Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chia Surge provides "gritty" experience

Still waiting for my surge
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 6.2 miles

I took an unscheduled rest day on Friday and hoped to make up some miles today. The weekend weather was supposed to be hot and humid, so I planned to get out early before temperatures got into the 80's. Unfortunately, I didn't get to Bethpage State Park until 8:00 AM, and the heat was already rising.

Prior to my run, I tried the last of the "test gels" that I'd recently purchased at REI. This brand was called Chia Surge and, according to its website (VITALYTE), "Chia Surge is the first gel to combine Whole Seed Chia and Palatinose for mile after mile energy and muscle fuel, with Beta Alanine and BCAA’s to buffer lactic acid and improve muscle performance."

That sounded pretty impressive and I had high hopes that it would help me through my planned 6.2 mile run this morning. The gel contains Chia, a seed that is featured as a natural source of energy in Christopher McDougall's book, "Born to Run." I had experimented with Chia seed after I'd read the book and found the energizing claims inconclusive.

If you think you'd be squeamish about putting a thick, sweet, but slightly chemical-tasting syrup in your mouth, you may want to avoid this product. That's because it gets worse when you feel the grittiness of hundreds of Chia seeds that crunch as you (involuntarily) chew them. I followed my ingestion of Chia Surge with a rigorous flossing session.

Still, I'd hoped that the gel would provide that promised surge that would get me through the heat and my challenging route along Bethpage's rolling bike trail. I began my run at the trail head and took note of my energy level. I felt a little below average, with heavy legs and low energy. There was no surging going on, at least at that point.

A look at my splits showed some interesting metrics. I'd covered mile one in 10:30 which, even for me, is slow. But something weird happened after that and my pace dropped to the low 9:00's for the next couple of miles. Was it a delayed reaction to the gel? Or did that easy first mile warm me up for the next two? If it was the former, I'd say that Chia Surge provides a little extra energy for a short time.

By mile four, the heat was getting to me and the running became more difficult. I'd filled my gel flask with water and used it strategically because it only held 4 ounces. I like that it fits nicely in the pocket of my Brooks running shorts. The route is out-and-back and I'd wished I turned around sooner at that point, but it was too late. I had to do my full six.

I struggled through the rest of the run and dreaded the last hill that took what was left of my energy. I definitely slowed down after mile three, but considering the heat and my low energy start, my overall pace wasn't terrible (10:17). I certainly felt like I got a good workout.

I can't say that Chia Surge helped or that it didn't. I was more impressed with the experience I had with both the Accell and the Chocolate #9 gels last week. It would be unfair to judge a product based on a single use, but it's unlikely that I'd try Chia Surge again. There are too many other options out there, and none of them require dental floss.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Central Park Fun Run

Fun Run start and finish spot
Yesterday's run (Central Park Fun Run): 1.6 miles

Yesterday afternoon my company's division held its summer holiday picnic in Central Park. I work with great people and it's a pleasure to spend time with them. The picnic is usually a low key affair and this year was no different. We order sandwiches, walk together to Central Park and settle in at a predetermined spot. The activities are optional, some play Frisbee or pickup football games and others enjoy relaxing in the shade. This year we brought back our "Fun Run/Walk" that we last did in 2009.

We had over twenty signed up for the run but (unfortunately) a few people needed to remain at the office resolving some business issues. This event was non-competitive and we took off together at a manageable pace. Our course followed the lower loop of the Park in a clockwise direction. Most cyclists and runners go counter-clockwise, but I wanted to start us off going downhill (and also wanted to avoid finishing uphill).

1.6 miles goes by fairly quickly, but the distance was perfect considering the heat and humidity. It is always fun to run with a group, especially this one. Before I knew it, we'd reached the top of the Mall and followed the path back to our starting point. A couple of people put down the hammer for the final third of a mile, but I was content to maintain my mid-9:00 pace until the end.

I'd brought Wet Ones wipes for people to "towel down" after they'd finished and I was glad that I did. We watched the rest of our colleagues come in, the runners and then the walkers. When all were accounted for we crossed the road and joined our division colleagues at the picnic spot. It was a perfect way to detach from the business and generate a little sweat, not far from the office. I wish we could do this every week!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why do I walk so fast and run so slow?

