Sunday, September 30, 2012

Destination run to see my family

Care to donate?

Today's run (street): 6.5 miles

Although I had both a primary and backup plan for today's run, I ended up choosing another option entirely. My wife and kids had volunteered for an event that benefits the Long Island Cares food pantry that was taking place at a local shopping center. I decided to run there and back from my house for a change of pace workout.

I often think about ways to break away from the constraints of my local neighborhoods but I've been reluctant to cross major roads during my runs. I simply don't trust drivers to do the right thing. I've stopped counting the number of cars that I see blowing through stop signs on my local streets. My default expectation is that people will ignore the rules and I react accordingly.

The route I planned to get to the Plainview Shopping Center had a no major roads to cross, but it did require me to cross the entrance and exits to the Northern Parkway off South Oyster Bay Road. The sparse Sunday morning traffic resulted in a clear path both coming and going back. I was prepared to wait but I was able to cross both times without stopping.

My route took a side path through a neighborhood that's situated directly north of the shopping center. I planned that part to ensure that I'd cover more than three miles in each direction. Once I came back to South Oyster Bay Road I was just west of my destination and I ran along the brick walkway until I reached my family on the other side, near Woodbury Road.

It was fun to hang out for a few minutes with my wife and kids. My wife had some water for me that I really appreciated. My kids were busy collecting donations and selling tee shirts in support of the event. I was proud of them all for donating their time for a good cause.

I started feeling chilled because it was surprisingly cold outside and I was sweating from the first half of my run. Once I got going on my run, the cold worked to my benefit (for a while) but I had worn long pants and a long sleeved jersey and the heat soon returned. My progress back went remarkably fast and, before I knew it, I was back on the streets of my own neighborhood.

I ended up covering 6.5 miles at a low 9:00 pace and there were enough hills to make me feel like I'd done a decent workout. I would still like to do some hill repeats before the race so next weekend I'll make my way to Bethpage. I was happy to cover 11 miles this weekend and was glad to cover some new territory along the way.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Undefined, but I got it done

Today's run (street): 4.9 miles

I had a very busy Friday so I skipped both running and blogging. I knew I would run today, but I wasn't sure whether the rain would force me back on to the treadmill. Despite a good nights sleep and yesterday's unscheduled rest day, I was in no mood to get outside to start my workout this morning. I played for time by watching an episode of Doctor Who with my son.

By 8:30, I had no more excuses and my wife was already on the treadmill, so I geared up and headed outside for an undefined run. I targeted between four and five miles and hoped my motivation would pick up as I made my way through the streets of the neighborhood.

The skies were cloudy and dark and the air felt slightly chilled when I stepped outside. It took longer than normal to acquire a signal on the GPS and, when it finally locked in, I was (literally) off and running. I followed my daily route out of habit for the first two miles and then took a turn into a section of the neighborhood with parallel roads that run north/south.

I ran by a yard sale and noticed that some of the "shoppers" hadn't bothered to turn off their cars while they checked out the items for sale. I endured the strong smell of car exhaust as I went by the house. It's much more pleasant to run the Bethpage bike trail that is free of cars. But even there you'll find maniacs on bikes bearing down on you at high rates of speed.

The lack of sun made conditions pleasant. After noting that my heart rate was still in zone 3, I picked up my pace as I made my way back towards home. Instead of following a direct route, I took some alternative roads that I chose for their uphill sections. By the end I was moving well and I finished just shy of five miles.

If the weather holds tomorrow morning I may go to Bethpage to run hill repeats to prepare for my next race. If I feel like staying closer to home I can torture myself by running uphill circuits counter-clockwise at the local business park.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hitting the hills in my guestroom

Elevation gain: first mile and a half
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Another rainy morning put me back in the guest room on the treadmill today. As I edge closer to my mid-October race, I'm beginning think about the challenge of running long hills. The first half of the Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor's 5K looks scary on an elevation map, but having run it last year I know that the length mitigates the grade of the hill. I do recall seeing people struggling along the way, but I kind of liked that section.

Last year I prepared for the lengthy rise by running repeats of the hill at the top of the Bethpage bike trail. Four times down and four times back up equaled four miles and a good workout. Now that Bethpage's bike trail is extended north, there are two more challenging hills that I can use for practice. Their lengths aren't anywhere as long, but one hill is impressively steep.

This morning I used the incline feature of my treadmill throughout my run and noted the way it affected my heart rate. It seemed like a 1% increase in elevation yielded a higher response than a commensurate increase in speed. By the end, I got my heart rate into zone 4 territory. Next time I'm on the treadmill I'll focus more on incline and less on speed. That should help, at least until after the race.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rethinking GPS versus foot pod

Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

My first method of capturing running data was with the Nike+ chip that fit into a concave spot located under my shoe's sock liner. The accuracy of the this system was surprisingly high, but the software was buggy and the wristband that displayed metrics like pace, time and distance had serious corrosion issues. After going through three of these wristbands in less than a year, I got my money back and bought a Garmin FR50.


