Tuesday, January 31, 2012

For now, it's all about my need for speed

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

This coming weekend I'll take a break from distance training in order to focus on speed. The City of Long Beach Snowflake Race takes place on the 11th and I'm hoping to do some interval training this weekend to prepare. Long Beach is always a great venue for a race because it's primarily flat. If the weather cooperates this year, a good portion of the run will be on the boardwalk.

This morning I managed to get myself outside despite the cold and had a decent run. My dawdling put me a few minutes behind, but fortunately my Garmin acquired its signal in record time. This gave me back a minute or so in terms of my morning schedule. I probably benefited from a tailwind over my first half mile but I didn't appreciate it until I turned and hit the headwinds. Fortunately, I had worn enough layers to stay comfortable despite the wind chill.

I was happy with my running performance through January and I'm hoping to turn in a credible time in Long Beach 4 miler. Still, I need to put in the work to activate those fast twitch fibers. So it's back to the track on Saturday for some fun 400's.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Committing to the distance(s)

It was a good weekend for running. Two colleagues who always check in with me on their weekend running both reported great experiences. I had a decent long-ish run on Saturday and an invigorating trail run yesterday, on a course best described as nature's roller coaster. This morning I was pleased to hear that my friend and colleague FS achieved a PR for a 10K race on Saturday. She wasn't even trying to do that. It was the zen of the run.

My goal for this month was to exceed 70 running miles. After tomorrow's run I'll probably come in just at 69. I averaged 73 running miles per month in 2011, plus three miles per week on the elliptical machine. I think I made a critical mistake by under-training on distance in the three months preceding my half marathon. My training mileage peaked in March at 74 and plummeted to below 60 in April. No wonder I struggled in the last miles of that race in early May.

For the first time ever, I'm going to write out a training plan that will help ensure that I cover the distances I need to get my base up where it needs to be. It's nice to head out the door with no plannned distance. I can cut it short anytime I feel like it. But if I go out knowing that I can't come home until I've reached seven miles, I'll make sure I do just that.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trailview to Stillwell had its ups and downs

What goes up must come down (and then up, then down, etc.)
Today's run (Trailview State Park): 3.5 miles

After sixteen years living within minutes of Trailview State Park, I finally made it over for a visit this morning. Trailview is actually a series of connected trails that run along a strip that starts just above Bethpage State Park and goes north almost 8 miles to Cold Spring Harbor. The trail is interrupted at points where roads (some major) intersect the route.

The section of Trailview that I ran started adjacent to Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury and it connects to Stillwell Woods at the separation of Syosset-Woodbury road. The section I ran wasn't very long but it provided quite a workout. I wanted more of a challenge than I get from my usual Stillwell loop and I sure found it on the Trailview path.

After parking in the lot next to the trail head, I chose one of two paths that run north. The trails are only wide enough for a single runner or mountain biker, but two people could walk side by side in a pinch. In fact I encountered a few walkers on my way back and we all managed to make room as we crossed paths.

The trails quickly transitioned from flat to rolling, to the point where it seemed like I was either running up or bombing down a steep hill. I did fairly well on the rises and was surprised that I didn't experience major lactic acid burn as I ascended the hills. It was the sharp drops that bothered me most, because the terrain was uneven and full of baseball-sized rocks. I was concerned about taking a tumble a few times.

The trail ended at Syosset-Woodbury Road after dropping about 40 feet to street level. I continued across the road and encountered two runners coming out of the woods. I asked them if that was the access point for Stillwell and they said yes. Almost immediately after that, I encountered two mountain bikers. The first one said, "One more behind!" and the other politely thanked me for giving way for him to pass.

I only ran about a quarter mile towards Stillwell before turning back. I'd encountered a split in the path and I didn't want to get lost in Stillwell while my car was parked over a mile away at the Trailview lot. I knew that all the downhills I ran on the way over would come back to me as challenging uphills, but I looked forward to the challenge.

It seemed as though I covered the return in half the time it took to get to Stilwell. I'm guessing it was because I knew by then what lay in front of me. I wasn't quite at my targeted distance when I reached my starting point so I ran a little longer down the other trail. It was only 3.5 miles but it was a lot of work, not unlike last weekend when I ran through thick snow.