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Yesterday morning I took a walk with a colleague to Central Park to scope out locations for our division Fun Run. She's a fast fitness walker, but I was able to keep up with little effort. I typically walk faster than anyone I know and I always have. It's easy for me and it probably has something to do with my long stride length. So, why then, am I such a mediocre runner?

Before I started running I used to think that I'd be fast, simply because I walk fast, but four years of history tell me that's not true. I sometimes wonder if there are things that I do when I walk that get lost in translation when I run. My stride length when running always seems short to me and I know my cadence is typically 8% less than the ideal of 180 steps per minute.

This morning I went out again on a cool morning run and moved along fine, but I barely cracked the 9:00 range for my pace. I know that if I'd put in more effort I could have improved by 30 seconds per mile, but not much more than that. It would be great if I could apply my walking speed to running, but I don't see an easy way to do that. And, no, I have no interest in race walking, whatsoever.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Back to the 4:00 AM thing

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I've been busy with post-vacation business and have not had a chance to post until now. Later this week my division will be holding its summer picnic in Central Park and I've organized a 1.6 mile non-competitive run/walk. I'm hoping we get a good crowd of participants like last time.

It was back to 4:00 AM running this morning. After so many hot and humid days, I was fortunate to have temperatures in the high-50's. These conditions were further helped by the cooling mist from lawn sprinklers along my way. I didn't break any speed records this morning, but I was proud of myself for getting up and out again at that early hour.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This may be my all-time PwDR*

A high mileage vacation week
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

* Personal (weekly) Distance Record

I finished this vacation week with a short run that felt much harder than I expected it would be. Even with all the activities we've done over the last seven days, I've managed to cover 28 miles. Including my Central Park run on the 15th, I've run over 40 miles since my vacation started. I haven't done many long runs over these past ten days, but the frequency has been high, with only one rest day since the 14th.

Today's run started well. I took some different streets and enjoyed the sunny skies while I took in the sights of  my neighborhood. There were lots of walkers today and I counted at four other runners on the road. I'm not sure why, but the last mile took a lot more effort than the first two. I think the humidity just wore me down.

Surprisingly, I don't know the maximum number of miles I'd previously covered in a week, but I would guess it was about 25. I targeted 3 miles today but really hoped I'd feel strong enough to cover five and get to 30 miles for the week. I'm not sure why, but I just didn't have the energy so I stayed with my original plan. I was pretty beat when I finished, but happy with my weekly total.

Back to the office tomorrow, which means a return to 4:00 AM runs and shorter distances. Perhaps next Saturday I can get in another long base run and extend my streak of 80+ mile months to four.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Accel Gel gives protein a good name

More syrupy than gooey, but worth a try
Today's run (street): 5.5 miles

Compared with yesterday's weather, today is paradise. The sun is back, and the temperatures are moderate. The humidity is higher than I'd like, but completely bearable. I rested yesterday and was more than ready to get out for a run this morning.

I tested Chocolate #9 energy gel earlier in the week with good results. It seemed to deliver on its promise of preventing sugar highs or lows and I will definitely pick up a few more, next time I'm at REI. This morning I tried another brand called Accel Gel from Pacific Health Labs that claims to provide rapid energy to muscles using a (patented) formula with a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein.

Almost everything I've read about effective energy supplements supports an ideal mixture of simple and complex carbs, along with amino acids and, occasionally, caffeine. Protein is usually relegated to post workout recovery, since it doesn't convert easily to glycogen. The Accel Gel website states that the protein in the mix is helpful for both endurance and muscle recovery.

I took an Accel Gel (vanilla flavor) about 15 minutes prior to my run, with water. The gel wasn't thick like GU. It felt and tasted more like sweetened vanilla extract syrup. Gels aren't intended to be consumed as snacks. If they were, I'm guessing few people would choose this brand. I'm not saying it was bad, but I didn't love the taste.  

Like the Chocolate #9 gel, this Accel Gel helped get me through the initial minutes of my run with good energy. I wondered whether this feeling would reverse itself later, after a few miles of depletion. I think there may be something to the endurance claim, because I didn't feel run down after 50 minutes of running in the sun, heat and humidity.

