Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Treadmills have their place

Today's run (treadmill - 2% incline): 25 minutes

One thing I can usually count on, after a couple of days off from running, is that my next run will go well. That's why I typically rest the two days prior to a race, with only a core workout in between. I planned for a treadmill workout today since the weather report predicted that yesterday's rain would continue into the early morning.

The treadmill isn't my surface of choice, but it does come in handy on foul weather days. On the plus side, I can jump on it and go, as opposed to street running that takes more gear and prep time. I also like that I can lock into certain pace for tempo runs, or play with the controls to incrementally increase speed at certain times during my run.

I ran for 25 minutes this morning with a 2% incline. I started at a moderate pace so the incline wasn't really noticeable. Throughout the run I increased speed by a .1 MPH and by the final minutes I felt I'd had a very good workout. The weather should be clear tomorrow, so I plan to return to the street at 4:00 AM. It's been a while since I've done my morning run outside.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goodbye race bibs

Scene from the early days of the collection
Yesterday morning I took down the 22 race numbers that I had tacked up on two walls in my office over the last few years. The first number was from the Marcie Mazzola 4 miler, my first race. I put it on the wall to carry that great experience into my work day. From then on, after every race, I'd pack my number into my work bag and look forward to adding it to the wall on Monday.

Last week I decided that this display, though fun and colorful, had grown to become the dominant feature of my work environment. If I worked at Runner's World or was in some way associated professionally with running I could probably justify having this display that spread like kudzu across the room. I debated whether I should keep only the number from my last race up as a more understated symbol of my dedication to running. Ultimately, I felt like I'd just be doing the same thing, but in a different way.

I wondered if anyone would notice that the numbers were gone. If people did, they haven't mentioned it. I'll miss looking at the numbers and thinking about the great memories that go along with every race they represented. I'll probably put them somewhere in our guestroom/workout room at home where they can continue to inspire me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Skip to my rue?

I'm considering taking both today and tomorrow as rest days. I feel like I've been pushing myself a little too hard over the last two weeks and I think I'll benefit from some recovery time. Since 11/13, I've run two 10K's plus a low-key 5K and my overall level of training has been relatively intense. It's very hard to skip workouts when you run almost every day. Disrupting routine is not a trivial thing. I know I won't lose fitness if I miss a run, but I'll still feel guilty if I take an unscheduled rest day.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Exhausting run at Belmont Lake

Today's run (Belmont Lake State Park): 6 miles

I decided to finish my Thanksgiving break with a trail run at Belmont Lake, home of the Dirty Sock race course. I'd decided that a competitive run at Stillwell (the Rob's Run 5K) would have been too much to do without the proper rest. I have in my mind that the Dirty Sock route is an easy run if you aren't trying to beat other runners. That's wasn't quite the case today.

The weather was in the high 30's when I started my run and I'd overdressed with two upper layers, running pants and a wicking cap. By my first mile I felt very warm and by the two mile mark I was feeling overheated. Unlike previous times running these trails, I sensed more inclined sections. Halfway through the run I was feeling fatigued, possibly due to over training.

Once at the lake, I knew there was nothing I could do to reduce the amount of required effort since the route was out-and-back and I was already halfway through it. The course seemed extra long and the trail seemed extra steep as I slogged my way past mile four. I was tired and my pace was slow, but I was determined not to stop or walk.

I saw a few other runners on the trail who had made better decisions about their gear. They were moving along nicely in contrast to my slow motion stride. After I cleared the passage under the Montauk Highway at mile 5, I decided to return on the same trail where I'd started, rather than adding the extra distance passing by Southards Pond.

I was very ready to finish my run by then and caught a glimpse of the trail opening as I ran by a couple of equestrians out with their horses for a Sunday morning ride. I was glad to have finished the week with a decent length run and especially glad that I didn't race today. I need a break from running and I'm glad that tomorrow is my regular rest day. It was a good couple of weeks of intense running, but enough is enough.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Training slower but racing faster

Today's run (street) 3.55 miles

One thing that I've learned this year is that the speed I usually run isn't the same as how fast I can run. This year I've observed two things that don't seem to correlate. First, my average training pace (by observation, not by studying my running logs) has slowed down about 10 seconds per mile. The other observation is that my race paces have improved noticeably in almost every race this year compared to previous years.

I'm not sure what this means but it may have something to do with the quality of my training runs that may be a bit slower, but have more focus. The legendary running coach Jack Daniels said "Every run should have a purpose" and I try to follow that philosophy with my daily workouts. If I need to prepare for a hilly race I try to run hills. If I ran hard the day before, I look to run my next session easy to speed up recovery.

The true explanation for my slower training - faster race pace may be far more simple. Since I started using my Garmin FR210 GPS watch, my mileage is usually under-recorded between 2-5% which makes my pace look slower. When I bother to map my true distance using Gmaps, I see that variance. If I don't, I tend to accept and believe that I'm running slower than I actually am.