It was a good weekend of running and I was pleased to get back on the trail after being away for a few weeks. It's less than two weeks before my next race. I guess I'll need to focus on speed this week and next weekend.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Avoiding a lockout, I hit the streets

Today's run (street): 5.7 miles

Energy booster
I wanted to run at Bethpage this morning but I was concerned that I'd be locked out, like the last time I went there. I understand if the current budget requires closing the park in winter, but I did buy an Empire Passport to get year round access. What really bugs me is that the website says the park is open every day of the year. Perhaps it is, and I just happened to come on a weekend when it was closed. Would it be too much to ask to have accurate information on the NY Parks website?

Not wishing to drive over to Bethpage only to be greeted with a locked gate, I headed out the door intending to cover about six miles around my neighborhood. There's absolutely nothing wrong with my neighborhood and I'm fortunate to have a safe, contained network of streets to run any time. It can be a little boring to look at the same houses and cars day after day, but it's still better than doing my mileage on the treadmill.

I really didn't feel motivated prior to my run. My wife and daughter both needed to give me pep talks to get me out the door. Once on my way, I felt good, and I credit the square of Ghirardelli Chocolate (72% cocoa) I had right before I started for my early energy. The only way I can put together six miles in my neighborhood without duplicating too many roads is to first go north and south, then east and west and repeat that on the other side.

I dressed well for my run, neither too hot nor cold in the 37 degree weather. My energy level remained high and while I didn't exactly push the pace throughout my run, I did at the end. My route fell short of six miles but it was close enough for me. With another clear day to run on Sunday, I'm hoping to go for distance again tomorrow. Perhaps a long a long run on Stillwell's rolling trails is in order. Certainly no boring houses or cars on that route.

Friday, January 27, 2012

In treadmill I trust. Or do I?

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

This is the key
A rainy morning kept me inside today so I did yet another treadmill run. I'm curious to know how close the readout on the treadmill's display matches my actual progress and performance. I replaced the treadmill's console a few months ago but wasn't able to run the calibration sequence when I installed it. Every time I run on the machine I question the accuracy of its recorded distance and speed.

I've often felt that running on this treadmill (a Sole F63) and our prior Pro-Form unit felt harder at a given speed than when running on the road. A 9:00 pace on the Sole feels like about 8:50 on pavement. It may be that the treadmill forces a shorter stride and higher cadence that feels more challenging. I would think that the treadmill would feel easier and street running because there's no wind resistance. Plus, you don't experience hills unless you select an incline.

I still have my foot pod that links to my Garmin and I could probably answer my accuracy questions by comparing the Garmin performance with the Sole's on the same run. Before I do that, I need to replace the foot pod battery and do some calibration runs outside in order to establish an accurate baseline. The other issue is that the foot pod won't attach easily to my Hattori's so I'll need to run in a different shoe. I guess I can make excuses why it will be hard to test or I can just go ahead and try it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Despite how it sounds, brown fat is a runner's friend

Yesterday's workout (treadmill): 25 minutes
Today's workout (elliptical): 26 minutes

I've never understood why it's so hard to use fat as an energy source. Everyone knows that people burn calories at a specific rate and that most of what isn't used gets stored as fat. Unfortunately, this fat isn't (metaphorically) shelved and ready for use as soon as our bodies need a boost. It requires a lot of physical change to access these stores. An article in the Tuesday NY Times talks about brown fat, which our bodies can efficiently access and burn.

The article makes a number of points, including the interesting fact that when a person is cold, their body will convert our excess white fat to brown fat. The more brown fat we have, the more fuel we have to burn at the ready. It's funny, but I've bundled up less on my commute since I read that article. Just think, next time you are standing in the miserable cold, you can take solace in the fact that you are converting your unhealthy fat into a performance enhancing form.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My wife's anti-wimp technique

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

The rain and warm temperatures have washed away most of this weekend's snow, so I headed out for a neighborhood run this morning. The treadmill, which I have long demonized, has recently become my lazy choice for a morning workout. And why not? It's ready to go when you are. A quick change into running  shoes, shorts and shirt (shirt optional), and I can go from sleeping to running in a third of the time it takes me to go outdoors.

