Thursday, March 31, 2011

Depleted for a good cause

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

Yesterday morning I noticed a sign that my company was conducting a blood drive with the New York Blood Center. I had about 30 minutes before my next meeting so I headed to the location. After filling out the paperwork, answering screening questions and getting my finger pricked (to check my iron level) I was ushered over to a well-used, industrial quality chaise lounge. There was a large digital clock that showed I only had 12 minutes to give my pint and get back upstairs to attend my meeting. I finished with only minutes to spare and they were concerned that I was rushing off without the juice and cookies chaser they insist is necessary for recovery. I made it back in time having taken a small bottle of water and some Chex mix to go.

I felt the effects from my blood donation this morning while on the elliptical. I couldn't manage my usual level of resistance. In fact, the whole session seemed harder than normal. I figured that if I held the same speed that I usually maintain it would probably be an equivalent workout, even at the lower level. I rarely watch the clock while on the elliptical because I have distractions like the morning news but I was happy when I reached my planned end time. My weekly cross training workout was well-timed. I wouldn't have wanted to run feeling as I did this morning. There's a big storm headed this way, possibly bringing snow on Friday (April Fools!) so I'll likely be on the treadmill. Hopefully by then I will be at full strength for that harder workout.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Maintaining the right tempo

Thanks for making my point Newsday!
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

My wife handed me the paper when I got home last night and told me to check out the second section. Newsday had run an article about minimalist running and she mischievously annotated the story showing the points I'd made in my "How to" post on Monday. I thought that was pretty funny.

I followed yesterday's good run with one that felt as good, but for some reason I ran the route 40 seconds slower than I did on Tuesday. It was puzzling to me, especially since my intention was to tempo at around 20 seconds above 5K race pace. After looking at my splits I saw that I simply went out too slow for the first 15 minutes but made up some time in the last third of my run. At that point I'd dropped into performance gear and run at about 8:20/mile.

I'm sure the additional rest I'd had prior to yesterday's run had something to do with my better performance. That seems to reinforce the idea that rest + training is the right combination for optimal performance.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Inner peace at 4:00 AM

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

My 4:00 AM runs are productive, not only from a conditioning perspective, but as a method of focusing on key items in my business or personal life. The world at 4:00 AM looks a lot like 6:00 AM, except that it's significantly quieter. Every morning when I go out to run I think about all the people in the houses that I pass. Most people are still sleeping and generally all the company I might have is the car that drives around throwing the New York Times onto driveways. It's peaceful and still and the stars are in bright focus. So for the many who ask why I run at that ungodly hour, this is why.

Sometimes you can't argue that additional rest yields better performance and that was the case today. Despite my trance-like state this morning, my legs that had only run five miles over the last three days moved me along 20 sec/mile faster than my usual morning pace. While I followed my route I thought through a business issue that I hadn't been able to address with the frenzy of the work day. I came back home happy with my run and decisive in my thoughts. It was only 4:30 and I still had the whole day ahead.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Write your own minimalist running article in ten easy steps!

I'm a true believer in the barefoot/minimalist "movement" although I'm not likely to ever run barefoot. The concept of minimal or natural running makes great sense to me. Our early ancestors evolved to run on their  forefeet so they could travel long distances without injury and to run down and capture prey. The modern design of most conventional shoes works completely against this genetic optimization. I'm not a physiologist so I can't speak to whether a large cushioned heel and pronounced drop between heel and front foot promotes injury, but that's a popular theory. I just know that since moving from my Brooks GTS 10's to my much more minimal Kinvaras I've improved my form and avoided injury.

There have been many articles written about minimalist running and while I appreciate the attention to subject matter I'm growing weary of the sameness of the content. One reason for this may be that there isn't much to say about it except that less shoe is probably better than more. Rather than read the hundreds of stories, features, columns and books about the subject I decided to construct a do-it-yourself minimal running article. Here's all you need to write your own story:

1. Begin by acknowledging Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run" as the probable source for the current minimalist craze.
2. Talk about how the $20 billion running shoe industry is waking up to the need to design more minimally constructed shoes.
3. Mention that when Vibram introduced their "Five Fingers" glove shoes they tripled their sales in less than two years. Also mention their unconventional look.
4. Put in quotes from Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman about the bio-mechanics of endurance running and how natural it is to land on your forefoot when running.
5. Quote a strength and conditioning physiologist to explain the actual mechanics of how barefoot and minimal running optimize stride and naturally diffuse shock.
6. Quote a podiatrist who suggests that evidence proving minimalist running prevents injury is inconclusive, and further, that some runners actually do need motion control and stability correction.
7. Mention that almost every running shoe was minimal until about 40 years ago and this is simply a return to a better design.
8. Talk about how Saucony launched the very successful Kinvara and how other major running shoe companies are now following suit.
9. Stress the importance of starting slow with your transition to a lower heel and a less constructed shoe.
10. Finish with a cliche like "When it comes to running, sometimes less is more."