I got out around 8:30 this morning after debating whether I should run or do a core workout and (possibly) an elliptical session later. My legs were tired so I considered the lower impact option. But the weather was cool and the skies were clear so I headed out the door thinking I'd take it easy and not worry about my pace.

The run was easy, in fact I slipped into a few periods where I was so lost in thought that I felt like I was sleep-running. I focused on opening my stride but I didn't think much about my speed. When I finished my run I was surprised to see that I'd averaged slightly more than 9:00 a mile. That's not particularly fast, but the pace was about :40 per mile faster than it felt. Perhaps all the racing I've done of late has helped in my daily training. That almost 9:00 minute pace was a nice surprise. Sometimes a slow run feels fast, and a fast run feels slow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

From treadmill to Turkey Trot to trail

Yesterday's runs:
Treadmill:  24 minutes, 2% grade
Nissequogue River State Park Turkey Trot 5K: 3.1 miles
Today's run  
Stillwell Woods: 3.6 miles

Start of the 1K kid's run at Nissequogue River State Park
It's been a couple of days since I've been able to post on the blog but that doesn't mean I haven't been running. Wednesday, which should have been an easy morning, leading into an early close for Thanksgiving, turned out to be crazy due to some distracting business issues. Everything worked out fine, but I was so mentally exhausted by the time I got home I decided to skip my planned afternoon workout.

Yesterday morning I made up for that rest day with a double workout. I ran on the treadmill first thing in the morning with a 2% grade for 24 minutes. It was a good workout, I didn't push the pace but, by the end, I really felt it. Shortly after I finished that run, the Emerging Runner family headed to King's Park for the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation 5K.

This Turkey Trot takes place on the grounds of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, a compound of 15 buildings adjacent to the Nissequogue River. The buildings evoke a scary history as this center was considered an "insane asylum" where electro-shock therapy and pre-frontal lobotomies were commonly administered to patients. These buildings are due to be demolished so that the park can be put to better use.

The weather was very cold at 7:30 AM and we were glad to have dressed warmly. Even with wool socks my feet were very cold as we waited for the start. This event attracts a large crowd and they were still taking same day registrations minutes before the scheduled start time. I suppose that's a way to maximize revenue for the event, but it put us very behind for the start. The organizers also failed badly on their bathroom planning, providing only five Porto-Potti's for a crowd numbering well over 1,200.

This event is very family friendly, with as many walkers as runners, and it doesn't feel very competitive. After the kid's 1K race, the 5K runners were assembled along a long uphill section (this was also the route back to the finish line). After a long wait, the horn sounded and we were off. My daughter and I were going to run the course while my wife and son walked it.

The park's trail is rolling and the first mile and a half are mostly uphill. My daughter did great and I kept reminding her (as I remembered from the prior year) that the the course flattened and then goes primarily downhill for the last mile. We passed a water station around the 3K mark and I was very impressed that my daughter was able to maintain her running form and keep a good pace through that distance.

My wife and son cross the finish line
As we passed 4K it became easier because the downhill road helped us along and the people at the side of the course shouted encouraging words to the runners. Once we were a few hundred feet from the end, my daughter took off and I had a hard time keeping up with her. Seconds later we crossed the finish line. I congratulated her on a great run and, after getting some water, we waited for my wife and son to finish.

I was proud to see my daughter run so well. Last year she walked more than half of this course but this year it was a bona fide run, a full 3.1 miles. My wife and son also did very well walking that hilly course and we were excited to reunite at the finish line.

The rest of our day was filled with resting, cooking and baking as my wife prepared food for Thanksgiving. We headed over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for an afternoon and evening of of food and conversation. We all held up well considering all the work we did that morning.

This morning I decided I had waited too long to do a trail run so I headed over to Stillwell Woods around 7:00 AM. There were no other people at the park and I made my way into the woods with no particular route in mind. It was cold (mid 30's) but I'd dressed for that and I wore my Helly Hansens because my intention was to attack some of the rocky hills. The Helly's do a great job over technical surfaces. Unfortunately their lack of a rock plate still produces some uncomfortable landings.

I ended up covering about three and a half miles and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I could have covered more miles but I decided to bank some energy and do a longer run over the weekend. It's been a lot of running over a short period of time. I got my Stillwell run in today so I'm probably not going back there on Sunday morning for the Rob's Run 5K race.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking the easy way out

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

There was a possibility of rain this morning, so I planned for a treadmill run. It turned out to be dry and clear but I decided to stay indoors anyway. This was my first run after Sunday's race and I was looking to go easy. Sometimes the treadmill is a better choice for that type of workout, because you can set your speed and not think about it again until you're finished.

Today's workout was similar to another treadmill run I'd done last week. Instead of paying attention to distance, I ran at a moderate pace and stopped after 25 minutes. There's many conflicting reports about whether it's more beneficial to run easy or hard after a race. I'm in the easy camp, figuring that a slow but steady workout promotes blood flow which helps repair damaged leg muscles.

