Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Taper week run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Since I'm tapering this week I decided to forgo my usual post-weekend rest day. Although I did get out for a bike ride yesterday, I was disappointed that my planned run was cut short due to the weather. Between Friday and Sunday I'd ran a total of 13 miles, two of them as speed drills. It was mostly quality miles and it provided me an opportunity to get used to the Hattori's that I plan to wear during next Sunday's 8K.

The big mistake I'd made prior to my half marathon was over-training the week before my race taper. To prepare for that distance I'd done two 8+ mile training runs, some rigorous cross training sessions and a number of other miles. I ended up with a sore knee or IT band (still don't know which it is) that plagued me through the half. Until recently, the soreness was still making some of my runs difficult.

A Hattori's best friend
 Today's run was my typical weekday workout, 2.5 miles. I'm very pleased with the Hattori's so far, having done two 5+ milers in them. I think I'll be fine in them for Sunday's race. Yesterday I bought a pair of Wigwam Ironman triathlete socks (thin, seamless, wicking, stretchy) that work better with the Hattori's snug fit than standard running socks. I'm hoping that the rain holds off tomorrow morning when I go out for my penultimate taper run.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cutting it short

Today's workouts (street): 1.2 mile run and 7 mile bike

Happy Memorial Day. I went out for a run early in the morning and timed it imperfectly. What started as a misty drizzle turned into a hard driving rain by mile one. I headed straight home when I started seeing flashes of lightning nearby. Later in the day the skies had cleared and I considered trying another run, but instead decided to take the bike out for a ride. It wasn't the long run I'd hoped to do today but I was pleased to get in a second workout on what turned out to be a very busy day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Garmin 210 - trouble keeping track on the track

A shot of the track from this morning
Today's workout (track): 8 x 400's plus 3 mile run

Since I'm racing again next Sunday, I wanted to get in a little speed work before I taper my training next week. This morning I headed over to the local high school track to run some intervals. There were a handful of runners and walkers already on the track when I arrived but the lanes were fairly clear. I brought a stopwatch as well as my Garmin and I ended up using the FR 210 to record my runs and used the stopwatch to time my rest periods between intervals.

I didn't run the intervals hard. My goal was to do mile-equivalents a little faster than my 5K race PR and I managed to average 8:06 across eight quarter miles. I hoped that would recruit enough fast twitch fibers to give me some speed when I ran the following three miles (5K actually) and it did. I averaged 8:45 for that run.

A clear margin of error
The Garmin did not do a good job capturing my route. The picture above is a grab from Google Earth using the imported KMZ file. I stayed primarily in a middle lane but the GPS interpreted that much differently. Even though the 210 is always a little off I still like it a lot. It's great to be able to run without swapping the foot pod every time I change shoes. Especially in the case of the Hattori's that don't even have a place to attach a foot pod.

I'm really happy with today's workout. While I'm still not speedy, I've proven to myself that I can run sub-9:00 paces when I need to. The Hattori's were interesting to use on the track and they responded well when I took off in a sprint to begin each interval. I haven't decided what I'll do for tomorrow's Memorial Day workout but I am hoping to fold in a bike ride or two before I return to the office.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First run in the Saucony Hattori's

The Hattori's are a simple solution
Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3 miles
Today's run (street): 5.15 miles

Occam's Razor promotes the principle that we should tend towards simpler theories. William of Okham probably wasn't thinking about running shoes back in the 14th century but the idea still holds. This morning I went for my first run wearing the new Saucony Hattori's and the experience made me really question why running shoes (even some "minimalist shoes) need so much material, cushioning and height. The Hattori is so simple but it lacks nothing.

I put the Hattori's on over my thinnest pair of running socks and wished I had socks that were even thinner. If I were more comfortable running without socks I would have done that. With socks, the fit was tight, even though the shoes were my size - 10.5. But tight in this case means snug. The flexible upper stretches like a SPIbelt so there was no consequence to my toes even though I ran in them for five miles.

Another thought that kept recurring as I ran was the idea of proprioception, an awareness and connection to the ground. Although the Kinvaras are a minimal style shoe, they stand more than 20 mm off the ground and have a difference of about 6 mm between heel and front. The Hattori sits your foot just 4 mm from the ground with zero drop and you notice that right away as you take your first strides. You can really feel the ground so you better be striking forward, lest you land on a piece of gravel on your heel. That will teach you. It's not hard to land forward though, this shoe does that work for you.

I was somewhat concerned that a shoe that offered no real protection and little cushioning would take a toll on me after even five miles but I had no troubles during or afterward. I have been running in the Kinvaras for over a year so perhaps I was already conditioned to a more minimal experience. I loved the feel of these shoes from the first steps off my driveway. I felt like my running was easier than normal throughout my workout.

Yesterday I ran in Central Park with my friend Steve and I wore my Kinvaras. It was sunny, hot and humid and we only covered three miles but it felt far harder than the five miles today. I cannot wait for my next run in the Hattori's but I'll need to get some new socks. Did someone say REI?

Friday, May 27, 2011

It's not summer, but it's Summer Friday

Today is the first of my company’s “Summer Fridays” and it’s appropriate that it falls on the day before Memorial Day weekend. I’m not saying NYC is a ghost town this morning but my office floor is virtually empty. Perfect conditions for a productive morning. Some of my best running adventures have happened on Summer Fridays, including runs across the GW Bridge, the West Side Bike Trails, the Brooklyn Bridge and along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. Today I’m running in Central Park around lunchtime with my friend Steve. After that I’ll head home to start my long weekend.

