Friday, September 30, 2011

Bright morning on the Shining Sea Trail

Today's run (Shining Sea trail, Falmouth, MA): 5.3 miles 

School is closed because of a religious holiday, so we decided to take an impromptu trip to Cape Cod. We've spent a lot of time at the Cape and usually stay in our favorite place in Falmouth. I headed over to the Shining Sea bike trail around 6:30 AM this morning and parked in a lot that's adjacent to the trail head.

This trail is part of Falmouth's rails-to-trails system that covers many areas around the town. I set out on my run and noticed a similarity to the Bethpage bike trail, including a downhill section at the start. I enjoyed the change of scenery that included picturesque woods and cranberry bogs that spread out on both sides. There were a number of people out walking their dogs at that early hour, plus a group of cyclists and a single runner.

The trail was alive with all sorts of animal life. I counted six cotton tailed rabbits, many squirrels, and even some horses being ridden on a side trail. I ran south until I reached the 2.5 mile mark and continued another .15 miles until I reached a crossing where I turned back toward where I started. The way back felt more uphill so I was looking forward to the finish by the time I reached 5 miles. The last part of the run was an uphill section and it again reminded me of Bethpage where a tough long run is always completed with a big hill at the end. Compared to James Street or Bethpage this was fairly easy and soon I was done.

I may run this trail again tomorrow morning before we head back to Long Island. I do wish that we had a system of trails like that one in my town. But I can't really complain since I have Staywell Woods so close by. A run there before the end of the weekend would make a nice bookend to today's run on the Shining Sea.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Payoff from yesterday's ad hoc workout

Today's run (street): 2.6 miles

I'm the early morning darkness it's sometimes difficult to tell if its raining until you actually step outside. I've misjudged the weather more than once and been forced back upstairs onto the treadmill or the elliptical.
I feared that I might encounter a light rain when I stepped out this morning, but the skies were clear and the humidity was moderate.

The light was interesting at 4:00 AM, brighter than I'd have expected, with a light breeze moving the trees around. I set off and immediately felt the difference in humidity compared to Sunday, when I'd last run outdoors. It was much cooler today, and the slight winds were making it feel even more comfortable.

My short, but tough, incline workout on Tuesday seemed to help my stride today. I had no trouble getting up to speed and I moved along with less effort than I usually require for the pace that I maintained. I added a little more distance to my route as I was enjoying the experience of a good run that can feel almost like floating. Today's run was a good reminder that mixing up your training focus with speed and hill work can lead to better results on the road.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When time is short, make the workout harder

Artist's Rendering
Today's workout (treadmill): 12 minutes - 7.5% grade (average)

I usually wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off so I was shocked to see that it was well past 4:00 AM when I opened my eyes this morning. I'd forgotten to set my alarm and slept 30 minutes later than normal. I'm sure I needed the additional rest, but it threw off my timing for today's workout.

I modified my plan so that I'd get the maximum benefit from the time that I still had. I chose the treadmill and quickly changed. I started with a moderate pace and cranked up the incline, beginning at 4 percent and moving up to 10 percent after a few minutes. I only had twelve minutes to get it done, so I wanted to make it worth the effort. By the time I completed this workout I felt like I'd pushed hard enough for it to count.

It was disappointing to miss my planned run but the incline workout proved challenging. I was pleased that I was still able to get some activity in this morning. On top of that I got some extra sleep. Always a bonus.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making the decisions to run

Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

If you see a fork in the road, take it.
This morning I faced some minor decisions about when, what, where and how I would run. I usually have the details of the next morning's run mapped out in my head the night before, but I struggled with indecisiveness today.

My first decision was whether to go out in the dark or wait until the sun poked through enough to allow me to run without a headlamp and reflective vest. I had awoken around 5:00 AM and made a pot of coffee but by 6:00 I began thinking about getting going on my run. I decided to wait until 6:30 when there would be adequate light, and I put on my bright yellow Adidas jersey to ensure my visibility.

My second decision was where to run. I love my neighborhood but I sometimes find the scenery a little too familiar. I thought about the trails at Bethpage or Stillwell but I didn't really feel like driving to another location to run. I settled on a route that followed the outside edges of my neighborhood, a compromise between proximity and novelty.

My last decision before I left was which pair of shoes to pick. I ran in the Mirages yesterday to give me a little extra protection. I considered them again for today and then thought about the even more cushioned Adrenalines. Ultimately, I chose the Hattori's that have served me well for 200 miles and counting. As much as I like the protection and stability of the other two pairs, the Hattori's still provide me the lightest and most connected experience with the road.