With Thanksgiving two days away, and four more days away from the office after that, I'm hoping to get in some longer distance running. I haven't been on the trails for weeks and I miss it. Rob's Run, a 5K race in Stillwell Woods, is happening next Sunday. I've thought about participating but I'm still not sure. That would be my third race in as many weekends. There are people I've met, like Paul, who race far more often than I do. Perhaps, if I competed more, I'd break out of my mid-pack malaise. I'll have to see how I feel by the end of the week.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Let's hear it for mediocrity!

Extraordinarily average
After yesterday's race, one of my kids joked that I was dressed like a superhero. With my tight black running pants, black jersey and black cap, plus my fire-engine red Hattori's, you could certainly make a case for that. I said that if I was a superhero, I'd be called "Mediocre Running Man" because, once again, I'd finished in the middle of the pack. Technically, I finished in the top 44%, which still counts as average.

How is it that, after improving almost a minute over last year, I still fall somewhere within the middle of the pack? Or, as I like to look at it, at the top of the bell curve? Actually, it gets worse because I almost ended up in the bottom third of my age division.

Although many who know me would think otherwise, none of this bothers me in the least. The only person I care about beating is my own self in previous races. I love that I'm competing more effectively than the "me" of two and three years ago. There's a time when Master's runners reach their peak and then begin a steady decline in their race performance. The good news is I'm not there...yet. It may be that I came into this later in the game, but I'm hopeful that I'll continue to improve. Perhaps next year my superhero name could live up to my outfit.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot

A new PR for TER
Today's run (Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot): 6.2 miles
54:35 (8:47 pace)

I was looking forward to today's Turkey Trot for a number of reasons. First, Long Beach, with its boardwalk, beach views and small city charm, is a great place to run. Secondly, the organizers of these Long Beach races put on great events that seem low key, but are actually supported by the actions of many. The third reason I looked forward to this Turkey Trot is that last year's race was my fastest 10K to date, and I was hoping to improve on that.

I'm pleased to report that I have a new 10K PR, finishing with a time of 54:35. This is almost a minute faster than my current personal best for that distance. It's interesting to note that while the average pace of my typical training runs has slowed since last year, I achieved best-ever times on five of my annual races in 2011: the New Hyde Park 8K, Dirty Sock 10K, Great Cow Harbor 10K, Run for the Warriors 10K and today's Long Beach 10K.

The temperature this morning was a mild 53° when Team Emerging Runner arrived in Long Beach. I picked up my race number and noted that the stiff winds coming off the ocean were making it feel far colder. I had a long sleeve jersey over my intended short sleeve race shirt but we ducked behind the stage and I did a quick swap. Those brief seconds when I was without a shirt were mighty chilly.

A view of the boardwalk from the beach
I wore a winter jacket as we waited for the start and it kept me quite comfortable. I saw many runners who seemed fine wearing short sleeves and running shorts but that wouldn't have worked for me. We watched the start and finish of the 1-mile race that precedes the 10K. This race is for kids, and it was won by a 15 year old boy who came over the line in 5:34.

Soon it was time to line up for my race so I handed off my jacket to my son and hoped not to freeze in the 10 minutes before the starting horn. Since I was wearing all black in direct sunlight and the people behind me were blocking the wind, I felt fine. I sized up my competition near the front of the line and, as usual, I felt like I was among a fast crowd. Unlike last year, I knew not to be concerned by the droves of faster runners that might fly by me in the first few minutes.

The race started and we were off. The hundreds of runners pounding the boardwalk made quite a racket. I waved to my family as I passed by and then focused on my form and pace. Last year I ran the first mile in 8:05. I didn't want to run that pace so close to the start because I had a lot more race to run. I stayed with the pack and passed the first mile at 8:15. Still a little too fast, but I felt okay.

We were off the boardwalk at this point, still heading east, and as we reached the turnaround on Broadway someone yelled, "Here comes the wind!" He wasn't kidding, the southeastern wind hit us full in the face and I realized that this wind would be present for much of the race. It really wasn't that bad and as I heated up, I appreciated the cooling effect.

I decided to run as hard as I could for as long as I could, thinking I could slow down later if necessary. It took longer to reach 3 miles than I'd hoped and I passed the 5K sensor in 27:45. I actually ran a negative split for the second 5K.

I took a Roctane gel shortly after that and soon we were running parallel to the water on the northern side of Long Beach. I was still feeling strong and was maintaining good form. I was glad that I'd run this race last year because I knew what lay ahead. I watched the ocean's horizon as we ran south and soon after passing the 4-mile marker it was time to turn west. We soon reached the street that would lead us back to the boardwalk.

After a quick scramble up the ramp where I jockeyed for position in this narrow section, I was back on the boardwalk that would lead me to the finish line. Unfortunately it wasn't that simple, and I recalled that last year's final run on the boardwalk seemed to take forever. I was still running well and finally saw the 5-mile marker, so I knew that I had 1.2 miles left to go.

