Sunday, October 30, 2011

Running in a (pre) winter wonderland

Frost on the pumpkins, snow on the lawn
Today's run (street) 4.2 miles

Yesterday was a long day for us. We were at a friend's family event for most of the day and by 10:00 PM we were ready for bed. I hoped to sleep until 5:30 or 6:00, which would be late for me, but at 4:30 AM I was wide awake. Try as I might, I couldn't fall back to sleep so I got up. I made some coffee and considered my workout.

I know that I'm not at my best right now and I'm beginning to think it's the flu shot that's contributing to my stamina issues. It's obviously not exhaustion since I only managed to stay asleep for six hours last night. I decided I'd go out for a neighborhood run, targeting the same distance than I'd covered over the last two days.

The lawns in my neighborhood were lightly covered with snow, but the roads were clear when I made my way outside. The reported temperature was 35° but with the wind it felt much colder. I wore compression shorts under my C9 running pants and added my Zensah compression sleeves over my calves. On top I wore a C9 half-zip layered with a short sleeve running shirt. I also wore a fleece hat and running gloves. Together it made for a comfortable outfit that kept me warm at the start but didn't overheat me when I got up to speed.

I took it easy in deference to my current situation and ran comfortably around the neighborhood. I was both surprised and annoyed to see more than one house watering their snow-covered lawn. I wondered if they forgot to turn off their sprinkler systems or if they were truly stupid. Aside from that I thought the neighborhood, covered in snow, looked very beautiful.

I planned a route that would cover a little more than three miles, but when I reached the point where I'd turn onto the last road, I decided to keep going straight and added another mile for good measure. I ended up running a little faster than I wanted to, but I'd still call it an easy pace. Considering that I'm not at my best right now, I'm happy with the last two runs I've done.

My next race, the Hope for the Warriors 10K, will happen in two weeks. I'll follow that with the Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot a week later. I hope to be back at full strength by next Saturday so I can break out of my 3-4 mile malaise and prepare for a longer race distance.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The agony and the not so bad

Yesterday's run (Central Park): 3 miles
Today's run (treadmill): 3 miles

I'm in a slump and I don't exactly understand why. I suspect that it's a combination of things. Since I suffered a bad fall on my driveway a week ago, I've been feeling slightly sub-par. My crash at the end of my run was probably more traumatic than I'd initially thought and, seven days later, I still have plenty of evidence of that.

I had been feeling run down by mid-week and though I did a couple of runs plus an elliptical session since the accident, I felt the need to skip my workout on Thursday. Yesterday I had plans to meet my friend CK for a run in Central Park and I thought the day and a half rest I'd have since Wednesday would deliver some needed energy. I was almost completely wrong but there were other factors at play.

First, I had gone to the company medical center in the morning to get a flu shot. I didn't think it would have any effect on my running, but perhaps it did. Second, I was rushed for time at lunch and grabbed some spicy vegetarian soup and vegetarian dumplings that didn't help my glycogen level. And third, I generally don't run well in the afternoon. So some combination of the above, plus being generally run down, made for a tough run in the park.

CK and I started our run on the lower loop near the 6th Avenue entrance to the park and we headed counter clockwise up the hill. We were moving at a good clip with CK letting me set the pace. I felt okay but was concerned about maintaining that rate over our planned 4+ mile route. Shortly after we reached our first mile, CK asked to stop so he could remove his long pants that were making him warm.

What should have been an opportunity to rest turned into a significant energy drop and as we made our way up the hill I admitted that I wouldn't be able to run the reservoir route. We modified our course by cutting across the Great Lawn and I was truly struggling to keep the pace under 10 minutes a mile. Still it was fun to run the west side of the loop towards Columbus Circle because they had put up the stands for the NY Marathon and were in the process of constructing the finish line area.

We ended up covering our three miles in about 28 minutes but it was the toughest 5K I've run in a while.

This morning, due to the inclement weather, I ran about three miles on the treadmill, starting with a 5 minute walking warm up. I did the running part at around 9:50/min, a comfortable pace, but I really felt it by the end. I'm obviously not at my best but this morning's workout felt far better than yesterday's run.