Why did I run outside today? Because my wife made me. Last night I told her that I was planning an indoor run and she said "The rain is gone and it's going to be almost 50 degrees tomorrow morning. You really like to run outside, so why aren't you?" I couldn't tell her that I've become a wimp who prefers the easy, controlled experience of treadmill running. Or that I've been seduced by the extra time afforded by not putting on outside gear and messing with satellite acquisition.

Out I went this morning, and I had a great run. I appreciated my ability to vary speed, cadence and stride on a whim and the ever changing scenes of my neighborhood. The winds were strong and they seemed to come from multiple directions. I ran very well, but only beat my usual pace by 20 seconds per mile. It was probably due to so many headwinds. The important thing was that, due to my wife's prompting, I had a much  better experience than I would have on the treadmill. Maybe I should listen to her more often.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday R&R

I always appreciate my rest days, but I especially enjoyed it this morning. After a few tough workouts this weekend, I was ready for a break. I've resumed my focus on distance and performance after dropping both mileage and intensity in my running in December. My half marathon doesn't happen for three more months, but I'm determined to be better trained for 13 miles than I was at last year's race.

An important part of training is proper rest and recovery. After this weekend's challenging run on snow, followed the next day by an hour of treadmill and elliptical, a day of rest feels just right. The temperatures are rising, so by tomorrow I'm hoping that the ice on the roads will be gone. Otherwise, it's back on the treadmill, once again.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This brick did the trick

Good training method and effective against big bad wolves
Today's workouts:
Treadmill - 30 minutes
Elliptical - 30 minutes

I may be using the term incorrectly, but the word "brick" is often used to denote a type of triathlon training. The idea is to perform two different workouts, back to back. This helps a triathlete acclimate from intense running to intense biking. This is also known as transitioning. I'm not sure if running to elliptical meets that definition, but it doesn't really matter since I'm not looking to train for a triathlon.

The roads were clearer this morning, but the remnants of yesterday's dry fluffy snow have turned to ice. I decided that indoors would be a better bet, especially with 18 degree temperatures outside. Last Sunday I did an hour on the treadmill using elevation to make it even more challenging. I traded elevation for speed today and did my run around 30 sec. per mile slower than 5K pace.

Thirty minutes on the treadmill went by faster than I'd expected. Before I started my run, I hooked up my Android smartphone to the treadmill so I could play music through the built in speakers. I was dissatisfied with the selections coming out of Slacker so I switched to YouTube and started a video of NYC Marathon participants in their final stretch through Central Park.

I'd hoped that watching other runners would motivate me, but the fixed camera and low resting position of my phone's screen made for a boring distraction. When I tried to select a different video I received sizable shocks from my phone (I have a terrible static issue with the treadmill) so I yanked my phone out of the machine and ran with no visual stimulation besides my snowy backyard scenery.

As usual, I progressed my speed in regular intervals so that, in my last five minutes, I was running my targeted pace for a 4 mile race. I was more than ready to stop when I passed the 30 minute mark.  Three minutes later, I was set up on the elliptical and starting the second half hour of my "brick."

Starting a workout with an elevated heart rate and full coat of sweat is an interesting experience. I was used to those conditions when finishing a session on the elliptical, but never before I started. The first couple of minutes were tough but I soon realized that my fitness was there. By the time I reached 20 minutes the only things that bothered me were my feet because I was wearing my Hattori's. Those thin soles are not a good choice for an elliptical machine.

I was pretty tired near the end and I kept telling myself that all workouts eventually finish and this one would too. I stepped off the machine feeling like I'd put in a good morning's effort and I felt that the "brick" idea was sound. Workouts on the treadmill and the elliptical can grow tedious, but 30 minutes of each was a good plan for an hour of training. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Like running on the beach, except for the frozen face

Today's run (snow): 3.2 miles

Long Island is receiving its first snowfall of the winter, with about three inches of powder on the roads so far. Since I ran on the treadmill three times this week to avoid snow that didn't come, I thought I'd continue my illogical reasoning by running outside when it did snow.