Like last year, this seemed to be the place where many runners pulled out all stops and ran the last mile as fast as they could. I got passed by at least six runners but I couldn't generate the leg turnover required to hold them off. Instead I focused on getting to the end. Where the heck was the finish line?!

As I knew it would, the finish chute finally became visible with about 500 feet to go. I put every effort into this final sprint, and as I got closer to the race clock, I realized I might break 55 minutes for the first time. I came over the line in 54:35 with my wife, son and daughter cheering me in with fist bumps. I felt drained but I still had some strength. I ran a good race.

Unlike last weekend's 10K, when I surprised myself by running a decent time, I had higher expectations for today. I had hoped for a similar performance at this year's race but I beat my own expectation handily. I plan to run one more race this year in December, probably a 5K or a 4-mile race that I'll do mostly for fun. My biggest performance target this year was today's Long Beach 10K and I'm pleased with how that turned out.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hot to trot on Sunday

The Long Beach boardwalk at last year's Turkey Trot
It's 24 hours before the start of the Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot and I'm looking forward to the race. I've had a light week in terms of mileage (13) but I'm running well. I haven't felt exhausted and I'm not suffering from any noticeable injuries. Last weekend's 10K improved my outlook in terms of my racing readiness and fitness. 

I forced myself to sleep a full eight hours last night and I'm planning to do a set of core exercises later this morning. The temperature at tomorrow's start is predicted to be 53°F with 71% humidity and 14 MPH winds. Last year it was colder than that, so I need to think about what I'll wear to ensure that I don't overheat by the end.

Turkey Trots are fun because they bring out a wider field of runners than in other races I've attended. Last year me, my wife and the kids all participated in a 5K on Thanksgiving Day and there was a huge field of runners. I wasn't a very good sport about going slow because I was wearing a timing chip but it was fun to be out there with my family. Tomorrow will be a different type of race and I'm hoping for another good run on the boardwalk. See you at the finish line. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Emerging Runner turns 3

Yep, it was three years ago that I began to document my experience as a new or "emerging" runner. At the time that I started this blog, I was just getting back into shape after a number of years of inactivity. I used to run a little when I was was in college, but it was something I did to maintain fitness for more favored activities like karate. In the early '90's, when I lived in Manhattan, I'd go out every morning for a run through my Murray Hill neighborhood. Running the streets of NYC turned out to be a frustrating experience and I stopped that after about six months.

Even though I didn't like the city running experience (at the time), I still liked to run. After losing weight in the fall of 2008, through exercise and a smarter diet, I was ready to try again. My love of technology helped me stay interested in progressing as a runner. Almost from the start, I used devices to track my performance. First it was the Nike+ chip and wristband and then the Garmin 50 & 60. Now I have the FR210 that captures the metrics of my runs via GPS. The technology improves along with the runner.

Over the last three years I've had many fantastic experiences running with friends, with my family and in races (22 and counting), on trails, through national parks, on roads and even back in NYC, which is now a favorite place to run. I love running gear, running shoes and running gadgets and I still look forward to seeing the new stuff when it comes out every season. But I'm happy to say that most of that matters less as time goes by and the experience of running itself matters more. Perhaps I've emerged a little since November 18, 2008 -- but I still have a long way to go.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Listen to your body, not your sleepy head

Today's workout (elliptical): 23 minutes

It was down to the wire whether I would do a workout this morning. I'm not sure why, but I've been feeling very tired over the past two days.When I woke up at my usual time, I felt justified to return to bed. Somehow, I ended up on the elliptical machine as planned. Listening to your body is a good way to decide these things.

It wasn't guilt that got me there today. It was the practical need to complete this week's training so I could feel good about taking two days rest prior to Sunday's race. If I'd felt weak or dizzy I would have skipped the workout, but I had no such excuse this morning. Today's elliptical session was light, but worthwhile. A core workout on Saturday is all that's left and then I'm good to go on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Running with the fast crowd

Today's run: (treadmill) 25 minutes

During Sunday's race I was passed quickly by a group of high school-aged boys near the one mile point of the course. This group turned left soon after they passed me and followed the signs for the 5K route. It didn't occur to me until today that those boys had probably started five minutes after me (the 5K start followed the 10K start) and had covered the same distance in almost half the time.

I'll never be a 5:00 miler so it is rare that I would have an experience racing with them. I usually start mid-pack and end up there at the finish. Last year in Long Beach I started near the front and was puzzled by the frenzy of runners who overtook me so quickly. I wondered why I was running so slow. It wasn't until I passed the first mile clock at 8:05 that I realized I was comparing my performance to runners who might end up winning the race or their age division.

There really are multiple races within any race. The people up front are locked into an almost constant sprint, all hoping to finish first. The middle packers, like me, are hoping to do better than last time and considering it a victory when we pass more people than we are passed ourselves. Those in the back of the pack are often working the hardest. Completing a 10K, or even a 5K is no trivial thing. To many of them, the race is to finish, perhaps within a goal time.