When I got home last night my Hattori’s were waiting for me and I wasted no time trying them on. My daughter pronounced them “even cooler than the Kinvaras.” High praise indeed. The Hattori does not look like a running shoe and, if not for its sturdy mid-sole/out-sole, I would take it for a slipper with a very over-the-top design. The shoe fit me snugly and was extremely comfortable on my foot. I then tried it without a sock and it felt great. But I won’t run that way. Not my style. I think I’ll need to find thinner running socks though.

I resisted temptation to run in the Hattori’s last night and I’m not wearing them on today’s run because the zero drop and flat platform may take a little adjustment. You can bet I’ll be running in them tomorrow, or maybe I'll take them for a spin this afternoon when I get home. After all it is a Summer Friday.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Even Saucony's website is minimal

Click on picture for larger view
I noticed that Saucony has changed the look of their website to super minimal this week to celebrate the launch of the Hattori. I just looked at a pair at the Super Runner's Shop in NYC. Can't wait to try them on.

Going more minimal

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

The waiting is the hardest part
I've been waiting excitedly for my Hattori's to arrive from Saucony. I was told to expect them early this week but, so far, nothing. I'm curious to see how I'll run in a shoe that provides little in the way of cushioning and with zero drop-off between heel and toe. I've been running in "minimalist" shoes (Saucony Kinvara and now Mirage) for over a year without a problem. The Hattori represents a whole new level of minimal.

Last summer I experimented with pool shoes, running a couple of miles around my neighborhood to see how it felt. Unlike the shoes I was wearing, my pool shoes gave me no option but to land forward in my stride. The downside was that my feet quickly developed blisters. I suppose socks would have helped that but the pool shoes were far too floppy to seriously consider for distance running. I'm hoping the Hattori's provide the same connection to the road that I got from the pool shoes but will also provide the protection and comfort of a trainer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Planning my long weekend race training

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I went back out to the streets this morning after two days of rest. Although the temperature got into the low 80's yesterday and similar weather is predicted for today, I was happily surprised by how cool it felt when I stepped outside. It took almost a minute for the Garmin to lock onto a GPS signal so I used that time to do a few dynamic stretches.

The two day's rest definitely helped me at the start. Instead of the early discomfort from transitioning between anaerobic and aerobic running, I was good to go from the start. I followed my basic route and threw in some speedy sections throughout the run. My knee felt fine but I did experience some sharp shin pain a couple of minutes into my run. That went away and didn't return so I'm not going to worry about it.

I'm beginning to think about my (long) weekend's running and what might be the best workouts to close my training prior to my taper for the 8K. Right now I'm thinking one long run, one speed session and one shorter, but faster, run. Maybe I'll hit the trails with the bike as well. Lots to look forward to and hoping for good weather.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Workout canceled

I wasn't sure about this morning's weather so I'd planned an elliptical workout in case it rained. When I got up I decided to take an ad hoc rest day instead. No real reason for that except that I got a late start this morning and didn't want to disrupt my schedule. I'm sure my knee won't mind. I just noticed that the New Hyde Park 8K is happening the weekend after next. I'm hoping to beat my 2009 and 2010 race times (which were identical) this year. Even if it's only by a second.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Recovery method: longer running instead of rest

After yesterday's run I was concerned about my left knee and its recovery. It's been almost a month since I aggravated this knee. The injury was probably caused by too much distance and hard training prior to my half marathon. Since then I've kept my runs relatively short and have tried to do more low impact activities like elliptical and biking. That seems to be working.

This morning my knee feels even better than it did before yesterday's long run. There was an article in a recent Running Times that said easy long runs can be preferable to resting for recovery from minor leg and knee issues. Supposedly the easy running over longer distance helps oxygenate muscles. Considering how well I feel today, this method may have merit.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Long run at Bethpage and REI is here!

My run among the bikers
Yesterday afternoon's workout (biking): 5.8 miles
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 6.6 miles

Yesterday afternoon I had a break in the schedule so I went out for a neighborhood bike ride. I kept it to about 30 minutes. The first three minutes had some stops and starts due to equipment issues that I needed to resolve on the fly. A half hour provided enough time for me to feel like I'd done some work. Still, it was easy enough that I didn't need to disrupt our evening plans with another shower.

This morning I headed over to Bethpage to do my long weekend run. I haven't done much more than five miles on any run since the half marathon. Even though my knee is still tender it's ready for more distance. I targeted 6-7 miles for this morning and ended up running 6.6. When I arrived at the park the parking lot was 3/4 filled and I noticed a lot of bikers gathered near a table set up near the bike path starting point. I learned later that the were holding an event called Bike MS: Traffic Free Family Fun Ride.

I knew then that I'd have plenty of company on the trail and I worried a bit about inexperienced cyclists who didn't understand how to share the road with runners. With one exception, a serious looking cyclist who came up behind me and passed to my left with barely a foot of clearance, the other bikers were extremely courteous. Most experienced cyclists provided the requisite and helpful "On your left" as they approached.

I had a PowerBar Strawberry Banana gel prior to my run and I carried my Amphipod hand bottle filled with G2. Both provided good energy. I ran at an easy pace and was able to manage the frequent hills without much trouble. Near the end of my run I was passed by a young woman who was moving so well that she soon passed me again,  going the other way. I wasn't trying to break any speed records but she was probably running double my speed at that point.