I'm not sure how far I'll run tomorrow. More than one person has suggested that I take a few days off and get back to strength. It's good advice, the kind that I'd give to others. I'm not sure I'll take my own advice though. Who can resist going out for a run on a cold October morning?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On the one day injured list

Yesterday, I suffered a minor setback with my injuries that were caused by last Friday's stumble. Most of my cuts, scrapes and gashes had been healing nicely, and my finger (hairline) fracture has responded well. But yesterday afternoon, the area adjacent to my knee (where I gashed about 10 square inches of skin), was hurting. I doused the area with alcohol (yowch!) and applied new bandages in my office. That helped, as did a coating of Dermoplast, my antiseptic of choice. Still, I felt like I should rest my leg today, so I skipped my run. I'm happy that I did.

Tomorrow's weather should be much better than today's gloomy mess. I'm planning to meet my friend CK in Central Park for an afternoon run. It's hard enough keeping up with him when I'm at my best so I'm not sure how well I'll do under these circumstances. But since I've only covered nine miles over the past week, I'm up to the challenge.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Female competition as a civil right

Deena Kastor won and lost the American marathon record
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

There is an inspiring article in today's NY Times about Dr. Julia Chase-Brand, a woman who broke barriers by competing in races during a time when the Amateur Athletic Union forbid female competitors. The article describes Dr. Chase-Brand's challenge to assert her civil rights, while she disproved the ridiculous notion that running is dangerous for women. On top of that, she was also forced to endure statements like "Women don’t run. You run. What are you?"

It's unbelievable that these discussions still happened into the 1960's. The sport of running has so many great women competitors. These days, you'll often see more woman runners than men in local races. Yet there are still some bad practices related to gender, like the recent ruling by the IAAF stating that World Records for women can only be attained in women-only races. Just what are these people afraid of?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

World's shortest endurance run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I woke up with my usual disbelief that I'd be outside running in the next fifteen minutes. Although I ran on Sunday, this was my return to the 4:00 AM darkness, where bad things can happen if you don't pay proper attention. With my injuries healing, but still stinging, I got up, put on my running clothes and headed out the door.

Sunday's workout wasn't great, but it confirmed my ability to run. Two mornings later, I expected more, but I experienced tightness in my muscles and in the skin around my injuries. This discomfort forced me to adjust my stride a little and the result was sub-par, mechanical gait that prevented me from generating much speed. I focused on enduring the run, knowing above all else, that getting through a workout is preferable to skipping one.

At the end of my run, I approached my driveway carefully and managed to avoid the raised edge that tripped me up on Friday morning. I completed my usual route in a minute longer than normal and that gave me a 25 second per mile slower pace. Considering the circumstances, I'd call that a decent outcome.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Coming today on Runner's Tech Review

I'm back to my regular running schedule and that means a rest day today. I am mending well and yesterday's run assured me that my injuries will not get in the way of my workouts. I plan to be out again tomorrow morning, ready to face the road again at 4:00 AM.

It's been a long time since we've posted on Runner's Tech Review, but we'll have a write-up on Invisible Shoe running huaraches on the site by the end of the day. It was interesting to see how Adventure Girl and I took to this minimalist footwear and, perhaps, a little surprising what each of us thought about the shoes. Let's just say that I won't be giving up my Hattori's anytime soon.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Post-accident run with a much better ending

Today's run (street): 4.45 miles

Yesterday was a long day, we went to Boston to visit family and came back last night. We were pretty exhausted by the time we went to bed and I'd hoped that it would lead to a good night's sleep. With my scrapes and bruises from Friday's accident still mending, it was a little hard to get comfortable. I woke up groggy and with a headache, but I was determined to get outside for a run.

I wore a pair of loose running pants to protect the bandages on my calf and knee and a long sleeve running shirt to cover my elbow bandage. With my left middle finger in a splint and bandages across the back of both hands, I probably looked worse than I felt. I'd taken a couple of aspirins and a Sudafed and, while I felt strong at the beginning, I think the Pseudoephedrine was sapping my energy as I ran.

Despite all the damage caused by yesterday's roll and slide on concrete and blacktop, I was fortunate to avoid any injury that affected my ability to run. I purposely kept my pace easy and that helped me get through the distance. I followed a meandering route that had a few roads with slight elevation and I realized that I'm liking running hills more and more. I may be ready to return to the monster hills at Stillwell.

I headed back toward home after passing four miles and when I reached my driveway I was especially careful to avoid the raised edge that sent me sprawling on Friday. Having missed my run on Saturday, my weekly mileage will be lower than normal for the week.  No matter, I was glad to get back on the road and finish the week with a good running experience.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Laying on my driveway at 4:25 AM

One fall, many injuries: (knee, elbow, shoulder, both hands)
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Most of today's run was pleasantly routine but it ended badly. I'd expected colder weather when I laid out my running clothes last night, including long sleeves, long pants and running gloves. The local TV station showed 55° this morning so I opted for short sleeves and running shorts. In retrospect, I wish I'd gone with the original gear.

