Monday, February 28, 2011

Catching a break

It's always hard coming back to work after a week away. The luxury of sleeping until 6:00 AM gave way to my 4:00 AM wake up time this morning. I finally gave myself a rest from running today and the timing was good because it's raining hard outside. Looking back on my week of daily workouts I'm pleased with everything I did, but I'm a little disappointed that I had no memorable runs. It would have been fun to go to some new place to run or to get together with a running buddy or two. Still, it was nice to go out each day without too much concern about meeting a schedule.

The weather should stay relatively warm throughout the week and hopefully by Saturday I'll be able to run at Bethpage again. I'm also thinking that it's been a while since I've tackled the Muttontown Preserve and I'd also like to do that. Today it's back to work and tomorrow it's back to running.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snowy conditions -- I'm just not Inuit

All of the above
 Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.2 miles

It's probably an urban legend that the Inuit's Aleut language has dozens of words for snow. If they do then I think I've run in every kind today.  I've been on vacation for the last week and have either run or cross-trained every day since Friday the 18th. I had every excuse to rest today, my last day of vacation, but I thought that another run at Stillwell might be a better way to close things out. The rains and warm weather have done a great job clearing the roads where I live and I'd hoped that would also be the case when I arrived at Stillwell this morning. 

Despite the ubiquity of green across the lawns in my neighborhood, Stillwell's athletic fields were still covered by a thick blanket of white snow. I didn't know the conditions of the interior trails but I suspected (correctly) that the big field past the trail head would be runnable. Once I'd parked I made my way over sheet ice onto the main trail that was covered a foot deep in grainy-icy snow rutted by footprints and tire marks. I began to run on that, taking pains to maintain balance. It was like snowshoeing without snowshoes. After a few hundred feet I took a right onto a trail that looked partially clear and followed it, doing the best I could to avoid the slippery patches of packed snow and ice.

I took the trail to a point where I reached a steep hill that I managed to scale with the momentum from my approach. I knew that I was just south of the big field and followed a snow covered trail until I reached the opening. Once I broke free from the snow (and about 20 feet of sheet ice) I followed the trail around the field. The wind from the north was stiff which somewhat offset the easier effort from running on hard-packed dirt. As I rounded a corner I encountered a couple of mountain bikers who told me that the eastern side trails were still pretty rough. I elected to stay on the field loop and finished after completing a few more circuits. The toughest part of the run was at the end when I took a wooded trail back to the start that had snow, ice, slush, rocks, roots and mud and I finished by gingerly stepping over a sheet of ice formed by runoff from the trail head's snowbanks.

I'll take a rest day tomorrow and will appreciate it fully. Over the last seven days I've run 20 miles and elliptical'd another 6. I would have liked to have done a few longer runs during my time off but it was a trade-off between frequency and distance. I'm hoping next weekend's conditions will be more favorable for a higher mileage effort or two. As for today, I like variety but not when it comes to running in snow.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Negative splits lead to a positive view

Today's run (street): 4.1 miles

My wife suggested that I take a break from working out today and I had the mindset to do that. The thought of another run around the almost too-familiar streets of my neighborhood was not compelling. I was feeling generally negative about doing any activity. The rain did a good job of clearing snow in my town and I considered a return to Stillwell but we have a big day planned and I was again pressed for time. I dressed for a run without really knowing where I would go, finally deciding the easiest way to get it done would be to hit the local roads.

As a compromise to my negative mindset I considered running slowly and making it an easy workout that I could count as a partial effort. With no targeted distance, route or pace in mind I took off and chose lefts and rights almost randomly. At one point I came upon another runner who I followed for a while. I'd seen him on the road before and I was curious to see how our paces compared. It turned out that we both were running about the same pace and I wasn't interested in catching up to him so I peeled off to another road and let him go. When I passed the first mile I saw that I'd averaged 9:55. I picked up the pace a little and covered mile two at 9:46 and improved to about 9:40 for mile three.