I'm on the fence whether I'll start near the front of the line at Sunday's Turkey Trot like I did last year. They didn't have a chip sensor at the start so those closest to the front had the smallest gap between gun and net time. I don't want to get in anyone's way, but I do like the idea of being swept along by the speediest runners. A high tide lifts all boats. And I could certainly use the lift.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Speed is not important if the run feels fast

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

It was easier getting out the door this morning than I had expected. My first run after a race can be a bumpy experience with the residual soreness from exertion peaking 48 hours later. I took off feeling like I was moving well and free of any pain related to the race. I assumed that my speed would be better than average for a 4:00 AM run because my legs were used to fast turnover. After checking the Garmin I saw that wasn't the case, although the run felt fast.

Last week at this time, I was feeling down about my running. I go out nearly every day, do base training runs, hill runs and occasional speed work. Despite this, I had been feeling like I wasn't gaining any speed performance from my routine. After Sunday's run, I now understand that my level of fitness is greater than I'd thought. Today I ran well, but not especially fast. That's okay. Right now I know I can access the speed when it counts.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I ran a great race, wish I knew why

I haven't quite figured out why I ran as well as I did in yesterday's race. The weather surely helped and the course was flat and fast. I'd been having trouble keeping my daily runs within my targeted range, so I expected my pace to suffer with yesterday's longer distance.

Besides taking two days rest prior to the race, I ran through my set of core exercises on Saturday morning. That small workout can yield good results and I really should do it more often. I believe that my good experience on Sunday came from a combination of environment, prep and being back to full strength after some weeks battling colds and injuries.

Even after good runs I think about what I could have done differently to achieve better performance. I'm not sure there's much more I could have done yesterday. Had I run just 10 seconds faster, I would have paced in the 8:00 range instead of 9:00. A year ago that would have been important to me, but this year I feel differently. I did my best and I'm very happy with the results. That is until next Sunday's race.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Race report: 2011 Run for the Warriors

Field of Honor near the 10K start
Today's run (Run for the Warriors 10K): 6.2 miles
Clock time: 56:05 - Net time (chip): 55:50

The Run for the Warriors race is in its 4th year and I've participated over the last two years. Last year I ran it in 56:23, which (at that time) was my fastest 10K to date. I had low expectations for today's race because I have not been running well this past month. Due to that, my weekly distance has dropped about 30% since the end of September. I'm pleased to report that I beat my performance expectations handily today.  I'm not sure why, but I'm happy that I did.

This race is all about those who serve in the military and the families that support them. There's a strong patriotic theme overlaying all the proceedings and the event feels both festive and serious.

The organizers did a great job, as they did last year, and they corrected a few things from the 2010 race that made it a better experience. First, there were twice as many Port-O-Potti's to handle the 2,000+ crowd than there were last year. People appreciated that. Secondly, the 10K race started before the 5K this year. That prevented much of the congestion we experienced last year, caused by the side by side walkers who blocked runners that started behind them. It was still crowded at the start with just the 10K runners, but it was much better this year.

Like last year, the pre-race program involved the acknowledgment of the soldiers who serve in the armed forces and the local service people who'd lost their lives in battle. It was an emotional scene with family members that lost loved ones running in their honor.

Starting the 10K race with a shout to my family
The race started at 9:30 AM and that caught me by surprise because the website said the 10K start would happpen at 9:45. Luckily, my daughter was paying attention and she rushed me to the line just minutes before the starting gun sounded. Suddenly we were off and I was was about to discover whether I had the fitness to compete today.

I had taken a GU Roctane gel twenty minutes prior to the start and I felt good as we began to move. We all started slowly due to the crowd. That was fine with me because my original plan was to start slow and pick up speed if I felt I could maintain a faster pace. By the time we reached the off-ramp on Sunrise Highway, leading to Wellwood Avenue, I knew that I had enough in reserve to get through the race. My original goal was to run this race under 62 minutes and I thought I had a good shot at that.

The course is flat and probably more downhill than uphill. I passed a fair number of people on Wellwood, but I also got passed by more than a few. There were two soldiers doing the entire race on their hands and feet and that looked really hard. I felt badly for them but they were doing it in symbolic solidarity with their overseas compatriots.

We passed the first mile and I saw that I was pacing at 9:02 and worried that I was going too fast that early in the race. I felt good so I maintained that pace and, before I knew it, we had taken the left onto E. Hoffman Ave. This road parallels the LIRR tracks and it had been resurfaced since last year's race.

The smooth blacktop was an excellent surface to follow and at the 2 mile point I was cruising. I really felt like I was floating. I managed to catch up to a few runners and pass them and I kept encountering a group of soldiers who were running together in line, stopping every mile to do a series of push-ups. Must be great to be in that shape.

When we turned north onto Great East Neck Road that intersects with Route 109, I had another Roctane gel. I didn't really need it then, but I wanted some extra energy for the remaining three miles. I took some water to wash it down and, when we hit 109, I was feeling well fueled.

