder temperatures and I was pleased that my feet didn't suffer from the chill. By the two mile point I noted that a day's rest had restored my energy level and I appreciated the opportunity to zone out and enjoy the cold, but sunny, weather.

As I came back towards home, I noticed that my trajectory would have me finishing just short of five miles. I decided then to divert to a series of hilly roads that would provide another quarter mile of distance that would get me past my planned distance.

I finished after covering 5.25 miles and had felt very good throughout the run. Next weekend I plan to run the Ho Ho Ho Holiday run. If the weather cooperates this week, I'm planning to get in a city run with Adventure Girl who is in town for the holidays. Hard to believe it's so close to New Year's. I'm looking forward to some long brisk runs during my annual year end vacation.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Good performance from a "market" brand

Lay it on
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

After a week that started fairly mild, the temperatures have now gotten much colder. I was excited to get back outside for a run. Anticipating the chill, I wore my Layer 8 half zip that does a nice job wicking sweat and keeping me warm.

According to the manufacturer's website, Layer 8 is a market brand. This (I think) means it fits between  or below premium and private label brands. I only see it at clearance stores like Marshalls and TJ Max, never in sporting goods or running stores. When I see it, Layer 8 gear is typically priced 50% lower than "name" brands, for what appears to be equivalent clothing. I've had good luck with the compression shorts and the half zip I own. Except for a few obvious high performers, like my Craft running top and (though I hate to admit it) some Nike shirts and pants I own, I see little difference in performance between most lower and medium priced technical gear.

This morning's run was surprisingly good considering I'd woken up with a sore throat and felt tired as I prepared to run outside. My new Black Diamond headlamp pulled the same "won't light" trick that my Petzl did, which ultimately prompted its replacement. Re-seating the batteries solved it, as usual.

It was in the high 20's when I stepped out and it took me a few minutes to warm up. Once past that point, I picked up the pace and ran the last mile much faster than the first. I'm not feeling great right now, but I plan to get some needed rest overnight. Hopefully that will set me up for a good weekend of cold weather running.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Scoring my 2011 running goals

Fairly on target
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

It's getting toward the end of the year, when thoughts turn to the holidays and we reflect on things that have happened over the past year. In business, this means accounting for performance against objectives.  In running, it means taking a look at my 2011 goals to see how I did.

Goal 1. Run a half marathon.
 Done! LI Half Marathon.

Goal 2. Score settling: Run my best times ever on the Dirty Sock and Cow Harbor 10K's and beat my time in the New Hyde Park 8K.
Exceeded this goal. Best times ever this year on NHP 8K, Dirty Sock 10K and Cow harbor 10K, plus new best times on Run for the Warriors 10K and Long Beach 10K (10K PR there as well).

3. Running tourism: Run outside of Long Island at least six times. Bonus for competing in a race outside of LI.
Not quite. Ran in Florida in January, Cambridge/Boston in spring, New Hampshire and Maine in summer and Cape Cod in fall. Lots of racing, but nothing outside of Long Island.

4. Hit those trails: Add Caleb Smith, Sunken Meadow and one more state park to my trail running experience.
Still haven't run Caleb Smith but the Nissequoge Turkey Trot that I ran for fun on Thanksgiving is in the general area of Sunken Meadow. I did run in Acadia National Park this summer and that has to count for something!

5. Performance: Run 1 mile under 7:50/mile or 2 miles under 8:00/mile.
Hit the 7:50 mile goal but my best two consecutive miles were a nudge over 8:00.

I'm probably not going meet goals #3 and #4 this year but that's okay because I've had other great running experiences that weren't on the list. I'm starting to think about my goals for next year. The only one I'm certain about is achieving a half marathon PR in 2012.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why is buying running pants so hard?

Such a deal!
Today's run (treadmill - 2% incline): 25 minutes

At my last race, I noticed many people wearing pants that looked like running tights, but with a looser fit. I liked the idea of these pants for very cold days. My running tights provide energizing compression, but not much insulation. I'm thinking a little space between the material and my legs would help trap some warm air on those below freezing mornings.