The MS Bike volunteers cheering in another cyclist
Once I crested the dreaded last hill I was ready to call it a run. I was happy to note that my knee held up well till the end. As I made my way to the final downhill that leads to the start of the path I saw the two "cheerleaders" who were waving their pom poms to celebrate every charity biker who finished. The high school aged cheerleader even gave me my own rah! rah! finish that I appreciated. It was a nice event for an important cause and they had a great turnout.

Later in the day we went over to the REI that (finally!) opened on Long Island. I felt like a kid in a candy store and I could have spent the entire day there. We got our daughter a mountain bike and I also picked up some gels and Brooks running shirt that was on sale at a great price. It's been a busy and active weekend. Since noon on Friday I've done almost 14 miles running and another 5.8 biking. I'm looking forward to my weekly rest day tomorrow.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A rigorous rainy run in Central Park

Remember the Maine! Because that where we're meeting.
Yesterday's run (Central Park): 4.65 miles
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

There's quite a contrast between today's bright sun and yesterday's rainy, cloudy skies. Friday morning had started out dry but, by 10:00 AM, the streets were wet and the umbrellas were open. I mentioned in a meeting that I planned to go out at around noon for a run in Central Park and got the expected "You're crazy" and "Why would you want to do that?" responses. I checked in with my friend CK who was game for a run, regardless of the weather. We confirmed our plan to meet at the statue of the USS Maine at 12:30.

It was chilly and drizzling as I began my walk to Columbus Circle. I wore a short sleeved shirt and running shorts because the humidity was in the mid 70's and I knew I'd get hot while running. I arrived early at the statue and CK was already there. We started our run by heading south along the lower loop,  and then heading east. The rain wasn't too bad and, despite my glasses, I had no problem seeing. My real problem was keeping up with CK.  He was looking to move along at a faster pace than the 9:30 that I was maintaining as we worked on the first few hills.

We kept going north until we reached the reservoir and ran around it until we'd reached the west side. From there we exited onto the bridal path and tackled a hilly section before we crossed over to West Drive. We increased our speed from there, running closer to a 8:50 mile, which was a hard pace for me and a relaxing one for CK. Those hills always get to me.

We finished where we started and by then the rain had increased to a steady fall and I felt cold on the walk back to my office. By the time I got there I was soaked, a combination of sweat and rain. I toweled off with Wet Ones and grabbed a quick bite. Though I hoped I could spend the afternoon sequestered in my office, I was pulled into a bunch of meetings. No one seemed to notice that I'd gone without a post-run shower.

This morning I was extremely pressed for time so I went out for a short run. I'm planning to do some biking with my daughter later so I didn't care about distance. Speaking of distance, my friend FS ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon this morning. Conditions were ideal so I'm hoping she had a great experience. That race was my first choice for my first half but registration was closed by the time I tried to sign up.  Maybe next year.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Central Park running on the schedule

If the weather holds through lunchtime I'll be running in Central Park with my friend CK. The last time we ran together was in January along the streets of Naples, FL, in the early morning fog. CK is a far better runner than me but he's very patient and flexes (somewhat) to my pace. It usually becomes a subconscious tug of war between us where he ever-so-slightly pushes us towards an 8 minute pace while I push back in the other direction.

We're targeting about four miles today, or maybe a little longer than that since we plan to run up the east side of the lower loop, circle the reservoir and then head back down. CK has been dealing with a chronic foot injury for a while so his distances are limited. That works for me. Lengthy runs in the middle of the workday can make for an uncomfortable afternoon in the office, especially when there's no after-run shower. If the rains do come that could solve the problem quite nicely.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Hattori's will show me how much minimalism I can take

The Saucony Hattori - a most minimal shoe
Today's workout (elliptical) 25 minutes

I'll be posting my review of the Saucony Mirages soon on Runner's Tech Review and I'm excited that I'll soon receive a pair of Hattori super-minimal shoes from Saucony. The Hattori are a zero-drop shoe that weigh an unbelievable 4.4 oz and are being marketed as a trainer -- not just for intervals and racing. My taste in running shoes has changed for good since I switched to the Kinvaras about a year ago. The lower platform and a flatter drop (the Kinvara's is ~5.5 mm) feels right to me, more so than the built-up Brooks Adrenalins that had been my gold standard.

The Mirages have proven to be a worthy addition to my collection and I would probably appreciate their minimal features more had I tried them before the Kinvaras. Going from the Kinvaras to the Mirages is a bit like trading up from a fast but simple sports car to high performance luxury GT. It will be interesting to run in the Hattori's which may be more like riding a trail bike. That actually sounds pretty good.

Champion Activeflex - lightweight, cheap and painful!
Related to minimal shoes, I was at Payless this past weekend because my daughter needed some shoes for an event. I checked out the men's shoes and saw this Kinvara look-alike on sale for $29.99. I tried it on and was surprised by the way it fit. Not too bad. The shoe was lightweight (it really did seem similar to the Saucony) and the foot bed felt springy. I trotted across the floor and that was when I felt the difference, the upper flexed in a way that dug painfully into the top of my foot. I couldn't take them off fast enough. Another example of why we pay for quality brands.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is cadence the key?

Not quite stepping lively
Today's run (treadmill): 2.51 miles

I had lunch yesterday with a friend, TC, who's just been granted entry to the NY Marathon after being accepted as a charity runner by the Boomer Esiason Foundation (Cystic Fibrosis). TC is about to start serious training and he asked me to help him set up his Garmin FR60 on Garmin Connect. Although TC has been using this watch for months, he's never uploaded his runs. I had no idea that the FR60 could hold 90 workouts but that's what was uploaded. It was interesting to see his runs displayed on Connect. I couldn't help but compare his typical pacing and cadence to mine. It wasn't much comparison though. He seems to average 90 SPM while I'm happy when I exceed 84.