I ran my usual loop and besides the mild but persistent pain in my lower Achilles, I felt pretty good. By the first mile my Achilles pain had disappeared (as it usually does) and I concentrated more on leg turnover. I had read that arm motion influences cadence and I tried to run with more upper body movement to see if it had a measurable effect on my speed. I'll look at the Garmin read-out to see how my pace compares to earlier in the run, after trying that method.

I was preparing to hit the stop button on my Garmin when I reached my driveway and took a sliding spill along the blacktop. Apparently, my foot caught the edge of the concrete section that leads to the street. I remember falling and hitting the ground, my headlamp flying off and clattering on the ground. It was still very dark at 4:30 AM but I could see a lot of blood and the middle finger on my left hand was numb.

I collected my headlamp and righted myself. It took me three tries to key in the security code to open the garage door and I concentrated on keeping the den floor clean from blood once I'd made it inside. I washed my wounds and sprayed liberally with Dermaplast. Once I saw the extent of my injuries I went upstairs to tell my wife who was up and attending to the damage in an instant. She is a Red Cross volunteer and has been trained to dress wounds. That came in very handy today.

I soon realized that the bandaging required for the size and amount of cuts and bruises that I'd received would greatly limit my mobility. Besides that, my finger was aching and I wondered if I should go for X-Rays. I decided then to work from home today, since I wasn't able to shower and probably couldn't manage well on the train and subway.

I'm feeling better after ibuprofen and icing my finger. I can't believe how quickly a routine run could turn into a day-changing event. It could have been far worse and I was fortunate that if I was to trip, it would happen in front of my house. I won't be running tomorrow but hopefully by Sunday I'll be ready to (carefully) return to the road.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My definition of victory

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I had lunch yesterday with one of my running mentors, a man who has competed for decades. I told him about Saturday's race and we laughed about my sprint to the end, where I beat out another runner by a second. That made me think about why I race and what I expect from the experience.

I know that there are many runners who line up at the start of a race expecting to win, or to place high in their age division. I know a few of those people, some of whom read this blog. I admire and envy them but I know that I'm never going to be a front of pack finisher. I'm not conceding that I'll never have another age-place win, but I usually come in right in the middle of overall finish order.

Despite the fact that I'm barely competitive in my own age category, I do get a lot out of competition. Every time I pass a person in a race, I feel like a real competitor. This past weekend, when I held my own on the hills while many started walking halfway up, I felt like my training had paid off. And yes, as I sprinted toward the finish and held off a young runner who may have thought he'd blow right by me, I felt like I'd won my own mini race.

I've often thought about racing while out on a training run and tried to imagine other people around me, pulling me along. That never resulted in a noticeably faster performance and I think that's because only real competition brings out the best in us. There are few things in life that feel better than crossing the line to see that you've beaten your targeted finish time. I don't worry about those who finished long before me in races, because I define victory many different ways.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Flat out on the treadmill

Today's run (treadmill): 2.6 miles

It's frustrating when thunderstorms move in after days of perfect running weather. I anticipated wet conditions this morning and planned a treadmill run for the morning. We are still having issues with our Sole F63, but the company has responded well. They sent us a replacement console that I installed and that fixed the problem with the speed control. However, the incline function is popping an error that requires recalibrating the treadmill. I can easily do this but the process to go into programming mode isn't working.

Sole is sending some additional boards and cables that will hopefully allow me to get past this issue. In the meantime the unit works great as long you you only want to run level. That was good enough for me this morning, I started at an easy pace and worked up to the mid-8:00 range by the end of my run. It was a good workout, and though I don't really like running on the treadmill, I'm glad I had that option today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I wish I felt as good as I ran

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

I always expect to run well after a couple of days off, especially when my last run was a race. I guess it's the combination of muscle fibers tuned for speed and the benefits that come from additional rest. That was what I'd hoped for when I began my run today.

I was actually excited to get out this morning, two days away from running will do that. I imagined that I was again charging up Berry Hill Road as I headed up the first street. I was moving fast and felt some oxygen debt that sometimes comes from transitioning to aerobic breathing from anaerobic. The recovery from that process didn't come quickly and I found myself wishing that I'd reach the top of the street so I could level off and head down a little.