Every day I receive marketing emails from Roadrunner Sports, REI,, Brooks, City Sports, etc., all offering what seem to be great deals (40% off plus FREE 2-DAY SHIPPING!). When I link into these sites I often discover that the deals aren't as good as they seem. For instance, I pursued an offer through Roadrunner promising a 20% discount, etc., and found two items that I added to my cart. Even with the discount code added, (that took a while to find as well) I saw no reduction in the item's cost in my cart. So I left the website.

Unfortunately, I've had similar experiences on other sites. If it isn't price related, it's other things. I don't like when my running pants droop far below my ankles so I want to size the items correctly. The sizing guides show inseams ranging between 28.5"-32" for medium pants. Which is correct? Do I want to take a chance and be disappointed?

I'll probably end up going to either City Sports or Sports Authority and choosing items that I can try on first before buying. It's really too bad that the need for something simple can become so complicated. My wife wonders why I hate to shop, and this is the reason. Even done virtually, it can be a frustrating experience.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ho Ho Ho Holiday running sounds good

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Another treadmill run this morning. Unlike my usual method where I start easy and then pick up speed, today I began with a fairly fast pace and kept it up until the end. My energy level was high throughout the workout, a good sign that my conditioning strategy is working.

I've decided to sign up for the Ho Ho Ho Holiday Run that happens on Saturday, December 17, in Bethpage, NY. I really like holiday themed races because they reinforce the idea that racing, while competitive, is also fun. I have never done this race before (nor have I ever raced in December) so this will be a new experience. The date is a Saturday, which means I'll have still have most of the weekend to celebrate my (predicted) mid-pack finish.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Listening to your body will tell you very different things

Yesterday's run in the woods was an unexpected pleasure. I had set out for a long bike-trail run on pavement but ended up running the trails, on a crisp fall day. The interesting thing is that the run I had along Stillwell's paths didn't turn out to be my favorite part of yesterday's workout. It was the last half mile on pavement that made the run.

The challenge of staying ahead of the three runners who swept up behind me, as I left the last wooded trail, was an exciting and fulfilling experience. I'd expected to cruise this last section to cool down from running the trails, instead I ran the final distance like I was finishing a race.

This morning my wife mentioned to me that she'd added a third incline segment to her already tough workout this morning. I asked her why, and she said that "Listening to your body works two ways. Sometimes it tells you to rest, and sometimes it says push even harder." I totally understood what she meant by that.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Boo for Bethpage and yay for Stillwell!

No sports for you!
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.6 miles

I had a plan today and I intended to stick with it -- 5 miles on the Bethpage State Park bike path, first thing in the morning. I checked the weather and saw that the temperature was in the high 30's, so I put on some long pants and a couple of top layers and headed to Bethpage. I wore my Brooks Adrenalins because I wanted more thermal protection than the Hattori's provide and, frankly, I'm just not loving the Mirages on pavement right now.

When I arrived at the park I was confronted with a locked gate and a sign that said "Winter sports are prohibited at this point." Harrumph!! That was disappointing and after snapping the above picture, I turned around and headed back toward home. I was all dressed up with nowhere to run, but I figured I'd think of something along the way.

When I reached my exit I decided to head over to Stillwell, which I knew would still be be open to those participating in "winter sports." I parked close to Southwood's Road that put me as far away as possible from the trail head. I thought it would be good to have some extra distance coming and going.

By the time I crossed over from pavement to trail, I'd already covered more than a quarter mile and I followed my usual route into the woods. Despite not being trail shoes, the Brooks do a credible job on dirt, sand and small rocks and that was all I was taking on this morning.

My run was pleasant but unremarkable and I didn't encounter another person until I was on my last loop around the big field. It was there that I passed three runners coming from the other direction. I continued west and then south, until I reached the path that led to the trail head. As I came onto that path I saw the three runners from before, who had come to the same point from the opposite side.

Since I ended up slightly ahead of these runners, I felt pressured to maintain a lead. Fortunately, they weren't running too fast, but they weren't dogging it either. When we reached the paved drive I increased my speed to maintain my position. I liked having a reason to run fast and the Adrenalins felt as responsive as always. I averaged in the low 8:00 range for that last section and was more than happy when I reached my car.