Throughout my run I'd actually felt great. The weather was cold but mild and I was enjoying a run where I could take my mind off the effort and look around at my surroundings. After completing three miles I decided to run the last mile with a little more speed and covered it at 9:10. Not especially fast but far faster than the prior three. I enjoyed the run, felt strong and hit negative splits throughout my distance. My splits were negative and by the time I arrived home my mindset was far more positive.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Half marathon shopping

A good resource for finding half marathons
Today's workout (elliptical): 45 minutes

The rain was plentiful this morning and it has washed away much of the snow on our lawn. There are still some areas that haven't seen sunlight since mid-December but it's good to see some green again. I've done daily workouts since last Friday but haven't felt like I've done much to build the stamina I'll need for my upcoming half marathon. I took some inspiration from my wife, who runs 45 to 60 minutes daily, and spent 45 minutes on the elliptical machine while she did her treadmill workout. I used mid level resistance for the first 30 minutes and then stepped up the difficulty for the final 15. Even with that extra challenge, today's workout still felt easier than my prior two runs.

I am training for a half marathon but I don't know which one to choose. Unless I'm willing to travel a little my choices are limited. Each has its pluses and minuses:

1. Suffolk County Half Marathon - March 27
Plus - Small event, less than 500 runners
Minuses - Perhaps too small, only one month left to train

2. 13.1 Marathon - April 2
Pluses - Opportunity to participate in NYRR race, cool Craft race shirt
Minuses - Course looks like a lab maze, $80 entry fee

3. RXR Long Island Half Marathon - May 2
Plus - Local and convenient
Minus - Course does not look that interesting

4. Brooklyn Half Marathon - May 30
Pluses - NYRR race, Prospect Park and Coney Island usually bookend the course
Minuses - Date not good for Team Emerging Runner, course details have not been set

5. Hampton's Half Marathon - Sept 24
Pluses - Later in the year, more time to train, course has ocean views
Minuses - $70 entry fee, is held just a week after Great Cow Harbor 10k

 I'm hoping to decide soon which race to run. There's also the Queen's Half Marathon which is a possibility but July may be too hot for me for a race of that distance. There's also the Great South Bay Half in Islip but the course looks too circuitous for my taste.  I'm hoping my friend Brian will join me on my first half marathon. Perhaps he has a preference that will help my decision.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quantity or quality?

Today's run (street): 4 miles

I sometimes see references to "quality miles" and "junk miles" in running magazines and I'm still not sure what that means. I've always believed that any run that doesn't contribute to injury or lead to exhaustion (and illness) are beneficial. Perhaps for people who run 20 miles per week (like me) every mile is a "quality mile." Miles gained on hills or doing speed work may be of even higher quality.  It could be that for 70+ mile-a-week runners that an extra five or 10 could be considered gratuitous, with little extra benefit.  If I ever get to running 70 miles per week I'll know if that's true.

My thinking about quality miles started this morning as I considered my run. I've run or crossed trained every day since last Friday and my average distance per run has been longer during this vacation because I've had more time to run. We're expecting rain and heavy winds starting tonight so Friday's workout will have to happen indoors. I decided to get in my last outdoor run before the weekend on the streets of my neighborhood since the residual snow has rendered most other venues un-runnable. After a fairly average start I began to tire at the 2 mile mark. I've been concerned that my success building my base closer to 8 miles toward the end of last year has eroded due to the lack of opportunity for longer, wide open runs. Darn this snow!

As I ran around the local roads today I thought about the benefits I was gaining from this four mile run. Like yesterday, I completed my route feeling spent, but unlike Wednesday, I didn't run all that fast. I guess I'll consider today's workout a "maintenance run." That sounds a lot better than calling it "junk miles."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

All dressed up but no where to run

Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

I finally made it to Bethpage State Park this morning but it turned out to be a wasted trip. I had hopes of purchasing an Empire Passport and using it for the first time while I ran a section of the Bethpage bike trail. I knew my bike path run was in jeopardy after I saw that trail access was blocked just south of its intersection with the main road. I decided to continue on, thinking that I could still buy the Passport and possibly run the wooded trails if they were clear. After a quick look I realized that those trails had too much snow cover to provide a stable surface for my Kinvaras. There was no one working the toll station so I continued to the trail head and saw that the entrance was blocked by a gate. Even if the bike path wasn't gated I could see that it would be impossible to run the trail because it was covered with a thick layer of ice.

I returned home and did today's run in my neighborhood. We had plans mid-morning so I needed to keep it short. That ended up to be a good thing because I felt tired throughout the run and my fatigue intensified as I went on. Despite my lowering energy level I kept my pace brisk and that resulted in a difficult last mile. At the end I felt like I'd run a 5K race and noted that my pace was over 40 seconds per miles faster than yesterday's run.