I suspect my laryngitis is a symptom of a cold or virus that I'm fighting, and this definitely affected my running this morning. But as I ran along feeling a little queasy and under-oxygenated, I was also ripping through the course at about 30 seconds per mile faster than usual. By the time I'd reached my second mile I had settled down enough to focus more on the run. I finished almost a minute faster than normal for that route.

Why I ran so well while feeling unwell is a mystery, but it could be a result of my race conditioning carrying through, despite other factors. I was glad to return to the road today and though I didn't love the experience, I did like the results.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Two days and no running

I spent most of Sunday feeling like I was on the verge of a cold. I decided early in the day not to run at all and was glad later, when I began feeling worse. Lots of rest and a little extra sleep last night went a long way. I'm feeling much better this morning. However, I'm suffering from laryngitis so my voice is still pretty bad.

I'd like to get in a city run while the weather stays comfortable and dry. Most days make this an impossibility due to my schedule, which has become busier with the fall. A Friday lunchtime run would have been great to do this week but I've got a conflict this week. I'm looking forward to getting back out on the road tomorrow morning after two days rest. Happily, my Achilles seems to be cooperating.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hurtin' Hattori's

Along with the damage to my Hattori's toe box yesterday, that probably came as a result of so much downhill running during the race, I also managed to aggravate my right Achilles to the point of great discomfort. This injury has been a long time coming. I started to notice some pain at the back of that foot (just above the heel) some weeks ago, but it never became worse than an uncomfortable distraction. It wasn't too bad after the race yesterday, but later in the day I felt some sharp pains as I walked around.

I don't know why this problem developed. If it is the Hattori's, I'd think the injury would have happened on both Achilles tendons. But running related injuries never seem to occur symmetrically. It could be a combination of the shoe and the way I run. I've been icing the area and taking Aleve since last night, and that combination has helped a lot.

I considered doing an easy run today, just to get outside, but I decided that might do more harm than good. A slow, easy recovery run wouldn't help my conditioning and it would definitely put more strain on the Achilles. I'm probably going to do most of my running in the Mirages over the next two weeks to see if that helps the problem. I love the Hattori's but they may be getting to the end of their usefulness. I have another pair of Hattori's that I can start to use once my Achilles feels better. When I do, I'll know to replace them soon after I reach 200 miles.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Race Report: Oyster Bay 5K

A sweatshirt as a race shirt - very nice touch!
Today's run (Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor's 5K): 3.1 miles (26:52)

Do you know what I like about racing in the fall? Everything. What could be better than a cool, clear morning, sunny skies and no humidity in the air? Answer: all that plus trees with leaves turning from green to gold. That was how I felt as I walked toward the registration area off East Main Street in Oyster Bay this morning, just prior to today's race.

I don't do too many 5K races. I actually prefer to compete in 10K's because I like the strategic balancing of speed and stamina over 6.2 miles. But 5K's can be a lot of fun because they allow you to push harder without having to worry about having enough left by the end. Today's race worried me a little because I knew that the first 1.4 miles were mostly uphill. I trained for that and actually looked forward to the challenge, but I'd never run this course and I really didn't know what to expect.

Registration was a snap, people were well organized and the volunteers were very kind and gracious. The woman who handed me my race shirt - a nice quality sweatshirt actually - wished me good luck and I knew that she meant it. The acid test for any race is how well they plan for pre-race requirements (Porto-Poti's). There were a number of them available, which kept the lines short, even as we got close to start time.

I headed to the line about ten minutes before the 9:00 AM start and ran through some dynamic stretches. The crowd was thickening and I thought I had positioned myself fairly well towards the front. Looking behind me, I saw that I was more than 3/4 of the way toward the back. I figured I'd either pass people to gain position or I wouldn't. Based on results I think I probably passed a quarter of those ahead of me, by the end.

230 miles later
It took me 12 seconds to cross the start line after the gun and, unfortunately, there was no starting line sensor to record those of us who lined up farther to the back. If there was a sensor, I would have recorded a time of 26:40 for an 8:36 pace. My official pace was 8:39, so not that much different and still under 8:40. I think I ran it pretty hard, because after the race I noticed that my Hattori was ripping at the top.

The first third of a mile took us along South Street and then right on Berry Hill Road where the street begins its uphill stretch. We continued up the aptly named Berry Hill for over a mile and I was able to gain some position. I passed a number of runners who were struggling with the elevation at that point. About halfway up this road I realized that I wasn't struggling with the hill at all. In fact, I was actually enjoying myself.