I covered 10.5 miles this weekend, a little short of my goal, but still respectable. I feel like I'm running well right now. Not a lot of speed, but it's there when I need it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Around two towns and a business park

Today's run (street): 5.93 miles

Yesterday was just too busy and too distracting for me to either run or blog. No matter, I'm back in business today. Today's schedule required me to finish my workout fairly early, so I set out around 7:00 AM intending to cover between 5-6 miles.

I may head over to Bethpage tomorrow, but this morning I stayed close to home. After a loop around the northeastern part of my neighborhood I crossed the field of the middle school to the pathway that leads to a local business park. I didn't want to run the usual roads today so I opted for the main loop within the park.

I usually run this section of the park counter-clockwise. That direction has a steady (but modest) elevation gain for two thirds of its length. Today I ran it clockwise which provided a steeper start but then it was mostly downhill after that. The hill wasn't too bad and I had no problem pushing through aerobically. However, I was a little tired by the time I crested the hill.

After I'd finished the business park loop I ducked into to neighborhood #3, which is actually in a neighboring town, and ran a loop around that area. I came back again through the middle school and completed my workout by running another mile through my neighborhood. If I were paying attention, I may have run another .07 miles and made it an even six. It doesn't matter though. I still came close to reaching the higher end of my planned distance.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Running with the Black Diamond

New and improved?
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Today's run was my first time back on the road at 4:00 AM since mid November. It's gotten a lot colder since then but I dressed warmly enough to stay comfortable. I wore my new Black Diamond headlamp that I bought to replace my Petzl Tikka Plus. The Petzl unit had been giving me trouble with the lamp refusing to light unless I opened up the assembly and reset the position of the batteries. I thought the Black Diamond's design would prevent that in the new unit.

Unfortunately, I had the same issue with the new headlamp when I got it ready for the morning. I opened it up, pushed the cells into place, and it lit up fine. I questioned whether I am any better off with this new unit but I think the Petzl was generally wearing out. I got outside and felt the chill but my hat, gloves and layers were sufficient, even when I ran in the direction of a fairly stiff wind.

I started off feeling like I was working hard. The first road I follow is a small incline so I expected a little challenge but this seemed a bit more. Once past that street I settled into my pace and moved along fine. The headlamp threw off a lot of light but I hadn't adjusted the beam to focus on the road ahead. I've learned my lesson about hazards in the dark and, happily, I had no missteps.

I ended up clocking my normal time for the route I ran, helped along by some faster strides as I got closer to the end. It was good to be back on the road again. It's not that I don't appreciate the treadmill, but it's a fuller experience when you're dealing with all the elements.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Treadmills have their place

Today's run (treadmill - 2% incline): 25 minutes

One thing I can usually count on, after a couple of days off from running, is that my next run will go well. That's why I typically rest the two days prior to a race, with only a core workout in between. I planned for a treadmill workout today since the weather report predicted that yesterday's rain would continue into the early morning.

The treadmill isn't my surface of choice, but it does come in handy on foul weather days. On the plus side, I can jump on it and go, as opposed to street running that takes more gear and prep time. I also like that I can lock into certain pace for tempo runs, or play with the controls to incrementally increase speed at certain times during my run.

I ran for 25 minutes this morning with a 2% incline. I started at a moderate pace so the incline wasn't really noticeable. Throughout the run I increased speed by a .1 MPH and by the final minutes I felt I'd had a very good workout. The weather should be clear tomorrow, so I plan to return to the street at 4:00 AM. It's been a while since I've done my morning run outside.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goodbye race bibs

Scene from the early days of the collection
Yesterday morning I took down the 22 race numbers that I had tacked up on two walls in my office over the last few years. The first number was from the Marcie Mazzola 4 miler, my first race. I put it on the wall to carry that great experience into my work day. From then on, after every race, I'd pack my number into my work bag and look forward to adding it to the wall on Monday.

Last week I decided that this display, though fun and colorful, had grown to become the dominant feature of my work environment. If I worked at Runner's World or was in some way associated professionally with running I could probably justify having this display that spread like kudzu across the room. I debated whether I should keep only the number from my last race up as a more understated symbol of my dedication to running. Ultimately, I felt like I'd just be doing the same thing, but in a different way.