I felt great for the first two miles, even though I had some challenges with the abysmal condition of the sidewalks on South Oyster Bay Road. I encountered broken concrete slabs jutting up at 40° angles plus brush and branches that haven't been cleared since Clinton was president. That section does force some agility, but I wasn't in the mood for it today.

Just south of the LIE overpass is a small road that leads into neighborhood #2.  I followed that entry point and covered a couple of miles before I headed back towards home. I had run fairly slow, owing to the high humidity, and I decided to pick up the pace from there. My last decision during my run was whether to take the fast way back or extend the run a few more minutes by following a longer, more uphill road. That was what I chose to do, imagining that I was coming through my last quarter mile of a race and pushing my pace accordingly.

I ended up running this route about 30 seconds slower per mile than my usual pace for that distance. This didn't bother me because I know by now that the humidity affects my performance enough to make that difference. It was a tough run today, but in terms of my decisions, I regret nothing.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wearing the seagull proudly

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt
Today's run (street): 3.9 miles

The rain stopped this morning, so I took advantage of the clearing skies and went out for my run. I had no plan except to cover more miles than I normally do on weekdays, when I'm constrained for time. I was feeling slightly sluggish on my first steps out the door -- I think it had more to do with the humidity than my physical condition.

I ran easy for the most part, not minding my pace or even looking at my overall time. There were a few other runners out at the same time and I crossed paths with a young woman who appeared to be struggling with her workout. The weather was taking its toll on everyone. I completed my run feeling like I'd worked harder than my numbers showed. If it's more about perceived effort than actual pace then I did well today.

After my run I went for my six month checkup at the dentist. I was wearing my 2011 Cow Harbor t-shirt and my dentist (who is 8 months pregnant) joked that she'd skipped Cow Harbor this year because she'd gained too much weight. One of my daughter's teachers mentioned last week that he'd ran it on Saturday. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, around here, Cow Harbor is the race to run.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Running summer into fall

Today's run (Street): 2.5 miles

Last night my son asked me when I planned to go out for my morning run. I told him 4:00 AM and he noted that, although today is the first day of fall, I would be doing that run in summer. It's true, I completed my run before the Fall Equinox began at 5:05 AM. If I had the option, I would have began my run during summer and finished it in fall, just for the fun of it.

It's hard to believe that summer is finally over. It was a great season for running, but I look forward to cooler days and less humidity. This morning's run was interesting, a combination of refreshing coolness from the wind and high heat and humidity the rest of the time. A perfect metaphor of summer into fall. Lots of rain is coming later today and it's supposed to continue into tonight and tomorrow. I'm hoping for a window of clear skies on Saturday so I can do my first run of fall outside.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wanted: less pain and less rain

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I'm not sure if it's due to method or to time, but after this morning's elliptical session my legs are feeling much better. I'm used to experiencing soreness in my calves, quads and hamstrings after a race, but that usually goes away after a day or so. Cow Harbor really beat me up and recovery has taken four days. Next year I'll make sure I do enough hill work prior to this race.

I'm disappointed to see that this week's rain will hang over through the weekend. I've been looking forward to celebrating fall weather with a long run, but I'm not sure if I'll have that option. It would be nice to return to the trails a change of view.  Besides that, dirt is more forgiving than pavement and I'm all for that right now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

1,000 posts later and I'm still Emerging

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Almost three years ago I published my first post on the Emerging Runner blog. The subject of the post was "Yeah, I'm a runner", a tongue and cheek joke I have with my wife about things I did one time (rock climbing, sailing a 12 meter yacht, fly fishing) and then bragged about it for weeks. But, in running, I was determined to be more than a dilettante. I was ready to commit.

I started running after changing my diet in August of 2008, controlling portion sizes of my meals and making better choices with food. At the same time, I started walking, first on the treadmill and then out in the neighborhood. A month into it I started looking up the road and challenging myself to run to the corner. Soon it was a full street and eventually my walks became runs.

It took about six weeks for me to transition from fitness walking to running, and my commitment was helped along with the strong support of my family and friends. I liked I how felt after I ran and I was fortunate to begin to lose weight quickly. By the time I started the blog in November 2008, I had lost over 30 lbs. No magic diet, pills, shakes or fasts. It was simply eating less and doing more.

I started the blog as a journal to record my progress and as a way to tap into the community of runners. Over the last three years I've received many valuable suggestions, tried most, and adopted some. Even today, I welcome advice from runners like Paul, Dave, Adam and Brian who generously share their expertise and experience.

What have I written about in a thousand posts? A look at the "tags" list on the left side of the blog will answer that question. I mostly write about my runs, but I also like to share what I've learned from other runners. I'm out almost every day, and after three years, I've seen a lot of things on the roads and trails. I often wish I'd stayed with my running back in the '90's because I'd have all that experience to draw on by now. Then I think that I might have developed bad knees from all that running and I feel better for my more recent return.