I'd come through the 5K point at around 28 minutes and was looking for the 4 mile marker along the northern road. By this time I started to think I might finish with a decent time. The following minutes were unremarkable and I wondered if I'd already passed 4 miles when my Garmin chirped. I was amazed to see I'd just passed five miles!

I saw the sign for the exit onto Sunrise Highway that confirmed that I was on my last mile. I was running well but the off ramp had a long steep rise and I felt some strain for the first time in the race. Before long we were heading down the ramp onto Sunrise and race volunteer yelled "Almost there, just a half a mile to go!" As always, that last half mile seemed longer than it should, but when I saw the big flag and the crowds along the road I kicked into finish mode.

100 feet to the finish line
About 100 feet prior to the line, my wife and kids stood cheering and this gave me the impetus to push even harder at the end. The clock said 56:05 when I finished, but my net was 13 seconds less. No big deal. Either way I was just north of the 9:00 mark but my goal prior to the race was to stay below 10:00. I made that goal for sure and felt very strong after the race. I guess my conditioning was better than I'd judged it to be.

It was great surprise to run this race that I almost skipped because I thought I wasn't ready to do it. I give my wife credit for convincing me to run the race regardless of my performance. Next weekend is the Long Beach Turkey Trot, another 10K. I'll go into that with greater expectations but, like today, I'll run my race based on how I'm feeling and see how it goes.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ready or not, I'm racing tomorrow

It's less than a day until I line up for the Run for the Warriors 10K and I'm curious to see how I do. I don't have high expectations for a record setting performance, although I do have a finish time goal. I'll reveal how close I come to that, after the race.

I'm usually primed for competition the days before a race and (if I've followed my training plan) reach my peak on race day. Last week's seven mile run confirmed that I'm out of practice for distances greater than than 5 miles. I don't know how I'll be feeling when I pass that point but (at least) the effects from my flu shot and my semi-cold seem to have passed.

This morning I ran through my favorite set of core exercises. It's a light workout that won't do much, but it might help a little. Tomorrow I'll start slow and pick up the pace as I go along, aiming for negative splits for the second half. That may be a little ambitious, but it's a strategy. It's been a busy Saturday but I did get some extra sleep last night. Will proper rest and feeling healthy translate into a good run? I'll let you know tomorrow.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day, Warrior's weekend

Last year's finish
It just occurred to me that the date for the Run for the Warriors 10K on Sunday isn't random. This race, held on the Sunday closest to Veteran's Day, is an inspiring event. When I signed up last year I imagined it to be the typical Long Island local race, with ~500 runners and the usual low-key staging I'd come to expect from those events.

When we arrived on race day, I was astounded to see the large crowds, a rock band playing and tented grounds that were impressively decorated with a patriotic theme.

Last year there were about 2,000 runners split between the 1 mile, 5K and 10K distances. The 5 & 10K races started together and we split our routes after a mile or so. There were many servicemen and women running in their fatigues. One group of Marines opted for matching tees and shorts and others wore dress uniforms and carried their flags as they ran.

The most impressive runners were those soldiers who carried full packs and ran in combat boots. I'm guessing this was to show solidarity with their brethren overseas who were on active duty. One soldier clearly demonstrated that point by running with a full sized dummy dressed in combat fatigues.

Overall, the race was great, but two things I hope they do differently this year is expand the area for parking and provide more than five Port-O-Potti's for a crowd that numbers in the thousands.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A return to the Hattori's

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Super minimalist ninja
Hattori Hanz┼Ź was a famous ninja and samurai who lived in 16th century Japan. I'm guessing that his sword skills were the inspiration behind Saucony's Hattori super minimalist running shoes. I've put about 250 miles on mine since I've got them and I've come to love their purposeful simplicity.

For the last three weeks I've been running in either my Saucony Mirages or Brooks GTS-10's in an attempt to clear up a minor pain I've had near my right Achilles. I figured that the greater cushioning and stability control on these shoes (compared to the Hattori's) would help my healing. It  must not be the shoes because the pain remains, although it always goes away after a few minutes of running.

Since Sunday is race day, I thought I'd end my taper with a run in the Hattori's. It's a different experience going back to a shoe 1/3 the weight of the Brooks. I worried that my layoff from these shoes would cause me some calf pain when I returned to them, but I had no problems today. I ran okay but I'm nowhere near my late September peak. I think the Hattori's provided some benefit over the heavier shoes this morning since I ran 30 seconds per mile faster than yesterday. However, that pace was still far off my target for the 10K. I guess I should reset my expectations for this race and defer my focus on performance until the following weekend when I run the Long Beach Turkey Trot.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Running through the clouds

Still foggy two hours later
Today's run (street): 2.6 miles

For me, the appeal of running correlates directly to the conditions at hand. 40° on a bright Saturday morning with no time restrictions is very appealing. Running in the dark at 4:00 AM just minutes after waking from a sound sleep is far less appealing. In some cases, after I've begrudgingly prepared for my run, something happens to change my outlook. That was the case today.