I wondered if anyone would notice that the numbers were gone. If people did, they haven't mentioned it. I'll miss looking at the numbers and thinking about the great memories that go along with every race they represented. I'll probably put them somewhere in our guestroom/workout room at home where they can continue to inspire me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Skip to my rue?

I'm considering taking both today and tomorrow as rest days. I feel like I've been pushing myself a little too hard over the last two weeks and I think I'll benefit from some recovery time. Since 11/13, I've run two 10K's plus a low-key 5K and my overall level of training has been relatively intense. It's very hard to skip workouts when you run almost every day. Disrupting routine is not a trivial thing. I know I won't lose fitness if I miss a run, but I'll still feel guilty if I take an unscheduled rest day.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Exhausting run at Belmont Lake

Today's run (Belmont Lake State Park): 6 miles

I decided to finish my Thanksgiving break with a trail run at Belmont Lake, home of the Dirty Sock race course. I'd decided that a competitive run at Stillwell (the Rob's Run 5K) would have been too much to do without the proper rest. I have in my mind that the Dirty Sock route is an easy run if you aren't trying to beat other runners. That's wasn't quite the case today.

The weather was in the high 30's when I started my run and I'd overdressed with two upper layers, running pants and a wicking cap. By my first mile I felt very warm and by the two mile mark I was feeling overheated. Unlike previous times running these trails, I sensed more inclined sections. Halfway through the run I was feeling fatigued, possibly due to over training.

Once at the lake, I knew there was nothing I could do to reduce the amount of required effort since the route was out-and-back and I was already halfway through it. The course seemed extra long and the trail seemed extra steep as I slogged my way past mile four. I was tired and my pace was slow, but I was determined not to stop or walk.

I saw a few other runners on the trail who had made better decisions about their gear. They were moving along nicely in contrast to my slow motion stride. After I cleared the passage under the Montauk Highway at mile 5, I decided to return on the same trail where I'd started, rather than adding the extra distance passing by Southards Pond.

I was very ready to finish my run by then and caught a glimpse of the trail opening as I ran by a couple of equestrians out with their horses for a Sunday morning ride. I was glad to have finished the week with a decent length run and especially glad that I didn't race today. I need a break from running and I'm glad that tomorrow is my regular rest day. It was a good couple of weeks of intense running, but enough is enough.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Training slower but racing faster

Today's run (street) 3.55 miles

One thing that I've learned this year is that the speed I usually run isn't the same as how fast I can run. This year I've observed two things that don't seem to correlate. First, my average training pace (by observation, not by studying my running logs) has slowed down about 10 seconds per mile. The other observation is that my race paces have improved noticeably in almost every race this year compared to previous years.

I'm not sure what this means but it may have something to do with the quality of my training runs that may be a bit slower, but have more focus. The legendary running coach Jack Daniels said "Every run should have a purpose" and I try to follow that philosophy with my daily workouts. If I need to prepare for a hilly race I try to run hills. If I ran hard the day before, I look to run my next session easy to speed up recovery.

The true explanation for my slower training - faster race pace may be far more simple. Since I started using my Garmin FR210 GPS watch, my mileage is usually under-recorded between 2-5% which makes my pace look slower. When I bother to map my true distance using Gmaps, I see that variance. If I don't, I tend to accept and believe that I'm running slower than I actually am.

I got out around 8:30 this morning after debating whether I should run or do a core workout and (possibly) an elliptical session later. My legs were tired so I considered the lower impact option. But the weather was cool and the skies were clear so I headed out the door thinking I'd take it easy and not worry about my pace.