One thousand post, hundreds of runs and twenty races later, I still feel like I'm an emerging runner. Every run is different and I'm still learning new things. Running gives me a reason to write and writing demands content, so I'm motivated to run. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and for connecting through email and comments. It's great to have friends who share this passion. I'll keep writing if you'll keep reading.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My course is harder than your course

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I gave myself an extra day to recover this week and rested on both Sunday and Monday. The James Street hill played havoc on my calves and they have remained tight and sore over the past two days. I've noticed that I've done better walking upstairs than downstairs, so I planned a route this morning that began with an uphill section. That didn't work out the way I'd expected and my calves and quads were unhappy. When I leveled off, I noticed that my gait felt more natural.

My first mile was sedate but I picked up the pace after that, and ended up with a credible time overall. I wore the Hattori's, which I used for Cow Harbor, and wondered if I should have chosen the GTS-10's or the Mirages, to provide a little more cushioning. Perhaps tomorrow I'll go that way.

On my way into the office this morning I ran into a couple of friends, one of whom had recently run a 6.5 mile adventure race that included obstacles like water crossings and wall climbs. She said the race was intense and there were many Navy SEALS competing on that difficult course. I said, "Well, I ran up a big hill on Saturday." Somehow James Street didn't seem quite so impressive.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Every child gets a trophy

Proud to be a participant
There's a lot of talk these days about how parents reinforce mediocrity by rewarding children for doing nothing more than participating in a sporting event. The argument I hear is that children will develop unrealistic expectations about the level of effort required to achieve a real accomplishment. Personally, I have no problem giving a child a trophy for participation, especially in sports, where having an active kid is the real reward. I'm guessing that parents who reward simple participation in sports are likely more focused on practical things, like academics.

I say this because, in every race I've run, only three people get to the podium and the rest (age group winners excluded) get (at best) finisher medals. Actually, most of the time your finisher medal is your race bib and that's why every race number that I've worn is tacked up on a bulletin board in my office. Saturday's Cow Harbor number makes it an even 20 and I'm inspired by each of them every day. With the exception of one race where I came in second in my division, I've been nothing more than a "finisher."

Does it it bother me that this collection represents mere participation? Not at all. In racing, to participate is to accomplish. Just like 19 times before, I earned that trophy on Saturday.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What's next after Cow Harbor?

Unlike most races, the Cow Harbor 10K always happens on a Saturday which makes the weekend seem extra long. Last year I did an easy recovery run the next day and eased back into my normal routine with a  rest day on Monday. I usually get one day of respite after races or long distance runs and don't feel the muscle soreness in my legs until the following day. That isn't the case today though. My calves feel extremely tight and the thought of doing a run today, even an easy one, is out of the question. In fact, I'll probably take another rest day tomorrow and resume my normal running schedule on Tuesday.

Speaking of schedules, I'm trying to plan the rest of my races for the year. Last year I went from Cow Harbor in September to two races in November (with no race in October). My favorite distance is 10K, but there aren't nearly as many 10K's to choose from as there are 5K races. The Huntington (NY) Big 8 10K race is on October 22nd, but I may have a scheduling issue that weekend.

If I can't race on 10/22 then I may run a 5K in October instead and run Hope for the Warriors and the Long Beach Turkey trot (both 10k's) in November. I've never run a race in December, but I'd consider it. I'll check the calendar to see what's going on. Suggestions are welcomed!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Race report: 2011 Cow Harbor 10K

Hooray, I beat my predicted finish time!
Today's run (Great Cow Harbor 10K): 6.2 miles - 9:13 pace

The 34st running of the Great Cow Harbor 10K was a great experience and I was thrilled to have beaten last year's time by three minutes and 43 seconds. But as great as it was to improve on finish time, the story of the day (for me) was running the race feeling strong the entire way through. This experience, unlike last year when I was tunnel-visioned toward just finishing, allowed me the opportunity to take in the details that make this such a great race.

Cow Harbor actually started for me last night with numbers pick-up, when I did the long drive to the Laurel Avenue school where the race begins. I arrived earlier than last year and found parking right away. As I walked the grounds of the school and went in to pick up my race bib, I was reminded again of the scale of this event. I had predicted a finish time of 57:30 and was surprised to see that I was assigned an 8000 series number that meant I would be starting in the 9th Wave.

Last year my number was in the 11000 series and I started in the 12th Wave. I worried that I had overestimated my performance potential but I figured, at worst, that my Wave mates would leave me in the dust. Happily, that wasn't the case.