If I were skiing or snowshoeing I would have been thrilled with the conditions I faced when I stepped outside. The snow was soft powder that looked very pretty. Unfortunately, the fluffy stuff absorbed most of the energy from my stride. As I moved along, I noticed how similar this was to running on a sandy beach.

The streets were not plowed and I was wary of any car or truck I encountered because I didn't trust their control. I headed to the sidewalk so avoid any vehicles, but I preferred the roads that had packed snow where cars had driven. The effort of running on 3 inches of powder was exhausting, but the sections of hard pack brought some relief.

The temperature was 25 degrees when I started my run and the snowflakes that landed on my face and glasses threatened to freeze. Still, I was fairly comfortable. By the time I returned home my face felt numb.

I only covered three miles this morning, but it felt like double that distance in terms of effort. I was sweating by the end, but once I changed into dry clothes I was ready for my second workout: shoveling the driveway. The snow has finally stopped and, by tomorrow, I'm hoping the roads will be clear. If that's the case I'll be sure to appreciate the benefits of running on a more responsive surface.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Too lazy to go outside

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

It may be odd to say this, but I feel like I've gotten a little lazy in my workout routine. It's not that I'm running less frequently or backing off on my intensity. Not at all. In fact, the amount of time I'm averaging per weekday run is up 4%. What's different is that a third of my morning workday runs have been done of the treadmill instead of through the streets of my neighborhood.

I'm not sure if it's the January chill or my reluctance to spend ten minutes gearing up to go outside, but every night I check the weather and if they say cold, rain or heavy winds, I prep for an indoor workout. That's exactly what happened last night. The news station said light snow at 4:00 AM so I said, "that's that" It turned out to be clear, but instead of heading outside I still hopped on the treadmill.

So I'm calling it laziness even if I'm ultimately working hard. But tomorrow, even with the predicted snow, I have every intention of doing my run outdoors.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The more you think the worse you'll perform

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

Perhaps there is something to the idea of "clear mind, sound body." I followed a link put up by blogger/podcaster cyktrussel who publishes http://www.runrunlive.com/ that states "intense thinking could [also] affect a competitive athlete’s performance." The term used in the article is "ego depletion" and the article further states that "the harder you think, work or stress right before a practice or race, the worse you will perform." 

Perhaps the next time I have a bad run or workout, I'll blame it on my tendency to think too deeply.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Want to take it easy? Run a little faster.

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

If not for the 50 MPH winds this morning, I would have been happy to get outside for my run. It was 49 degrees (and dropping) at 4:00 AM and I was already on the treadmill. After Sunday's full hour run on this machine, I had no problem returning for another round. I got up to speed quickly and followed my normal practice of increasing speed throughout the run, so that I would finish my run about an 8:30 pace.

A week ago Saturday I went out for a run with the intention of running slowly as a way to facilitate recovery. I feared that I'd finish feeling like the easy effort had made no impact. In reality, I had the opposite experience. Running slowly turned out to be harder than running fast.

I've applied that lesson in every run I've done since then. Perhaps the momentum of an efficient stride helps me move along better. The energy created by faster leg turnover certainly seems to fuel my effort. Of course once I'm running at threshold speed it becomes a whole lot harder. But right now, as counter-intuitive as it seems, working a little harder is making for easier running.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A look ahead in 2012

It was great to wake up and realize I had a scheduled rest day this morning. Coming off a three day weekend, it's always nice to ease into the work week by sipping coffee and watching the news. Somehow, going from a deep sleep into the cold wet weather to run lacked appeal today.

I'm thinking about my running goals for 2012 but I haven't yet set them in stone. I would like to do more running outside of Long Island than I did last year. As a subset to that, I would like to explore more off-road venues. I'm hoping to participate in as many races as I did in 2011 and to improve my half marathon time by at least ten minutes. I did five personal bests in my ten 2011 races, so it will be hard to repeat that this year. But I promise to try.

I'll be listing my full set of goals soon. The most important, as always, is to finish the year as excited about running as when I started it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

60 minutes going nowhere

Almost there!
Today's run (treadmill): 40 minutes@ 2% incline, 10 mins@ 1%, 10 mins level

It was another 18 degree morning and I just didn't feel like running outside. I normally rest on Mondays, but with the holiday I couldn't resist a workout with no time constraint. I hopped aboard the treadmill as soon as my wife had finished her daily run. My goal was to run an hour because I've been remiss about pushing my base training. I really needed to focus on that.