I encountered the first mile split sign along Berry Hill Road, that read 9:08. I knew that I had another half mile before we turned on Sandy Hill Road that would take us back into town for the finish. I knew the steepest part of that road was still to come, so I prepared for it and tried to maintain this pace until I reached the top.

When the turn came I was certainly relieved but still thinking that I was having fun. One of the spectators yelled "Hard part's over!" and I hoped that was true. We immediately went into a downhill charge that set the stage for the second half that was primarily downhill. I appreciated that but downhill running still takes a certain amount of work. But yes, it's much easier than running uphill!

I came through mile 2 at 18:00 which meant that I made up time from my mile one pace. I hoped to continue that progress as we bombed along Sandy Hill Road, past houses with people cheering at the end of their driveways and a construction crew who were doing a big excavation. I wondered when we'd be making the turn onto Main Street and suddenly I noticed runners taking a sharp left that signaled that I was close.

East Main had a short hill and on the way down I saw my parked car. That told me I was close to the finish line. Seconds later I saw the 3 mile split sign showing  26 minutes and I dropped down a gear for the last tenth of a mile. When I was within 100 feet of the line, a teenage boy tried to pass me on my right to beat me to the finish. I increased my pace and beat him over the line by a second.

There was plenty of water, juice, electrolyte drink, bagels, cookies, energy bars, fruit and even gourmet cupcakes waiting for us at the end. I had water and some electrolyte drink but just about everyone else had a softball-sized cupcake in their hand. Nicely done, my complements to the race organizers.

My family couldn't join me this morning because of activities related to my son's birthday but they were all excited to hear how things went when I called. Having parked on the road that led to the finish line, I needed to wait another 25 minutes for the last runners to finish before I could start heading home. It was fun to sit in my car and see these runners and walkers going by. It's hard work no matter when you finish and I admired the efforts of these people as much as those who crossed the line in less than 20 minutes.

This was a great race and I look forward to running it again next year. Next on my schedule is the Run for the Warriors 10K in November followed the next weekend by the Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot. I'm going to try to do a December race this year, if schedules work during that busy month.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A little wind may make a tough course tougher

It was nice to take a rest day this morning, especially since it's been a busy week. I probably should have run through a quick set of core exercises or done some upper body work, but I decided to enjoy my coffee and the extra time instead. I'm hearing that the rain will clear out tonight but tomorrow morning will be very windy. I'm not sure what that will mean to runners, but if the wind comes from the south that long hill on the first mile and a half will be a lot tougher.

Again I've reached the point where my training ends and the result of that effort will be reflected at the finish line the next day. I'm not expecting a 5K PR considering the hilly course and the possible wind issue. Either way, if it's tough for me then it will be tough for the hundreds of others who will also participate. This may be the first time I race in October. Seems hard to believe, but I think it's true.

Correction: I ran the Cape Cod Marathon Relay in October!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Next run: the Oyster Bay 5K

Today's run (treadmill): 2.6 miles

After hearing reports of rain throughout the night and into the morning, I prepared for an indoor workout today. It was damp but not raining when I got up, but I still stayed with my plan. While I was having my coffee, I decided I'd use the treadmill rather than the elliptical. I wanted to end my taper with a run.
Today was about reinforcing my conditioning and then resting until Saturday morning. I'll probably run through my 15 minute set of core exercises tomorrow morning but that will be it in terms of working out. The weather for Saturday is supposed to be clear and cold so I need to decide what gear I'll wear for the race.

The 5K kicks off the annual Town of Oyster Bay Festival that features many events and live entertainment. I'll be curious to see if that means big crowds at our 9:00 AM start. I hoping I'll be able to park close to the registration area. Every race brings new experiences and I'm looking forward to that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Post-doctoral run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

A check of the weather last night showed the possibility of early morning rain. I decided to think positively and prepared my gear for an outdoor run. I figured that I could always defer to the treadmill if necessary.
I was pleased to step out to dry, cool conditions and a full moon. The low cloud cover defused the moonlight but it was still plenty bright. Satellites acquired, I bounded down the driveway feeling like I'd have a good run.

After Monday's "holiday" spent doing medical exams and tests, I was ready to come off my rest day and run hard. The first road along my route is slightly uphill. I normally wish to get past that section quickly, but today I wished that it was a longer road. This wasn't because I was enjoying the run (although I was), but because I feel like I need every hill I can get to prepare for Saturday's 5K.