I headed to Northport this morning at about 6:30 AM and arrived at Northport HS at 7:00. I took one of the shuttle buses that delivers runners close to the starting area. I decided not to carry a bag (although they do have UPS trucks that transport gear from the start to the finish area) so I left my extra layers, smartphone and towel in my car. I made my way indoors because the temperature, helpfully cool during the race, was a little too chilly for standing around.

Many others had the same thought and as I looked around I noticed many very fit looking runners with race numbers starting with 9, 10, 11 and on. Again I worried that I'd planned incorrectly. I chatted with a few other runners to pass the time and around 8:20 I made my way to the Wave area. I ran into Paul and Beth who were standing nearby, getting ready to move into position. Paul reminded me to subtract nine minutes from the quoted split times, which was a good thing to know. We bade each other good luck and I'm guessing that they both did well today.

I saw Brian a few rows ahead of me but I couldn't get his attention. I thought I'd catch up to Brian on Scudder Avenue but he took off faster than I was willing to run. I held my speed in check for the first mile, resisting the temptation to fly down the mostly downhill section. My split on mile 1 was 8:53 - brisk but not too fast. Last year I was feeling draggy almost from the start but this morning I felt like a V-8 with a tank full of gas. I prepared myself for the rise near the end of Woodbine and the big hill on James Street.

I was stunned by how quickly we'd passed through the cheering crowds by the harbor even though the running pack had yet to thin out in a noticeable way. I paced myself behind four giant bananas who were having a great time running the race, and before I knew it, I was taking my first steps onto Widow Hill. I knew from last year to be wary of hill walkers who stay in the middle of the road and obstruct those who are running. I didn't love the uphill effort but I felt far stronger through that span than I did last year.

At the top of the hill I focused on my breathing and used the more level roadway to recover my aerobic rhythm. It took a few minutes, but soon I was back in race mode. I passed mile three feeling remarkably good. I remembered that at the three mile point last year I was desperate for water and feeling very weak from the heat and humidity. The dry, cool weather helped greatly today and I'd brought a hand bottle with a mix of G2 and water to ensure ready hydration.

Near mile 4 the course goes steadily uphill along Waterside Drive. I moved along well, focusing on form, breathing and stride and I still felt strong through mile 5. Shortly after this split we turned toward Main Street and sped up Pumpernickel Hill which, on balance, is far less intimidating than the James Street monster. The top of this hill signals the beginning of the end and the start of a mostly downhill stretch leading to the finish line.

Usually at this point in a race (certainly the case at last year's Cow Harbor) I'm in survival mode, just holding on until the end. When I began the descent towards the finish I said to myself, "All it takes is all you got" and called upon whatever I had left. I came through the finish in 57:12 feeling great about the race I'd run.

I'm really pleased that this year I've achieved PB times on the NHP 8K, the Dirty Sock 10K and, today, the Great Cow Harbor 10K. The weather certainly helped, but I feel really good about my margin of improvement. I ran into Brian at the post-race festival and he was happy to have made it through another Cow Harbor race.

This a great race and spectator event, and with so many elite runners on the course, it feels special to participate. The race volunteers are universally kind and patient and the organizers don't miss a trick. I guess after 34 years they've figured out how to make it all work. Can't wait to do it next year.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Countdown to Cow Harbor

Hills are larger than they appear
It's almost time for the Great Cow Harbor 10K, a 6.2 mile race that can feel a lot longer than that. Besides regularly tackling the hilly sections at Bethpage over the last six weeks, I probably haven't done enough to prepare for James Street, AKA, "Widow Hill." That hill, and the long time spent going uphill on Waterside Drive, make this a challenging event. The saving grace may be that temperatures are predicted to be in the low 50's at start time, with the humidity percentage in the 50-60% range. That contrasts to last year when the heat and humidity were so high that seven people were taken away by ambulance due to dehydration issues.

Tonight I need to go to Northport to pick up my race bib. The race volunteers do a great job handling the 5,000+ registrants, but it's a nightmare to find a place to park and it's tough getting through downtown Northport on a Friday night. I look forward to seeing some of the elite and semi-elite runners who participate in this high profile race. Deena Kastor will be racing on the same course as me!

I'll file a full report tomorrow after the race. It's less than 24 hours from the start. I hope I'm ready.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tough end to my taper

Today's run (street) 2.25 miles

I had planned today's run, my last before Cow Harbor, to be an easy workout that affirmed my readiness for the race on Saturday. I wore my Brooks GTS-10's to protect my Achilles and looked forward to a pleasant run. It didn't quite go as planned.