Good luck on your new career as a sports journalist!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Way off base

Today's run (street): 5 miles

I had great intentions for this weekend's training but things didn't quite work out. A slow start and an early Saturday schedule forced me to put off my run until later. Unfortunately the day became very busy and by late afternoon I was feeling unusually tired. I considered a run before dinner but was concerned I'd be doing more harm than good, especially since I'd planned a long base run for Sunday at Bethpage. I ended up resting instead and, by evening, I was feeling exhausted.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a sinus headache and hoped that I could sleep it off. I went back to bed but I felt even worse by morning. My usual response to these headaches is coffee and Sudafed along with either ibuprofen or aspirin. That generally does the trick but by 8:00 AM I was still hurting and I knew a long run at Bethpage was out. I couldn't conceive of going an entire weekend without a run but I wasn't in any shape to get outside. I went one more step and used a decongestant nasal spray followed by a return to bed for a forty minute nap. Happily, when I woke up my headache was gone so I put on my running clothes and headed outside.

I knew I wouldn't cover my planned 8 miles but I did want to have something to show for the weekend. Owing to my tenuous recovery, I started at an easy pace and followed a route that took me though some streets that I haven't covered in some time. I felt great for the first two miles but by the third I was beginning to waver. I decided to concentrate on my form and my mid-foot landing and hoped for a "second wind" that would allow me to cover a couple of more miles before I finished. I did recover and by the end I was running a decent, if relaxed, pace. I felt almost as strong at mile 5 as I did after the first mile. So far, my headache has not returned and though I fell far short of my planned 12 mile weekend, I am happy with the way things worked out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Em-aging Runner

Hail to the ancient runner!
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I've finally finished the March issue of Running Times magazine that focused on Masters runners. Masters are competitive runners of a certain age, id est, those of us who can remember when digital watches and VCRs were considered groundbreaking technologies. I found it amusing that one of RT's coverline kickers was "How aging runners stay motivated."

Okay, I'm firmly in middle age and I even remember when Lyndon Johnson was president. But aging? A Master's division runner can be as young as forty and I have not come across too many people in their 40's who would think of themselves as "aging runners." The happy truth is that Running Times lists the records of the best Masters race performances of the year. Aging or not, there are some very fast people out there.

I was not feeling like a high performer when I started my run this morning. I stepped outside, felt the chill and hoped a fast start would help warm me up. My spirit was willing but my legs were not and I covered the first mile in about ten minutes. By then I felt increased circulation in my Master's-aged body and stepped up my pace well enough to finish with a high 9:00 pace. I know I'll never be a Ken Youngers who, at 53, ran the Peachtree 10K in 34:40 last year. But if I can continue to stay competitive with the "me" from two years ago I'll know that I'm on the right track.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Training to be part of the 3.6%

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

It's amusing to see people on television shocked by the snow this week. As if the change to spring automatically triggers mild weather. I will admit to being surprised by the cold today and the snow on my driveway was a harsh flashback to winter. But unlike December, January and February, this snow is short-lived and hopefully by tomorrow I'll be back running on the road.

I'd expected bad weather last night and planned to work out indoors today. Since it was Thursday I chose to do an elliptical session. My energy was below its usual level so I kept resistance in the medium-low range and did the workout by rote. As I plowed through my minutes I thought about the amazing fact that I was training for a half marathon. I read recently that about 1.3 million people finished half marathons in 2010 so I'll have plenty of company. But doing the math, that's only .04% of the US population and, notably, just 3.6% of people in the US who run one or more days per year (according to RunningUSA). By May 2nd I'll know if I'm part of that enviable number.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The popular crowd

Emerging Runner traffic
Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles
Every once in a while I look at the stats on the Emerging Runner and I'm always intrigued by the long tail distribution of targeted hits. Although I can't account for posts that are read through the top level domain ( the tools tell me which individual posts (those that come through another source like Google or links from other websites) are most popular. It gives me a sense of what people are interested in reading.

The top ten posts, in order of aggregate hits are:
1. Road test - the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10
2. A new Nike+ Sportband problem
3. Tubes, zig-zags, bounces, shocks and resistors
4. Saucony Tangent 4: Fast and comfortable
5. Super minimalist running shoes for less than $20!
6. Nike Sportband - A farewell to armbands
7. New posting on Runner's Tech Review - ATAYNE
8. For the love of Sudafed
9. Many thought running caused my pneumonia
10. 8 miles at Bethpage, NYC Marathon Expo visit

Although these are my most popular posts I have many others that I think are good. If I can ever find the time I may go through the archives and post my ten favorite posts, regardless of popularity. In the meantime I am glad that so many people are interested in the ones above.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spending my (City Sports) dollars wisely

A combination of residual soreness from Sunday's run and a rare post-work celebration last night prevented me from running this morning. I hardly ever drink and almost never go out after work but last night was our sendoff for Adventure Girl who is leaving the company to finish of her Master's studies at Yale. By May she'll be graduated and off to the west coast to do research in her field. There was a great turnout at the place with people we hadn't seen in some time. We are sad to see AG leave but we know the friendship will continue.

