Friday, August 31, 2012

A surprisingly decent time for a low PE run

Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

My Labor Day weekend started this morning, so I had an opportunity do a weekday run longer than my usual, time-constrained 2.5 miles. It's actually 2.53 miles, but who's counting? Well, I am. An extra three hundredths of a mile drops my average pace by six seconds per mile at that distance.

I targeted about 3.5 miles for today because it's a nice bump up from the 2.53 on a weekday, but short enough to get it done quickly. Although I didn't need to rush out the door when I returned home, the rest of the day was booked and I wanted a chance to relax before I headed to my first appointment.

My run was interesting. It was hot by the time I got outside and I wasn't really in the mood to push hard. I used only my heart rate as a way to gauge my performance and adjusted my speed to get into my targeted zone. Even while my pulse increased, I didn't feel like I was working as hard as I did last week, when I broke 9:00 four mornings in a row.

I ended up completing this run in the mid-9:00 range. Going only by perceived effort (PE), I expected that number to be 20 secs/mile slower. I was pleased with that performance on a hot day when I wasn't really working that hard. My average HR for the run was at the lower end of the anaerobic range. That tells me I have more on tap than I've been using on most runs.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Like the DJIA, running performance has its gains and losses

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

My performance gains of last week have given way to more moderate results this week. It's almost like a market correction where I've found myself dropping speed, but still holding some gains. I wonder if my ups and downs of running ever synchronize with the Dow. That would be an interesting investment strategy.

Tuesday's performance was hard to measure because I don't fully believe the numbers that I see on the treadmill. If I were to go by heart rate, I'd say that it was a credible run. Yesterday I did a street run and used my heart  rate monitor to guide my level of exertion. It became clearer to me how my perceived effort affects my speed. I didn't break 9:00 on Wednesday, but I came close.

This morning was a different story altogether. Running felt harder than the day before, and my stride did not feel fluid. I just wanted to get through the run so I could relax for 15 minutes before starting the rest of my day. Although it didn't feel like I was slacking off too much on my pace, my overall time was almost two minutes longer than yesterday, along the same route.

I expect to get out a little later and go a little longer tomorrow because it's a day off. I'm looking to experiment further with the relationship between heart rate and speed. I also need to get some hill training in so that I can be somewhat ready for big hill at the Cow Harbor 10K in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My most important decision in the last four years

Four years and many miles
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

This past weekend I realized that it's been four years since I took the results from my annual physical as a call to action. At that time, I weighed thirty pounds more than I do today. My cholesterol was very high, as were most other indicators. These results were no surprise to me at the time. I had become sedentary and, while I maintained a decent diet, I did not do a good job of regulating portion sizes or sugar intake.

With a wife and two young kids who depended on me, I could no longer ignore the truth. I got off the phone after speaking to my doctor's assistant and told my wife that I was going to change. I don't know if she fully believed me, but she supported my intention. My wife has always been active and she suggested that I use the treadmill in the morning before work and to really watch how much snacking I did after dinner.

In August of 2009 I began to walk, first on the treadmill and, on weekends, around my neighborhood. I pushed my walking pace and, within weeks, I was throwing in some short running segments. It took a while before I could comfortably run a mile but by the end of September I was doing that. By October, I had given over from being a walker to a full time runner.

Along the way, I lost those 30 extra pounds and by year's end, even more. Running is easier the less you weigh. It becomes more interesting when you can track your progress with devices that capture your speed and distance. I made a lot of progress in the first six months after I returned to an active life. Four years later, I'm doing even more.

This is the 1,300th post I've done on the Emerging Runner. I started the blog as a personal journal to help me record my experiences and share them with others. I wondered how long I would be able to maintain the discipline of running every morning and whether I would tire of the routine and the work that comes with it. But four years later, I feel exactly the same as I did the day that I completed my first continuous mile.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finally using my HRM (with good results)

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I knew it would be rainy this morning so I planned to do a treadmill run. I finally got around to setting up my heart rate monitor on Sunday and linked it to the Garmin, so I had that to play with. With the rain outside, it was very humid in my guest room. I put the fan in a fixed position and aimed it directly at the front of the treadmill. This reduces the heat, but the forced air causes dryness in my sinuses and throat.

It's been a long time since I've used an HRM. The treadmill has grips that allow you to capture your current heart rate, but read time takes a while and it's awkward to run that way at speed. The Garmin is much more convenient and it monitors in real time, providing important information as you run.