I double checked that the Garmin was recording properly as I took my first steps toward the road. No problems there. Instead of my expected slow but rolling gait, my stride felt off balance and I experienced some pain in my left shin. My legs felt heavy and my energy level was half of what it was yesterday. I considered stopping and returning home but decided to tough it out. My plan was to run slow and that wasn't going to change.

I'm not sure why I was feeling off today, but it was both physical and mental. I've had a busy week in the office and that continues today, so perhaps it's fatigue as much as anything else. I made it through my run though I changed the route and covered less distance than usual. I felt the workout after all and I'm hoping that whatever afflicted me this morning will be gone by Saturday morning.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Garmins only work when you bother to turn them on

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

With only a couple of days left on my taper, I went out this morning with the goal of bettering yesterday's performance. I was pleased with how I ran on Tuesday so I maintained a slightly longer stride this morning. I listened to my internal metronome at 2/2 time, in hopes of keeping my SPM in the mid to high 80's.
When I was approaching what I'd guess was the 3/4 mark of my first mile, I heard my Garmin chirp. I saw that the watch was going into power reserve mode. Apparently, I never hit the start button when I began to run. I was annoyed, but I decided to run without tracking my time rather than start tracking it at that point. Still, I had a pretty good idea of how long I'd run because I began my run right at 4:00 AM.
Despite having no measurement tool, I pushed my pace using my effort level as a guide to my performance. Given my distance that I measured using Gmaps, I ran approximately the same as yesterday, which is to say, well. Tomorrow will be my final run before my workout and I plan to take that easy. No need to invite injury this late in the game.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Taking performance in stride

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I'm not sure why, but I've woken up with more energy this week than normal. I don't feel like I'm sleeping any better, but once I'm up, I'm good to go. That helped today when I prepared to go out for my run at 4:00 AM. I felt ready, willing and able. Maybe it's the cooler weather.

I hit the road focused on form, paying particular attention to my stride length. It still puzzles me why I don't run faster than I do, and I think I may improve speed by opening up my stride. My Garmin 210 doesn't capture cadence so it's hard to know how I'm doing in terms of achieving 180 SPM. I suppose I could count steps but I find that hard to do accurately.

I ended up having one of my better 4:00 AM runs today and averaged 15 seconds per mile faster than usual. I had plenty of energy to draw on throughout the run and still had much in reserve. Opening my stride helped me move along better than I have in recent runs. If I can feel the same way on Saturday morning, I may just meet my target splits for Cow Harbor.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Now it's all about Cow Harbor

Sunday's run (street): 3.4 miles

I knew I'd get out for a run yesterday, it just took me a little longer than usual to get going. At around 10:00 AM, my wife ordered me out before half the day was gone. I complied and headed upstairs to change.

The weather was cool when I started and though it was sunny, I stayed dry and comfortable for the first couple of miles. I had run for over an hour on Saturday so I took it easy and focused on my form and stride. I thought about my vertical alignment and lifting my knees instead of worrying about my pace. The route that I chose was a variation from my usual morning run with almost a mile added to the end.

 I wore my Brooks Adrenalines to help protect my Achilles tendon that has been feeling sore of late. Even though it was mid-morning, the streets were quiet and I wondered if people were staying home because of 9/11. I thought about that as I was passing the neighborhood elementary school, where half a dozen soccer games were being played at the same time. I guess that's where everyone was.

No need for crew length running socks this year
It was a good run and the right distance to start my taper for Cow Harbor on Saturday. It's going to be a full and busy week in the office, capped off by a Friday night drive to Northport to pick up my race number. This year I'll be better prepared for the crowds and the lack of parking. I see that the race organizers have changed from old style tracking units to bib tags. At least I won't have to worry about the chip band cutting into my ankle like last year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11 experience

I'm probably going to go out for a few miles this morning although I'm not really in the mood. I guess the ubiquitous presence of of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is getting to me. I'm also concerned that the slight but persistent soreness along the Achilles tendon on my right foot may be getting worse. I iced it today and it's feeling better, so I'm wondering if the best thing to do is to rest it. Given that this is probably my last chance to do a 3+ mile run before Cow Harbor, I'm tempted to get outside.

At the suggestion of a reader, Adam (also a runner), I've put together my memories of 9/11 when I experienced these events from my mid-town office in NYC. I've used a feature on Blogger called Pages that I will occasionally use to write posts that are not directly related to running. Writing down these memories has been emotional, but I'm glad to share experiences that I've been keeping to myself for ten years.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bethpage base run better than expected

Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 6.7 miles

With Cow Harbor happening next week, I knew I needed to put in a few more base miles before I begin my training taper. Last year I spent a lot of time focusing on the Cow Harbor route and the strategy to run it. I even did a trial run of the course to understand firsthand the challenges of James Street, Waterside Drive and Pumpernickel Hill.