It seemed a little humid as I dressed for my run and I left off a top layer thinking it would be warmer than yesterday. Again, I had trouble getting my Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp to work. The batteries get easily unseated within their housing and this prevents the lamp from switching on. As well as it has served me, I think the Tikka is due for replacement because these problems are costing me precious time.

I stepped out and watched the garage door rise, revealing my neighborhood shrouded in heavy fog. The street lights projected ethereally and the density of the fog kept visibility to about 30 feet. I thought it looked amazing and suddenly looked forward to starting off on my run.

The run itself was unremarkable. I'm still working through some mechanical issues but it was fun to see the world through this haze of distorted light. Running is a physical activity, but so much about it is enhanced by the experience itself. A four mile run in the woods, where your view and conditions change constantly, is far more interesting than a four mile run on treadmill. Today's route was similar to the course I run every day. But what I experienced this morning was much more interesting and different than normal.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Passing the test

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Today's run was an acid test for me. I wanted to gauge my fitness for next Sunday's race to see how I felt coming off a difficult seven miler with one day's rest. I probably dressed too warmly for the weather but the distance was short so I avoided overheating.

I started at an easy pace, though not as slow as Sunday's, and increased my speed as I went on. By mile one I was running at my 10K goal pace and my last half mile was 30 seconds faster than goal pace. I didn't feel especially strong and my stride was not fluid, but I felt on track to compete. I'll sign up today for the race and train the next two days. I'll follow that with two day's rest prior to Sunday's race.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I have a decision to make

The switch to daylight savings yesterday was a welcomed change. It made only one hour's difference but it allowed me to sleep a little longer on Sunday and still get out early for a long run. The whole day seemed longer, as did the entire weekend. This morning the train station was no longer swathed in darkness like it had been over the past few weeks. I only wish it was this light out at 4:00 AM.

Yesterday's run was plenty tough for me and I'm seriously reconsidering my plan to run a 10K race next Sunday. For no single reason, I've been off my athletic game over the last month and have not run particularly long distances on weekends. I usually cover 10-12 miles on weekends, but that average has dropped 30% since September.

I'm going to think about whether to run the Hope for the Warriors 10K or use next weekend to help me prepare better for the 11/20 Long Beach Turkey Trot. I may have disadvantaged myself yesterday by not refueling during the run that took over 70 minutes and that could account for my near bonk. I'll make a decision today so I can know how to conduct this week's training.

There was an interesting article in yesterday's NY Times about Lauren Fleshman, a 5,000 meter champion, who ran the NYC Marathon to help improve her short distance competitiveness. She talks about the need to change up training to achieve significant progress. I liked this quote: “At 30, I’m not going to get dramatically better doing the same thing.”  It made me think about my own training and what I really can expect to get out of the workouts I do, week after week.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

NYC Marathon morning run at Bethpage

Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 7.1 miles

Today is the New York Marathon and I watched the race on TV after my run on the bike trail at Bethpage. It was an exciting finish for the women, with Dado overtaking Keitany's lead in the last miles through Central Park. On Friday, I made my annual pilgrimage to the NYC Marathon Expo at the Javits Center and brought along KWL who had never attended it.

The Expo was even more overwhelming this year than last and I saw Dean Karnazes and met Marshall Ulricht, whose book "Running on Empty" I'd recently read. It was amazing to talk to this man who set records for running across America, starting in San Francisco and finishing in New York 52 days later.

With Desi Davila - Boston Marathon record-holder
I also met Desi Davila, who finished second in this year's Boston Marathon and holds the fastest women's time ever in that race.  Desi was sweet and humble, I mentioned the cover story about her in Running Times and she just smiled and nodded. She told me she was skipping the NYC marathon because she's training for the 2012 Olympics. I will be rooting for her to make the team!

Today I took advantage of the Daylight Savings Time roll-back and got out early for my run. I planned to take it easy so I could benchmark my condition and see how ready I am for a 10K next Sunday. It was chilly and I wore layers and gloves and I felt pretty good for the first four miles. At around the five mile point I started feeling some weakness. I'm thinking that my base has probably slid back to about 4 miles since Cow Harbor. I slowed down a little to get past a hilly section and tried not to think about the last mile that is the toughest part of the return leg.

By mile six I felt similar to how I'd felt near the end of my half marathon, my spirit was willing but my legs were not. I told myself "just keep going" and I did, although I'm not sure how I managed to get over that final hill.

I may not run the Race for the Warriors next weekend because (as of right now) I don't feel prepared to run a competitive 10K. I guess I can run it as a training exercise for the Long Beach Turkey Trot the following week. I'll decide that in the next day or so. I'm hoping that my experience today had more to do with having a slight chest cold than the fact that my conditioning isn't where it needs to be right now.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Slight concerns for my 10K readiness

Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

I would have like to cover more distance this morning but I had an early appointment that limited my running time to about 30 minutes. It was 38° according to News12 when I prepared for my run and I bundled up with long pants, long sleeved shirt, a hat and gloves. I worried that I'd get too hot at some point but with only thirty minutes on the road I stayed fairly comfortable throughout my run.