A great addition to the Emerging Runner family
Hoping for better results with a better brand
This afternoon I picked up a pair of New Balance compression shorts to replace a pair of Layer 8's that ripped all along the waistband after a wash. My wife bought a pair of of ASICS GEL-2160's to replace her Saucony Fusion 2's that she'd run in over the last year. I was happy with her choice of the 2160's and I hope she is too. I'm looking forward to trying my new gear out tomorrow even though, with all this ice and snow,  I'll need to stay local for my run.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A comfortable visit to neighborhood #2

Today's run (street): 4.91 miles

I wanted to go to Bethpage to try the bike trail this morning and also buy an Empire Passport but my schedule was just too tight. We have someone coming to give an estimate on a home improvement and I wanted to make sure I got in my run before that. Instead, I went out for a neighborhood run and mixed it up by routing through the streets of neighborhood #2 where I hadn't run in a while. The roads were remarkably clear considering yesterday's 3" snowfall. The cold temperatures created patches of rough ice along the roadside and I had to step around the frozen areas that appeared in my path.

My trusty Adidas Response 15's
I wore my Adidas Response trail shoes that have been out of the rotation for months but seemed to be the right shoe for today's conditions. They're great shoes but are built a little too high to facilitate mid-foot landing. This is why I only run in them occasionally. I started slow to loosen up in the cold weather and fell into a nice comfortable rhythm. I was loving the feeling of moving along smoothly but I worried that I wasn't pushing hard enough to make it a real workout. I threw in a few fartleks (Danish for "speed play") where I'd cover a few hundred yards at faster pace before resuming my more moderate pace. The miles ticked off fairly quickly and the running probably seemed easy because my last run at Stillwell Woods provided a much harder challenge.

After covering some distance in the other neighborhood I swung back to my own and finished by following my measured mile loop in reverse. My Garmin had me a tick over 5 miles but Gmaps said it was less. My FR60 calibration woes continue, it seems that no matter how I adjust the Garmin it always seems to over-count my distance.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Finding your rivals

Not all races are listed but it's still a good resource

Today's workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

Happy President's Day. I like long weekends, especially those that extend through the entire week. My kids are off from school so I'm taking the week off as well. Unlike many of the people we know we're not heading off to warmer climates this week. There's plenty to do here, like shoveling three inches of snow of the driveway this morning.

This morning I was playing around on a site called Athlinks that aggregates races in a database and allows participants to "claim" their events. Once done, a runner has a collection of their race results and the usual social networking tools (profile, pictures, Twitter feed, etc.) for sharing or member interaction. Those features are common now but Athlinks also provides a list of your rivals and how you've performed against them. Athlinks automatically finds runners who have raced against you and lists their age, gender and won-lost record. It was interesting to see someone I've beat 7 times (he's 78) and a couple of others who have trounced me 5-0.

Those who have beat me multiple times have usually outpaced me by one or more minutes per mile. I'll likely lose to them in future match-ups. The interesting comparisons are those where I've both won and lost to the same person. Those people are truly rivals and it's about our readiness on race day and how well we leverage or react to race day conditions. I still prefer to view racing as "me versus myself" and I don't really view these people as rivals. These race day match-ups are more like benchmarks that will help me understand how close I came to reaching my potential.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Icy trails at Stillwell and a talking robot at my side

Treacherous going on the trails
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.2 miles

I had high hopes that the recent warm temperatures had melted the snow on the trails at Stillwell Woods. After days of 40, 50 (and briefly, 60) degree temps I thought that was a reasonable expectation. I was very surprised to see that the local temperature was 19 degrees this morning and when I arrived at Stillwell I saw that the melted snow had refrozen into ice and hard icy snow. I wore my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards in anticipation of rough terrain and set off over the packed but rutted ice and snow. I was still hoping that the interior trails would be bare and more runnable, perhaps protected from the canopy above.

I wore my Garmin and also brought along my iPhone to capture my route using MotionX. It had been a long time since I carried the iPhone on a run and used that app. The app has been updated numerous times since then and after the first minute a robotic female voice said "You have run for one minute and have traveled zero-point-one-0 miles. Your pace is ten minutes per mile." That spooked me but then I realized that my robot friend would be "updating"me on progress every minute going forward. I considered switching off the MotionX app but decided that I'd just let it go as I didn't want to play with my iPhone while I ran on these tricky trails.