I haven't done too much thinking about it this year and I'm guessing that's okay. I know from last year that I should take the first mile slow despite the temptation to sprint along Scudder Avenue's downhill sections. Better to reserve energy for the end of Bayview Ave. and James Street's "Widow Hill." I'm really hoping that the weather will be cooler than last year, when the heat and humidity sent half a dozen people to the hospital. Even so, I know I'll reach a point during that race when I'm questioning why I'm doing it. All it takes is all you got.

I went over to the bike path at Bethpage State Park this morning. It's my favorite place for runs on pavement that are longer than four or five miles. The theme of today's run was time, not speed. I didn't care how fast I ran, I just wanted to run at least an hour to help reinforce my conditioning. Bethpage isn't quite as challenging as Cow Harbor in terms of elevation changes, but it's rolling. The bike trail has two hilly sections that can be tough to get over and the worst of it is at the end.

I brought along my hand bottle that I filled with Gatorade G2 and the air was so cool that I didn't take my first sip until I was past the 2 mile mark. Although my perceived effort was fairly low I was maintaining a better pace than normal for this type of run. I was actually annoyed when I looked at my Garmin at the three mile mark to see I was pacing around 9:10 per mile because I wanted to do this run closer to 9:50.

There were many runners and cyclists on the path. I noticed more running groups than usual and I wondered if the Ocean to Sound Relay was happening today (I checked later and saw that it will be held on the 25th). I changed direction after a number of runners coming from the other side had passed by. I feared getting swallowed up by them and preferred to draft in their wake. Nothing surprised me more than when I started passing them, first a few single runners and then entire groups. I was simply maintaining my pace. Interestingly, I wasn't passed by a single runner all day.

By mile five I was beginning to tire but I wasn't losing much speed. I continued to drink the G2 and almost finished it just before I took on the long hill that comes at the end. I didn't take the hill fast but I did maintain a steady rhythm as I ascended. I really appreciated the final 50 meters that is all downhill.

Most women ask for roses
I got to my car and was able to sit down immediately because I had placed an AllSport SeatShield covering on my car's seat. I got a couple of these water/sweat proof covers after my wife (rightfully) complained that towels on the seats don't do a good enough job. She gets mad when I occasionally take her car to runs and her seats end up moist from sweat. These covers, at about $20 apiece, seemed expensive when I realized that they're made of material that's similar to recyclable shopping bags. But the covers fit very well over the seats and kept them dry. If that result makes my wife happy then it's worth every penny!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thinking about 9/11

Today's workout (elliptical): 27 minutes

It's Friday, and although Labor Day made this a short week, it still seemed long. Goodbye Summer Fridays, it was fun while it lasted. I used today's workout to cross train on the elliptical and it was tougher than I'd expected. The rain has stopped so I could have done my first outdoor run since last weekend, but the weight of the week kept me inside. I usually consider the elliptical to be a less-challenging workout, but no such luck today.

The mood is somber in NYC as we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It would have been nice to do a city run at lunch as a remembrance of everything I'd experienced on that day. I certainly covered a lot of ground in the city that afternoon and it all remains vivid and scary. I'll think about it again during my runs this weekend. I'm planning to do a last long run tomorrow or Sunday, in preparation for the Great Cow Harbor 10K on the 17th.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What it takes

Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

My favorite running quote, attributed to Marc Davis (an Olympic runner) goes "All it takes is all you got." Looking beyond the questionable grammar, I find this quote inspiring. I don't think it means giving all you've got all the time. That's something a jet engine has to do. A person needs balance in their life and most of the time all it takes is what you need. But when you are standing at the starting line, it should be all that you've got. Otherwise, what's the point?

I thought about that quote as I fired up the treadmill this morning. I'd hoped to get outside but the rain changed my mind. Since I don't like the treadmill, I try to incorporate strategies to get me through my runs. One technique is to start slow and blip up my speed every minute until I reach a brisk pace that I maintain until the end. Other times (like yesterday) I start slow and stay that way throughout most of my run.

Today I decided that I had to give it "all I got" because Cow Harbor is two weekends away and I can't waste conditioning time on maintenance miles. I started at around a 9:00 pace that felt far faster and thought there was no way that I could maintain that for the duration. After about eight minutes I began to feel more comfortable with the pace and I increased my speed a couple of times until I reached my targeted distance.

I ended up giving it all I've got today and I finished feeling, hot, soaking and spent. Exactly how I like to feel after I've run a race my way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Take it easy (at least 70% of the time)

Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

I read in a recent Runner's World that 70% of your running should be done at an easy pace. This was defined as running at a speed that allows you to comfortably maintain a conversation. The concept behind this "Easy/Hard" ratio is that slower running helps build capillary beds within muscles. Hard running tears up  muscles and easy running repairs and strengthens them.