I thought about cadence this morning as I ran on the treadmill. I'm past thinking that any one thing (core exercise, LSD, tempos, Chia) will produce measurable improvement. However, it seems logical that an increase in cadence would align with an increase in running speed. As I worked my way up from my easy start, I was curious to know if my cadence would increase as I moved my pace from 9:50 to 8:50 over my run. After the run I realized that the FR 210 doesn't capture cadence data off the foot pod so I'll never know how I did for SPM today. I guess I'll need to revert to the FR60 for treadmill runs in the future.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The FR 210 and foot pod: challenges and results

Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

Foot pod, meet FR 210
I planned for rain this morning and set up my gear for an indoor run. It would be my first time back on the treadmill in almost a month and a return to using the Garmin FR60 watch for tracking performance. I attached the foot pod to my Mirages (I'm already spoiled by the pod-free FR 210) and reached into the drawer for my FR60. It then occurred to me that the 210 also syncs with the foot pod so I chose that watch instead. After a couple of cycles through the menu, the 210 was paired with the sensor.

I started my run at a moderate pace, which is my method of choice for tolerating the treadmill. Start it easy and end it hard. I had a scare at the beginning that my knee would act up but after a moment of pain it was fine and three hours later it's still fine.

I hit start on the 210 and glanced down after a minute to verify that it was capturing my pace. It wasn't until I'd reached the six minute mark that I looked again at the watch to see that, while it was displaying pace, it wasn't recording time. I don't know why that happened but I hit start again and this time noted that the stopwatch was running.

I used the time display on treadmill and the average pace captured by the Garmin to calculate my actual distance (the treadmill does not do that accurately). It was a pretty good workout and I didn't find the treadmill as tedious as I usually do. Perhaps all that biking this weekend helped my running. If that's the case I'm thrilled to find a cross-training workout that's both fun and beneficial.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Running in the morning and biking after noon

Yesterday afternoon workout (bike): 3.5 miles

Although I only logged seven miles running this weekend I felt like I made progress. I rode my bike on both Saturday and Sunday and added ten miles to my weekend total. In terms of conditioning and recovery, this was a good thing. To be sure, biking miles are not running miles, although the work that KWL and I did trail riding on Saturday definitely contributed to my strength and stamina.

After my Sunday morning run the rain came back and I was glad that I got out ahead of it by running early. By late afternoon the sun was shining and the air felt cool so I took a leisurely bike ride around my neighborhood for about 20 minutes. Just like at Stillwell, it's a different experience when on a bike. You go twice as fast with half the effort. The best part is that biking provides a way to work on leg turnover without impact. My knee has improved well and I attribute that to this weekend's mix of shorter runs and biking. I don't expect to increase the length of my rides but I plan to take the bike out more frequently. It's great to have another non-impact option for cross training. But in the end, the goal is to make me a better runner.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garmin FR210 - your mileage may vary

Example of 210 cutting corners, under counting distance
Today's run (street): 3.92 miles

As expected, the rain started last night and continued into the morning. At 7:00 AM I was considering doing an extended elliptical session rather than suffering a soaking run. By 7:30 the rain had slowed to a drizzle and I went outside in hopes of running 30-40 minutes before the next deluge. Yesterday's Stillwell workout was rough, in the best of ways, but I felt no residual effects of it this morning.

It didn't take too long to acquire a signal on the Garmin and I took off after a couple of minutes of dynamic stretching. I still had some pain in my left knee but it wasn't too bad. At this point it's an irritant more than an injury and it usually goes away after a few minutes.  I felt that I was moving fairly well at the beginning but according to the Garmin I was running slightly over 10 min/mile. By now I know the difference between a 9:30 and 10 minute pace and I also know that the Garmin, at best, under-counts my speed by 3%. I didn't worry too much about my pace but I began to pick things up by mile 2.

After verifying my true distance on Gmaps I saw that the Garmin had under-recorded my run by 6.8%. An examination of my route recorded on the 210, using Garmin Training Center, showed the many variances from my actual route that added up to that margin of error. I'm guessing the heavy cloud cover may have interfered with the GPS sampling frequency. I was hoping that this watch would provide a closer margin than -3%, which seems to be the average variance. I'll just expect to have an even greater variance on cloudy days.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Star Treks - biking and running at Stillwell Woods

Twin Treks - two times the fun
Today's workout (Stillwell Woods): 6.5 miles (bike), 3.15 miles (run)

I'm no longer plagued with noticeable knee pain but the problem hasn't fully disappeared. I'm looking at lower impact workouts to help facilitate recovery. One way to do this is to incorporate more elliptical workouts and to do some biking. This morning KWL came by at 7:00 AM and put on a bike repair clinic, making me and my wife's (15 year old) Trek hybrids trail-worthy in less than 30 minutes. KWL rode one of the Treks instead of his high end Scott mountain bike to keep things even.

Once we made the 5 minute drive to Stillwell we unloaded the bikes and it was strange being one of the "bike guys" rather than solely a trail runner. After a couple of last minute adjustments we headed into the woods with my Garmin 210 and KWL's Garmin 800 recording our progress via GPS. It's been years since I've done more than a cursory bike ride around the neighborhood so after finding myself on hilly and rooty single-track I was a little bit nervous. I was surprised how well I was able to move along and quickly gained the confidence to pick up my speed. The trails at Stillwell were whizzing by, much different from the way it looks when I run them.