The trails were covered by hard snow rutted with impressions from hikers, runners, animals and mountain bikers. I didn't sink into the snow but the ruts that were formed when the temperatures were higher were a few inches deep and a misstep would easily result in a sprain or fall. There were small exposed dirt channels at the edge here and there and I ran on those when I could. The progress reports from MotionX kept coming and I couldn't believe each time that another minute had passed. I enjoy a hard challenge, especially on the trails, but I was growing concerned that I'd trip on a rut and get hurt. I followed the path back to the open field and finished my run with two laps around the perimeter. The field was mostly devoid of snow because the sun had gotten to it so my last mile was on muddy dirt and grass.

I was happy to be back to the woods for the first time in 2011 and it was a different kind of workout than I'd expected to get. I was so happy to have chosen the Helly's for the job today. I'm going to head to Bethpage State Park this week and get an Empire Passport so I can get free access into the NY State Parks where I normally have to pay admission. It will be nice if Bethpage's bike trail is clear when I go there. The 14 mile out-and-back route (or 10 or so miles of it) would be a good kick start to my half marathon training.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Windy morning run

Today's run (street): 3.85 miles

A morning appointment prompted me to run early today. As I prepared my running gear I heard the winds howl and I checked the thermometer to see that the temperature (with wind chill) was in the low 30's. My window of time before I needed to leave for my appointment was small so I figured I'd be happy to get three miles in. I'm on vacation until the 28th so I wasn't as concerned about covering distance as I normally would on a Saturday.

I wore a stretchy short sleeved base layer under a half zip that my kids gave me for Valentines Day. On top of that I wore my trusty ASICS windbreaker and that turned out to be a perfect combination for today's conditions. I had a busy work week that preempted my running schedule. I missed my Tuesday workout and did not feel well on Thursday so I didn't run that day. I slept well last night and had hoped this week's light workout schedule would have set me up for an energetic run. Even so,  I struggled a bit at the beginning but that could have been due to the stiff headwinds that made it hard to maintain good running form.

I've taken to having a gel 30 minutes before my longer runs but I forgot to do that until a few minutes before I left. Consequently,  I didn't get any benefit until I was halfway through the run. I never felt particularly good but as I progressed through my route I did run better, with negative splits for the second and third miles. I'm not sure if I'll visit Stillwell or Bethpage tomorrow or if I'll wait until Monday to try a trail run. I'm concerned that we'll get more snow on Monday and that could push my opportunity for off road running even further away.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The end of a long strange week

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

This has been a strange, long week. I felt ill on Wednesday morning but managed to power through a run. That may have been a mistake. Wednesday was an all day industry meeting that I co-facilitated. From the beginning of the day to the end I suffered a pounding headache and by the time I got home I was ready for bed. Thursday morning I felt just as bad so I stayed home. No workout yesterday, just a lot of sleep.

This morning was far more pleasant and while I still woke up with a slight headache I felt much better overall. I thought a run, even an easy one, might be too much too soon so I settled in with the elliptical for a lower impact workout. That was a great decision that put me back into workout mode and built a good sweat. I finished up strong and energized. The temperatures have risen through this week and should continue to rise throughout the day. I'm wondering if I'll even be able to hit the trails over the weekend. That would be a great end to a difficult week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Getting it done

Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

I didn't have time to run and barely had time to post yesterday so I made sure I got in a run this morning. I was tempted to rest when I got up this morning because I was feeling fatigued and had a sinus headache. Yesterday was a big day at work, as is today, and additional rest would not have been a bad choice. All the same, a dedicated runner runs through minor illness and doesn't let it get the best of them. That's what I told myself as I stepped on the treadmill and hit the start button.

It must have been extraordinarily dry today because once I got up to speed I hit the fan button and received a shock that shut down the treadmill. I managed to bring it back within 30 seconds but it was disconcerting to stop suddenly and the shock I received was no picnic. Once I was into my run I settled in for the duration. It was a very average run from there. Not overly taxing or particularly fast. I ended up taking a couple of aspirin post-run and wished for more time to rest before my shower. The workout did bring back my energy level and I was glad to have done the run. It will be a long day but at least I accomplished something even before the sun came up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crazy Days

This week is a bit intense for me in terms of business schedule. Consequently I'm not able post with regularity but I'll catch up later this week. I had higher hopes than this for my 800th post on the Emerging Runner, but this is it!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A pace I can live with

Today's run (street): 4.12 miles

Yesterday afternoon I updated the firmware on my Garmin FR60 which reset the watch to its factory settings. I was happy that I had the foresight to upload this week's runs to Garmin Connect before I did the upgrade or they would have been lost to the ages. I restored all the settings and preferences but I neglected to re-pair the watch to the foot pod. When I went out for my run this morning I hit the start button and didn't think much about it. A few minutes into the run I looked at the display and saw it was tracking time but not distance and I realized that I hadn't paired the unit. I figured I'd just Gmap the route I ran and calculate pace later, based on the recorded time.