One important thing I learned was that my usual routine on the treadmill did not tax my heart as much as I'd thought. Since I despise this method of running it always feels hard, at any speed. What I thought was a good workout pace turned out to be on the threshold between the recovery and aerobic zones. To really get benefit I needed to push myself into the anaerobic zone (between 80-90% max HR).

I watched my heart rate as I increased the treadmill's speed and was surprised how hard it was to bump my HR higher on the aerobic zone. It may have been psychological, but I found it easier to sustain paces below 9:00 after seeing that my heart rate was still below 80% of max. I ended up running faster than I usually do on the treadmill without feeling much fatigue during or afterward. I'll be curious to see what kind of numbers I see when I take it to the streets tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The crossroad of speed and volume

My overall time at last May's LI Half Marathon was 2:08, which translated to a 9:49 pace. As race paces go, that was fairly slow (even for me). But my 2012 finish time improved almost 14 minutes over the year before. I would have liked to break two hours on the half, but my stretch goal for that race was to break 2:10, and I did that.

To prepare for this year's race, I'd looked at the challenge of running the half marathon as one of stamina, not speed. Interval training can be an effective way to prepare for a 5K, but I knew that the only way I could achieve a credible time for the half would be to train for distance. A lot of distance. Between mid-March and and May, I spent almost every Saturday morning at Bethpage State Park, doing progressively longer runs until I was satisfied with my conditioning.

This volume training was the key to managing my effort across more than two hours of continuous running. There's obviously a big difference in training for a 5K versus a half, but what about a 10K? A 6.2 mile race is double a 5K, but not quite half of a half. There's speed involved, but also enough distance so that endurance can become an issue.

For my upcoming 10K, I've decided to focus on pace during my shorter runs, but work primarily on volume and hills during my longer weekend runs. Hopefully, both strategies will meet somewhere in the middle to allow me to run my best at Cow Harbor.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Living with GPS tracking errors

Today's run (street): 6.8 miles

My GPS watch always shorts distance, usually by about 3%, but this week the margin of error has been closer to 5%. If the GPS was more accurate, I could know my true performance as I ran. The Garmin FR210 does give me a map of where I ran, and this is useful when I run in unfamiliar places or forget which streets I covered.

An alternate to GPS tracking is the foot pod that, when calibrated, is far more accurate.  Its downside, besides the need to calibrate, is the lack of course mapping and the need to affix it to your shoe. Some shoes, like the Saucony Hattori, don't have laces and, therefore, cannot be easily used with a foot pod.

My plan for today's run was to go out easy and stay that way for five to six miles. I pushed hard on my runs during the week and I tried to do the same during yesterday's run. I figured I'd earned the right to ease up on my pace and enjoy the experience today.

Things started well and along the first mile I wondered how long it would be before I broke a sweat. I also knew that runs like these are deceptive, often becoming much harder after a few miles. After 25 minutes I was certainly sweating, but five minutes later I began to feel energized again. I spent half of the run going around the neighborhood that sits directly to the south of mine, and the other half going around local streets.

As I got close to home I saw that I was nearing six miles. I decided to detour north rather than follow my usual roads, in order to get some extra distance. That change added a half mile according to the Garmin. After plotting my run on Gmaps, I saw that I'd actually covered 6.8 miles. If I knew I was that close to seven, I would have run another quarter mile before calling it a workout.

Even though I took it easy, by the end it felt very hard. I was glad to exceed 6.2 miles, which I'll need to do as often as I can before the Cow Harbor race in mid-September.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A good effort but the clock doesn't lie

Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

I had an early appointment that delayed today's run until mid-morning. The temperature at 10:00 AM was a reasonable 77°, but the sun was making it feel warmer than that. My plan was to go out fast and maintain the speediest pace I could, for as long as I could. I followed a route that would take me up and down the streets that run north of my house, and then head further south to round out the course.

I decided to check my watch at the half mile point to see what the Garmin was displaying for pace. The watch said 8:52, which seemed about right, and I figured that I could maintain that for 40 or 50 minutes. I didn't feel too overheated and I thought I was in for a run that was close to, or below, 9:00 per mile.

As it turned out, I began slowing down after passing the first mile. By the time I reached three miles, I saw that my pace was 30 seconds off my targeted range. It bothered me that my performance did not match the level of effort that I was putting into the run. After downloading the Garmin and correcting for distance errors (the GPS accuracy has been abysmal this week), I saw that I'd run the first mile in nine minutes, but my pace had crept up into the mid-nine range until improving near the end.