The Garmin 50 (and after that the FR60) uses a foot pod that works in a similar way to that Nike+ chip and I got used to tracking my distance and pace that way. The foot pod needed to be calibrated each time I switched running shoes (in my case, frequently) but the accuracy was very high. I started running with the Saucony Hattoris that have no laces to hold a foot pod, and made the switch to the Garmin FR210 GPS watch thinking I'd be upgrading my experience.

As it turned out, after almost two years, I've discovered I've given up more than I've gained by switching to GPS. The accuracy of GPS (~ 3%) is far worse than with the foot pod (~ 1%). The foot pod also captures cadence, an important metric, but the FR210 does not.


I had an amusing experience on the treadmill with the FR210 this morning. I wore the watch to capture my heart rate but, even indoors, it had locked in on satellite. When I finished my run I saw that the watch had recorded my distance at .14 miles. I've been considering using the FR60 again with the foot pod for treadmill runs. But for outdoor runs, I have to say the one big advantage of using the GPS watch is that there's no fussing with calibration or switching foot pods. Nothing's perfect, but at least I have a choice.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Whatever gets you out the door

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

Every morning I wake up and look at my alarm clock that's usually about a minute away from going off. Occasionally I'll need that alarm, but in either case, it's only a matter of seconds before I realize that I have to get dressed and go outside for my run. EVERY morning I consider not doing my workout. And EVERY morning I manage to talk myself into getting ready.

One of the things that helps me get out the door is a self agreement that I'll take it easy, just this time. No pressure, just get out and float through my route. By the time I'm standing in front of my house trying to acquire a signal on my Garmin, I'm usually more open minded about putting some effort into the run. About halfway through the run is when I start playing with speed in an effort keep my time below a certain target.

That's exactly the way it happened for me this morning. The air was chilly enough to warrant long sleeves and the cold provoked me into speeding up my stride from the start. Even though I could see vapors from my breathing, I noticed that many of my neighbors were still dutifully watering their lawns. I worked hard to avoid running through spray but got hit from the side a couple of times. Brrrr!

There's a quote that goes, "No one ever says 'I regretted that workout'" and, when I complete my run, I'm always pleased that I did it. The tricky part is getting out the door in the first place.

Monday, September 24, 2012

When having a "natural killer" is a good thing

NK cells, Mother Nature's assasins
The thing about colds is that you can sense they're coming long before they arrive. Colds often start with a scratchy throat that turns into the sniffles, a cough, and a bunch of other fun symptoms. The oft-quoted phrase is, "Three days coming, three days staying and three days going." After I started taking a daily multivitamin in the early '90's, I got far fewer colds. But when I did, they would be intense.

Since I started running in the fall of 2008, the intensity of my colds has dropped noticeably. With the exception of my pneumonia experience, I can't remember feeling particularly ill for more than a day in the past four years. According to WebMD, "Regular exercise appears to have the advantage of being able to jump-start the immune system, and that can help reduce the number of colds you get." The site says that "With exercise...natural killer cells, increase by as much as 50% to 300%."

I plowed through a couple of hard runs over the weekend despite my symptoms, and the intensity of this cold has not increased past the "mildly distracting" stage. I do believe there is something to this "natural killer cell" theory promoted by my running. Despite the name, it's a great concept.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Compared to my friends, my training is easy!

Today's run (street): 4.2

My friend and colleague KWL completed his first Olympic length triathlon this morning. This event is comprised of three segments: a .9 mile ocean swim, a 24 mile bike ride and a 10K distance run. He's been training with a team for this event as part of our company's wellness program. The commitment to this triathlon was fairly extreme, with coach-led training sessions three or more times a week. I'm sure all that work will pay off for those participants who followed that rigorous program.

As I went out on my run today, I thought about other friends who are training for the NYC Marathon in November. This is the weekend that most of them are doing their 18 to 22 mile long runs. I wondered how they manage to fit in all the training miles that they need run every week. Even training for the half marathon required that I step up my mileage 20% for the eight weeks preceding the race. That was hard enough, I can't imagine what it would be like to train for double that distance.

My cold has stuck around and I'm also dealing with a mild cough but I felt fine on the road this morning. The temperature was in the low 60's with no noticeable humidity, a great combination. Though I felt a little stiff at the start, I got up to speed fairly quickly and followed a new route, just for a change of scenery. It wasn't lost on me that I'd be done after 4 miles, while my friends would just be warming up for the distances they would travel.

I admire anyone that takes on the challenge of triathlon or a marathon. I love my workouts and my competitions, but I'm not looking to move up into the ranks of Olympic-length triathletes and marathon racers. I hope everyone comes through their long runs today satisfied with their results. I was certainly happy to cover my 10 this weekend.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hybrid run through the Bethpage trails

Helpful and tasty
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 6.2 miles

I had been doing well earlier in the week, knocking off a couple of intense treadmill runs followed by a good effort on the road. By Thursday afternoon I had a sore throat and a lack of energy. I treated the symptoms using a couple of packets of Emergen-C (handed out at the Cow Harbor race festival) and that seemed to help. Still, I decided on Friday morning to forgo my workout.