With the almost constant rain we've had since Sunday night, I planned for an indoor morning run. I really don't like the treadmill but I planned to focus on easy running and save the harder stuff for the end of the week or the weekend. Since I was indoors I skipped wearing a running shirt and that helped keep me cool. I started very slow (5.1 MPH) and worked my way up by tenth of a mile increments until I reached a 9:00 pace. 

In all, I covered my usual morning distance although it did take me a couple of extra minutes to do it. Hopefully the weather will clear and I can get back outside in the morning. Will I run it easy or hard? With my lower back still slightly tender, I'm thinking that I'll defer to the 70% side.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A different kind of labor pain

Happy Labor Day. I'm ambivalent about this holiday because it represents the end of summer vacation for my kids and the end of my vacation week. On the plus side, we are edging closer to fall (my favorite season) when temperatures and humidity both drop. Running in cool fall weather, with the leaves underfoot and the ubiquitous scent of maple from the trees, is about as good as it gets.

I won't be running today. I considered it earlier in the day, before I experienced a sudden tsunami of pain in my lower back while placing some glasses in the dishwasher. This pain came on alarmingly fast and it felt serious. I have not suffered lower back pain in decades and that problem was solved when I replaced my sleep sofa with a real bed.

These really work
My first reaction was to lie on my back while my daughter quickly brought over two ice packs and a towel to place under my lower spine. After ten minutes I was able to perform a couple of hamstring stretches that loosened me up enough to stand.  I walked to the kitchen and took two Aleve. After an hour the pain had dissipated enough to assure me that this was not going to be a major problem.

Suspect #4
I don't know if was the 25% more running miles that I covered this week, backyard soccer played two days earlier or yesterday's obstacle course, but my back had clearly had enough. I've also been using a Brookstone Fitness Stick that is probably putting strain on little used muscles in my lower back.

So no workout today, although I may do some core stretching later if my recovery continues. I think I'll celebrate the rest of Labor Day by avoiding any further labor!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Perceived effort high plus "impossible" obstacles

Today's run (street): 4 miles

More ow, than ouch!
I've been fortunate to avoid injuries that prevent my running, but lately I've experienced some painful tweaks in my knee, shin and Achilles tendon. These tweaks are mild and happily intermittent, but they make me wonder what's behind them. I was reading an article on Runblogger (a very nice running site) about Achilles problems and, while I don't think I have "Hagland's structure", I wondered if running in the Hattori's is creating my Achilles issue. I began to think about running in a different shoe.

At the recent Dirty Sock 10K run, Paul mentioned that he trains in heavier cushioned shoes and races in lighter shoes. Right now he's running in Saucony Mirages, a shoe I occasionally use for training and racing. The Mirage is a luxury ride compared to the Hattori's, but it's still low and relatively flat. I decided to dust off my Brooks GTS 10's, a terrific shoe that I'd shelved for running due to their built-up platform.

Chicken soup for the foot
I went out purposely slow on this humid morning and intended to keep it that way. I know that an easy run should follow a hard run and yesterday's speed work was just that. The Brooks felt really good and I cruised along for a couple of miles but picked up the pace after the second mile. By the time I reached 3.25 miles I was feeling a little fatigued. I thought about the idea of running to perceived effort versus a time goal. Over the next quarter mile I perceived plenty of effort as I approached the hilliest part of my route.

When I crested the highest section I took off fast and finished my run breathing hard and sweating heavily. I knew I'd probably pushed too hard and possibly invited further injury. My Achilles felt slightly sore and my right knee felt tender. But overall, I think I'm okay. My perceived effort certainly exceeded my performance metrics, but so what? As long as my injuries got no worse and my training advanced, I feel that I'm going in the right direction.

We're getting close to the end of summer so, today, the Emerging Runner family held our "Impossible Obstacle Course" in the backyard. Due to the effects of hurricane Irene that landed lots of branches and leaves in the pool, we didn't include a swimming portion. The event consisted of activities like soccer ball dribbling, basketball shooting, hockey stick bowling (don't ask), a lacrosse throw and some running.  It was a nice second workout and we all had fun. Best of all, my knee and Achilles felt fine, both during and after.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My fastest 5K ever*

Today's run (track): 1 mile warm-up, 8 x 200, 1 mile cool down

I knew I needed to get in some speed work so I headed to the local HS track this morning. When I arrived I noticed that the adjacent lot was almost full and saw that the high school team was playing a pre-season game against another town. There were people up in the stands and standing alongside the track that circles the football field. There were also people walking around the track, seemingly oblivious to the action taking place a few feet away.