Running is as much about your head as your body, and today, my head felt a bit tired. Interestingly, my body was ready to work, and I managed to move along well despite feeling like I was pushing too hard. Was it the gel that kept me going? Hard to know. But I had a pleasant 5.5 mile run and, even with the humidity, I didn't come close to a bonk.

As with Chocolate #9, more testing of Accel Gel is required. However, I was pleased what I've experienced today. GU Roctane is still my go-to gel during races, but it's always nice to have other options.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rest and celebration on a hot summer's day

It's been quite a week off between vacation, Father's Day, and my daughter's middle school graduation. On top of that, today is my daughter's 14th birthday, so the celebration continues. In between all that, I've already run 19 miles this week. That should help push me past 80 miles for the month.

This morning my daughter received an award for achievement at her school. The ceremony started at 8:00 AM so I decided to take a rest from running today. I have the whole weekend to get in more miles. It's brutally hot and very humid right now and I am hoping that conditions will be better by tomorrow. Most of today's activities will be held indoors, except for some fun and games by the pool.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

BH Fitness elliptical parts are 75 days late!

Waiting for parts, 45 days and counting...
Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles (6% - 4% - 2% incline)

I just learned today that the parts to fix our BH Fitness elliptical machine will not be shipped for another 30 days. This is on top of the 45 days that we've waited since our local repair person diagnosed the problem. The X1 had some initial problems, but overall, it has been a good machine. Still, the elliptical wore out fast considering BH Fitness was sold to me as a "premium" brand. Of course the company that sold it to me was Fitness Showrooms, who never stood behind their product. 

We had a busy schedule today, so I did my run indoors on the treadmill. This treadmill, a Sole F63, has also had its share of problems. The belt slip that we'd experienced when we first used it has returned. We'd hoped that replacing the motor and the tread had fixed the problem. Perhaps it's time to think about a more heavy duty machine.

The temperature reached 100° today and, for some reason, I decided that it would be a good idea to run with a 6% incline for 15 minutes before dropping down to 4% for the next five. I decreased the incline and increased my speed intermittently until I finished the workout. We bought a stand up oscillating fan at Target today that I've positioned in front of the treadmill. I wish I had it this morning. Even with central air, the heat and humidity were the worst I've experienced this year.

Really nice and pockets too!
While at Target, I also picked a great pair of C9 running shorts (with two side pockets!) for less than $19. With a 9" inseam they'll be perfect for the trails.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chocolate #9 seems to deliver

Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

It's going to be a hot and soggy day today, so I got out at 7:00 AM to try to beat the heat. Over the weekend we had stopped into REI, where I picked up some gels that I had not previously tried. REI offers one of the best selections of gels and performance foods I've seen and they usually offer deals as an incentive to try new items.

I tried one of the new gels, called Chocolate #9, before my run. According to the company website, this gel:
  • is sweetened only with organic agave.
  • contains no refined sugar or other HIGH glycemic index sweeteners.
  • has been tested and certified as a “LOW” glycemic index (GI) item.
  • reduces the negative effect of repetitive insulin “spiking” during sustained exercise.
  • won’t cause a sugar high or a sugar low – bonk.
  • is an excellent energy choice for endurance athletes.
  • is suitable for most diabetics.
  • is an excellent choice for those not wanting to eat refined sugar.
  • is vegan, low fat and gluten free.
  • contains no synthetics – no unpleasant aftertastes – tastes great.
  • contains no “mystery” ingredients, colorings, or preservatives.
  • is easy on the stomach.
The gel tasted fine and I felt stronger than usual as I set out on my run. It didn't translate into any great speed, but that wasn't a priority today. Despite the humidity, I didn't start to sweat until the second mile. My pace was easy but my form was good. I ran seven miles yesterday so today's 3+ miles seemed to go by fairly quickly.