The run was easy, in fact I slipped into a few periods where I was so lost in thought that I felt like I was sleep-running. I focused on opening my stride but I didn't think much about my speed. When I finished my run I was surprised to see that I'd averaged slightly more than 9:00 a mile. That's not particularly fast, but the pace was about :40 per mile faster than it felt. Perhaps all the racing I've done of late has helped in my daily training. That almost 9:00 minute pace was a nice surprise. Sometimes a slow run feels fast, and a fast run feels slow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

From treadmill to Turkey Trot to trail

Yesterday's runs:
Treadmill:  24 minutes, 2% grade
Nissequogue River State Park Turkey Trot 5K: 3.1 miles
Today's run  
Stillwell Woods: 3.6 miles

Start of the 1K kid's run at Nissequogue River State Park
It's been a couple of days since I've been able to post on the blog but that doesn't mean I haven't been running. Wednesday, which should have been an easy morning, leading into an early close for Thanksgiving, turned out to be crazy due to some distracting business issues. Everything worked out fine, but I was so mentally exhausted by the time I got home I decided to skip my planned afternoon workout.

Yesterday morning I made up for that rest day with a double workout. I ran on the treadmill first thing in the morning with a 2% grade for 24 minutes. It was a good workout, I didn't push the pace but, by the end, I really felt it. Shortly after I finished that run, the Emerging Runner family headed to King's Park for the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation 5K.

This Turkey Trot takes place on the grounds of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, a compound of 15 buildings adjacent to the Nissequogue River. The buildings evoke a scary history as this center was considered an "insane asylum" where electro-shock therapy and pre-frontal lobotomies were commonly administered to patients. These buildings are due to be demolished so that the park can be put to better use.

The weather was very cold at 7:30 AM and we were glad to have dressed warmly. Even with wool socks my feet were very cold as we waited for the start. This event attracts a large crowd and they were still taking same day registrations minutes before the scheduled start time. I suppose that's a way to maximize revenue for the event, but it put us very behind for the start. The organizers also failed badly on their bathroom planning, providing only five Porto-Potti's for a crowd numbering well over 1,200.

This event is very family friendly, with as many walkers as runners, and it doesn't feel very competitive. After the kid's 1K race, the 5K runners were assembled along a long uphill section (this was also the route back to the finish line). After a long wait, the horn sounded and we were off. My daughter and I were going to run the course while my wife and son walked it.

The park's trail is rolling and the first mile and a half are mostly uphill. My daughter did great and I kept reminding her (as I remembered from the prior year) that the the course flattened and then goes primarily downhill for the last mile. We passed a water station around the 3K mark and I was very impressed that my daughter was able to maintain her running form and keep a good pace through that distance.

My wife and son cross the finish line
As we passed 4K it became easier because the downhill road helped us along and the people at the side of the course shouted encouraging words to the runners. Once we were a few hundred feet from the end, my daughter took off and I had a hard time keeping up with her. Seconds later we crossed the finish line. I congratulated her on a great run and, after getting some water, we waited for my wife and son to finish.

I was proud to see my daughter run so well. Last year she walked more than half of this course but this year it was a bona fide run, a full 3.1 miles. My wife and son also did very well walking that hilly course and we were excited to reunite at the finish line.

The rest of our day was filled with resting, cooking and baking as my wife prepared food for Thanksgiving. We headed over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for an afternoon and evening of of food and conversation. We all held up well considering all the work we did that morning.

This morning I decided I had waited too long to do a trail run so I headed over to Stillwell Woods around 7:00 AM. There were no other people at the park and I made my way into the woods with no particular route in mind. It was cold (mid 30's) but I'd dressed for that and I wore my Helly Hansens because my intention was to attack some of the rocky hills. The Helly's do a great job over technical surfaces. Unfortunately their lack of a rock plate still produces some uncomfortable landings.

I ended up covering about three and a half miles and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I could have covered more miles but I decided to bank some energy and do a longer run over the weekend. It's been a lot of running over a short period of time. I got my Stillwell run in today so I'm probably not going back there on Sunday morning for the Rob's Run 5K race.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking the easy way out

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

There was a possibility of rain this morning, so I planned for a treadmill run. It turned out to be dry and clear but I decided to stay indoors anyway. This was my first run after Sunday's race and I was looking to go easy. Sometimes the treadmill is a better choice for that type of workout, because you can set your speed and not think about it again until you're finished.

Today's workout was similar to another treadmill run I'd done last week. Instead of paying attention to distance, I ran at a moderate pace and stopped after 25 minutes. There's many conflicting reports about whether it's more beneficial to run easy or hard after a race. I'm in the easy camp, figuring that a slow but steady workout promotes blood flow which helps repair damaged leg muscles.