KWL demonstrated techniques for navigating rough sections and he taught me optimal body position and when it was best to rise from my seat. This helped a lot when we were going over roots, rocks and other obstructions. KWL also guided me on what gears I should use when going up a rise or negotiating a steep descent. We followed my standard running route that is mostly packed dirt but there is one section that's a mix of sand and gravel and two consecutive gravel and sand covered hills that required a lot of speed on run-up, lest you fall back or stop.

We rode for about 50 minutes and then quickly changed to running gear and headed back into the woods for a 5K trail run. It seemed much different running those trails after flying along them minutes before. I felt as though I was running in slow motion but we actually covered the first mile in under 10 minutes. By mile two the hard work of the ride was catching up with me and I looked forward to finishing. We came around for our last loop and my right quad was complaining loudly. I told KWL that I felt the same as I did at the end of the half marathon. He completed a 120 mile ride last Sunday with 102 miles done during the GrandFondo challenge and had no problems with our ride but he also felt the run.

I'm finally able to upload my activities on the Garmin to both Connect and Training Center and I've enjoyed the mountain of data that you can analyze. One feature that I like about Training Center is the capability to overlay two runs and directly compare progress via two small circles that move along the path relative to their speed on the course. It's me vs. me. I like those odds.

I loved this morning's bike-and-run combo and I know I made progress on my fitness. Mountain biking is a blast, even when you're riding on a bike that weighs twice as much as its modern day equivalent.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger troubles and Garmin struggles

The lost post is still lost. Note today's date
 Yesterday's run (street): 2.5 miles
Today's run (street) 2.3 miles

It looks like yesterday's post may be gone forever. According to the status reports from Blogger, I should have seen my last post restored when the system was brought back up. This has not been the case. It's frustrating and a little scary. You assume that Google would have been competent enough to back up its servers or cache recently posted content before taking down the system for "maintenance."  I may reconstitute Thursday's post using both my original draft and a prematurely published version. Or maybe I'll just let it go and call it the Great Lost Post. Although I should say it wasn't all that great.

Editor's note: Missing 5/12 post has been restored by Google

My post: "Garmin 210 -- Upload troubles but consistent inaccuracy" referred to an unsuccessful attempt to upload run data from the Garmin 210 to Garmin Connect. I'm hoping to resolve that issue this weekend. Wednesday and Thursday the Garmin under-counted my runs by about 3.5%. This was a disappointment, but not entirely unexpected, since my prior experience with GPS tracking on my iPhone showed substantial inaccuracies. I want to see what the Garmin recorded in terms of route vectors compared to my actual path so I can better understand where the 210 came up short.

This morning I went out for a run and I followed a different route from Wednesday and Thursday's. This time the error was only 2.2%. I had discussed the accuracy issues with FS who suggested that this morning's route may have had less curves and turns which would explain the higher accuracy. I believe she has a point. I'm really hoping I can get the Garmin to actually connect to Garmin Connect so I can upload and analyze my runs. Tomorrow morning KWL and I are  planning to do a mountain bike ride and follow it with a 5K or 4 mile run. It will be the first time trying the 210 in the woods. Should be interesting.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Garmin 210 -- upload troubles but consistent inaccuracy

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Yesterday's run, as recorded by the Garmin 210, came up short when compared to route mapping on both Gmaps and Google Earth. The variance in distance was about -2.5%. That seems close when viewed reciprocally (being 97.5% accurate) but I commonly saw less than +/-1% variance with a calibrated foot pod. I tried to upload my run to Garmin Connect so I could view the GPX and KMZ files that would show the recorded vectors against a Google map and, perhaps, reveal where the GPS capture cut corners. Unfortunately that attempt didn't work within the time I had to try it so I'll fight that battle this weekend.

I went out today and followed the same route as Wednesday, using yesterday's distance as a benchmark. Both runs felt about the same but I ran about 39 seconds longer this morning. The Garmin recorded the route .01 miles less than yesterday's distance so at least the 210 is consistent in its inaccuracy. I'm disappointed with Garmin for having such poor documentation related to uploading runs and I'm also disappointed to discover that the GPS is under-recording my distance. But I do like the watch and I'm certain that I'll get it all figured out eventually.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First run with the Garmin 210

Now it's just me, the road and 10 satellites
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Last night UPS delivered my new Garmin 210 and I was excited by the prospect of doing my morning run free of the foot pod and calibration concerns. The foot pod wasn't necessary but after the watches' first use I do question the overall accuracy. I bought the watch online this weekend -- the basic 210 without the foot pod/HRM bundle. I got a great price and free delivery two days later. I un-boxed the watch and plugged it in to charge the lithium battery. Setup took seconds and the watch automatically acquired the date and time via satellite signal.

This morning I was excited to try the watch. My only experiences with GPS tracking were with various GPS apps on my iPhone (bad) the QStarz Sports Recorder (worse). I stepped outside and activated the satellite receiver and the 210 grabbed its connection in seconds. My iPhone usually takes minutes to get a GPS signal. I hit the start button and off I went. My knee is still bothering me but after getting the "okay" to run from the doctor yesterday I accepted the mild pain. Three minutes into the run the pain disappeared and I was able to focus on my form. I think my stride was a little unbalanced at first but I managed to pick up my pace without a problem.