I don't know how much credit I should give to this gel for providing me consistent energy throughout my run, but it certainly didn't hurt my performance. I'll try it again to see if the benefit is consistent or if today's experience was a fluke. For now, I'll give Chocolate #9 the benefit of the doubt.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An easy seven at Bethpage

Ongoing work near the Bethpage trail head
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 7.3 miles

I finally made it back to Bethpage this morning to get in some distance without being confined by the borders of my neighborhood. Bethpage provides a paved trail that reaches as far south as Massapequa Preserve. The out and back is over 13 rolling miles and this provided a great practice course for the LI Half. There are some sections that involve crossing roads, but normally there is little traffic to consider.

It felt cool and the park was virtually empty when I arrived at 8:00 AM. I noticed that the construction fences were still up since the last time I'd run there. I still don't understand exactly what they're doing, but I'm curious to see how it turns out.

My plan was to run easy today. Despite the cool air, I could tell that it was going to be humid and I wasn't looking to set any records. I set off in a trot and soon the first hill was behind me. I'd brought a gel and a small bottle of water, but didn't use either on the run today. There was no point where it got so hard that I felt that I needed them. If I was pushing my speed, it would have been a different story.

The part of the Bethpage path that I always dread comes near the end, with two hills that can really test my stamina over the last 1.5 miles. Today I approached them like any other challenge on the route, keeping my stride short and my speed at a manageable level. I was soaked with sweat by the time I finished, but I still felt strong. It was the longest I'd run I'd done since the LI Half in May.

I'm hoping to cover over 20 miles this vacation week. That will help me reach my monthly target. I've run more than 80 miles in each of the last three months and I'm hoping to continue that for June. It's supposed to get very hot and VERY humid as the week goes on. That could curb the length of my runs unless I drag myself outside early and beat the heat.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Simulated and stimulated on the treadmill

View of the open road, via the guest room
Today's run (treadmill): 50 minutes

My daughter is graduating from middle school tonight and there's a lot happening today. Although the weather is clear and cool outside, I elected to do today's run on the treadmill. I did that mostly to save time, plus it gave me an opportunity to try running with my iPad using Visually Active while I listened to my favorite podcast.

The cool outside air didn't quite make it into the guestroom, and it wasn't long before I was really sweating. The podcast was entertaining but I quickly regretted the outside-the-ear headphones I'd chosen. Unfortunately these headphones didn't position the ear buds close enough to hear, unless I put the volume on my phone to the highest level. When the cord tugged at the headphones it changed the position of speaker, causing jarringly loud sound.

Still, most of the run it was fine and listenable. The ever-moving scene of the Pacific Northwest unfolding in front of me (simulation provided by Visually Active), helped alleviate the boredom of the treadmill. I noticed that Visually Active reuses much of its video on the longer runs. The 50 minute "run" was actually the same footage I'd seen on their shorter "runs", stitched together in 15 minute segments.

I didn't push my speed too much on this run, but I kept the incline at about 4% most of the time. It was a good workout and not too taxing, on what I usually consider my weekly rest day. The day's activities continue and I'm looking forward to seeing my daughter receive her diploma tonight. Maybe tomorrow I'll finally get that long run in at Bethpage.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day on the run

Nothing like a good run to start things off
Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

It's Father's Day and I am happy for a number of reasons. First, I'm getting to spend the day with my family doing the things we like to do together. That started yesterday when my son and I went to see the movie Prometheus. We'd waited a long time to for this movie to come out and although it didn't live up to expectations, we had fun dissecting the plot and debating the meaning of the film.

Today's activities revolve around the whole family. Before we got the day started, I went for a run around the neighborhood. The temperature and humidity are expected to rise as the week goes on, but this morning was cool and partly cloudy. I wore the Spiras for a change of pace and they felt good as I started up the road. The cool air was energizing, and there were a lot of neighbors outside who greeted me as I ran by.

I'd originally planned to cover about three miles easy, because I knew I had a big day ahead and I'll have plenty of time for longer runs this week. The run felt so good that I added some extra streets to my route that increased my total to 4.3 miles. As far as it being an easy run, I hit the accelerator at the two mile mark and that put my pace into normal training range.

I was pleased that this "easy" run turned out to be a better workout than expected. One of many reasons why this is a happy Father's Day weekend.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Central Park, eight months later

Friday's run (Central Park): 3.3 miles
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.3 miles

I thought it had been a while since I'd run in Central Park, but I was shocked to see on Garmin Connect that the last time I'd run there was last October! I had assumed I'd been there more recently but after checking the blog history I confirmed that was accurate. Knowing that, I am especially happy to have returned to Central Park.