After getting to bed early, and sleeping a rare eight hours, I was ready to go out for a longer run. I was still feeling a little tired and took an Accel Gel 2nd Surge to give me a boost. I'd taken 2nd Surge before the Cow Harbor race and liked that it provided good energy. Better still, it didn't leave me feeling sluggish later in the run and the chocolate flavor is surprisingly good.

My plan was to run at Bethpage and do a "hybrid" run that would cover about 5 miles over both the wooded trails and the newly paved bike path extension. I ended up getting out late and didn't start my run until 10:00 AM. I ran south on the old bike trail until I reached the cut-in to the woods and headed north along the path that changed between dirt, gravel, soil and sand.

I mostly got it right, but I over-thought my direction and took a trail that went west, forcing a turnaround at Plainview Rd. I corrected my mistake and guessed correctly from there. I followed the path out to the new paved trail that intersected just below South Park Drive. The transition to pavement was jarring and the sun and heat were suddenly factors.

The intersection with Haypath Road came quickly, and I continued north, first past Old Bethpage Road and then to Old Country Road where the paved trail ends (for now). I turned around after noting the location of the dirt trail that continued across the street. I'm hoping that they eventually put some stop signs at the locations where the bike path intersects with the road. 

I was past the three mile point by the time I reached Old Country Road and I knew by then that my 5 mile run would be extended to six. I was feeling the effort, so I picked up my speed in an attempt to re-energize my stride. It helped a little, and I maintained a decent pace as I made my way south towards my finish point.

Before I could enjoy the relatively flat last mile of the run I needed to get past a couple of hills that rise 100 feet in 3/10ths of a mile. Once I cleared that point, I picked up the pace again and finished my run after covering 6.2 miles. After missing my run on Friday, I was happy with the additional unplanned mile.

I'm still not 100% but this run didn't seem to do me any harm. I'm going to try for another longer run tomorrow, but I may stay local to do that. My next race is a 5K so I'm going to need to work on my speed at some point. That race starts with a long hill so I'll need to start training for that as well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I love running, but do I actually love the run?

Race walking: not the best of both worlds 
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Back in the early '90's I lived in the city and walked just about everywhere that I needed to go. It would be nothing for me to cover 20 miles or more on a weekend. My wife is exactly the same. We'd walk 90 minutes a day back and forth between our office and our apartment on 74th Street despite rain, snow, heat or humidity. It kept us in great shape and it was easy because we both enjoyed the experience.

I thought about that on my run this morning as I made my way around my regular route. I was pushing myself harder than I had prior to re-employing my heart rate monitor and my resulting pace reflected that extra effort. I was pleased with my performance, but it occurred to me that the enjoyment of a hard run comes when you're finished, while a brisk walk is usually enjoyed in the moment.

I'm not saying that I don't enjoy a good run. When I'm on the trails I can really appreciate the experience with all five senses (well maybe not taste) and I do appreciate the feeling I get when doing an easy run on a crisp fall morning. It would be interesting if I could enjoy every run the way I do when I walk.

On the other hand, the sense of accomplishment, endorphin rush and the athleticism that comes from a run is something that cannot be easily attained by walking. I suppose race walking could fill that void but, frankly, it just seems a bit silly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ready to race again

A return to race driven workouts
Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

It's interesting how your running focus can ebb and flow throughout the year. In the first few months of 2012, my mind was on racing and I was happy to attain PR's for my 4 mile and half marathon distances. The experience I had at the New Hyde Park 8K was a turning point for me, and not in a good way. After that race, I'd lost some of my competitive spirit. I did run in a corporate 5K in July, but I skipped the Dirty Sock in August, a race that I'd run the previous three years.

Cow Harbor restored my interest in competing and although I didn't break (or even approach) a personal record, I loved being back in the game. Now that Cow Harbor has come and gone, I'm looking ahead to my next race. I've targeted the town of Oyster Bay's Supervisor's run that takes place in mid-October. It's a 5K that features a long hill going up and another long hill coming down. Happily they put the uphill and the downhill in the right order.

With my interest in performance restored, I've approached my last two workout runs with the mindset that I'm training for a race. By using my HRM to shame me into running faster, I'm managing to get past my natural dislike of the treadmill. It's fun to blip up the speed control until I get my heart rate to my targeted level. This morning I had another invigorating run at a speed that I usually avoid on the treadmill. I hope to take this focus back on the road tomorrow, when I return to the street.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Boardwalk run at Sunken Meadow

An unexpected boardwalk run
Yesterday's run (Sunken Meadow State Park boardwalk): 1.5 miles Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I was recently on Google maps looking at a few of the parks on Long Island that have trails that I want to run. Over the past few years I've made many trips to Stillwell Woods, Trailview and Bethpage State Parks and to the Muttontown Mystery Trail. I've run and raced a number of times at Eisenhower Park and hiked in places like Caumsett and Caleb Smith. An interesting park that I hadn't yet visited is Sunken Meadow State Park, located in King's Park, on Long Island Sound.