The combination of heat and effort prompted me to cap my run at 40 minutes, for an overall pace of 9:23. I was disappointed with that result because I felt I'd pushed harder than normal. I wanted to break nine minutes, but I don't think I did all that badly. I'm planning to go longer (and probably slower) tomorrow. It's okay really. After the past week's running, I know what I'm capable of doing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The secret to running a faster pace: trying

Pacing well, at least for now
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

It's interesting to see how a little extra effort can result in much better performance. Once again, I beat the 9:00 threshold this morning with a run that took exactly the same time as yesterday's. Running this way is not easy by any definition, but I haven't been going all out as I'd do in a race. On average, I'm probably registering a 3 (out of 5) on the effort meter. This week it's been closer to a 4.5.

It's no miracle that my performance this week has improved about 6% over my average for weekday runs at 4:00 AM. Back in 2009, I would beat 9:00 paces regularly. That was probably due to going out with the expectation that I'd run as fast as I could manage. I also used to monitor my pace as I ran, whereas now I only look at elapsed time on my Garmin.

The pace I ran this morning felt a little harder than it did on prior days, and I wondered if I tried to put too many hard runs together in a row. But even so, it wasn't an all out effort. I recovered quickly after I finished, with no residual effects later. I'm going to work on base tomorrow and probably won't be seeing the same pace that I've been able to achieve this week. I do hope the higher cadence and harder running I've been doing will help me when I run greater distances this weekend.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The significance of breaking a 9 minute mile

Cow Harbor aspiration
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I had two reactions after I finished today's run. The first was the happy acknowledgement that I'd completed three consective runs under 9:00 a mile (8:55, 8:50,  8:57). Not so hard for many, but a big deal for me. The second reaction related to how hard I'd worked to barely break nine minutes today.

I remember reading a post on the Runner's World Loop a few years ago that defined a "runner" as a person who paced below 9:00/mile. This person declared anyone who ran slower than that to be a "jogger." I rejected that assertion, as did many others through their comments. But since then I've always thought about sub-9:00 runs as a validation of my running fitness. A high percentage of my runs fall into jogger territory, so I feel encouraged with this week's performance.

The reason why I've put more attention toward my speed is that Cow Harbor is weeks away and I want to be prepared to run it competitively. My PR pace for a 10K is 8:48 but that race was run on the flat roads and boardwalk of Long Beach. My hope is to beat my PB for Cow Harbor, which means a pace of 9:12 or better. If it wasn't for the James Street hill, I'd be feeling confident about my chances for doing that. As long as I'm beating 9:00 on my training runs, I know I'll have that possibility.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ayn Rand as my running coach

All things in life relate to running
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I sometimes experience good runs that are followed by a mediocre workout. It's almost like a tease. When I think I've made a breakthrough, I'm often disappointed the next time I run. There are many reasons for that, but I'm beginning to believe it all comes down to self determination. As Ayn Rand has put it, "The question isn't 'who is going to let me'; it's 'who is going to stop me'."

While I'm not an "Objectivist", I do agree with the idea that we control our own chances for success. That was my mindset this morning when I took off on my run. I was determined to prove that yesterday's measurable improvement in performance wasn't a random event. Just for a change, I wore the Spira XLT's, and as I moved along the first section of my route, I noticed how similar it felt to yesterday's run.

It's easy to run lazy. The fact that you are running will boost your self esteem regardless of how hard you're pushing the pace. I often fall into that trap, telling myself it's okay that I'm running slowly because it's really all about doing the workout. Instead of pushing myself hard enough to achieve my pace goals, I often default to running at a speed that feels comfortable.

Today I ran my regular route ten seconds faster than yesterday and a full three minutes faster than I usually cover it. That's two in a row. Ayn Rand would be pleased that I rejected the easy path and pushed myself once again to good results. But if she was my running coach, her expectations would go far beyond this level of improvement. For now, stringing two good runs together is defining success for me. Hopefully tomorrow I'll make it three in a row.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Successful start to Cow Harbor training

Once again, it's about speed
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Nothing forces a runner to pay attention to their performance as much as a race. Once the registration is completed, the clock begins its countdown to the starting gun. A good outcome is never assured, but preparation is always key. With a click of the submit button on, I've once again committed to training for the Great Cow Harbor race.