Craft-y bargain at City Sports
I'm slightly regretting not running this morning because tomorrow morning's weather will be rainy and I'll be forced to workout indoors. I just got a great bargain at City Sports using my CS dollars earned by being a City Sports "Insider." It's a $45 Craft running shirt that cost me $7 after discounts and applied credits -- I'm picking it up at the store today. A new running shirt will be good consolation tomorrow morning when I'm forced to get back on the treadmill.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Marathon? Half is plenty for me

Spring has sprung though you wouldn't know it from today's temperatures in the high 30's. I don't want to rush the seasons -- I still prefer cold weather over hot -- but after a winter of frequent snowstorms I look forward to more days out on the road. After yesterday's long training run I'm taking my weekly rest day today. Rest and recovery.

Although I finished yesterday's run feeling relatively strong (enough to believe that I could have gone the entire half marathon distance) it became very clear to me that a full marathon would be out of the question. The steady pounding my feet experienced for 1.75 hours told me that a 4 hour race would do me no good. Then again, before I'd started running, the idea of me participating in a half marathon was about as likely my crewing on the space shuttle. I'm not saying I'll never run a full marathon but it's not an important goal for me. I know for many runners that 26.2 miles is the ultimate running experience but I really run for my health and the enjoyment of the activity. Racing is a great source of happiness too, but a marathon may just be too much of a good thing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Personal distance record on today's base run

A Personal Distance Record on the Bethpage trail
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 11.2 miles

For the second weekend in a row I've followed a dissatisfying trail run on Saturday with a great distance run on Sunday. Rather than over-analyze this, I'll just assume it had more to do with the time of day that I did these four runs (good runs: early, bad runs: afternoon). With a half marathon coming up in six weeks I'd been working on building up my base with 8.25 mile runs over the past couple of weekends and a personal distance record of 11.2 miles this morning.

I began today's run at Bethpage State Park at 8:00 AM and I ran well, feeling much better than I did yesterday. The winds were coming from the north and the first half of my out-and-back run was in a southern direction, so I had a little extra help at times. Unfortunately much of the second half included chilly head-on winds that made the tough hills even tougher.  But with all runs you take the good with the bad. I just wish I could take the bad first and experience only the good at the end.

There were many people on the trail today; walkers, cyclists and runners in about even numbers. Lots of friendly hellos too. Of all my running venues, Bethpage definitely has the happiest people. I was only passed by a couple of people along my route. One was a boy no older than 18 who ran past me at a pace that I can only sustain for about 200 meters on a track. After my turnaround in Masspequa Preserve he passed me the other way, his speed undiminished even though he had run at least seven miles by then.  Unbelievably, this young man passed me in the other direction when I was about three miles to my finish, meaning that he was still charging hard after 11 miles. For the record, I also passed some runners today!

I was glad that I brought along my Amphipod hand bottle, that I filled with Gatorade G2. After mile four I began taking sips every half mile. I believe that was the key to getting past some tough periods, especially at mile 10 when the risk of a bonk was very real. But there was no stopping and no slowing down and I finished my distance in 1:46:34, or 9:31 per mile. That's a realistic target for race day, which means I'll need to finish the LI Half under 2:05. I think I'll fold speed work into next week's runs and while I'll target at least one long run, I'm not sure I'll need to run 11 miles again. But I just might.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

An unsatisfying dessert

Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.3 miles

Have you ever been served your favorite dessert only to be disappointed after eating it? What should have been an enjoyably indulgent experience ends up lacking and all you're left with is the calories. I thought about that analogy during my run at Stillwell Woods this afternoon as I pushed myself along the trail. After being snowed out of Stillwell since November I was hoping that today's run would be a welcome dessert after the gruel of a tough winter.

I'm a morning runner and generally perform with less energy as the day goes on. A busy morning prevented me from doing an early run so I decided to try a trail run after lunch. Despite today's struggles, there was nothing I could blame on fatigue or hunger. I'd gotten a full eight hours sleep, had a light, nutritious lunch and waited an hour before I headed out. I felt relatively energetic at the start but soon after I'd reached the interior trails at Stillwell I started feeling lethargic and had trouble getting comfortable with my stride. My plan to take on some of the more difficult trails gave way to an easier, flatter route. After a while my aerobic breathing came in balance and the running got easier but my legs still felt heavy.