Our plan on Monday was to hike Caleb Smith in the morning, before the weather got too hot, We headed over early but when we arrived, we saw that the gates were closed. We then decided to get back on the Sunken Meadow Parkway and go north to Sunken Meadow State Park. It took us less than ten minutes to get there and we headed immediately to the boardwalk that runs 3/4 of a mile along the beach.

This park is large and impressive and we only scratched the surface in our exploration. The boardwalk looked inviting so while my wife and kids made their way down to the water, I did a very easy run along the walkway. I was wearing my Helly Hansen trail shoes because I'd expected to be hiking, but the forgiving wooden surface felt fine. The picture above was taken by my wife, who was sitting on a jetty with the kids, as I ran by.

We're looking forward to a return trip to Sunken Meadow and I'm especially interested to try the trails with their famously difficult hills. This morning I opted for an indoor run out of concern for rainy weather. I used my HRM to guide my pace and did half the run in zone 3 before bumping up the speed in increments to get  me to zone 4. I found it much easier to push my pace when I saw that my HR was still fairly low.

If the rainy weather continues I'll probably find myself on the treadmill again tomorrow. Now that I know how fast I need to run to get into zone 4 (about an 8:50 pace), I may get up to speed a little quicker.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The day after the day after

The second day is always more painful
With my first steps out of bed this morning, I remembered my post-Cow Harbor experiences over the last two years. The day after the race is not a true barometer of the impact of the effort. It's the second morning, when the effects of the James Street hill manifest painfully in my quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.

As noted in yesterday's post, I did not have a good run on Sunday. I'm choosing to believe that was due to going out on the road again too soon after that race. I'll try to remember that next year. Even though I usually skip my rest day and run when I'm home on a Monday, I'm not going to do that today. Instead, we are heading to one of our favorite parks to hike the trails. That seems like the perfect activity to help recover from post race soreness.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not exactly a recovery run

This year's Cow Harbor's race tee
Today's run (street): 3.7 miles

I looked forward to today's "recovery workout" as a way of enjoying a run without thinking about performance. After Saturday's hard running up, down and over the Cow Harbor course, I thought an easy four miles would be, well, easy. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way.

My run started out fine as I settled into slow but steady pace. My heart rate stayed below 70% of max through the first two miles as I enjoyed the quiet of my neighborhood streets. Soon after that I began to tire, and I felt the effort even though my pace was slow. I was puzzled why I seemed to be hitting a wall on such an easy run, especially since my heart rate remained low.

I abandoned my original plan to run 4 and a half to 5 miles and instead changed course towards home. The final mile was difficult and my stamina was shot. I wondered if the work I did during the race had taken more out of me than I'd realized.

As I reached the last few streets heading back to my house, I increased my speed to see how my body would react. I've previously experienced fatigue when running slow and I found that increasing my effort sometimes helps. This seemed to be the case today, my energy level improved and by the time I finished I was running a high-8:00 pace.

I'm not going to over-think today's run. I'll assume that my experience was directly related to yesterday's hard running. I'm off from work tomorrow and I'll decide in the morning whether to run or rest. I'm curious to know how my next run goes, but I recognize that a rest day may be the best way to ensure a better experience.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Race report: Cow Harbor 2012

Crossing the line (in white, directly right of tree)
Today's run (Great Cow Harbor 10K): 6.2 miles
58:32 (9:26 pace)

Despite concerns about a rain-soaked start to the 35th running of the Cow Harbor 10K, we ended up having near perfect weather for the race. At the start it was overcast, and by the end it was sunny, but temperatures and humidity remained moderate. I didn't achieve a PR or even a PB for the race, but I was happy with my results that fell right in the middle of my prior two Cow Harbor efforts.

Team Emerging Runner arrived at Northport high school about ten minutes before 7:00 AM and we caught one of the shuttle buses that take runners and their crew to the Laurel Avenue school. This school is ground zero for the race and I made my way to numbers pickup before the lines got too long. I saw that I was assigned a 9000 series number, based on my predicted finish time.

The trick to managing 5,000+ runners is to put them into corrals with a staggered start every minute to spread out the field. It works extremely well but you need to do a little math every time they call a mile split, backing out the number of minutes based on your bib number. So if your bib starts with a 4, and the first mile split is called at 11 minutes, you'd subtract 4 minutes to get your pace of 7 minutes per mile. Easy right?

Dave 2.0, on left
We saw a lot of friends while we waited for the race to begin, including Dave who had suffered a heart attack at a race in February. He has recovered impressively well and it looks like he had a great race this morning, beating my time by over a minute. We had a mini reunion with a group of teachers from our kid's elementary school, and I saw my my work colleague Bill, who was running Cow Harbor for the first time. He was concerned about the James Street hill, but he ended up running a great race.

I didn't train intensely for the race this year and my only goal was to finish under an hour (mission accomplished). I was caught by surprise when it came time to release my start group. Due to the number of people in front of me, I thought there was still another flight in front of ours. That worked out well because I didn't experience the countdown jitters that I normally get.