The weather was almost perfect when I got to the park. The sun was shining and the temperature was in the 60's. It took a surprisingly long time to acquire a signal on my Garmin. As soon as it locked in, I was on my way.

I began my run by going counter-clockwise along the Center Drive loop. I was surprised to see lots of runners coming from the other direction because that's opposite of the direction arrows on the bike path. I was running strongly and staying just below a nine minute pace through the first mile. By the time I reached the top of Cat Hill I had slowed a bit, but I still felt strong.

The humidity was higher than I'd first thought and I decided to limit my run to the loop below the reservoir. I gritted my teeth through the hilly sections just below the Great Lawn and Terrace Drive and enjoyed the downhill sections that followed. I continued on some the paths off Center Drive and finished on Central Park South at 7th Ave. It was a great run and my overall pace was actually faster than what I achieved on the NHP 8K.

This morning I headed to Stillwell to run the trails. I downloaded the latest 3 Non-Joggers podcast to listen to while I ran. That helped me get through some very technical and steep terrain. I ended up covering almost exactly the same mileage as I ran on Friday, but the required effort was much greater.

On my way off the trail I encountered three women who were asking people to sign a petition that would limit mowing the big field. This would help protect the wildlife and aid conservation efforts to eliminate invasive species. I was happy to sign.

I've been on vacation since yesterday afternoon. Since then, I've had two really interesting runs. I'm hoping to do a distance run in the next few days. Tomorrow is Father's Day so maybe I'll give myself the gift of running the hills on the Bethpage bike trail.

Friday, June 15, 2012


*Thank God It's Friday and I'm Running In Central Park

Some work weeks go by so fast that you almost wish for another day to get everything completed. Not this week. By Tuesday afternoon I was half-asking if tomorrow is Friday. I felt terrible on Wednesday and recovered through Thursday, although the day seemed to go on forever. TGIF indeed!

After a light morning schedule, I'm planning to head over to Central Park for a run. It's been a long time since I've run there and the conditions are perfect for it. I was on the fence last night about whether I'd do today's run in the morning by my home, or run in the park. My wife said, "Tomorrow's weather will be great and next week you're on vacation. A run in the park will be a perfect way to kick off the weekend." She's smart.

My plan is to run the eastern side loop below the reservoir and, depending on how energetic I feel, continue around the water and come back along the western side. That's about a 4.5 mile run. Otherwise, I'll follow the route I used to take when I ran with JQ, Steve, Adventure Girl and others. That run involves cutting over just north of the Great Lawn before heading south. It's about 3.1 miles in total - a nice low key 5K.

It feels a lot like summer already, with empty trains and few people in the office. The sounds from the Today Show concert is reaching me a couple of blocks away. The sun is shining. I can't wait to head for the park.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Saved again by Sudafed

The little red miracle
Tuesday's run (treadmill): 25 minutes
Wednesday's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Hi, remember me? It's been a tough couple of days and I have not had the chance to post since Monday. I was in all day industry meetings over the past few days where I presented to various groups. I needed to prepare for those presentations on the train, so I wasn't able to write my posts.

Due to the rain, I was confined to the treadmill on Tuesday and Wednesday. Yesterday morning, I used Virtually Active throughout the entire workout. The package I bought ($7.99) was of the Pacific Northwest and the video showed a combination of trail, mountain and city running. I liked certain things about it, but I wished I could raise the position of the iPad. The placement was lower than the view I would have during an actual run.

I'm not sure if the video had anything to do with it, but I felt dizziness throughout the morning and this turned into an intense headache by noon. I had just finished my talk when I realized that I probably had a sinus infection and needed to take Sudafed with pseudoephedrine. I caught the next train home, took my red pill and went to bed.

Pseudoephedrine is a bit of a miracle drug, at least it is for me. I felt good this morning but I had some residual dizziness and decided to forgo my run today. I think that was a good decision. I'm considering a lunchtime run in Central Park tomorrow and I'll see how I feel at the end of the day. With the rain behind us and sunny conditions ahead, I'm hoping I'll be up to it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Are gender-specific races sexist?