With Thanksgiving two days away, and four more days away from the office after that, I'm hoping to get in some longer distance running. I haven't been on the trails for weeks and I miss it. Rob's Run, a 5K race in Stillwell Woods, is happening next Sunday. I've thought about participating but I'm still not sure. That would be my third race in as many weekends. There are people I've met, like Paul, who race far more often than I do. Perhaps, if I competed more, I'd break out of my mid-pack malaise. I'll have to see how I feel by the end of the week.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Let's hear it for mediocrity!

Extraordinarily average
After yesterday's race, one of my kids joked that I was dressed like a superhero. With my tight black running pants, black jersey and black cap, plus my fire-engine red Hattori's, you could certainly make a case for that. I said that if I was a superhero, I'd be called "Mediocre Running Man" because, once again, I'd finished in the middle of the pack. Technically, I finished in the top 44%, which still counts as average.

How is it that, after improving almost a minute over last year, I still fall somewhere within the middle of the pack? Or, as I like to look at it, at the top of the bell curve? Actually, it gets worse because I almost ended up in the bottom third of my age division.

Although many who know me would think otherwise, none of this bothers me in the least. The only person I care about beating is my own self in previous races. I love that I'm competing more effectively than the "me" of two and three years ago. There's a time when Master's runners reach their peak and then begin a steady decline in their race performance. The good news is I'm not there...yet. It may be that I came into this later in the game, but I'm hopeful that I'll continue to improve. Perhaps next year my superhero name could live up to my outfit.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot

A new PR for TER
Today's run (Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot): 6.2 miles
54:35 (8:47 pace)

I was looking forward to today's Turkey Trot for a number of reasons. First, Long Beach, with its boardwalk, beach views and small city charm, is a great place to run. Secondly, the organizers of these Long Beach races put on great events that seem low key, but are actually supported by the actions of many. The third reason I looked forward to this Turkey Trot is that last year's race was my fastest 10K to date, and I was hoping to improve on that.

I'm pleased to report that I have a new 10K PR, finishing with a time of 54:35. This is almost a minute faster than my current personal best for that distance. It's interesting to note that while the average pace of my typical training runs has slowed since last year, I achieved best-ever times on five of my annual races in 2011: the New Hyde Park 8K, Dirty Sock 10K, Great Cow Harbor 10K, Run for the Warriors 10K and today's Long Beach 10K.

The temperature this morning was a mild 53° when Team Emerging Runner arrived in Long Beach. I picked up my race number and noted that the stiff winds coming off the ocean were making it feel far colder. I had a long sleeve jersey over my intended short sleeve race shirt but we ducked behind the stage and I did a quick swap. Those brief seconds when I was without a shirt were mighty chilly.

A view of the boardwalk from the beach
I wore a winter jacket as we waited for the start and it kept me quite comfortable. I saw many runners who seemed fine wearing short sleeves and running shorts but that wouldn't have worked for me. We watched the start and finish of the 1-mile race that precedes the 10K. This race is for kids, and it was won by a 15 year old boy who came over the line in 5:34.

Soon it was time to line up for my race so I handed off my jacket to my son and hoped not to freeze in the 10 minutes before the starting horn. Since I was wearing all black in direct sunlight and the people behind me were blocking the wind, I felt fine. I sized up my competition near the front of the line and, as usual, I felt like I was among a fast crowd. Unlike last year, I knew not to be concerned by the droves of faster runners that might fly by me in the first few minutes.

The race started and we were off. The hundreds of runners pounding the boardwalk made quite a racket. I waved to my family as I passed by and then focused on my form and pace. Last year I ran the first mile in 8:05. I didn't want to run that pace so close to the start because I had a lot more race to run. I stayed with the pack and passed the first mile at 8:15. Still a little too fast, but I felt okay.

We were off the boardwalk at this point, still heading east, and as we reached the turnaround on Broadway someone yelled, "Here comes the wind!" He wasn't kidding, the southeastern wind hit us full in the face and I realized that this wind would be present for much of the race. It really wasn't that bad and as I heated up, I appreciated the cooling effect.