I finished up with a credible overall pace but I hope to beat that time by 40 seconds per/mile during the race. It will all come down to whether the slowness going uphill will be offset by the speed that I can generate going down. I won't really know until I see the hill. Could it be as bad as Cow Harbor's James Street? I truly hope not.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's harder, running or not running?

I did some hard running over the weekend and a long elliptical session on Monday, so I decided to take a rest day today. I usually run or work out every day of the week before a race (except on the day before) while reducing distance and effort for the taper. Today I needed to rest. Yesterday's marathon session at the doctor took a lot out of me and my body told me to forgo my run this morning.

Since I didn't run I'm feeling energetic, but I know I made the right decision. I feel prepared for the hilly challenge this Saturday and I don't think one day off will make any difference to my conditioning at this point. It's sometimes hard to get moving on my runs each morning but it's often harder not to run at all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Celebrating Columbus Day a different way

Today's workout (elliptical): 37 minutes

Happy Columbus Day. I'm spending the middle of my day at the doctor getting my annual checkup and associated tests. Good health requires activity and a lot of maintenance.

This morning I substituted my run for a longer elliptical session. It was an opportunity to work out with my wife while she ran on the treadmill.  After two days of hill practice today's workout was a breeze.

As I'd mentioned, my wife ran on the treadmill, which survived the console replacement that I did on Sunday. Unfortunately it seems like the elevation control needs to be calibrated and I need some instruction to help me do that. Until that happens the machine won't do inclines. In the meantime the treadmill itself works fine. Nothing is ever simple.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ups and downs at Bethpage State Park

Dear Garmin: I can't recall that 90 foot spike at 1.4 miles
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 4.2 miles -- 4 x 800m downhill, 4 x 800m uphill

Yesterday's training run at the business park provided some hilly terrain but the net gain was less than what I'll face next Saturday. I decided to head to Bethpage and do some hill repeats. My plan was to run up and down the big hill that comes at the beginning of the bike path. This hill comes at the end of my out-and-back long runs and I always dread it. I wondered how I'd feel running it four times today.

Since what goes up must also come down, I started my session going downhill after an initial climb up a steep but short section off the trail head. I ran this hill to the half mile point, turned around and came back up until my Garmin showed that I'd gone a half a mile in both directions. I repeated this exercise four times with no stopping between intervals.

The first two miles were easy. While I'm usually encountering this big hill after an hour's worth of running, today I was still relatively fresh. The downhill segments served as a nice recovery from the harder work of coming back up.  I saw a lot of other runners today and wondered if they were also training for next week's race, since Bethpage's path has many hills along its route.

It was a good workout but not as hard as I feared. The second two miles were a little tougher, but I never felt over-taxed. That may be a sign that my conditioning is in line for next Saturday's course that is half uphill and half down. I didn't push hard on the downhill sections but I didn't hold back either. I figure that after I crest the highest point on the Oyster Bay 5K, I can let loose on the decline knowing that the hardest part of the race has already been run.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Two projects: Pure and Sole

Mis-Connecting with the PureConnect
Today's run (street): 4.75 miles

Yesterday I had lunch with a colleague and then headed over to City Sports to look at some new items.  I'd received an email this week from City Sports saying they had Brooks's new line of Pure Project shoes. These shoes, inspired by the minimalist running movement, have been greatly anticipated. If you follow Brooks on Twitter you might think that running in them approaches a religious experience.

My lunch mate is an avid cyclist so, while he went off to look at bike gear, I made my way to the running shoe section. I was helped by a salesperson who actually knew something about running shoes. This was a pleasant surprise because I usually get people who know very little about the differences between brands and models.

My salesman asked if I'd like to try a pair of the PureConnects, Brook's most minimal model in the Pure Project line. I tried them on and my excitement was immediately deflated when I felt how snugly the shoe wrapped my mid-foot and arch. The back and front of the shoe felt awkwardly separated. The salesperson claimed that this snugness facilitated a mid-foot landing and I told him I didn't think it was necessary to clamp my arch to do that. I did some strides in the limited space and did not think the shoes felt especially responsive.

Undeterred, the salesperson had me try on the PureFlow model which is a little more cushioned and has a stabilizing component that, interestingly, sits opposite from the medial side of the shoe. The Flow felt better on my foot than the Connect but I still didn't like it. I tried a quick "run" and felt no chemistry. My primary rule about a running shoe is never believe sales people when they say "They will feel better when you run in them." Sorry, but no. If it doesn't feel right in the store, I'm done.