Today's run (street): 4.4 miles

My colleague and friend FS ran in the NYRR Mini 10K yesterday, and that got me thinking about gender-specific races. The Mini 10K originates back to the days when women's distance running was virtually banned by most racing associations. The mindset of the time was ridiculous, and it wasn't until the 1984 Olympics that women could finally compete at the full marathon distance. But today, there are no such issues, and the percentage of women finishers at every race distance is over 50%.

Excluding men from women-oriented races doesn't make much sense to me at this point. I suppose women-only events, like the Mini 10K, More Half Marathon and the Disney Princess races, may provide a safe experience that encourages more women into the sport. But is this practice a double standard? Or is it a matter of celebrating every women's right to competitive equality?

Allowing men into these races may risk spoiling the spirit and focus of these important events. But the exclusion of those who wish to compete mirrors the same conditions that integrated single gender races in the first place.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Base restoration, Day 1

Today's run (street): 6.4 miles

It's been weeks since I've done a run greater than five miles, so I planned for a longer run today. By the end of April (prior to the half), I was at my training peak, averaging over 22 miles a week. Right now I feel like I'm in a bit of a valley in terms of my training and performance. This is due mostly to running lower mileage weeks over the last month. I recognize that I need to refocus on my base training.

Today's route was a departure from my usual neighborhood course. After a counter-clockwise loop around the northern roads, I headed toward the local business park to run the main loop with its hilly section. On the way out, I turned into neighborhood #3 and ran a loop around those roads, finishing with a mile and a half back in my neighborhood.

I've felt slightly tired and "under the weather" since last weekend. That continued this morning, although it didn't affect my stamina. I ran about 20 seconds per mile slower than I'd planned, but I still covered my distance in a credible time.

I'm planning to rest as much as I can over the weekend in hopes of restoring my energy level. I'd like to cover another six miles tomorrow to get me to 20 miles this week. Either way, I'm happy to have run over six miles today. a good base is hard to build, and easy to lose.

Friday, June 8, 2012

This thing conquers treadmill boredom

Hope there's no virtual bears in that tunnel
Today's run ( street): 2.5 miles

Yesterday afternoon, my friend KWL suggested that I download an app on my iPad called Virtually Active. It was a great recommendation and the answer to the question I've had since the day I took up running: How can you make the treadmill experience less boring? This app certainly has the potential to make my treadmill sessions much more entertaining.

The premise of Virtually Active is simple. You place your iPad on top of your treadmill's display and the application provides the experience of (virtually) running through mountains, woods, countrysides or cities. I had my kids try it last night and my wife tried it this morning on her run. I haven't yet tried it, but I will this weekend. If I like what I see with the 7 minute sample, I'll gladly pay the $7.99 price for one of the packs that offers six runs with durations between 10 and 60 minutes.

The weather was cool and dry this morning, so I did my run outdoors. I was surprised that I could see vapor when I breathed, because the reported temperature was close to 60°. It felt cool, but not cold. Certainly not that cold.  I enjoyed my run and thought I was making good time through my regular route.

I ended up covering the course in my usual time, despite a focus on speed for the last half mile. I must have started slower than I realized. I'm hoping to get out for a distance run tomorrow. The long run training I did for the half marathon was hard to do every Saturday,  but it did improve my overall performance. I need to get back in the groove - seven miles may a good target. Perhaps I'll also do a run in the Pacific Northwest, courtesy of Virtually Active.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Taking a deferred rest day

I was plain exhausted this morning and quickly decided not to run. I figured that since I only took one rest day after my race, I was entitled to another this week. It wasn't a hard decision to make. It's an opportunity cost scenario: What's worth more to a tired runner, an incremental run or another day to recover? I wouldn't say my guilt meter is at zero for skipping my workout.  But it's pretty low.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What's depriving me from better running

By the way, today is National Running Day!
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I usually take two days off after a race to allow my leg muscles to properly recover. It may be due to my mindset about Sunday's 8K that I didn't follow tradition and skip yesterday's run. I felt like my post race plan didn't warrant the usual rest, because it was a C- effort on my part. I initially congratulated myself for toughing it out and finishing with a respectable time, but the experience was disappointing. The only thing that made it special was having my family with me.