I recently had a similar experience when I saw that I hadn't started the Garmin after I'd begun to run. I ran most of  my route knowing that my speed and distance weren't being captured and that was both annoying and liberating. Today I felt better when I discovered the problem because at least I had captured the run time. I decided to forget about pace, speed, etc., and just ran free for 30-40 minutes. I took it easy because that was what I'd originally intended for this run -- a short version of LSD. About 30 minutes into the run I was feeling like I could run all day and it occurred to me that I should think about a pace that I could maintain comfortably for a half marathon.

Today's pace was 9:53. Not fast but manageable over long distances. It would be good (psychologically) to average below 10 min/mile for the half marathon. The challenge of running a half under two hours is much greater -- I'd need to average 9:09 or better to do that. I'll work on my distance as much as I can from here on. With the temperatures moving toward the 50's I might get the first chance in a while to do a long run at Bethpage next weekend.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A run that went according to plan

Today's run (street) 5.3 miles

Although we'd been hearing that the temperatures would rise by this weekend it wasn't the case this morning. It was barely 20 degrees at 8:00 AM and the sun was blocked by clouds. I'd dressed for the cold (layered compression pants, warm hat, running gloves) but I only wore a half-zip, with a short sleeved jersey on top because I knew I'd eventually get hot. It was breezy but the winds didn't have the same force as those that I'd faced on Thursday in Central Park.

Once I got going I started to think about route and distance. I often have great ambition at the beginning of a run in terms of what I'm prepared to do. Sometimes I match, or even succeed my intended goal but there are still occasions when I don't. Happily, today's energy level matched my plan. I'm on target to run more miles this week than I have in the prior two weeks and it's easy to explain why. Twice this week I've run outside and I'm planning another outside run tomorrow. My runs on the treadmill are great workouts but I just can't endure it for long periods of time.

Although this morning's run was contained within the streets of my neighborhood, I still appreciated the winter scene. The snow covered lawns made the suburban roads appear more like country lanes. The cold air helped me along and I maintained a decent pace throughout my planned course. I finished up after completing a little more than five miles. I could have gone longer but I stuck to my plan. It was great to be back on the road again. I could get used to that.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Running in a freezing wonderland

It looked a lot like this in Central Park on Thursday
Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3.26 miles
Today's run (treadmill): 2.3 miles

The temperature stayed in the low 20's most of Thursday although I'd hoped it would warm up a little more by noon. JQ was not able to join me so I headed out alone to Central Park, ducking through buildings along the way to keep warm. The wind and cold were brutal but the sun was shining and I knew that I'd be fine once I got going on my run. I reached the Park, that was covered white with snow, and began to follow my usual course. I started with the lower loop and ran counter-clockwise, east then north. There were only a few others along the path: an occasional cyclist, a few other runners and a handful of freezing tourists.

I kept my pace brisk in an effort to heat up quickly and it worked. By the first mile I had become comfortable with the weather but I struggled a little with the hills. It's been a while since I've run with any real course elevation because most of my running this year has either been on the treadmill or on the basically flat roads within my neighborhood. I ultimately did fine with the hills and managed to maintain my pace. Before long I had passed 3 miles and was nearing my end-point when a tall runner, wearing black compression gear from head to toe, passed me like I was standing still. I was actually moving fast (for me) at the time, maintaining about an 8:30 pace. Overall, I averaged 8:46 per mile, helped along by the freezing but energizing wind. I finished hot and sweating but by the time I returned to my office I was cold and dry again.