When I start my runs outside, I usually get to speed within the first ten seconds. No metaphoric dipping my toe in the pool to get used to the water. But the treadmill is different, probably because I find it odd to have so much motion contained within such a small area. A misstep would be bad. I'll admit that I'm a little afraid of the machine, especially when going full speed.

I started at a moderate pace but set the incline to 2%. I maintained that combination for the first 10 minutes at which point I began my steady increase of speed in .1 MPH increments. By the 20 minute mark I was sweating and at 40 minutes I took the incline down to 1%. It's amazing what a difference that made, but I traded off by increasing the speed a little more.

At 50 minutes I dropped the incline entirely and blipped up the speed every minute so that I was running about an 8 minute pace by the end. I wore my Thrive running shirt that is made with cotton and bamboo and it was completely soaked by the time I finished. I was glad to get through a longer run today and pleased that I still had plenty left in the tank when I finished.

I'm concerned that my original Hattori's are beginning to wear out and the left shoe of my replacement pair doesn't fit very well. After much research, I'm hoping to replace the Hattori's with either the Kinvara 3 or the New Balance MR00 when they hit the stores in March. Since I haven't tried either model I'm concerned that I might be disappointed (like when I finally tried the Brooks Pure Project models). If that's the case, I'll need to start my search once again.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Running performance: was it fear or cold?

Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

Like we used to say when I was growing up in Boston, this morning was "wicked cold." It wasn't obvious that the temperature had dropped into the teens when I got up, because our thermostats do a good job of maintaining a comfortable temperature in the house. I was surprised to see the local TV station reporting 18° in Woodbury. Worse, with wind chill, the effective temperature was 2° F.

I think my reaction to freezing cold differs from most people. I was elated by the opportunity to bundle up and go out for a run. The trick is to maintain the right balance of layers so that you don't start out comfortable and end up hot and miserable. Due to time pressure, I knew I wouldn't going too far on my run, so that gave me more latitude for overdressing. Had I gone 6 miles instead of 3 today, I probably would have overheated by the end.

I felt cozy and warm when I hit the street and I moved along well from the start. I wore a balaclava to protect my face from the wind and that helped keep my head warm. Unfortunately, the ventilation panel in the front restricted my breathing and I had to pull it down below my chin. That was fine until I changed direction toward the west and the wind hit me full on.

As bad as it was, I pressed on and changed direction as soon as I could. I was pushing myself but I didn't think I was going very fast, at least compared to other runs this past week. I was racing the clock because my wife made it clear that she needed me back by a certain time. I was reasonably confident that I would keep on schedule but I grew nervous as time went on.

I managed to complete my run with seven minutes to spare and a look at my Garmin showed that I averaged close to 9 minutes a mile. Considering that I expected today's run to be on the slower side I was pleased with this result. The freezing weather probably contributed to my surprising pace by making me run faster to stay warm. Then again, it could have been the fear of being late that ultimately pushed my pace.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tempo for the Snowflake

Today's run (street): 4.4 miles

It's the start of a three day weekend and I kicked it off with a neighborhood run this morning. The temperatures have been all over the place and this morning it was cold. I wore one of my "private brand" half zips (in this case, Layer 8) that do a great job of keeping me warm while managing sweat. Combined with my CS track pants, I was very comfortable throughout my run.

I planned a tempo run with a target pace about 30 seconds slower than (4 mile) race pace. I moved along well but fell ten seconds short of my pace goal. Overall, I was pleased with my fitness, but I guess I didn't push hard enough. Four miles isn't quite enough distance to move my base training forward but at least I'm running with more energy compared to the last two weeks.

The end of the line at last year's Snowflake Run
The long weekend provides an extra opportunity for a distance run. I'd like to get at least one 6+ mile run in before Tuesday or, equivalently, an hour on the trails. I'm registered for the Snowflake 4 mile Run in February so in the short term I will also focus on speed. I probably should do intervals more often anyway. Now I have no excuses.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A superstitious run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Ha! You don't scare me
Happy Friday the 13th! It's easy to laugh at superstitions but we all have them. Personally, I'm fine with it being the 13th because I've had some nice things happen on this date.