I started my workout with a brisk mile warm-up that I completed in 8:13. That wasn't bad for a cold start. I followed that with eight 200 meter intervals, with one minute recovery periods, and averaged 6:54 for that mile. I finished my workout with a 1.1 mile cool down run that I did in 8:52. I ended up averaging 8:01 for the 3.1 miles (24:39).

*This can't really be counted as my fastest 5K because it wasn't a continuous run. Knowing that you can stop after 200 meters, or even after a mile, helps keep you moving fast. However, I will say that every second on that track was focused on performance. At the end, I was satisfied that I was doing my best to prepare for the Cow Harbor race.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Encountering a broken path

Today's run (street & mixed terrain): 5.6 miles

Today's run took me to places where I haven't run in months. It was a nice change of scenery. I didn't go far from home but I covered a few different neighborhoods and enjoyed the minor thrill of knowing that I ran from one town to another (and back again).

I started my run by the middle school and then cut over to the business park loop that provides a decent hill challenge that's steep or gradual, depending on which direction you run it. I cut into a local neighborhood from there and saw the landscaping teams out working hard to erase any evidence that we were hit by a hurricane five days ago.

I targeted 5 miles in an attempt to grow my base for the Cow Harbor race but ended up covering more distance. Part of the reason for that was a miscalculation I'd made when I followed a main road that I knew would connect me to the neighborhood that sits directly south of mine.

Along the way my pathway degraded to the point where I was negotiating broken sidewalk, overgrown weeds and branches that had been dislodged by last weekend's storm. That section added distance and cost me speed, as I needed to be especially careful where I stepped with my Hattori's that provide very limited protection. Once I made my way out of that mess I circled the southern neighborhood and completed my route home. I won't be revisiting that route anytime soon.

It was a tough and tiring run but I was glad to have moved up my distance closer to the 6.2 miles that I'll be racing in just a few weeks. I'm not sure what workouts I'll do over the coming long weekend but the weather promises to be good. I need to work on speed so perhaps I'll visit the track tomorrow.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

And the power is back!

Monday's run (street): 3.6 miles 
Tuesday run (street): 3.5 miles 
Wednesday's run (Stillwell Woods): 4 miles

Hey, nice to see ya!
Well the power is finally back after 106 hours. Was it awful? Not at all. A dark house provided great impetus for getting out and doing things and we made the best of it. The only downsides were really cold showers and the need to drive to the local shop at 6:00 AM for morning coffee. But cold showers are invigorating and going out only for coffee when I usually have to go to work was rather nice.

Hurricane Irene seemed to be more hype than horror as we waited out the storm on Sunday. We lost our power at 4:00 AM Sunday morning but suffered nothing more than a coating of leaves and branches in our yard. There were plenty of downed trees in the neighborhood but it still felt more like a bad storm than a hurricane. Except that the power never came back on. I went for an early neighborhood run on Monday morning to survey the damage and saw nothing too disturbing. Apparently the real damage happened out of sight. We didn't see a LIPA truck for days and LIPA's communication was simply poor. That's all I'll say about it but I expect that LIPA officials will have a lot to answer for.

My run went well and though I felt I was running slower than normal, I was actually ahead of my usual pace. It probably had something to do with running after I'd had time to wake up. Tuesday was basically a copy of Monday's run although I followed different roads in hopes of seeing a LIPA crew at work. No luck there.

Yesterday I decided to head to Stillwell for communing with nature and, when I arrived, the entire high school boys cross country and track teams were trotting towards the trail head. I followed them in a few minutes later.

The trails were surprisingly clear. I'd expected to see lots of downed trees across my path but Stilwell looked the same as always. About a mile into the run I encountered the high school team coming from the other direction. The fastest boys had broken away and were swiftly turning toward a hilly section. The second wave greeted me cheerily and I returned the hellos. The last wave were not so happy and some of them had stopped to catch their breath or tie their shoes. It was not going to be a good morning for them.

I followed my normal loop a couple of times and finished up with my longest run since Saturday's 7.1 miles. I do need to push my base training up to six miles and, now that we have a heated shower, I'm considering an evening run tonight. In truth, we've been running around so much this week that I'll probably consider this an ad hoc rest day and go out tomorrow morning instead.

I'm pleased that we're back to "normal" and that I still have a few days left of vacation to enjoy modern conveniences. Well almost. We still need to refill the refrigerator and have the automatic garage door reset. Being without power didn't stop me from my running. But, everything being equal, I'd have loved coffee on demand and a warm shower after my runs.

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