Every race I run fits within an easy/hard continuum. On the easy end are 5K's that are run fast but over within a short time. The hardest effort I've experienced over the last couple of years has been the half marathon, mostly due to covering so much distance with race pace urgency. In between are runs between 4 and 6.2 miles, some harder than others.

Of these races, Cow Harbor is the biggest event by far. With over 5,000 runners invading Northport, NY, on a Saturday morning, it's a race experience that stands out above all others. The energy of the morning, as runners gather at the Laurel Avenue school, grows by the minute as participants move into their designated wave sections. The chill in the air gives no clue to the scorching heat we'll experience along the course.

This morning's chilly air gave me the spark to start my run fast and keep the pedal down until I'd finished. Everything clicked and, despite my harder than usual effort, I felt completely comfortable pushing my speed. I ended up finishing my run three minutes faster than I did last Friday. It was the first time I broke 9:00 per mile in months and I can't remember the last time I did it at 4:00 AM.

One run doesn't make me ready for Cow Harbor, but I'm happy with my performance on Day One of training. I have three weeks until I taper and rest and I'm hoping to continue to perform like this. Lots to do before September 15th, but I'm off to a good start.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Committed to Cow Harbor 2012

What made skipping Dirty Sock so easy for me this year was that I put off registering until it was one week before the race. Since I had no financial obligation, I made my decision to stand down without needing to consider that I'd already spent the money. That worked great for this past weekend, and I'm still happy with my decision. Still, I didn't want the same thing to happen next month so I signed up for Cow Harbor this morning.

With so many people running this race, the Cow Harbor organizers ask registrants to list their expected finish time. This is so runners can be placed into appropriate pace groups, called waves, at the start. It makes perfect sense and I always wonder if I'm under or overestimating my performance when I do that. Last year I finished in around 57 minutes and I'm hoping to do as well this year. I've run 10Ks faster than that, but not ones that have a hill as challenging as James Street.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bethpage run plan ruined by Barclays

Today's run (street): 6.3 miles

Last night I thought about heading to Babylon in the morning to run the Dirty Sock 10K. I planned to cover the same distance on today's run and thought it might be fun to do my workout as a race. I ultimately realized that signing up for the race but not running it all out would not work for me. And I knew I wasn't ready for either the course or the pace that I'd want to hit.

Instead, I went over to Bethpage to run the bike trail. With just four weekends before Cow Harbor, I knew I needed to work on my base and prepare for the Northport hills. When I got to the gate I was stopped by a guy who told me that there was no access to the parking lot or trails due to the Barclays 2012 golf tournament that's being held on the Black course.

That was disappointing. I thought the parks were for the people, not for the banks that sponsored golf events. It's not as if I wanted to sneak over to watch. The only thing more boring to me than playing golf is watching other people play.

With no opportunity to run at Bethpage, I headed back to my neighborhood. I considered the routes I could follow to cover 6 miles and decided to run to the business park that has a long loop and some hilly sections. After one time around the park, I cut over to neighborhood #3 and made my way through to Woodbury Road where I continued east.

The per capita income of Woodbury NY is one of highest in the country, yet the condition of the sidewalks along its busy main road is terrible. The grass overgrows the pavement, the concrete is uneven and tree branches hang down so low that some sections are barely passable. I managed to get through it without slowing down too much, and I cut north into a neighborhood to bypass the worst sections on the way back.

I was fortunate to have cool temperatures and moderate humidity throughout most of the run, but I ended up soaked with sweat just the same. It was a solid effort and I was pleased to cover the distance this morning. I had no regrets for having missed Dirty Sock after three consecutive years of running it. But I do regret that Bethpage will be closed to runners until after August 30.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My 40 minute MVP

Today's run (treadmill): 40 minutes

Weekends are usually busy and today was no exception. Appointments started early and with  intermittent rain, I was relegated to the treadmill. I had to finish my run in time to shower, grab a quick lunch and head to the dentist, so I targeted 40 minutes for my workout. Precision timing, but it worked out fine.

The humidity was higher than I expected it to be. Even though I'd opened windows on both sides of the room and put on the standing fan, it was hard to bear. I regretted having the fan in oscillation mode rather than aiming it directly at me. Blasting the AC would have also been a good idea.