Yesterday's run was good, as is typical after a bad run and a day of resting. This morning I opted for a treadmill workout so I could get started and finished more quickly. That left a little more time to rest before starting my day. I ran fine but without much enthusiasm. My only goal was to finish and check the "workout done" box.

Runner's World tweet this morning: "Chronically sleep deprived? It will impact your running. Try for 8 hours/night." I had to laugh because 8 hours is roughly the amount of sleep I get over two nights. I wish I could do an experiment comparing my running performance after I sleep for 8 hours a night for two weeks. I'm certain there would be measurable improvement. If only I had the time to do that.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bare feet but not barefoot

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

This morning, as I stood waiting for my Garmin to acquire its signal, I thought about a few things. First thing was the weather. The temperature was hovering around 50 degrees but it felt even colder due to a chilly breeze from the west. Second, I'd noticed the moon was shining so bright that I really didn't need my headlamp, even at 4:00 AM. The third observation was that I felt reasonably comfortable standing sockless in my new secret pair of test shoes, that are designed to be used with or without socks.

There are people who dislike socks (or shoes for that matter) and prefer to be barefoot as much as possible. I'm not one of them. The idea or running without socks has never appealed to me and the one time I tried it (with my Hattori's) resulted in bad chafing from a hot spot on the upper. But on Saturday, when I was selecting the shoes that I'd wear for Sunday's race, I tried on the test shoes sans chaussettes and was amazed by how comfortable they felt.

The test shoes are tight on the side opposite my big toe and I've managed around that by wearing the thinnest socks I have. When I tried the shoes without socks I felt like I'd gained some room. I considered choosing these shoes (sockless) but I didn't want to try something so risky on race day. I decided that I'd try going sockless a day or so after the race.

While my feet felt fine as I waited to run, I knew I wouldn't understand the experience until I put my shoes to pavement. I could tell as soon as I'd taken ten steps that a lack of socks would not be a problem. I made my way up the road feeling both energetic and comfortable.

With the cool air and low humidity, it was a pleasant running experience. I felt like I was moving better than I had on Sunday, and I had no problems with rubbing or chafing. However, even without socks, these shoes still felt a little too tight during the run. It was interesting to run this way and, with the very minimal shoe design and no socks, it's probably the closest I'll ever come to running barefoot. For me, that's close enough.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Reflecting on a mediocre race

The gloom of a dark, rainy Monday matches my mood perfectly this morning. One more weekend day would have been nice, even with this wet weather. Despite an hour's nap on Sunday, I think I need a recharge. I'm fairly certain that yesterday's race-day struggles relate to either a lack of sleep or fighting off a virus. I'm not sure there's anything in my training or preparation that I would have done differently.

While I am disappointed to have missed a PR by a large margin, I'm not down about my performance. One bad race is no longer enough for me to worry about my fitness or potential. I've been fortunate to experience most of my bad runs during training sessions, with the 2011 half marathon being a key exception. But yesterday felt like a really bad run.

I'm wondering if I should plan to go out tomorrow morning or take another day's rest before resuming my training schedule. At this point I'm not sure whether I'm better off getting back on the horse, or letting the horse rest a little longer.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

2012 New Hyde Park 8K race report

Crossing the line later than I'd hoped
Today's run (New Hyde Park 8K): 45:30

I ran the New Hyde Park 8K this morning for the fourth consecutive time. It wasn't a disaster, but it could have gone better. No PR today.

I'd done all the right things to prepare -- steady training, speed work last weekend, and two days rest prior to race day.  I wasn't feeling 100% yesterday, but I did some light upper body work followed by some core work that seemed to help. I didn't have a great night's sleep but I felt fine this morning. More rest would have been good.

The weather was perfect when we arrived at the Denton Ave. school where the race begins and ends. There was a little miscue with my registration and they couldn't find my race package. Fortunately, they did have my proper tag and bib number. The crowd seemed smaller than last year, but a quick comparison with last year's results shows there were slightly more people running today. But the feel of the race was different this year, lacking its usual excitement and energy.