Yesterday's performance was sub-par and that workout served only to keep continuity in my schedule. I felt a little pressure when I went out today knowing that this weekend is the last time that I can train at any real distance for next weekend's Hope for the Warriors 10K. I am still feeling under the weather so I compromised on intensity and focused on maintaining a pace that was roughly between my daily run pace and my targeted pace for the 10K.

I had no mechanical problems with my stride and felt no fatigue, but I wasn't at the level I want to be on race day. I followed an extended version of my usual course and thought about form and cadence. The run began to feel harder at the two mile mark and this concerned me because that is only a third of a 10K. I decided to ignore the difficulty and worked to maintain speed by using arm swing to increase leg turnover.

In the end I achieved my pace goal but I still have some concerns about the fragility of my six mile base. A longer run tomorrow should give me a better sense of my readiness. I'm looking forward to watching the NYC marathon tomorrow and that will help motivate me to cover some distance. I have a few friends who are running the marathon for the first time tomorrow and I'm hoping that they have great experiences. Knowing how hard a half marathon can be, I admire them very much.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What is it about Fridays?

Today's run (street): 2.25

It has been a busy week and I thought "TGIF" when I went out for this morning's run. However, within five minutes, I knew that I was in for a bad Friday run for the second week in a row. I'm guessing that I'm fatigued from three days of intense discussions, presentations and other stressful factors. I don't care that much about having a bad run, but I do like to know why I ran badly.

I've switched over from my Hattori's to my Saucony Mirages since the Oyster Bay 5K in hopes of eliminating the slight, but nagging, pain I get between my right heel and Achilles. I figured that the stability post on the Mirage might help that somewhat. When I went out today, the pain was there and it was fairly pronounced. As usual, the pain subsided once I'd traveled about a mile.

It's hard to understand exactly what made today's run bad. I had no obvious issues (besides the heel pain), but I couldn't generate much speed. I cut my distance short because I wanted to use the extra few minutes to rest before my shower. I really need to be on my game this weekend and get some base miles in since I haven't done too many 5+ mile runs lately and I have a fast 6.2 scheduled on November 13. I'm hoping that my Friday curse won't extend to Saturday.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ready to refocus

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

It's been a very busy week for me and though I've put in the time and the miles, I feel a little disconnected from my running. Now that most of my week's distractions have passed, I'm hoping to refocus on my training goals. Tomorrow is the NYC Marathon Expo at the Jacob Javits Center and I'll try to get over there if I can. It's an amazing Expo, with no fee to get in and plenty of free samples (typically food, not running gear). Last year I was fortunate to see Greta Waitz who appeared at the Adidas booth and I shook hands with Bart Yasso, whose book I'd just read.

I'm planning to put in one or two distance runs this weekend to help get me ready for the 10K on the 13th. That race is coming up fast and I don't really feel prepared. The injuries from my fall are healing and I'm running well this week, so I'm hoping for a good experience on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Can I be tempted to run a full marathon?

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles
I'm clearly back to full strength in my running as evidenced by today and yesterday's runs. A good part of my work week is taking place at industry meetings and yesterday I had the good fortune of seeing both of my running mentors (CK & CMC) during the day's events.
I told CK that my troubles on Friday were likely caused by my flu shot. I'm not sure he bought that but I'll show him next time. CMC offered to run with me on my first marathon which sounds great, although my current position is that I won't ever be competing at that distance. We'll see.

This morning's run was pleasant, and like yesterday, it seemed to go by quickly. With temperatures in the mid 30's, it's much colder than a week ago, but I fully appreciate this weather. This weekend is supposed to be nice and cool -- great for the NYC marathoners and great for those of us training for our next 10K.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One good run deserves another

Today's run ( street): 2.5 miles

It's been ten days since I fell after one of my morning runs and I still have some nasty abrasions to show for it. My right leg, near the outside of my knee, is still in tough shape despite daily care. The injuries are healing but they still sting and this morning it was fairly uncomfortable.

I'd prepared for an outside run after checking last night's weather. It was chilly, but I dressed for it and took off hoping that I'd fare better than the last three times I'd gone out. After reaching the top of the first road it was clear that I was past those issues. My form was more fluid and my stride felt more open than it had the last few times I'd run. I experimented with arm swing as a method to increase cadence. I think that was helpful on the roads that had inclines.

The run went by quickly and despite the fact that my Garmin had trouble locking in (and subsequently under counted my distance by .14 miles), I ended up running my fastest pace since my 5K in early October. I'm glad to finally have a decent run after some disappointing experiences. One good run is great, but will I be ready to compete again by the 13th?

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