About halfway through my run I forced myself to stop thinking negatively about my running and, instead, paid attention to the beautiful sights along the trail. That helped me get through the remainder of my route and despite feeling overworked I finished with an overall pace in the high-nine range. Studies have shown that people perform better in the afternoon than in the morning, regardless of what time they usually train. Perhaps that's why my performance was decent despite my difficulties.

A final note: This morning my wife attended the Gabriel Gifford Honorary Save-a-Life training session that was put on by our local Red Cross. She found this hands-on program extremely useful. Later in the day she reviewed what she'd learned with the kids, using a training kit she purchased while she was there. On top of that she was interviewed by WCBS radio and she talked about the fact that many people fear CPR because they think it requires mouth-to-mouth contact when in truth this process can be effectively administered using only your hands.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Negative splits on a chilly morning

Today's run (street): 2.65 miles

All week we've been hearing forecasts calling for warm weather with predictions that temperatures would reach 70ยบ by Friday. I must be missing something because it has been chilly most days this week and this morning was no different. I listened to the weather report and dressed in single layers for today's run. Fortunately I thought to wear running gloves and I was happy to have them. The winds brought the temperature down into the mid 30's and I found myself wishing for an extra shirt.

Saucony Grid Tangent 4
 I wore my Saucony Grid Tangents this morning for a change of pace but my pace didn't change much. My stride felt encumbered for the first mile but I loosened up soon after that. The second half of my run was 6% faster than my first and though my recent paces have not been extraordinary I've been achieving negative splits on almost every run. I'm hoping to get out for 10 miles on one of the days this weekend. Speed will not be my goal but that doesn't mean it won't be on my mind.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If I designed elliptical machines

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

The latest issue of Running Times came yesterday and my wife told me I'd be excited to see it. One of the main articles was a review of minimalist running shoes that (curiously) included the Karhu Fast 2's. I'm behind on reading my running magazines but I think this issue may jump to the front of the line. If nothing else, I'm interested in how Running Times views this Karhu model whose high ride seems anything but minimal to me.

The rain from yesterday has headed east but I decided to stay indoors today and cross train on the elliptical. As I went through my workout I thought about a better way to design the machine so that resistance from the upper body poles could be set independently of the lower body setting. The only way to get a decent upper body workout on my machine is to set resistance over 100 watts which means the entire workout feels like you are going uphill while wearing ankle weights. Of course, many would say that a high level of effort is exactly the point of the machine. This may be true but at 4:00 AM all I want is a reasonable cardio workout with some whole body benefit. Listen up elliptical machine manufacturers!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I miss the morning drought of 2010

No running in the rain this morning* 
Today's run (treadmill): 2.4 miles

Last year I had a five month span between spring and fall when I avoided running on the treadmill. We had no rain at 4:00 AM between the period of May and October , at least on the days when I'd planned to run. This winter has not been a runner's paradise and I've found myself on the treadmill more often than not during my weekday morning runs. I expected rain this morning and headed directly to the treadmill without checking outside. I'm not sure it was raining when I started but it was pouring by the time I'd finished.

Familiarity can breed contempt but it can also be comforting. Since I had nothing but contempt for the treadmill historically, there was no place to go but up. I followed my usual routine today, progressively increasing my speed and finishing at around an 8:50 pace. Knowing that I don't need to get up to speed right away makes it easier to motivate myself to start. By blipping the FAST button every few minutes I can manage my level of effort. My only rule is that I can only go faster, that is, until I've reached my planned end time when I stop recording my run on the Garmin and finish with a few minutes of cool-down running.

I may go for a Central Park run on Friday with my friend CK. It's supposed to get up to 70 degrees which is nice, but also sweat inducing. I've got a big meeting Friday afternoon and it wouldn't be right to sit there looking like a wet dog. I'll figure it out whether to run at noon once I get an updated weather report.

*Picture courtesy of

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Putting the Karhu Fast 2 Rides to the speed test

I do love them for the elliptical machine
Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

After writing about my running shoes yesterday, I decided to try another run in the Karhu Fast 2's. I'm planning a full review of these shoes for Runner's Tech Review and didn't feel that I'd spent enough time running in the Karhu's to form a complete opinion. The Fast 2's have served me well as a stable shoe on the elliptical, but that's certainly not what they were designed to do. The name Fast 2 implies that they are, well, fast. I'd never tested them at speed so I had that in mind when I went out early this morning.

Although the shoes, at around 10 ounces, are lightweight, they seem bulky compared with the Kinvaras. It feels like a lot of shoe. When I took off on today's run I was conscious of the thick out-sole and the "fulcrum" technology that supposedly drives the runner forward. I decided to try some quick acceleration to see if the shoe transformed to a quasi-racer when run at higher cadences. That's a trait of the Brooks GTS-10s that run like a luxury sedan until you pour it on and they become more like a sports car. The Fast 2's didn't give me the feeling of speed. In fact, during "speed play", they felt less stable than when I ran at my normal pace.