Off to a good start on Laurel Ave.
I took an Accel Gel 2nd Surge twenty minutes before the start, and I felt good coming off the line. I was concerned that I'd have a repeat of the New Hyde Park 8K start, when I found it difficult to keep up with the crowd. Unlike that race, I wasn't fighting a cold, and I moved along well through the up and down (and then mostly downhill) Scudder Avenue. The crowds were out in force to cheer us on.

A little after the first mile, we turned onto Woodbine and ran near the water where the crowds were even larger. Between the noise, the people, and a large group of bagpipers, it felt surreal to be part of the entertainment. We quickly passed Main Street and reached Bayview Ave with a rise that only hints at what's to come 3/4 of a mile later. And by that I mean James Street - AKA, "Widow Hill."

Starting point of the dreaded "Widow Hill"
There are many ways to approach James Street in this race and I watched that play out once again as I began to take on the hill. Some runners attacked it and others chose to walk it. Like I did the previous two times, I accepted the challenge and adopted a steady pace that I felt I could sustain throughout the half mile of steep road.

I refused to look ahead lest I'd be discouraged by the amount of hill that was left to climb. When the road became even steeper I knew I was near the top. When it leveled out I felt great relief, but tried to increase my pace. The post hill section doesn't provide much recovery time as the road rises once again before leading to a lengthy downhill span between the 2.8 and 3.75 mile points.

Just after the 5K mark I spotted a work colleague who told me she'd be standing on the corner of Eaton's Neck Rd. and Ocean Ave. We tried to coordinate last year but I just missed her. It was great to see her and her dog at the halfway point of the race.

I felt remarkably good at that point, with the trauma of Widow Hill behind me and a stretch of downhill road in front of me. I wasn't monitoring my pace, but my heart rate was holding steady in zone 4, as I'd planned. I felt good but I knew I'd soon need to switch gears and take on the long climb up Waterside Ave.

Waterside Ave goes on for over a mile and it's mostly uphill. Some say this section is worse than James Street, but I disagree. Both require patience and an acceptance of the elevation, but Waterside's grade is far more subtle. I kept a pace that made sense and allowed me to stay with the crowd. I began to fatigue around the five mile point but I never had concerns about bonking. I'd filled my gel flask with two Accel Gels with the 4:1 formulation (carbs/protein) and I sampled it through the last few miles.

Pumpernickel Hill isn't as bad as James Street, but it comes near the end, after 1+ miles of fun on Waterside. I was up and over it fairly quickly. As I got to the top, a spectator was screaming, "A 77 year old man just took the hill!, a 77 year old man just took the hill!" over and over. Impressive yes, but enough already. And not in my ear please.

Encouraging message near the end of the race
I always expect the last part of the race to be triumphant, with a predominantly downhill section that leads to Main Street and the finish line. But after everything that comes before that point, it's hard to exploit the opportunity to push hard. It's basically a matter of holding the gains and pouring it on with whatever is left at the end. The finish chutes appear when there's about a fifth of a mile left in the race. Like an oasis, they seem to remain out of reach despite moving relentlessly toward the line.

I crossed the line 58 minutes after I started, though I didn't check the clock when I came through the finish. I saw my wife and kids and that made me happy. They are a great support team. I had to look up my results later, and they closely matched my Garmin's time.

After the race we headed to the crowded waterfront festival where I was able to get Gatorade and a couple of bananas that helped restore my electrolytes. There was a great band playing and lots of booths showing products and services. We ran into Bill and one of my daughter's teachers before getting back on the bus that took us to where we parked the car.

So one more Cow Harbor race is on the books. Mohamed Trafeh won the race today for the fourth time and Alisha Williams was the first woman to finish. I know there are bigger races with many more participants and more features, but on Long Island, (giving due respect to the LI Marathon Festival of Races) nothing quite compares.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cow Harbor 2012: rain or shine (but please shine!)

Not what I'm hoping to see tomorrow
Today is rest day number two, prior to the Cow Harbor 10K. The weather report for tomorrow is slightly discouraging due to some bad timing. They are saying that both Friday and the weekend will be beautiful, except for some rain that will sweep through between 7:00 and 9:00 AM. If that's accurate, we could be in for a soggy start.

I won't worry about the weather because there's nothing I can do about it. I don't enjoy running in the rain because it can cause some annoying visibility problems for me (glasses). Worse, I really dislike the feel of moisture permeating my socks and sloshing around my running shoes. On the bright side, if it's raining we won't have to deal with the hot baking sun. I hope it doesn't rain, but if it does I'll deal with it.

In terms of my readiness for tomorrow, I don't think I'm at the same level of conditioning as I was a year ago. I looked at Daily Mile and saw that I've only done four runs longer than 6 miles since the beginning of August. Half of those happened in the last two weeks, so it isn't like I've ignored distances altogether. But even with those workouts, my base isn't really optimal for a hard 6.2 mile run.