That said, I thought my luck had run out a few minutes into this morning's run. Although the news station said the temperatures were in the high 40's it felt chilly when I stepped outside. I could even see vapor when I breathed. That didn't matter because I was dressed for cold. I set out feeling energized and stepped up the pace when I realized I could sustain a harder effort. About a half mile in, I felt some drops of rain that soon became a steady downpour. I strongly considered heading back home to finish on the treadmill.

The winds were also strong and the combination of wind, cold and rain was unpleasant. I decided to press on as long as I could see (with glasses, that can be an issue) and continued to run fairly hard. I was disappointed that the weather might interrupt what was turning out to be a strong run, but after a mile the rain reverted to a drizzle.

I was surprised by how fast I could run without feeling the lactic acid burn that I always associate with a harder effort. Some days, for no reason, a run turns out to be a slog and you do what you must to get through it. Maybe it was the luck of Friday the 13th that helped me today, but I finished as strong as I started, with my fastest overall pace in memory. So much for superstition.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

1,100 ways to say "I ran"

Today's workout: (elliptical): 25 minutes

It would have been cool if today was 11/11/11 instead of 11/12/12, because this is the 1,100th post on the Emerging Runner. It's amazing to think that since November 18, 2008, I've published approximately 275,000 words about one thing: running. But with 726 keywords in my tag cloud, there's been a lot more to talk about than that.

Rain, rain, go away
The rain this morning was only surpassed by the wind and I stayed indoors for my workout. I originally planned a treadmill run but decided to maintain my schedule that includes an elliptical session on Thursdays. I'm hoping that the rain moves out by tomorrow morning so I can get outside for my morning run. It doesn't look too promising. I snapped a photo out my office window at 7:15 AM and it looks like a monsoon at midnight.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I rest my case

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Two day's of rest seemed to do the trick, and I had a decent run in the neighborhood this morning. Most of last week's runs were challenging and I'd hoped an extra day would help reset my system. Over the weekend I had some concern with a possible left knee injury, but my recovery plan seemed to work. The pain was gone this morning.

It was harder than I expected to get up and out this morning. Rest days can be seductive and it's always tempting to give in and take one more. I'm pleased to say that I rarely do that. When I do, it's because my body has told me to skip a workout. Today my body was imploring me to rest, but it was a half-hearted argument. Before I knew it, I was standing on my driveway waiting for my FR210 to acquire a signal.

The run itself was good, but not great. While my legs didn't feel weighed down like they did last week, my stride felt mechanical over the first mile. I began pushing the pace at that point and things improved a lot. Although I ended up with a middling overall pace, the second half of my distance was run about a minute per mile faster than the first. I'm beginning to see evidence that incremental effort can yield measurable results. But to achieve that, you need to take the proper rest.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A couple of products I wish I could buy

Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

After yesterday's difficult run that capped a week of tough workouts, I decided to give myself a couple of days rest in the upcoming week. Since today is Sunday, I couldn't resist the chance to go out for a run without the time constraints that I face on workday mornings. You'd think that I'd take it easy today and ease into my upcoming rest period, but that's not the way it went.

I've had some tweaking around my left knee and I felt some soreness when I got up today. I noticed that the pain came from lateral, not straight-ahead, movements. That meant I could run, so I put on my running gear and headed outside.

I thought about my current stamina issues and popped a couple of Sports Beans before I left. I'm not sure if they helped, but I did feel more energy at the start than I did before yesterday's run. It made me think about two products I'd like to see: a time released carb/electrolyte supplement and an electrolyte drink that is neutral-tasting like water.

Right product, wrong geography
I used to buy electrolyte-enhanced water at Whole Foods after runs in the city, but it only solved part of the problem. I looked online and found a product called CNP Pro-Energy bars that supposedly release energy over time. The website is from the UK and I don't know if the bars are available in the US. I think both of these ideas would find a market here.

Today's run went very well. I didn't plan to cover a long distance, so I ran harder than I did Saturday. My speed improved 2 minutes per mile over yesterday's pace. That was good enough for me, and when I finished I was breathing hard but happy to take a break over the next couple of days.