I maintained a decent pace for 4:00 AM (9:12) and felt the Karhu's didn't hold me back from doing that. I don't know the exact height of the heel and mid-sole but I felt like I was riding a little too high. Since the Kinvaras are my standard platform that's no surprise, but most of my conventional shoes feel more stable than the Karhu's. I'll put a lot more into the review and will also include Adventure Girl's comments as she's  testing a pair as well. It will be interesting to hear her opinion and whether it's the same - or different - than mine.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What's next after my Kivaras?

Merrell's new Trail Glove
I'm pleased with the way I feel this morning after yesterday's long run. Sunday was a busy day and I spent a lot of  time on my feet. I thought I might experience some second day aches and pains but after a sound sleep I woke up feeling fine. With almost 400 running miles on my Kinvaras I'm fully convinced that a lower, more minimal running shoe works well for me and the very small differential (drop) between forefoot and heel has strengthened my calves and ankles. Despite being a video-documented pronator I've had few troubles running in this neutral shoe. My dilemma these days is choosing a different shoe than the Kinvara when running on hard surfaces.

I love the Brooks GTS-10's that were my go-to show prior to acquiring the Kinvaras. Ironically, although I have seven pairs of running shoes I really don't feel like I have that many choices. My Helly Hansens are great for tough trails but not a shoe that I like to wear on the road. My Adidas Responses work well on vacation, doing double duty as a trail or street running shoe and also for walking. But as a daily trainer they are just built too high. That leaves me with the Skecher's Resistance Runners (at best an occasional training tool), the Karhu Fast 2 Ride (a good shoe but not for me) and the Saucony Grid Tangent (a light stability shoe whose only negative is its conventional build). Finally, the higher platform of the Brooks has discouraged me from pulling them out of the cabinet as often as did in the past.

Last week I stopped by City Sports and tried on the Merrell Trail Glove, a zero-drop minimal trail shoe. I loved its wide toe box and light weight but my foot felt off balance toward the front. I want to try the NB Minimus next, as well as the Brooks Green Silence and the new Saucony Mirage. I'm concerned that I'll soon wear out the Kinvaras and I'm definitely going to replace them with something as minimal. I love to try out new running shoes but I've really learned to love the Kinvaras. I look forward to struggling with that decision.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A sweet run with a sweeter ending

Today's run (mixed surfaces): 8.2 miles

Although trails are my favorite venue for running I didn't love yesterday's experience at Muttontown Preserve. I understand that trails provide freedom and adventure but Muttontown's trails seemed to have more than its share of obstructions. This undercuts my ability to cut loose and just run while still feeling confident that I'll eventually end up at the same place where I began. A more adventurous runner (and one with a better sense of direction) may look at the challenge as part of the fun. Perhaps if I ran those trails more often I would feel better about it. I still get lost in Stillwell but at least I have a general sense of where I am most of the time.

I took no chances today and mapped out a route around my neighborhood. I followed this course for the most part but made some spontaneous changes to keep it interesting. My first destination was the business park that is located about a mile east of my neighborhood. A loop around the main drive has a modest but steady incline when run counter-clockwise. That loosened me up for the miles that would follow.

By the second mile I felt like I was growing stronger, evidence that my base training was yielding some benefit. I crossed into neighborhood #3 from the business park and ran until I reached  a main road that took me into the next town. All along that main road the sidewalks were covered thickly by decomposing leaves and there were numerous fallen branches that required some careful stepping. I returned to my own neighborhood and covered about three more miles before returning home.

Demonstration of tapping a walnut tree
This was probably the best long run I've done this year. Not the longest or the fastest, but this was definitely the most satisfying. If I feel this way on May 1st I'll have no problems doing the  LI half marathon. We spent this afternoon at Hoyt Farm in Smithtown where they held an event showing the origins and the process of making maple (and walnut tree) syrup. We all had fun, especially at the end when we got to sample it! I suspect freshly made maple syrup can be an effective recovery food.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Return to the Muttontown trails

Circuitous run on the Mystery Trail
Today's run (Muttontown Preserve): 3 miles

I took advantage of the weather today and headed over to Muttontown Preserve at noon for a run. Our morning was very busy so I didn't get out as early as I would have liked. Even with that late start the parking lot was less than a quarter full and I was glad to know that the trails probably wouldn't be crowded. The snow is all gone but some of the effects of all that water remain. The dirt roads around the entrance were rutted and the trails have a lot of muddy sections. With the noon day sun, I started my run wondering if I should have picked shorts instead of running pants. As it turned out I made the right choice.