I passed mile one a short distance after my known benchmark but it was close enough to think the GPS's accuracy was in the ballpark. I covered the first mile in 9:27, mile 2 at 9:01 and the last half mile at an 8:50 pace. Those were my calculations based on careful retracing of my route on Gmaps. The 210 recorded my distance .07 miles (2.8%) less than that. I'll be curious to see if the accuracy varies consistently. I'm hoping that an examination of the GPX file overlay on Google Earth will show where the 210's GPS cut corners to end up short. Unless of course, it's actually Gmaps that's off...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Time for my knee to see the doctor

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I'm still paying the price for over-training prior to my half marathon. I obviously aggravated something in my left knee that got worse as a result of the race. Since then I've tried to minimize impact on my knee by keeping my runs below 5 miles. Despite that, my knee continues to feel sore and I'm now experiencing pain in the heel of my left foot.

I iced my knee for about 90 minutes last night and took Aleve before I went to bed. It felt okay when I got up and though I planned to do my usual 2+ mile run this morning, I decided that a no impact workout would be a better choice. I pushed as hard on the elliptical as I would have if I'd ran and in the end I knew I made the right decision. Later today I'm seeing the company doctor (who I understand is also a runner) to get his opinion on whether my injury should be looked at by an orthopedist (please say no!).

Monday, May 9, 2011

Running difficulty? It's mostly in your head

I reached a point in both my runs this weekend where I thought "Gee, this is hard." But when I thought about it I couldn't really identify the thing that was making my run feel difficult. I wasn't having trouble with my breathing or my knee. My legs were beginning to lose energy but they weren't painful. I realized that the run felt hard because I had covered a certain distance and assumed that's how I should be feeling.

The mild discomfort I felt after four miles of steady pacing was nothing compared to the "I just want it to stop!!" feeling I'd experienced during last Sunday's half marathon. I tried to think about how I'd felt four miles into that 13.1 mile race. Four miles represented only 30% of the distance I'd prepared to cover, while on Sunday it represented my full distance. Had I previously decided to run five miles instead of four would my discomfort have started later? It's clear to me that the hardest part of running (until you reach your physical limits) is preventing a perception of difficulty from undermining a good run.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Morning at Stillwell and Caleb Smith at noon

Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.25 miles

Today is Mother's Day and it's been busy. I wanted to get going early but due to some ad hoc celebrating, I didn't get out the door at 7:00 as I'd planned. By 8:15 I was at the trail head at Stillwell Woods with temperatures in the low 50's and bright sun. The holiday had kept most people at home. While I love company on the trails, I was glad to have the place more or less to myself.  I saw some bikers staging in the lot but didn't encounter anyone but hikers during my run.

The woods were alive with birds, rabbits and other creatures and the humidity was so low I didn't even break a sweat until I'd completed my second mile. I wasn't paying attention to my pace but knew I was moving well and I managed get through the hills without much trouble. Due to our tight schedule I kept the run to around 40 minutes but that was sufficient for my needs. My knee is much better at this point but I still feel some soreness when I go from sitting to walking. Happily this disappears with activity and I don't experience any pain when I'm running. Keeping my distances under five miles this weekend was a good move. I'll look to add more distance next weekend.

Things were ducky on the lake at Caleb Smith
One of our Mother's Day activities today involved a return to Caleb Smith Park Preserve in Smithtown, NY. We like this park a lot. It has well groomed and well marked trails, good access to its lake and a small but interesting nature museum. Four miles of trail running and then some hiking at Caleb Smith made for an active day. Later we spent some time setting up umbrellas and furniture in the pool area, providing an unexpected but welcomed upper-body workout.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A whole different level of gear

Grand Fondo registration
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

Yesterday afternoon I headed over to the Roseland Ballroom with KWL and another friend so they could pick up their Grand Fondo race bibs and their official Giordana race jerseys. Unlike the race event shirts we runners get, these jerseys are full zip form-fitting tops that probably cost more than the registration fee of a major 10K. Consequently, there were numerous race participants trying their shirts to make sure they fit perfectly. I suspect many of these jerseys will be worn on race day.

Clothes, bikes and gels for sale
Following the number pickup was a visit to the Expo. The scale was small relative to the RXR LI Marathon Expo I attended last week but there was a lot to look at. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences between a cycling and a running expo. Like running, cycling has its nutrition, hydration, gear, clothing and shoes. But unlike running, there is a whole other world of amazing technology -- carbon frames that cost $3,000, wheels that seem to weigh less than the spokes of my old Raleigh (and cost 10X as much), and sleek machines that rival the most exotic Italian sports cars in terms of functional design.

Focus bikes, an emerging high end brand
It was great to see all this cool technology yet I felt no emotional desire for the clothes, gear or bikes. I'm planning to get my 15 year old Trek road-ready so I can do some cross training at Bethpage and possibly Stillwell but I have no desire to buy a Specialized Stumpjumper. After all, I can buy 50 pairs of Saucony Kinvaras for the same price.

This morning I went out for my first serious run since Sunday's race. I ran on Wednesday but kept things easy and slow. Today, despite the mild soreness of my knee, I hit the road intending to cover 3-4 miles. I figured that if my knee flared up I'd shut down the run to prevent further injury. I'm pleased to say that I had no issues at all. Hours later my knee still feels good - even better than before I ran. I covered 4.5 miles at a mid-nine minute pace. Though I felt I was running faster than that I was satisfied and glad to be firmly back to running in the 9 minute range.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Protect the knee and then build the base

Half marathon finish
I went out after work with some friends and got home later than I normally do. That cut into my sleep and I decided to rest instead of running this morning. I'm very close to full recovery from my half marathon last weekend but my knee is still a little sore. I compare it to how it felt last Saturday, the day before my race. I didn't feel guilty for skipping a workout today because I feel another day without impact on my knee can only help.