This morning I planned for an easy run on the treadmill. I had a late start and felt I'd gotten some good speed work in yesterday. My first mile was slow -- just below 10 min per mile, and I didn't even need to turn on the treadmill's cooling fan until ten minutes into my run. I stepped up the speed from there and ran the second 1.3 miles closer to a 9:00 pace. My "easy" run turned out to be a little harder than planned but it felt good. I cannot maintain a slower than normal pace on the treadmill because the numbers on the display taunt me to run faster. That's okay, at least the first mile was easy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Return to Central Park

Coney Island, NY - start (or finish?) to 2011 Brooklyn Half
It's almost mid-February and I have yet to run in NYC this year. That will change today when me and my running buddy JQ head to Central Park around noon. We had planned a run a couple of weeks ago but a snowstorm made that impossible. Conditions that day were so bad I wasn't even able to get into the office. It's cold out today (low 20's) but at least there's nothing coming down.

I'm excited to head back to the park, run outdoors and catch up with JQ. I've been hoping for a thaw that will rid us of the accumulated snow and open up more venues for running. My outdoor runs have been limited to a few neighborhood excursions plus last Saturday's race in Long Beach. I love Central Park any time but I'm especially keen to run there again after so much time spent on the treadmill. I'm thinking about the NYRR Brooklyn half marathon as my first-ever race at that distance.

The Brooklyn half marathon routes through Prospect Park, another place (similar to Central Park) where I've always wanted to run. That race ends at Coney Island (or the other way around). I'm not really sure how they're mapping the course this year. That would be a new adventure but today I'm just looking forward to running the loops again in Central Park.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I'm no running addict!

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

You know you're an activity-focused person when you wake up happy that your day's workout is only a 25 minute elliptical session. It's not that the elliptical is light exercise, it just feels easier than the treadmill. I used a little more resistance than normal today and finished hot, sweating and with a heart rate that proved I'd worked hard.

Someone recently suggested that I'm addicted to running and I laughed at the idea. I like running -- I suppose at times I love it -- but there's nothing about my experience that fits the definition of addiction. I highly doubt there are meth addicts out there who wake up and have to talk themselves into using their drug of choice. A year ago, when recovering from pneumonia, my doctor ordered me to forgo running for a few weeks. During that time I was worried that I'd lose conditioning and would need to start all over again. It wasn't withdrawal that I'd experienced, it was the fear that all that I'd worked for would be lost.

I think most of us who run, bike, swim or otherwise exercise are driven by the positive results of physical activity. I'm sure there is a small percentage of people who take working out to an extreme level and develop a true dependency for activity. For me, I appreciate the endorphin rush that comes after a hard run but that's really the dessert, certainly not the meal.    

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

When a routine run is a good thing

Today's run (treadmill): 2.55 miles

I have been using the treadmill so often this winter that it's starting to seem like a routine. I far prefer outdoor running but with the snow and ice it's been impossible to do that safely at 4:00 AM. My new comfort with the treadmill is a positive and though I don't love it I'm also not using, "I hate this, I hate this" as my running mantra. A quick check on Garmin Connect shows that my longest gap between treadmill sessions last year was almost five months -- May 19 to October 14. That means that every run in that period (typically five runs per week) happened outdoors. I was clearly lucky with the weather during that span. I probably ran through a few rainstorms but I recall that most of the time conditions were clear. I guess I'm now paying for that streak of run-friendly weather.

My session on the treadmill this morning was energizing. After a moderate start I began to blip up the speed every few minutes, finishing my run at an 8:30 pace. My overall pace was in the low 9:00's and I felt strong throughout the run. It was like Saturday's race when I cruised along below 9:00/mile feeling like I could sustain that pace for a long time. Getting to this level of stamina is important to me because I'm beginning to think about my time targets for a half marathon. If I could start another five month streak of outdoor running I'd be happy. But I'll settle for decent indoor runs like today's for the time being.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Back on the road, at least for the weekend

Rather than take a rest day on Sunday to recover from Saturday's race, I decided to go for a short run. The Snowflake Run distance was only 4 miles so a recovery wasn't really necessary. At the same time I didn't want to go out for a long run since my neighborhood roads are still  marginal, narrowed by snow with icy patches and pooling runoff from the recent rain. After two weeks of treadmill running and only one outdoor run I was just happy to be outside.