Rough road leading to some rough trails
I followed the same path I originally tracked on my previous run and held my breath as I passed by the place where I fell head first into frozen mud. No such issue today but the condition of the trails was marginal and several times I encountered fallen trees along my path. Some places were completely blocked and that forced me to bushwhack through thorny brush to reconnect with trail on the other side. It was then that I really appreciated having long pants and long sleeves. I'd hoped to make my way south, then west and come back north to the trail-head but my poor navigation kept me contained in the northwest part of the preserve. I actually ended up running part of one loop three times. By the third time, I finally recognized the terrain!

I had MotionX running on my iPhone and even with the real-time mapping and compass I managed to get lost. I could see where I went wrong but I couldn't find an alternative path to correct my vector. Instead of mountain bikers, like I often see at Stillwell, I encountered people riding horses on the trail. Between the mud and horses I needed to do a lot of careful stepping. My Garmin, with its auto-pause set too low, kept stopping and restarting and occasionally not restarting. Of my approximately 35 minutes running, the Garmin recorded only about 25 minutes. MotionX did a better job although I'm not confident in the iPhone's GPS accuracy. At least, by the map,  I have a good idea where I ran.

Altogether it wasn't a very far run but the elevation changes were frequent with a total gain of 220 feet. I came away from the Muttontown Preserve feeling a little ambivalent about the place. I know that MP provides potential for a good fulfilling run but I'm zero for 2 so far. I really wish the trails were better marked so I could spend more time appreciating the experience and less time worrying about direction. Still, it was great to be back on dirt and though my distance was only about three miles they were three hard miles. I'm hoping to cover more distance on the road tomorrow and I'm glad to know that I probably won't get lost when I do it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The treadmill is part of the plan

Rain has recently replaced snow as a persistent inhibitor to my outdoor running. I wear glasses and they don't mix well with rainy weather as both fog and rain impair my vision when I run. The effect can be disorienting and sometimes downright scary. So with last night's storm extending into the morning, I knew that the treadmill would be my only choice.

Every run I do these days connects to my need to be ready for my half marathon. In between now and then I'll run a 5K but my raison de courir, as my aunt would put it, is to do well at the RXR LI Half. My biggest issue with the treadmill experience is that it's the opposite of peaceful. When I'm on the road or the trail I tune into my surroundings and my favorite runs are those where the sound of my footsteps is the loudest thing I hear. I further appreciate that I own the run and choose where and how I'll run. Our treadmill is quieter than its predecessor but it's still an aggressive machine that forces me to conform to its limitations.

My current approach to treadmill running is to begin more slowly than when I run on the street. Rather than begin with a frenzied pace, I work my way up by starting at around a 9:50 pace and finishing closer to 8:50. That seems to work and I am getting to fold in some speed into the run. I think the two keys to a successful race on May 1st are: 1) Continuing to build my base closer to 9 or 10 miles, and 2) Working on strengthening my core, especially the glutes and hamstrings that will help me maintain my speed. Hard work to be sure, but at least I have a plan.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hoping to revisit a mystery

Mysteries of the Muttontown Preserve
Today's workout (elliptical) 25 minutes

After resting on Wednesday I was eager to get back to my routine. Predictions of rain in the morning prompted me to prepare for an elliptical session last night. Indoor activities are occasionally welcomed because they involve less gear and give me more time to work out. Today's elliptical workout was pretty straightforward. I always aim to do 25 minutes and the end result is typically the same: I'm happy that I worked out but not entirely satisfied that I worked as hard as I would on a run. But in the end I'm usually soaked with sweat and the muscles that most need help - hamstrings and glutes - are humming.

We're going to get soaked today and the rain should carry over to mid-day tomorrow so I'll likely find myself on the treadmill Friday morning. That's fine. I want to do at least one good base building run over the weekend and I'm also thinking how fun it might be to return to the Muttontown Preserve in milder weather. Knowing some of the mysteries of the Mystery Trail, I could be in for another great adventure. But hopefully this time I won't need to scale any fences.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shut up and listen (to your body)

For all the guilt that I count on to get me out to run, there are days when I feel I should rest. Listening to your body is not always that easy. Sometimes a hard run is exactly what's needed to knock out a morning headache or to pull you out of a low energy state. That doesn't mean that a workout is a cure-all for all ills. Sometimes a run is exactly the wrong thing to do.

I'm not sure why this morning's decision to rest was so easy. I wasn't feeling especially bad, just a little off from normal. I'm looking ahead to some longer runs this weekend and thought about how rest is also an essential part of training. I let my body do some repair work today and I'm glad that I did. Some days it really pays to listen.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Training for the half marathon with strategy in mind

Today's run (street): 2.55 miles

Training was on my mind this morning when I went outside for my run. My plan was to do a tempo run and focus on sustaining a faster pace than I've averaged over the last couple of weeks. It's been warm the last few days (if you call 40 degrees warm) but this morning it was a frosty 27. I started my run at a moderate pace and brought up my speed after the first mile. I ran my remaining distance around 30 seconds slower than my 5K pace and I finished running at about a 9:15 pace.