I had hopes of going out this weekend and doing at least one heroically long run to mark my post-half arrival. I'm now thinking about a different approach, where I cap my distance at around four miles on each run. That way I can protect my knee as it recovers and add distance each week until I'm back to 10+ mile base runs.

I had lunch with my friend CMc yesterday and he reinforced the need to do training runs at (or longer) than my targeted race distance. This makes sense since I'd never run 13 miles before Sunday and my performance took a tumble after 11. A steady diet of 10+ mile runs at least once a week will put me in good shape to run another half, should I choose to do so. Even if I stay primarily with 10K's I'll see great benefits from that type of training. I really want to be better prepared for my next race.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Goodbye foot pod, hello Garmin 210

Not sure what I want more, the watch or the displayed performance
Today's workout (elliptical): 20 minutes

I'm thinking again about buying a GPS watch. My frustrations with using a foot pod are rising due to accuracy issues and, except for treadmill runs, a GPS solution may be preferable. I started using the Nike sensor back in 2008 to track my performance. It worked fairly well once I got the hang of calibrating it but this technology was only accurate when paired with Nike shoes (that have a well to secure the chip). I don't like Nike shoes and, besides that, the wristband that captured the feed via RFID link was poorly made. After replacing it twice I asked for a refund and bought a Garmin FR50.

The FR50, and later, the FR60 are a great design. I truly love the watches and their easy synchronization with Garmin Connect. My key issue is with the foot pod that uses an accelerometer and needs to be tuned for every shoe. Since I'm a bit of a shoe freak and often switch between pairs it usually creates issues with calibration. I manage these issues through ad hoc adjustments that never quite coincide with my true distance. I've done my share of runs using GPS apps on the iPhone and the results are universally bad, although they offer some good features other than tracking.

With all that I'm reading good things about the Garmin 210, a less complex version of their 400 (and now 600) series GPS watches. The 210 lacks some of the features that the higher end watches have but the 210 does support a foot pod sync (for indoors) and wireless connectivity to a heart rate monitor. I'm going to start pricing out this watch. Father's day is coming!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

First post-half marathon run

Today's run (street): 2 miles

This morning I returned to road running for the first time since Sunday's half marathon. Yesterday's elliptical session yielded good results and it gave me the confidence to push  a little more today. I'd already tested the soundness of my knees and legs with some strides up and down the corridors of my office yesterday morning. It was just after 7:00 AM and there were few people around so I didn't feel ridiculous running the few hundred feet in my black oxfords. That "running" confirmed my belief that I was ready to do it for real.

Although the temperature was showing 58° on the local news channel it felt colder than that when I stepped outside. The driveway was wet and I thought it was raining but that turned out to be runoff from my neighbor's sprinkler system. I started easy with short strides and a relaxed cadence but everything seemed to be in working order. The first half mile was run deliberately, but with a runner's form. As I ran that first segment I thought about my last half mile on the race course and how hard it was to simply propel my legs as I came through Eisenhower Park toward the finish line. My stride felt much more natural this morning.

I ran the second mile 1:20 faster than the first and this further validated my belief that moderate activity after a long run helps restore muscles, speeds recovery and increases performance. I'll go out for a long run this weekend and then take some time to run intervals. I'm curious to see if building my base and also training for speed will yield the performance that has eluded me lately.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hair of the dog

Today's workout (elliptical): 15 minutes

I know what's good for ya!
It was no surprise to experience a recurrence of knee pain yesterday after covering so much ground on Sunday. On top of that, my quads, hamstrings and calves felt uncomfortably tight every time I went from sitting to walking. I'd read an article about recovering from a half marathon that suggested that a short amount of moderate activity the second day after this long run would help restore flexibility to muscles. I think there's something to that claim.

Yesterday KWL and I went out for lunch and, afterward, walked over to SBR, a triathlete shop on 58th Street. KWL is riding the 100 mile Grand Fondo NY challenge on Sunday. This race starts on the GW Bridge in Manhattan and goes all the way to the top of Bear Mountain and back. He's thinking about participating in a run-bike-run duathlon the following weekend. After we'd covered some distance around midtown I noticed that walking made my legs feel much better.

With that reinforcement I elected to do a moderate elliptical session this morning. I kept my speed in check and set resistance to the low-middle range. After 15 minutes I felt like I'd accomplished the goal of activating my leg muscles, raising my heart rate and generating a sweat. I could have gone longer but I decided less would be more. I'm feeling very good after that. If this continues (and the rain holds off), I may go for an outside run tomorrow morning.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The day after 13.1

Okay, another new race distance has been crossed off the list and I look forward to returning to my normal training schedule. I'm not surprised that my legs feel a bit stiff and sore this morning. It's a nice reminder of yesterday's effort.

The winner of yesterday's half marathon probably crossed the line just a few minutes after I'd reached the 10K point at around the 60 minute mark. It struck me that while 13.1 miles is a long distance to cover, my bigger accomplishment was pounding the pavement for over 140 minutes. That's 2+ hours running at more than double my resting heart rate. Daily Mile calculated that I burned about 2,000 calories during the race. That's like going a day without eating!