At work we often talk about the concept of developing an MVP, (Minimally Viable Product) and today I started with a "Minimally Viable Pace." That meant, considering the heat, humidity and my general discomfort with the treadmill, it felt hard enough to constitute a good workout.

By the 20 minute mark I was really hating the experience but I had enough energy to bump up my speed by a few tenths. I continued to increase the pace until I was running at 10K race pace for the final five minutes. I was very happy to hit the button to slow down the machine after 40 minutes and the Gatorade that followed never tasted better.

Tomorrow is the Dirty Sock 10K and I'll admit that it feels like I'm playing hookey by not participating this year. I'm hoping to get out for a long run on Sunday as I prepare for September's Cow Harbor race. A little less humidity is all that I ask for.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why golfers don't get better and runners don't get faster

Working towards the perfect swing
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

When I was a kid, my dad was into golf and he spent a lot of time focusing on technique that would improve his game. I can recall the various devices made up of ropes and whiffle balls (I called them his toys) that he'd swing in the house in hopes of improving his swing. Did they help? I'm not sure, but I should ask him.

Bringing this to today, I know people who are equally focused on improving their golf form. There are numerous magazines, websites and TV shows that provide tutorials and theory on ways to optimize your golf skills. With all these resources, you'd think anyone could measurably elevate their game. Yet, despite this help, most people can't get past a certain level.

Running seems to be that way for me. I read Running Times, Runner's World and Trail Runner magazines and pay attention to articles about technique and performance. I practice some of what I read and occasionally see results from the changes I made. But at the end of the day, I still run about the same race pace as I did three years ago. On a daily basis, I'm a little slower. 

I ran my daily route 19 seconds faster today than yesterday. To get where I want to be requires me to run that course 3 minutes faster than I did today. Until I commit to really doing that core and hill work, speed play, and intervals, I'll never find myself running sub-9:00 paces on a daily basis. Resources are great, but only if you actually use them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The performance thing I'm actually going to do

There's nothing like the feel of hard plastic against your chest
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 25 minutes
Today's run (street ): 2.5 miles

If I were running the Dirty Sock 10K this Sunday, I'd probably have pushed much harder on this morning's run than I did. Training for a race involves a different approach to daily running, where every workout counts. The Cow Harbor 10K is coming up, but I have over four weeks to get my conditioning right. This morning I moved at my default speed,which gets me around my route about 10% slower than 10K race pace.

In terms of performance, I have a long list of things "I'm going to do." More interval sessions. More core workouts. Increase leg lift when running. Strength training. Like I said it's a long list. While I'm good at getting out every day to do my runs, I'm much less apt to do the things that will move the needle on performance.

One easy thing that may make a difference is going back to running with a heart rate monitor. I'm reluctant to look at my Garmin during a training run because I don't like seeing how slow I'm running. That undercuts my enjoyment of the experience and I'd rather be disappointed at the end. But I have no issues looking at my heart rate while I run and that correlates well with performance. 

I'll make it project for this weekend to put a new battery into the HRM and sync it with my FR210. I don't love wearing the thing, but I will. Perhaps that's the reason I stopped using it in the first place.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I need a change but I don't want to tri

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

My friend and colleague KWL participated in a sprint triathlon on Sunday and placed in the top 20% of finishers. He's training for an Olympic length triathlon that's happening in September and is being coached through a corporate program. KWL is already a strong cyclist and a naturally fast runner. Unbelievably, he only learned to swim in the last two years, but he's doing well in competition.

KWL said that I should do a triathlon but I quickly dismissed the idea because I'm a mediocre cyclist and a slow swimmer. Laughably, running would be my strongest sport of the three. I'll admit that I'm at a low point in terms of competitive motivation for running and a triathlon might be a way to restore my spirit. I'm just not that interested in swimming and biking.

I have been thinking about adding some strength training to my routine because it would probably contribute to better running performance. After looking at a full length mirror in the hotel fitness center last week, I was shocked by how skinny my legs have gotten. The muscle tone is there, but the muscle mass is missing. A little focus on building some bulk may provide a lift, both physically and mentally.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Keeping my socks clean this year

As I was running the trails at Bethpage on Sunday, I thought about the Dirty Sock 10K and the effort required to run that course. Next to the half marathon, Dirty Sock is the toughest race I do each year. This is mostly because it's 6.2 miles of changing terrain, run on the hottest and most humid day of the summer.