The weather was sunny and the temperature was 37. I wore two light layers on top and it was chilly for the first ten minutes. I used the cold as a motivator to generate some heat and I stepped up my pace to help that along. I'd originally planned to run easy but faster felt better. It may have been Sunday's race pace that tuned me for speed but I felt good turnover on my stride. My form wasn't quite as smooth as Saturday but it all worked. With the exception of the times when I needed to slow down to run along icy parts of the road, my pace stayed under 9:00. I ended up averaging 9:05 which was speedier than I'd planned. I'll likely run indoors this week because the icy roads and darkness present too much safety risk. But this weekend I'm aiming for some longer outdoor runs.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Race shirts: The good, the bad & the very ugly

One of Brian's ugly shirts that isn't already in the rag bin
Today's run (street): 3.3 miles (9:05 pace)

The Snowflake Run race shirt
Recently my running buddy Brian mentioned ugly race t-shirts and he sent me a photo as an example. I've compiled well over a dozen race shirts in the last couple of years and many of them would clearly fit into the ugly category. This weekend I received my latest shirt for the Long Beach Snowflake Run and was pleased to see it was attractive enough to wear in public. My wife loves snowflakes and cozy long sleeved shirts so I expect that it will soon become hers. 

Good memories sometimes make up for wacky design
The other Long Beach race shirt I have is from last November's Turkey Trot. It's not a great looking shirt but it's fun and also long sleeved. I PR'd in that race so I enjoy wearing it.

I guess flesh-colored was the new black in 2009
 I participated on a Cape Cod marathon relay team in October of 2009 and the race shirts were very close-fitting technical long sleeved shirts. The front is about as ugly a design as I've seen (plus Duncan Donuts and running are a strange combination) but the back has a cool lighthouse. It's actually a good between-seasons running shirt and I especially like wearing it on trails.

Clean design and functional - I earned this one
The first race I ran in 2010 was in March, less than two months after my stay in the hospital for pneumonia. The race in Stillwell Woods was challenging and my successful run told me that I was back and fully recovered. We got technical racing shirts and I am proud to wear mine outside my home. As a wicking shirt it's just okay, but it will certainly do in a pinch.

Subtlety was not the theme in 2009
The 2010 New Hyde Park 8K shirt was a decent design, but the year before it was an explosion of red, white, blue and yellow. The back was no cleaner though it wasn't as garish as the front. Kudos to the organizers for making a change for the better last year.

The Dirty Sock design - not all that it's quacked up to be
In my opinion the Ugly Duckling Award goes to the race shirt that actually has a duck on it. The Dirty Sock Run is a great event and the organizers always give out both a t-shirt and a pair of socks printed with the words "Dirty Sock Run." I love the socks (although my son immediately commandeers them) but the shirts are not attractive.  The shirt color from the last Dirty Sock 10K is a strange blend of muddy brown and magenta. The front is blank and the back has a graphic of the event's logo -- a duck on the water. The prior year's shirt was not much better - pea soup green instead of muddy brown with the logo on the front. 

Actually, I love all my race tees no matter how they look. Each one reminds me of a special time and the accomplishment of participation.  Still, if a race organizer has the choice of making a shirt more attractive, it would be time well spent to do that!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Race report: Long Beach Snowflake Run

No snowflakes but plenty of fun
Today's run (Long Beach Snowflake Run): 4 miles - 35:22 (8:50 pace)

Despite the late course change from the boardwalk to the streets, the 2011 Long Beach Snowflake run was a great experience. The anticipated snow and sleet never arrived but it did start to mist 30 minutes into our run. I'd worn a waterproof running jacket over my shirt so that wasn't an issue. We never got the predicted snow and sleet but a steady rain started after most runners had crossed the finish line.

I met up with my friend Steve who was racing for the first time today. He's a good athlete and a dedicated CrossFit practitioner so I expected him to do well despite his pre-race jitters. We headed to the line just a few minutes before the start, putting us near the back of the pack. After giving Steve some last minute coaching we were off and running but the accumulated snows had narrowed the roads and we had to contend with hundreds of other runners working their way through the tight spaces. Steve and I did our best to navigate around the clumps of slower runners and by the half mile point the road had opened up enough for us to reach cruising speed. Our back-of-pack start and congested first minutes delayed us on the first mile, that we passed at 9:05.