I need to get my knee back in shape but soon after that I will resume my long distance training. Even if I don't run another half marathon this year, base building will certainly help me be more competitive during my 10K races. The pain of yesterday's last few miles is already fading. I'm starting to think about the next half that I might run.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011 LI Half Marathon race report

Minutes before the start
Today's run (LI Half Marathon): 13.1 miles (10:50/mile)

Today's race was a new experience for me in two ways. It was my first half marathon and the longest distance I've ever run. My performance was nowhere as good as I'd hoped it would be, with an overall pace of 10:50, but I don't really care about that. I expected to do better because I thought I'd done all the right things to prepare. I didn't run for the seven days prior to the event, followed my hydration and fueling plan to the letter, started slowly to reserve energy and worked to maintain good running form. But the results speak for themselves.

My greatest concern for today's race was whether my knee had recovered from my last long base run. I'd definitely hurt something on that 8.25 mile run and, even this morning, it was still a little sore.  My knee became a problem about a third of the way in. I'll get to that later.

I arrived early (6:30 AM) but Lot 6 in Eisenhower Park was already halfway filled up. I wore some layers over my race shirt to stay comfortable prior to the race which I stowed in a backpack at the starting point. UPS nicely provided bag transport to the finish line. I brought electrolyte drink in my hand bottle and added some extra salt. I didn't want to use that before the start but I couldn't find any water and I felt dry. Rather than keep searching for water, I got into the very long line for the Port-a-potty's. This is often an issue at races. It seems like everyone queues up behind a group of them but a few never seem to be used. It wouldn't be a popular job but race organizers could do better by managing the bathroom lines and resources. As a result, there were dozens of runners who took it upon themselves to use the fields that paralleled the starting area for relief (below).

Open sourced bathrooms
The race started on time. I brought my iPhone with me and used MotionX GPS because it has a feature that sends emails every 5 mins with a map and your current position. My wife and kids couldn't join me today but they were able to follow my progress this way. I also had my Garmin and I hit "start" as I stepped on the mat at the starting line. The Garmin's distance calibration was really off but the stopwatch feature was accurate. I followed the crowd, taking the first three miles in just over 30 minutes (actual). The crowd kept things tight but it was close to where I wanted to be at that point. I felt good.

I hadn't realized that the course wound back around Nassau Coliseum so I was puzzled to find us going opposite to the direction I'd expected. Before long we spilled out to Merrick Ave. which borders Eisenhower Park to the west. All was going well until I reached Old Country Road and turned right. My knee, which had felt perfect from the start, began to protest. The pains were sharp and I worried that, with nine miles left to go, I could be doing real damage to my knee. I considered dropping out but I slowed down and the pain was reduced to the point where I felt I could continue. I continued to moderate my pace to ensure that I wasn't doing damage.

We ran through downtown Westbury and it was fun to to see it by foot since I'm usually driving it. They've done a nice job revitalizing the storefronts. I had taken a GU Roctane 30 mins before the start and planned to take another gel at 5 miles so I consumed a GU Expresso Love just before we reached Jericho Turnpike. Along the way I'd been taking sips of the electrolyte mix and grabbing water at every station. I think this combination of fuel and liquids helped me most of the way.

I wasn't running fast but I never stopped throughout the entire race. My heart rate was where it should have been and that's another reason why I'm puzzled by my slow pace. I think I did fairly well for the first 10 miles but the last three were very difficult. The segment that we ran on Jericho went well enough and I was glad to turn onto Brush Hollow Rd. because I had fooled myself into thinking the hard part was over by then. We made our way up the on-ramp to Wantagh Parkway which was a tough hill at that point. We followed that highway for about a mile and a quarter and hit another hill before breaking off Old Country Road where the full marathoner's split off to follow their route.

We quickly turned on Carmen Avenue which represented the 10 mile point but less than a mile later I saw the 24 mile marker for the full marathoners and (in my race fog) deduced we were suddenly at mile 12. In fact it was mile 11. At this point I was fading and all the gels, electrolyte fluid and water stops were not helping me the way they had previously. We entered Eisenhower Park 1/4 mile before the real mile 12 and my calves started cramping painfully. I thought for a moment about stopping and decided "not now, not ever." There's nothing wrong with walking in sections but I didn't want to do that because I feared it would drop my heart rate and make it all the harder to resume.

My friend Brian had warned me that the 2+ mile run through Eisenhower Park would seem long and he was right. OMG it took forever to get to the finish line and the last mile felt like running in peanut butter. I kept telling myself "just go, just keep going" and eventually I reached the winding safety cone path that led to the finish line. My heart sank when I saw my finish time. I was hoping to beat 2:06 but I was nowhere near that time.

Oh, this? It's nothing really.
But I finished! I was fairly disoriented as I walked along the post-chute pathway, following those who had finished right before me. I must have looked bad because a race volunteer came over and said "are you alright?" I said yes but I wish she had given me some water. Our line wound past volunteers handing out finisher medals (my first ever BTW)  and into a tent where they handed out string backpack race bags containing fruit and a bagel. I explored the Finish Line Festival but was anxious to return home to see my family. I called my wife and she and the kids were hooting it up, congratulating me. They had just seen me cross the line minutes before on the latest MotionX update. Seconds later the iPhone died due to the GPS drain. Perfect timing.

I got home and was greeted with excitement by my wife and kids. The kids made me great cards commemorating the achievement. I noticed that on my pre-race "To Do" and checklist that my wife had added "Run 13.1 miles" and it was checked off. It was an amazing morning and a new and exciting experience. Will I run another half marathon? Possibly, some day. I have to forget how hard this one was before I do that. Will I ever run a full 26.2? I just can't imagine it!

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