I decided to run as hard as I could for as long as I could, thinking I could slow down later if necessary. It took longer to reach 3 miles than I'd hoped and I passed the 5K sensor in 27:45. I actually ran a negative split for the second 5K.

I took a Roctane gel shortly after that and soon we were running parallel to the water on the northern side of Long Beach. I was still feeling strong and was maintaining good form. I was glad that I'd run this race last year because I knew what lay ahead. I watched the ocean's horizon as we ran south and soon after passing the 4-mile marker it was time to turn west. We soon reached the street that would lead us back to the boardwalk.

After a quick scramble up the ramp where I jockeyed for position in this narrow section, I was back on the boardwalk that would lead me to the finish line. Unfortunately it wasn't that simple, and I recalled that last year's final run on the boardwalk seemed to take forever. I was still running well and finally saw the 5-mile marker, so I knew that I had 1.2 miles left to go.

Like last year, this seemed to be the place where many runners pulled out all stops and ran the last mile as fast as they could. I got passed by at least six runners but I couldn't generate the leg turnover required to hold them off. Instead I focused on getting to the end. Where the heck was the finish line?!

As I knew it would, the finish chute finally became visible with about 500 feet to go. I put every effort into this final sprint, and as I got closer to the race clock, I realized I might break 55 minutes for the first time. I came over the line in 54:35 with my wife, son and daughter cheering me in with fist bumps. I felt drained but I still had some strength. I ran a good race.

Unlike last weekend's 10K, when I surprised myself by running a decent time, I had higher expectations for today. I had hoped for a similar performance at this year's race but I beat my own expectation handily. I plan to run one more race this year in December, probably a 5K or a 4-mile race that I'll do mostly for fun. My biggest performance target this year was today's Long Beach 10K and I'm pleased with how that turned out.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hot to trot on Sunday

The Long Beach boardwalk at last year's Turkey Trot
It's 24 hours before the start of the Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot and I'm looking forward to the race. I've had a light week in terms of mileage (13) but I'm running well. I haven't felt exhausted and I'm not suffering from any noticeable injuries. Last weekend's 10K improved my outlook in terms of my racing readiness and fitness. 

I forced myself to sleep a full eight hours last night and I'm planning to do a set of core exercises later this morning. The temperature at tomorrow's start is predicted to be 53°F with 71% humidity and 14 MPH winds. Last year it was colder than that, so I need to think about what I'll wear to ensure that I don't overheat by the end.

Turkey Trots are fun because they bring out a wider field of runners than in other races I've attended. Last year me, my wife and the kids all participated in a 5K on Thanksgiving Day and there was a huge field of runners. I wasn't a very good sport about going slow because I was wearing a timing chip but it was fun to be out there with my family. Tomorrow will be a different type of race and I'm hoping for another good run on the boardwalk. See you at the finish line. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Emerging Runner turns 3

Yep, it was three years ago that I began to document my experience as a new or "emerging" runner. At the time that I started this blog, I was just getting back into shape after a number of years of inactivity. I used to run a little when I was was in college, but it was something I did to maintain fitness for more favored activities like karate. In the early '90's, when I lived in Manhattan, I'd go out every morning for a run through my Murray Hill neighborhood. Running the streets of NYC turned out to be a frustrating experience and I stopped that after about six months.

Even though I didn't like the city running experience (at the time), I still liked to run. After losing weight in the fall of 2008, through exercise and a smarter diet, I was ready to try again. My love of technology helped me stay interested in progressing as a runner. Almost from the start, I used devices to track my performance. First it was the Nike+ chip and wristband and then the Garmin 50 & 60. Now I have the FR210 that captures the metrics of my runs via GPS. The technology improves along with the runner.

Over the last three years I've had many fantastic experiences running with friends, with my family and in races (22 and counting), on trails, through national parks, on roads and even back in NYC, which is now a favorite place to run. I love running gear, running shoes and running gadgets and I still look forward to seeing the new stuff when it comes out every season. But I'm happy to say that most of that matters less as time goes by and the experience of running itself matters more. Perhaps I've emerged a little since November 18, 2008 -- but I still have a long way to go.

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