I figured that I'd spend next weekend preparing for the race and possibly running the course to re-familiarize myself with the route. When I got home from yesterday's run I asked my wife what was on the schedule for next weekend and she said, "Well you have your race on Sunday." For some reason I thought the race was happening in two weeks. I decided on the spot that I'm just not prepared to run it.

It's fun to follow a tradition like running Dirty Sock every year, as I do with the Marcie Mazzola run, the New Hyde Park 8K and Cow Harbor, among other races. But I'm not feeling the need to run it and I'd rather focus on Cow Harbor that happens a month from now. I'll miss the experience of running the Dirty Sock, but I'm sure of my decision. I can always head to Babylon one of these weekends and run the course on my own.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Twisting and turning on the Bethpage trails

So that's where I ran - thanks Garmin!
Today's run (Bethpage trails): 3.25 miles

I'd hoped to cover more than three miles on the wooded trails at Bethpage this morning, but that distance turned out to be more than enough. I really like Bethpage's trails because they are well groomed and diverse. The terrain varies between mulch, dirt, loose rocks and sand. I don't care much for the sandy parts, but they are just part of the challenge.

In terms of technical terrain, Stillwell has it beat, but Bethpage provides some fun twisty trails that seem to go in circles but really just wind around (see top of picture). I usually get disoriented when running in the woods and today was no exception. I'm always surprised where I come out. Today it was at the top of the big hill along the paved bike trail.

The humidity was high and I felt like the week's activities were catching up to me as I neared the finish of my run. I circled the parking lot before calling it a workout and headed back home to start our day, which is also my last day of vacation. It's been a great week and it's always disappointing when a vacation ends. Even though this turned out to be  a low mileage week for running, it was a high mileage week for everything else.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Running relief from my vacation

View of the Capital from the Newseum building
Today's run (street): 4.8 miles

The idea of needing a vacation from your vacation held true this week. After three days of visiting the sights of DC, including Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian, the Spy Museum, the Newseum, Ford's Theater, the Senate and Capital buildings and Chinatown, I was exhausted. Following that was a day at Williamsburg Revolutionary City and then a day at Busch Gardens. After all that, we still had the long ride back to Long Island. I'm happy to have the weekend to recover!

In the past, I've tried to incorporate a little running tourism into my vacations. However, I didn't feel comfortable being alone on the streets of DC at dawn, so my only choice was to use the hotel's treadmill. Williamsburg offered a safer venue, but the streets didn't have sidewalks so, once again, I chose the treadmill. I didn't run every day but with all the ground we covered walking, I got a good week's workout.

This morning was my first opportunity to run outside since last Sunday, when I covered three miles before we left on our trip. It was no surprise that the humidity was high this morning, but I thought the low cloud cover would keep conditions tolerable. I think the miles of walking this week paid off, because I felt good from the start and covered my distance with little trouble.

Although it will be a low mileage week for running, it was great for conditioning and fitness. With the Dirty Sock 10K coming up in a couple of weeks, I may head to the Bethpage trails tomorrow morning to kick off my race training. That is, unless it rains. In that case, it will be back on the treadmill...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don't tread on me (unless there's no other choice)

Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

We've had three days of historical saturation between visits to Ford's Theater, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the International Spy Museum and Historic Williamsburg. But even with both DC and Virginia offering great running options, I've been relegated to fitness centers for my workouts.

We'll be out all day and evening so, once again, I went for a treadmill run this morning. I like hotel treadmills, although I wasn't familiar with the Spirit brand. It wasn't as solid as the PreCor and Life Fitness units that seem to be the standard for most hotels, but it did the job.

Although I skipped my run on Wednesday, the 20M steps we're covering daily should help make up for that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Capital running in DC

Sunday's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles We left early Sunday morning in order to get to DC in time to see some of the many things we've planned for this trip. An hour and a half spent at Arlington National Cemetery was inspiring and provided a challenging workout, with numerous hills and hot humid conditions. I had thoughts of running the Mall in DC from the Lincoln Memorial to the monument, but it's impractical to do that this trip. So far my DC running has been limited to the hotel t readmill. No problem with that. I'm a fan of fitness center treadmills and I seem to be able to maintain faster paces on them compared with my home unit. Lots of walking yesterday as well, and today is no different. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to run outside once our vacation continues in Virginia.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Liquid exhaustion

Yesterday's run (treadmill): 30 minutes
Today's run (street) 5.25 miles

Circuitous route
I was tired on Thursday morning and (no surprise) my run was slow. Yesterday morning I felt the same, so I skipped my morning run altogether. I'm not sure why I lacked energy on these two days but it definitely affected my motivation to run. After a half day in the office I headed home feeling more inclined to work out, so I took the opportunity to fit in a 30 minute treadmill run.