Many half marathon plans I've seen mix together a combination of short runs, intervals and long runs in addition to cross training. I know myself well enough that I'm not going to do intervals on a regular basis but I will consciously work to include farleks and tempos. By running on the treadmill I adopted a habit of starting slowly and working my way up to faster paces and I've been doing that on my street runs although faster is a relative term.

I think it really comes down to building up my base to the point that I can draw upon any competitive tools I have later on in the race. That strategy seemed to work last fall when I successfully attained two consecutive 10K PRs. My running buddy Dave suggested that I focus on base during one of our runs and he was right. I think I'll see if he has any other ideas to help my training.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ready for Marcie again

A good weekend of running was capped off by an evening of fierce winds and rain that knocked out power to our house. The bleeping sounds from our house alarm and UPS power unit got me up and interrupted my very much needed sleep. I woke up tired but happy to remember that Mondays are rest days. After covering 12 miles over the weekend I am feeling optimistic about my training for the big race. Before the half marathon I'm planning to run (for the third time) the Marcie Mazzola Foundation race in April. This used to be a 4 mile race but last year it was switched to a 5K to make it more appealing to participants.

The Marcie Mazzola 4 miler was my first race since I'd restarted my running in 2008. I ran it in 2009 and learned much of my competitive strategy that day. Most races have their iconic characteristic and, for this race, it's the hill on Woodhull Rd. that goes on for almost half a mile near the beginning of the race. This hill is not as steep as Cow Harbor's James St. but attacking it too hard can have a negative effect on your stamina. Like last year, I'll take it easy and spend my energy later.

I'm looking forward to next weekend's long runs, unencumbered by snow and ice. But, with the weather this year, I don't know if I can fully count on that.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Run before the rain

Today's run (street): 4.15 miles 

Today's weather is supposed to include soaking rains starting some time this morning. I thought that after yesterday's 8 mile training run that I might stay inside, especially if it was going to pour. I've been thinking about my conditioning gaps and what work I should be doing to prepare for the half marathon. An article I just read in the March Runner's World focused on the glutes and how they affect running performance. I've often thought that this is a weak spot for me and I'm constantly planning to do the core exercises that will build up my gluteus muscles. I figured that today was as a good a day as any so that was my plan.

When I got up I saw that the rains hadn't started so I changed my mind and went out around 6:30 AM for a neighborhood run. The Sunday morning streets were quiet and the skies were getting cloudy but I managed to get through my miles before the rain started to fall. While there wasn't any precipitation, the winds were stiff and it felt like 75% of the time I was was running against them. I started off feeling energized, somewhat surprising after covering so many base-building miles yesterday at Bethpage.

After a while the wind resistance and my actual energy level caught up and it started to feel like a tough run. I'd planned to run 3-4 miles today and I ended up keeping to that distance. My pace was decidedly slow - about 9:50 - but between the wind resistance and some built up fatigue it made sense. I'm thinking of doing some core exercises later to work on those glutes.

Finally, my friend FS was planning to run the Coogan's Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K / Kids' Races this morning. I hope that was a good experience and not too wet. The course is run around Ft. Tryon Park and the Cloisters, an especially scenic area. Happy Sunday. I'm glad I missed the rain.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

LSD at Bethpage, the legal kind

Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 8.25 miles

I wanted to go for an LSD run this morning so I headed over to Bethpage State Park. I'd assumed with the warmer temperatures that the park had finally opened its bike trail. As soon as I reached the golf course saw a runner on the path beyond the (formally) gated entrance. I knew then that I'd be able to get in and run. No one was manning the toll house when I drove up, usually a good thing because it means no park fee, but I'd planned to buy an Empire Passport today. Oh well, free admission at least.

I'd worn shorts for the first time since October, along with a half zip and my lightweight running rain jacket as a top layer. It was 47 degrees with threatening skies so I decided to wear the jacket even though it can get hot. I figured that my plan to run long, but slowly, would prevent me from becoming overheated. I started up the steep hill where the bike trail begins and looked at the Garmin to make sure that I was running no faster than my planned pace. I've only averaged 3.75 miles per run since December, primarily due to all the snow we've had. I need to build back my base in preparation for my half marathon in May.

Runners outnumbered cyclists on the path although I saw plenty of both as I made my way along the trail. Running slowly was a treat, the hills didn't matter much and I was able to think about many things instead of focusing on my turnover and speed. I was passed by a few runners and I wanted to shout to them "I'm not really this slow, I'm doing LSD!" Actually that would not be a good thing to yell. Still, I began to feel the workout at around mile 5 of my planned eight.