I need to get in at least one 6+ mile run next weekend as I continue to build my base for May's half marathon. In the meantime, I'm hoping to recover my fitness with a little R&R.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Today I ran like a Kenyan

As if...
Today's run (street): 5.4

Don't be impressed by the headline of this post, I wasn't channeling Geoffrey Mutai winning the ING NYC marathon this morning. Quite the opposite, actually. While Kenyan runners regularly hit five minute miles in competition, they tend to do their long recovery runs at an extremely slow pace. That was my plan today and I kept to it.

The training schedule that I've followed over the last few years has been to run five days a week, with additional cross training on a 6th day. I rest on Mondays unless I'm not feeling well or if I'm tapering for a race.

With a schedule like that, I shouldn't have issues with running strength or stamina but I sometimes hit the wall around 30 minutes into a run. Since my policy has always been, "Once I start, no stopping" I run through these low points and will occasionally rebound strongly. People have said that even though my frequency is high, my base is fairly low. This is true. My weekday running distances average 2.5 miles due to time limitations. On weekends I'll go longer, but the shorter runs play havoc on my base.

My monthly mileage numbers this past November and December were down about 10% from the prior year. I know it's because I wasn't consistently doing 7+ mile distances as I had in 2010. I've decided to work on my base with 5 miles being my lower limit for weekend runs. Last Sunday I ran the 5 mile Hangover Run and this morning I did a 5.4 mile neighborhood run.

Five miles isn't particularly long but I needed to motivate myself to get out today after suffering three tough runs since Sunday. I figured that running slowly would make it easier -- and it was --  until I hit 4 miles and started to suffer fatigue. I didn't fully understand why, since I'd run over a minute/mile faster last Sunday. Unfortunately, running like a Kenyan didn't yield the results that I'd hoped to attain.

A week of tough running has convinced me that I need to give myself a two-day break to restore my fitness to normal levels. Since I can't resist running on weekends, I'll target Monday (my usual rest day) and Tuesday as recovery days. I'll see if that does any good when I get back to it on Wednesday.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Workouts, PE and relax-outs

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles
Yesterday's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

My wife and I were comparing notes on our workouts this morning. We'd both had hard runs and I said that's the reason why it's called a workout and not a relax-out. She and I have very different training methods and I would be challenged to follow her routine. In turn, she would probably say the same of mine. But each day we congratulate each other (and ourselves) for getting it done. It's great reinforcement and it motivates us to continue.

Without a running watch I would have guessed that I ran today's route a minute per mile faster than I actually did. My perceived effort was high but I clearly fell short on performance. No matter, I recently read an article that said that perceived effort (PE) is a better gauge of how you should be running than holding rigidly to a targeted pace.

Every workout that I've done since returning to work has generated a high PE but performance on the low end of the scale. It could have to do with my adjustment back to 4:00 AM running because I feel very good overall. Maybe a long slow base run this weekend can get me back on track. Perhaps a relax-out is just what's needed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Faint praise for the treadmill

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I'm going to blame the transition from vacation to work for my sluggish performance this morning.  Even though I'm an early riser while on vacation, there's a big difference between waking up at 6:00 AM versus 3:45 AM. It probably didn't help that I set a 2% incline for the first 2/3rds of today's workout.

A year ago I probably would have braved the weather and gone outside, despite this morning's 11° temperature. My dislike of the treadmill experience used to outweigh the discomfort of freezing conditions, but I've finally accepted the treadmill for what it is. I even appreciate how I can change conditions like speed and elevation with a single touch. I'll reluctantly admit that, on an extremely cold morning, the treadmill can be the better choice.

Still, I far prefer the trails or the road, and I can't wait to get outdoors this weekend. I may have been better off resting today, but since I started the run I felt I needed to finish it. Around the 15 minute mark I realized I wasn't at full strength. I decided to drop the incline rather than hurt myself further. I did step up the speed a little when I did that, but not by much. Tomorrow, I will do an elliptical workout and (hopefully) on Friday the temperatures will be back in the 30's and I'll take to the streets once again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reality check: back to work and 13.1 training

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

As I walked through mid-town this morning, I detected the acrid odor of a cigarette. It reminded me that being on vacation had shielded me from that toxic smell for almost two weeks. Well it's back to work for me today. I'll miss being on vacation but at least I like work.