The obelisk in "2001: A Space Odyssey" looked harmless too
Speaking of "projects", this weekend I will attempt to do a console-ectomy on the Sole to replace the system board that is preventing us from adjusting the speed of the treadmill. Right now, the parts are sitting in a huge box in the living room and I'm scared to look inside. I have a bad track record with "repairs" and I'm a little intimidated by the task.

Finally, I hit the local business park this morning to practice running roads with elevation. I needed to be back early, otherwise I would have headed to Bethpage. I ran to the park and circled the loop three times before heading back home. The route is not especially steep but there is a steady incline over half the distance.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to get in some speed work as I look toward next week's 5K. I may also try running some inclines on the treadmill. That is, if I don't permanently destroy the new control board today.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Good runs, bad runs, isn't all just timing?

At some point on this hill I will question why I did this race
Today's run (street): 2.4 miles

I looked at a course map for the Oyster Bay 5K that I plan to run on Saturday, October 15. The first 1.3 miles are all uphill and, according to Gmaps and MapMyTri, the overall elevation gain is greater than James Street, the bane of Cow Harbor racers. The saving grace, if there is one, is that this hill stretches a lot farther than James Street, and that may mean that the grade is lower. I'm hoping that's true.

My run today was a little disappointing. After good experiences on Wednesday and Thursday, where I had great energy and form, I had hoped for another good run. I can't explain it exactly, but I felt unbalanced and under-powered this morning. I even modified my route, shortening its length to save time after a late start. As I was running, I thought about whether I'd be the "Thursday me" or the "Friday me" when I go out on the hilly course a week from now.

So, what does it mean when you run well for days and then you don't? In this case, I don't think it means that much. I probably needed more rest and it wouldn't hurt for me to stretch a little. Sometimes it's timing of your performance curve, good days and bad. Right now I'm hoping this 5K coincides with a good running day. With that hill, I'm going to need all the advantage I can get.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gear gremlins and going gloveless

A great headlamp when it works
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

My Petzl headlamp has served me well over the years but this morning I was ready to toss it into the trash. This unit (Tikka Plus) is extremely lightweight and I often forget that I'm even wearing it. But the light weight comes at the cost of fragility. The plastic assembly doesn't secure the three AAA batteries in position very well and slight movements will occasionally disrupt the connection and cause the lamp to go dark. This morning it took me over five minutes to get it operational, time that's much too precious to waste in the morning.

Once I was confident that the lamp was working properly I set out for my run in temperatures that felt far colder than the reported 45°. I immediately regretted not having gloves, but I had a long sleeved jersey that I pulled over my hands. That helped a little, but it caused my shirt to bind around my shoulders and I soon abandoned that solution. I'll plan to bring gloves tomorrow unless it truly warms up as expected. The run itself was great and I nearly broke 9:00/mile which is hard for me to do at that early hour.

I'm toying with the thought of running in Central Park tomorrow. It's been a long time since I've done a city run and since Friday's the lead-in to a holiday weekend, my afternoon schedule is light. I'll decide tonight so that I'll have time to pack gear for the morning. If Friday is as cool and bright as today a CP run could be a great pre-weekend workout.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A zap to the Sole

 Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

The recent change in seasons has reduced the humidity in the air and this is considered good news for runners. However, the consequence of dry air comes from running indoors, when static buildup plays havoc on your treadmill. That was the case this morning for my wife. She is a dedicated treadmill runner and rarely misses a workout. This morning, while adjusting the speed control, my wife felt a burst of static electricity that blew out some of the controls of the unit.

Our treadmill still works, but you can only select speeds of 2, 4, 6, 8, etc. MPH. My wife likes to do tempo runs on the machine and this involves multiple changes to speed and elevation during her workout. Today, she smartly adjusted to a higher incline to make up for slower belt speeds, but it's a compromise to her regular routine. We're hoping the Sole repairman can get to us quickly and restore the F63's controls to full functionality.

I rarely use the treadmill, preferring instead to run outside in the morning. When it rains I am forced to run indoors so I'm hoping that the weather stays dry until the machine is fixed. I had a great run this morning, the temperature was 57 and the humidity was low. I worked on my form and posture as I ran and tried to push my cadence to gain more speed. It's fall racing season so I'm also thinking about incorporating more core work in the days leading up to my next race.