Soon after that, Steve moved ahead and I lost track of him until I saw him heading west as we rounded Neptune Boulevard. My split on mile 2 was 17:55 so I'd managed to push my overall pace just below 9:00 per mile. I decided to keep that pace through mile 3 because it felt fast enough and I could maintain that speed. At the 3 mile point I decided to step it up and passed a group of runners  that I had been following for the last couple of miles. The long straight road provided a view of the finish far ahead of my arrival and once I saw it I felt I could push myself even harder.  I came through the chute at 35:22 and wished that I started closer to the front. That would have cut at least 20 seconds from my time and given me a 4 mile PR. But starting point is a variable that's hard to control so I accepted my time as it was. I do like those races where they time you at the start and finish and provide both net and gun times.

Steve ended up finishing around 33 minutes and was satisfied with how he did. He's ready to race again. I was happy to start my 2011 racing season with a good run and was glad to be running outdoors again for the first time in almost two weeks. I'll need to start focusing on distance as I begin my training for a half marathon in April. There are some interesting races between now and then so I'll decide soon where (and when) I'll hit the starting line for my next race.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hey, what do you mean no boardwalk?!

No-flakes only on the boardwalk

Yesterday afternoon I received an email from the Snowflake Run race organizers that said "Due to weather conditions, the race has been moved off the Boardwalk." I'm sure they did that for good reasons but I'd signed up for this race mostly to run along the water. I guess running on the wooden boardwalk with ice and snow could get slippery and dangerous. But after all, it's called the Snowflake Run for a reason! The new course will be routed through the town streets and that will be fine, but I'll miss those views.

I enjoyed my guilt-free rest day this morning and I'm hoping that I'm not over confident about my readiness for Saturday. In the past I've made the mistake of assuming that a shorter race like this one should be an easy distance to cover. That would be true if I was planning to run it like a typical weekend training run but, in competition, any distance requires proper training. I hope I've done enough to prepare for this race. If it's snowing, sleeting or raining tomorrow it will impact how I run. I'll bring along my trail shoes just in case.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

An unscheduled skip and an unexpected run

Today's run (treadmill) 2.45 miles

I'm not sure why, but whenever I work from home I never seem to find the time to fit in a workout. The snowy weather has interfered with my commute this year and, as a result, I've had to work from my home a couple of times. Yesterday was one of those times and it was ice, not snow, that kept me home. I made it to the train station extra early but the cancellations and delays sent me back home. I thought I'd have a chance for a lunchtime treadmill run but I ended up too busy to fit it in.

I expected to finish my race training on Wednesday but since I skipped it I used this morning to end my taper. I usually like two days rest prior to a race but one will do in a pinch. I took it easy and started off at a very easy pace. A run two days before a race is not going to help my conditioning but it might keep me tuned and flexible. As I ran I increased my speed in small amounts and finished the last few minutes at a 7 mph pace. The products of a good workout are a heavy sweat and the endorphin buzz that follows, both of which were attained today. I am happy with the way my training has gone and I feel good for Saturday. With snow, rain or a "wintry mix" on the way it could be a challenging race. Running the boardwalk, with views of the water sound good to me. I'll deal with the weather stuff when I have to.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A good taper run (despite a sore toe)

Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

With less than a week before Saturday's race I'm thinking a lot about expectations. This will be my first race in 2011 and like last year's first race, snow may be a factor. The course this weekend is probably similar to last November's Long Beach Turkey Trot that was held in the same town. That was a 10K (6.2 mile) race with 1/3 of the course run along the boardwalk. The Snowflake run is a shorter distance and I'm unsure how they will map out the route. I'm hoping that it includes plenty of boardwalk because the wooden surface is preferable to pavement and the ocean views provide a nice counterpoint to the hard effort of racing. I don't know how fast I'll go or if I have a chance at a 4 mile PR. We'll see.

I would have liked to skip this morning's run and just drink coffee and watch the news under a warm blanket. I managed to change my mindset and get on the treadmill before I rethought my decision. There isn't that much to talk about when describing a treadmill run but today's was easier than Sunday's. I am still dealing with a friction burn on my small toe that I don't want to aggravate any further. I switched from my Brooks to my Saucony Grid Tangents hoping that the different fit would minimize the contact. That helped. My toe is still sore but I wrapped it in a bandage that I wet with Castile soap infused with peppermint and it's coming around. Despite the foot issue my run today was excellent. I was strong throughout the workout and never once did I look wistfully at the clock and wish that time would pass more quickly.

I'm hoping that I can carry that energy into the weekend. I'm planning to run again tomorrow and then complete my taper with light cross-training or rest on Thursday and Friday. Along the way I may get a bonus upper body workout if the ice storm we're expecting amounts to anything.

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