The alarm jolted me awake at 3:45 and I debated whether to ease back into work mode by skipping today's run. With temperatures in the 20's, it was easy to justify staying indoors. But when you have a treadmill and an elliptical machine, there's really no excuse not to exercise. I did an easy indoor run for 25 minutes which actually helped both mind and body.

I'm trying to decide an approach to training for the half-marathon in May. Last year I think I misunderstood the amount of base training I would need to meet my expectations for a 13.1 mile race. It was the most difficult run I've ever done, but I still felt I that could have done better in terms of finish time. I'm hoping that with a reasonable plan, I can realistically target 2:10. To do that, I'm going to need to do a lot of 10 to 13 mile training runs between now and May.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My 2012 racing calendar is already filling up!

All vacations end, and when they do, the hope is to be fully relaxed before returning to the office. For this vacation, I'd say mission accomplished. I even remained healthy throughout the week. For some reason, over the years, this winter holiday break has coincided with illness. It's mostly been bouts of the flu, but two years ago I was hospitalized  with pneumonia. So far, so good!

I usually rest on Mondays to recover from the prior week's training. I considered doing a run today since I'm still out of the office. I ultimately decided to forgo this workout in favor of today's busy agenda.My only running related activity was snagging two pairs of compression shorts at Marshall's for about $10 each. It was a very good deal.

I've signed up for the RXR Long Island Half Marathon that takes place in May. My friend TC, who planned to run it with me last year but got injured, has also signed up. In the meantime, I'm planing to run the Long Beach Snowball 4 mile race in February and the Marcie Mazzola 5K in mid-April. I may also try to fit in a 10K race as a tuneup before the Half. I need to restart my long base training soon, so I'm hoping for some snow-free weekends this month.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

LIRRC 2012 Hangover Run: well done fun

Today's run (LIRRC Hangover Run): 5 miles
47:19 (9:28 pace)

Happy New Year! Last night went later than expected and I didn't get to sleep until after 12:30 AM. I did catch an hour's nap earlier, in an attempt to bank some needed sleep, but I don't think it did much good. Even so, I got up at 6:30 and tried to decide how to dress for this morning's fun run in Eisenhower Park. The NYC news station showed 44 degrees, while our local station showed 32.

I finally settled on a long sleeve base layer topped with a short sleeved jersey, along with my new CS running pants. It was a good choice but I may have been fine with only one layer on top. When Team Emerging Runner joins me on cold days, I can wear more layers to keep warm. I just hand off my jacket before the race begins. Today I was by myself, so the extra layer helped while I stood waiting for the start.

I have to hand it to the Long Island Road Runner's Club who put on today's event at Eisenhower Park. LIRRC does it all with a minimum of frills (no race shirts or pre-registration) but they charge very little to participate and they hold many races throughout the year. Today's Fun Run was a gift because the event was open to all. Post-run refreshments were served and not a penny was charged to participate.

It was friendly crowd who milled around near the start area and soon we were off on our 5 mile run. The LIRRC provides a timing clock but the tracking is up to the participants. No one wins this race but I'm sure the swiftest runners compete for bragging rights. The course is five times around a measured loop within the park. Every time you pass the timing clock at the start, you've finished another mile.

It was interesting to run this "Hangover" run. I didn't see too many sluggish runners nursing hangovers. It felt like a race. Since it wasn't actually a competition, I decided to run it a little faster than a recreational run at that distance, but not as fast as my 8K race pace.

It may have been last night's late bedtime, or the fact that I haven't taken a rest day since last Monday, but I couldn't generate a lot of speed. The first mile seemed to take a while and the clock showed 9:02 when I passed it. Miles 2 through 4 were run slower as I settled into a more comfortable pace. At the last mile I decided to step things up a little and passed a handful of runners before crossing the line at 47:19.

Even though I didn't have a hangover, it was a great head-clearing experience. Just think, I've got a perfect streak going this year, running every day and averaging 5 miles each run! Sadly, the streak will end tomorrow when I take a well needed rest.


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