I'm still debating whether to do numbers pickup later today, or get them tomorrow before the race. I haven't chosen my race day gear but I have my nutrition figured out. I'm excited to be running Cow Harbor once again and I hope conditions are good. I'm also hoping my colleague FS also has a great race this weekend when she runs the Dutchess County Half Marathon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Red Bull's Cow Harbor sample

One way to moo-ve faster on race day
As a blogger who reviews running related products, I occasionally receive interesting items in the mail. When I came home on Tuesday night, my wife handed me a small cylindrical package and asked if I was expecting something. I looked at the return address and saw it was  from Red Bull North America. I wondered what they sent me and why they sent it.

The package contained a can of Red Bull, accompanied by a printed note that thanked me for being part of the Great Cow Harbor 10K. I thought that was a great marketing idea. It probably cost a lot more to mail these cans than simply include them in race goody bags. However, this certainly got my full attention and it tied the product directly to the race.

Will I use this can of Red Bull on Saturday morning to kick-start my run? Not a chance. I still have trust issues with energy drinks and I would never use a supplement for the first time on race day. Still, I give Red Bull credit for their smart approach to demographic targeting and I appreciate their support and sponsorship of Cow Harbor and other races on Long Island.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cow Harbor training dissonance

After Bayview, the nightmare begins
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

This morning's run was my last before Saturday's Cow Harbor 10K. As I worked my way through my daily route, I thought about the luxury of waking up tomorrow without the obligation of a run. I pushed myself to a reasonable level, mostly after the first mile, and completed the run close to my normal time. I was happy with the workout but, almost immediately afterward, I started to question whether I've properly trained for the race.

James Street in Northport, otherwise known as "Widow Hill", is Cow Harbor's vindicetis maximus. It's a half mile of steep road that starts close to the two-mile point in the race. In the past two years I've trained on the Cow Harbor course to ready myself for that hill. It's helpful to know at the start of the race that I've run that monster in recent weeks. This year, my training has been less focused. Though I did run some hills over the past few weekends, they pale in comparison to what I'll face on Saturday.

I'm also thinking about my taper. Some might think it's overkill to rest two full days before a 10K. But I like  knowing (even if it's just psychological) that my body is using that downtime to repair and strengthen my leg muscles. I'm debating whether to run through core exercises on Thursday and Friday to give my glutes, quads and hamstrings some extra conditioning. That's an impact free workout that just might make me feel better about my training so far.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Techno-vandalism brings down Emerging Runner

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Today is the 11th anniversary of 9/11 and it's hard to believe that so much time has passed since that Tuesday in 2001. Last year I posted an essay about my experience and I thought this morning about how my children, so young at the time, are now in middle and high school. They'll never remember a time when 9/11 was just another day in September. I hardly do now.

Yesterday afternoon hackers brought down GoDaddy, the web hosting company that provides DNS services for the Emerging Runner. Consequently, my site was unreachable for a few hours. It's troubling when people selfishly disrupt technologies that provide services to so many who rely on their websites for income. Emerging Runner isn't a commercial site so, for me, it was just annoyance. But for those with the "Occupy Wall Street" mentality, I'll point out that this type of techno-vandalism mostly hurts the people they claim to represent.

I'm glad to have my site back and very happy to experience chilly, fall-like temperatures on my 4:00 AM run this morning. I ran my usual route and finished about 30 seconds faster than I normally do. It's hard to know how I'll feel on Saturday (race day) but my last two runs have gone well. One more run before I rest.

Finally, as I feared, BH Fitness sent us the wrong parts for our elliptical machine, so after waiting 6+ months, we still don't have a working unit. Here's some advice: If you are considering buying a piece of BH Fitness equipment, I recommend that you consider something else.

Monday, September 10, 2012

For Cow Harbor, it may all come down to this

My running experience this weekend varied greatly, with Saturday's humidity restricting my progress and Sunday's cool, dry conditions providing an energizing atmosphere. I don't have much to say about Saturday except that I knew from the start that it would be a tough run. I covered more distance than the three miles I'd originally targeted, so I was pleased with that small victory. Sometimes you need to give due respect to the heat and try your best, even if you don't run very long.

Yesterday's experience was much different and I knew from the start that I would have a better time on the Bethpage trail. I'm not sure how much credit I should give to the Accel Gel, but both times I've used it I've liked the results. The big hill at Bethpage is no James Street monster, but it's the best I could do as a training resource. It was nice to come up and over the top without feeling like I had nothing left, as I often do when finishing long runs there.

More than once I've had terrible runs on Saturday, followed by a really good run on Sunday. This coming weekend I'm hoping I peak early and feel race ready on the 15th. The two days that I'll rest prior to Saturday may improve my chances, but it doesn't guarantee I'll be at my best. I really hope we have great weather like last year on race day rather than the stifling heat and humidity of the year before. Above all else, weather can make the difference between a good or difficult race experience.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ever higher on the Bethpage trail

Entrance to new bike trail extension
Friday's run (street): 2.5 miles
Yesterday's run (street): 3.9 miles
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 6.9 miles

My excitement about Bethpage's bike trail extension continued this morning when I headed over to the park for my last long run before Cow Harbor. I wanted to cover at least 6 miles to prepare for next Saturday's 10K distance. Most of the humidity we experienced on Saturday had moved out the time I started my run this morning. With temperatures in the mid 60's, conditions were near perfect.