Despite yesterday's brutal heat and high humidity, I remained relatively dry during my indoor run. Credit goes to the big fan we've positioned directly in front of the treadmill. I didn't push my pace but, by the time I reached my planned finish time, I was completely soaked with sweat. I'd placed an icy glass filled with Gatorade G2 on the side table of the bed to drink after I'd completed my run. As they say, I was keeping my eye on the prize.

This morning I took it outside with no planned route, but an intention of running five miles. The dew point was approaching 70 by the time I set off and I tried to keep a sustainable pace that would allow me to cover my planned distance. I hadn't matched my normal pace since Wednesday morning's run. Today was no different but my focus was on distance, not speed.

The hot sun and the moisture in the air wore me down, mile by mile, but I still had enough in the tank to cover 5-plus miles. I'm accustomed to being sweaty after these long runs, but today it looked and felt like I had stepped out of a lake as I walked into the house. Every square inch of skin was wet and my clothing was completely saturated. Although I felt no aerobic strain during the run, I was still breathing heavily five minutes after the finish. It was more exhausting than I realized.

I'm on vacation this coming week and I hope to get a chance to run in Washington DC while we're there. If that's not practical, I may need to settle for the fitness center in the hotel. It's less stimulating to run indoors. But, with this weather, I'll fully appreciate the air conditioned experience.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A reason to appreciate my next good run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Tuesday's post contained a quote about relishing bad runs so that you'll appreciate the good ones. I had plenty of reason to relish this morning because I ran my route over a minute slower than yesterday. I knew I was in for a disappointing time from the beginning. I may have improved my pace in the second half, but it was fairly pathetic effort.

Every weekday morning I question my expectations for performance. I'm out of bed at 3:45 AM and standing on my driveway ten minutes later. While I'm definitely a morning person and a morning runner, I understand that my body may not respond as well after abruptly waking up  from a sound sleep. Sometimes it does respond and other times, like today, it doesn't.

Today my legs felt leaden and that affected the fluidity of my form. Affected in the sense that I had no form. The residual tiredness, that I usually lose after a few minutes during these runs, remained. On Tuesday and Wednesday I'd pushed myself at certain times and ended up with decent overall paces. I had no appetite for that today and kept both my effort and heart rate low.

In the end, I was disappointed to see how slowly I had run. I was secretly hoping that the Garmin would show (despite my less than vigorous effort) that I'd actually flown through the course. The fact is that you get out what you put into a workout, and I contributed very little. So I'll relish this sub-par experience knowing how much I'll appreciate my next good run. Anyway, that's what I'm telling myself.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gifted with home baked energy bars

Contents: taste and energy
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

When it comes to nutrition, I try to maintain the best possible diet that doesn't impose difficult requirements. By this I mean that most of my food choices are the right ones: vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, tofu, and reasonable portions. Unlike "foodies", I don't really care about what I eat as long as it has some taste. In terms of eating organic or avoiding any type of processed food, I can't be bothered. All in all, I think I do pretty well.

A colleague of mine at work, HB, is a true foodie with an interest in healthy baking. She experiments with food combinations and generously shares the results with her co-workers. I am always happy to provide feedback. She recently started a blog called Oven Notes that's worth a look.

Not long ago, HB asked me whether I used energy bars when I ran. I told her that I do use them and that there's a big difference between a bar you'd consume prior to a run, versus one that you'd eat for recovery. After quizzing me on the taste and ingredient profile, she baked up a batch. Each bar is 126 calories and has a good mix of carbs, protein and fat. The ingredients themselves include bing cherries, almonds, coconut and oats. Date syrup is used as a sweetener and whey powder for protein.

The results were impressive. Unlike Clif bars, which can be a little too sweet, these bars have a nice tart balance. They are packed with good stuff and, considering their low calorie count, are very filling. I haven't used them as a pre-run bar but they've been great with a cup of coffee in the morning. Perhaps tomorrow I'll put them to the test. I'll suggest to HB that she post the recipe on her blog. Otherwise I'll include it in one of my posts.

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