I gave in to my natural pace and ran the last two miles under 10:00 per mile and completed 8.3 miles averaging 10:10. It was great to run a longer distance after being constrained to the streets of my neighborhood for months. I'm not sure if I'll do a run of 13 or more miles before the RXR Half Marathon but today's 8 was a good start.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Half decision

Today's run (street) 2.65 miles

I was fully prepared to run today and had no trouble getting out the door this morning. I'm back to my weekday routine, energized and motivated. I knew it was cold outside (19 degrees) and wore three layers but the chilly air was still somewhat of a surprise. As I ran up the road that borders my neighborhood to the east it occurred to be that we're about two weeks away from the Vernal Equinox. It sure didn't feel like spring at that moment.

I was originally planning to run midday with JQ but his schedule didn't work so that's why I decided to go out this morning. I ran well, my stride felt efficient and my form was good. My pace seemed faster than my usual morning tempo but my Garmin said otherwise -- mid 9:00. That pace seems to work for me over longer distances and I thought today about the half marathon. I've decided that despite its un-scenic course I'm going to run the RXR LI Half Marathon on May 1st. In terms of logistics and the opportunity to run with people I know it makes the best sense. So no mountain climbs, river views, ocean side paths or greenery (although the course does wend past Eisenhower Park) but it's still 13.1 miles with a finish line.

Training has begun!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Indecision is a runner's prerogative

Hook Half race course
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

In the business world I need to be decisive. There is constant change in media technology and my colleagues and I work to adapt as quickly as the business requires. As a runner I don't need to be decisive. I can spend months considering a new running shoe before I buy it. When I'm out on the trails I usually decide my route as I go along. There's no penalty for choosing the wrong path since I'm likely to get lost no matter which trail I pick. My current case of runner's indecision centers on choosing my first half marathon. Which one to run? My poll is favoring the Brooklyn Half and that was my personal choice but registration has closed so I'm locked out.

There's the George Wodicka Hook Half Marathon in Congers, NY (Rockland County) that routes along the Hudson and is supposed to be a beautiful course. The race has two negatives though: it's a long drive to get to the race and part of the course goes up and down Hook mountain, highest spot in Rockland County. People I know who have run this race talk about the run up Hook the way I talk about Widow Hill on the Great Cow Harbor course. I shouldn't admit it but 13.1 miles plus a mountain climb scares me a little. The simplest choice is the RXR LI Half Marathon. It's close by, and I have some friends who are also planning to run it. Plus, the race date is May 2nd which would give me a few extra weeks to train.

I'm going to give it some more thought and then decide. Or maybe I'll just keep thinking about it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Back to the streets and the headlamp

Today's run (street): 2.75 miles

Yesterday was another exhausting day and last night I was seriously concerned that I'd have the energy to run in the morning. I laid out the running gear I'd need for a cold outdoor run in the dark, including various clothing layers, reflective vest, gloves, hat, socks, headlamp and running shoes. I tried to imagine my state of mind for the morning when it came time to put it all on. When the time did come I wasn't any more ready to run, but I knew I had to do it. So I did.

It was my first 4:00 AM run on the street in 2011 and I reasoned that it would be better than the treadmill. I stepped out and watched the moonlit neighborhood unfold as the garage door rose on its rails. It was a familiar scene though it had been a while. Without hesitation, I hit start on the Garmin and headed up the road. The air was chilly and the winds seemed to be coming from multiple directions. I was cold but not uncomfortable and though I would have appreciated milder breezes I was fine with the conditions. It's been a long enough time that I'd forgotten the timing of my morning routes and I ended up going a few minutes longer than normal. I got back feeling refreshed and happy that I'd once again gone out at a time when most people were still in their last hours of sleep. Even though I've made my piece with the treadmill it was good to be back running, once again, on terra firma.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Another win for the inner debate team

Today's run (treadmill): 2.4 miles

Yesterday's transition back to work was harder than I'd expected. The day was long and I was busy. We'd had workmen in the house all day on Monday so when I got home I needed to set up the TV, sound system and other electronics that had been moved for the work. That took up the rest of my night and as I laid out my gear I was hoping I'd have the energy for a morning run.

I really really didn't feel like doing a workout when I got up and it was one of those times when I had to talk myself into running. I felt that if I didn't run today I'd be giving myself permission to rest every time I didn't feel like a 4:00 AM workout. Which is often the case. Once convinced, I started on the treadmill (I couldn't deal with all the outdoor running gear today) and followed my normal routine of starting at a moderate pace and stepping up my speed over time. By the end I was running at around an 8:40 pace.

Once again, I was glad that I listened to my inner coach instead of my inner couch potato. I'm thinking that I may return to the roads for tomorrow's run. It's been well over a month since I've done an outdoor run at 4:00 AM.

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