I brought along the RooSport that worked well during yesterday morning's run. I was able to verify that the pocket's design did a much better job keeping its contents dry than the SPIbelt. I was curious to see how the front fitting pouch would feel through a longer run.

Instead of starting with the new trail extension, I decided to run the first mile on the old bike trail so I could take on the big hill that comes at the end. I'm used to dealing with that challenge after six to twelve miles of running, so it seemed like a snap this morning. While that was true, I knew I had some more hills to deal with throughout the rest of my run.

I haven't felt great this weekend and I was somewhat concerned about my readiness for a long run. I ate an Accel Gel prior to the start to give me a boost and I think it helped. I got to two miles fairly quickly and remembered the rolling course from last weekend. My plan today was to run as far north as I could on the newly paved trail before turning back.

The first paved section ends at Haypath Road and, with no road traffic, I crossed easily to the continuing trail. This was new ground for me and the trail followed along the line of an adjacent neighborhood before wrapping into a wooded section. The route was rolling, but the elevation was biased in the northern direction. That made me happy because it meant I'd have more downhill sections than uphill when I returned.

I crossed Old Bethpage Rd. and continued until I reached Old Country Rd. I was a little confused at that point where the trail picked up again. It looked like I'd need to cross that busy road and I didn't feel like doing that today. I was at 4 miles by then, so I turned around and headed back. I knew I'd cover close to 7 miles by the time I reached my starting point.

The run back went by quickly despite a few challenging hills near the end. The RooSport fell short of expectations over the length of the run. My Brooks shorts don't have the same stiffness at the waist than some of my other running shorts and the phone-laden RooSport pulled down the front enough to be distracting.

I finished much stronger than I'd expected to at the start. My pace wasn't super fast but it was credible. Now it's time to taper, which means I'll rest on Monday, run on Tuesday and Wednesday and rest again on Thursday and Friday. The parts are finally in for the elliptical (after waiting half a year!) so with repairs scheduled for Monday I may get to use it this week. I'm looking forward to an elliptical session, after going so long without that cross-training option..

Friday, September 7, 2012

Running with the RooSport

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

TGIF. I have no right to say that because my work week started yesterday, but I'm saying it anyway. It's been a tough week with the kids returning to school and lots of other stuff going on. I skipped yesterday's run because it didn't work with my schedule but I got back to it this morning.

Instead of using my SPIbelt, I tried the RooSport for the first time. RooSport claims that its product provides better moisture protection than SPIbelt and I was curious to see if that proved true. I had concern that the RooSport would feel awkward tucked into my running shorts, especially with a phone inside it, but it was surprisingly comfortable. I really didn't notice it was there.

I went for my run and quickly forgot I had the RooSport but later I thought to check it out of concern that it fell off. That was my own paranoia. The RooSport attached securely to my shorts using a strong magnet and it would not come loose on its own.

I ended up having a decent run and probably could have pushed a little harder than I did. Still, I beat my normal time on this route by almost 30 seconds. I checked my phone after I finished to see if it was wet from sweat. It did seem much drier than when inside the SPIbelt, but it wasn't completely dry. It was a good experience and I plan to use it on my longer runs this weekend.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ready to run with a RooSport

Front view of RooSport, ID pocket on other side
Today's run (treadmill): 30 minutes

It's been a long time since I've done a post on Runner's Tech Review but that will soon change. This morning I received a product called the RooSport, a pocket that attaches magnetically to running shorts or pants. The idea is similar to the SPIbelt but the RooSport does not attach around your waist while you run.

I've been a fan of the SPIbelt for years and I use it every time I run. I'm curious to see how the RooSport feels compared to the SPIbelt, especially when loaded up with a smartphone and other small items. I'm also wondering how comfortable I'll be wearing the RoosSport on the inside of my shorts. This is the method recommended and demonstrated by Brenda Brundage, who created the product.

We've had a lot of rain over the last two days and that kept me inside for today's run. I considered wearing it on the treadmill, but I wanted my first experience with the RooSport to happen on an outdoor run. I ran for about 30 minutes this morning, fast enough to get my heart rate to the edge of the anaerobic zone. If the weather cooperates tomorrow, I'll use the RoosSport outside on my run. I'll share that experience and will post the full review in a few weeks on Runner's Tech Review.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day morning run

Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

Today is a Monday that feels like a Sunday because it's Labor Day. Normally my kids would be celebrating having an extra day added to their weekend, but today represents their last day of summer vacation. We have plenty to do today, so I got out early to get my run in, before our day got started.

Although the hot days of August are behind us and the skies were mostly cloudy, the combination of heat and humidity made for uncomfortable conditions. I adopted a moderate pace and followed a different than normal route. I covered a little more than four miles, providing a nice start to this week's mileage total.