I feel bad for my wife who will need to adapt her routine until the treadmill issues are resolved. She's dedicated to her 5:00 AM workouts but I'm not sure she'd be too keen on joining me on my 4:00 AM runs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

5K is an interesting distance

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I've been remiss of late with my Emerging Runner postings. The past week was busy and I occasionally missed my opportunity to write. I hope to get back on track this week. But who says you can't take a blogging rest day every once in a while?

I've had some low level pain in my knee since Sunday so I decided to do a low impact workout this morning. The elliptical machine is a great thing to have under these circumstances. These sessions yield good aerobic exercise and the elliptical motion protects strained muscles and tendons. My goal was to exceed my targeted distance within my allotted 25 minutes and I put some work into that today.

As I went through today's workout, I thought about my next race. It's a 5K, a distance that I tend to avoid because it's a lot of prep for an event that, even for me, goes by in under 30 minutes. But 5K is a great distance for beginning runners who may not be ready to compete on longer courses. Similarly, experienced runners who can test their conditioning by going out fast and keeping the throttle down until they cross the line.

I am looking forward to running this race on the 15th. It's in Oyster Bay, part of the annual Oyster Festival. Although I live near there, I've never run on those roads. I'm curious to see how I'll do in a race where I can push hard, almost from the beginning, without worrying much about bonking near the end (as happens sometimes when I drive hard during 10K's). I'm thinking that speed and hills will be the theme for next weekend. Hope my knee feels better by then.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Two runs: One muddy and one with my buddy

Today's runs (Stillwell Woods: 3.75 miles, 1 mile: street)

I headed over to Stillwell Woods this morning for a change of pace from pavement. I wasn't thinking about trail conditions, but recent rains had soaked the trees and the paths below. I wore my Mirages that do a credible job on dirt trails, but they have no waterproofing capabilities.

After seeing some large pooling along the main trail, I cut into a side path that would lead me toward my usual loop. The mud was slippery and the Mirages, intended primarily for roads, proved unstable at times. I switched to a different route that I thought might be drier and continued along until I crossed back over to my normal route.

I worried about catching a root or a rock that would send me flying into a puddle of muddy water. There were a few close calls but I managed to stay upright throughout the run. As a result of the mud, the trails were almost empty. I only encountered a single mountain biker and a woman who was running her dogs around the big field.

I circled the field thinking that the sun exposure would have dried out that trail, but I found many slippery spots. I finished my run with hard sprint past the trail head to the Stillwell entrance and then back to my car. I felt so good that I didn't want my run to end.

Another minimalist runner in the family
When I got home, my daughter was up for a quick run around the neighborhood. We recently bought her a pair of Saucony Kinvaras and she felt like taking them out for a spin. We took off at a moderate pace with my daughter pulling ahead with a little more speed. We completed our distance quickly and I was pleased to have had a nice cool down run to complete today's workout.

It's been a really nice weekend for running. I'm aiming to run the Oyster Bay Supervisor's 5K on October 15, so next weekend I'll do some speed work and hill practice. For now I'll just enjoy the fact that I had a great trail run this morning. Better still, I was back to running with my buddy -- the Emerging Runner, Jr.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Better late than never

Today's run (street): 3.3 miles 

We're back in Long Island after a couple of fun days on the Cape. I'd considered a repeat run on the Shining Sea Bikeway before we headed out, but Falmouth was engulfed in wind and rain. I figured I'd get in a run when we got home, if time allowed.

Although I far prefer to run in the morning, I sometimes consider going out for a few miles in the afternoon but rarely after 4:00 PM. In terms of performance, I tend to run better later in the day, but I don't enjoy the experience very much.

At 3:30 the skies were clear, with enough cloud cover to allow me to go out without sunglasses. I wore my Brooks for my planned easy run, but for some reason I went out fairly fast. I soon realized that my pace was too quick and I took down my speed after about a half a mile. I didn't feel like I was running all that well, but I was doing this workout more for fitness than for performance training.

I settled into a rhythm and toughed out my my goal distance of 5K. When I got close to my house, I saw my wife and daughter driving down the street where I was running. It was fun to see them because, after hundreds of times, it was the first time they'd seen me running in the neighborhood.

Even though it felt more like a plod than a run, I ended up pacing in the mid-9's. I'm sure that had to do with the time of day. I'd like to finish the long weekend with a trail run tomorrow morning. I'm hoping I run better when I get on the trails.

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