Feeling okay after the start
We assembled for the start under sunny skies, I took a position about 20 feet behind the line. After one false start, we were on our way. I was looking forward to running this course and I felt fine for the first few minutes. I started feeling the effort soon after that, far too early in the race. Still, I had little trouble keeping up with the crowd. I was concerned about sustaining my present pace over five miles.

I came through mile 1 at 8:32 and struggled with a couple of small hills before the route spilled onto New Hyde Park Road. I wasn't even near the 2 mile mark when I began to struggle. New Hyde Park Road rises for a while before dropping ahead of the turn onto the service road for the Long Island Expressway. I stopped at the first water station and took water. Usually I'll slow down but keep moving, but in this case, I came to a standstill. That cost me at least 30 seconds, but I'm glad I did it.

The stretch along the service road was tough, but I held my pace for the most part. The shaded stretches were a godsend, but after coming up the hill leading to Shelter Rock Road, it was all sun. I had filled my gel flask with two Roctanes that I took between miles 3 and 4 and I believe they helped get me through the end of the course without a bonk. At mile four I was disappointed to see that my cumulative time was far behind my goal time. I was hoping I might (at least) come close to my prior finish times.

The last part of the course routes through a neighborhood leading to the field behind the Denton Ave. school. By the time I turned off Shelter Rock Road I was ready for the end and was visualizing the green field where the finish line is located. I wasn't struggling by the last mile, but I knew that this race would not go down as a great performance. I was disappointed to see the clock showing 45 minutes when I finally reached the field, and crossed the line at 45:30.

I'm not sure why today's run was so difficult, but I definitely wasn't on my game this morning. I averaged a 9:10 pace which I'd consider good on a training run, but I missed my target of running sub-9:00 race.

Rather than settling the score in 2013, I'm thinking that I might look for a different race next June. I don't have the same affection for this event that I have for some other races, and I'm primed for a new challenge. Still, I got a great workout and I was able to share the experience with my wife and kids. Every race can't be a personal best and I accept my performance without complaint. Racing is about challenging yourself, and today, it was a struggle. But at least I tried and I toughed it out. I win.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Creature of (racing) habit

Crossing the line at last year's NHP 8K
This year I'm running a few races for the forth consecutive time. One of those races is the New Hyde Park 8K that takes place tomorrow morning. Long Island, where I live, offers numerous racing events, mostly 5K's, between March and July. Every time I attend a race I'm handed fliers (or I find them on my windshield) that promote an upcoming race. But for some reason I find myself running in the same races every year.

I suppose this has something to do with the comfort of knowing what to expect from the experience. It also helps that I get to know the course a little better with each race. The NHP 8K is a nice, well organized event with a fast (if unremarkable) course. The first time I ran it, in 2009, I went out too fast and almost bonked around mile 4. Last year was a much better experience.

Running the same races, year after year, has its benefits (including the fact that it provides a way to benchmark performance), it's also fun to try new events. Last year I ran the Town of Oyster Bay and Ho Ho Holiday runs (both 5K's) for the first time. These races were worth repeating and I plan to do that this year. I'd like to try a new race this year, but I'm not sure where or when I could fit another into my schedule. After all, I'm not going to give up my Cow Harbor or Dirty Sock weekends for anything else.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Roctane run at City Sport

I'll defer testing until after the race
Just like last year, the Friday weather before the NHP 8K is beautiful. So once again, I'm missing out on a great city run. However, it's important to stick to what works and that means two day's rest before a race. I'm expecting to get home a little earlier than normal today and I'll probably take time to run through some core and light upper body exercises.

Yesterday, I went over to City Sport to restock my supply of GU Roctane. I'm planning to mix one or two gels with water and carry that in my gel flask during the race. Last year I carried a small water bottle the entire race, but didn't open it and probably didn't need it. But it will be good to have this at the ready, in case I need some help at the end.

In addition to the Roctanes, I bought a regular GU in the new Peanut Butter flavor. I won't experiment with that until after the race. The Golden Rule: never try new things on race day. City Sport also had GU "Just Plain" flavor that I'm guessing tastes mostly like sugar. I took a pass on that. One more day until the race. It will take more than gels for me to perform to expectations. But every little bit helps.

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