I've exceeded 20 miles in each of the last two weeks and hopefully I'll do that again this week. Tomorrow is a vacation day for me, but with some scheduled work calls, a doctor's appointment and the process of getting my son and daughter ready for their first day of school, it doesn't feel much like a day off. I plan to take Tuesday as my rest day and I think I'll need it. I haven't taken a day off from running since last Monday.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A big surprise at the Bethpage bike trail

Northern entrance to (now paved) trail extension
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 5.25 miles

Years ago I was at a management off-site in Montauk where we stayed at a well known resort. We arrived late at night and went directly to our rooms. I was pleased to see my small, but cozy, bedroom, with a modest sized window that looked out at the ocean. I went right to bed so I'd be ready for the early morning meetings.When I woke the next morning, I was astonished to discover another room, twice the bedroom's size, with floor to ceiling windows looking out to the beach.

I had a similar experience this morning at Bethpage State Park, where I planned to run the bike trail. I knew that they were doing work on the north end of the trail but I didn't really understand what it meant. I decided to explore the paved path that led to the golf courses, since I'd hardly seen them in all the time I'd run there. I first encountered a group flying large, remote control planes over the open field. Very cool, but I couldn't stop to watch.

As I made my way deeper into the golf course, I was interrupted by a groundskeeper who told me I couldn't run there and that I needed to head - immediately - to the bike trail. When he realized I wasn't trying to break any rules he got nicer and explained the risk of flying golf balls. I turned back to where I began, and decided to explore what looked like a small section of newly paved trail that extended off the driveway leading to the parking lot.

I saw other runners running there and became curious how far this path would go. I expected the answer to be a few hundred feet, but then I saw a runner turning around and heading the other way. I was amazed. Clearly the trail went far enough to be worth a return run. I followed the paved path and saw that it continued past my line of sight. A teenage runner coming from the other direction asked me how far the path led. I asked him the same, and he said "about 20 minutes." Hmmm.

This new trail was like a gift. I read that they were extending the bike trail at some point but I didn't think they'd actually done it. Soon I realized that the patch of paved road that I'd recently encountered after coming to the end of a dirt path was part of this trail. Like the rest of the bike path, this extended portion was rolling, with some tough hills along the way.

I followed the extension to where it ends on Haypath Road. I saw that I could cross the street and pick up the Trailview path that runs all the way north to Cold Spring Harbor. Instead of doing that, I decided to head back. I didn't bring any water and I was beginning to feel overheated. The hills were no kinder on the way back but I welcomed them. When I got to the end, I doubled back another half mile for the distance and ended up covering 5.25 miles altogether.

I'm very excited about this new extension for many reasons. First, I now have another option to run at Bethpage when I don't feel like doing the usual bike trail. Second, the new bike trail section has numerous exits into the wooded trails that provide options for combining trail and road running. Third, I can now explore Trailview as it goes further north. Theoretically, I will be able to run from Bethpage into my own town. With a few busy streets in the way that might be too good to be true. But you never know.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stillwell Woods fun: toughest trail run this year

Finally found my way across the full preserve
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.5 miles

Now that the Barclays is over and Bethpage is open once again, I considered heading over to run the bike trail. But I changed my mind on venue and opted for Stillwell Woods instead. A few miles on the wooded trails is a great way to free your mind, body and soul. That is, if they don't beat you to a pulp.

I usually run the same route at Stillwell that starts on the main trail and follows north, and then east, before looping back around to the trail head. I usually run it twice, for a distance of about 4 miles. I like this course because it's primarily hard packed single-track, with a few rocky and hilly sections thrown in. The challenge of getting through this loop is moderate at best, but it's a great experience running among the trees, plants and animals.

This morning's Stillwell run started like usual, and I followed my standard loop until I turned left instead of right, just before the one mile point. This little change quickly turned the dial from easy to difficult. Instead of my familiar paths, I soon encountered the first of many sharp inclines up rock, scree and sand, followed by numerous steep, carved out, drops.

Technical trail running can be fun provided you're wearing the right shoes and have an understanding of your course. I had neither, but I did my best. Thinking I'd run my usual route, I wore a pair of road shoes that performed remarkably well in most circumstances, but barely had enough bite for some particularly steep inclines.

I'd brought a compass and that was very helpful for navigating across the entire preserve. Still, I didn't know what to expect from minute to minute. The route I'd taken brought me up and down, with almost no level sections between the one and three mile points. I began to get frustrated by this pattern because I didn't know what lay ahead. I only knew it would be tough running.

Just when I started to think about taking a break or even walking some of the difficult sections, I found myself on a familiar trail that's part of my normal route. Knowing the worst was over, I happily followed my way around to the trail head and ran the paved drive almost to the street and back. 

Ups and downs through the first three miles
What started as a routine Stillwell run turned out to be an exhausting hill workout with lots of technical terrain and obstacles. I needed to duck under or leap over a lot of stuff and all that sand was irritating. I was proud of myself for meeting every hill challenge head on. But I did need a mid-day recovery nap to get my energy back, so I could play soccer with my daughter.

Tomorrow I'll go back on the road again. Perhaps I'll head to Bethpage for six miles or so on the bike trail. After today's run, that might feel easier than usual.

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