Sunday, October 28, 2012

Running, storm prep and 5,000 pumpkins

Today's run (street): 5.25 miles

We're counting down the hours until the hurricane hits. Fortunately we've had a few days to plan and prepare. The kid's schools are both closed on Monday and it looks like the LIRR will stop running after 7:00 tonight. Looks like I may be working from home. If there's any upside, it's that the timing of Sandy allowed me to get in a couple of nice runs this weekend.

My original plan was to run at Stillwell Woods this morning. I got as far as preparing my bag that holds water and recovery snacks for when I run in places outside of my neighborhood. Before I left, my wife and I brought in the pots of flowers and the pumpkins that sit outside our house. With predictions of 70 MPH winds (and higher), we wanted to eliminate any loose items from around our yard.

By the time we finished storm proofing, I'd decided to stay local and do another neighborhood run. Rather than duplicate yesterday's route, I starting picking streets at random and just let the run flow. I ended up running west along Jericho Turnpike and then took a turn onto South Oyster Bay Road. I followed the road south until I could tuck into neighborhood #2 that sits directly to the south of my neighborhood.

I continued around neighborhood #2 on my way to covering five and a quarter miles, just as I did on Saturday. The temperature felt far colder than the 56° that was reported on the news. I'd planned to run a little slower than yesterday (and I did), but I was still surprised to see my pace come in ten seconds per mile faster than how it felt. Even after missing my workout on Friday, I still managed to come close to my weekly goal of 20 miles.

One of the many groups on display
Last night we went over to Old Westbury Gardens to see the Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns. It's an event where over 5,000 carved pumpkins are illuminated with color and arranged along the paths within the garden grounds. We were in the 9:00 PM group and even under a full moon the effect was amazing. The above picture does not do justice to the experience, but it's the best I could do with my smartphone. This would be a great place to run, though I don't think they allow people to do that.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Getting in a run before Sandy shows up

Ready or not, here it comes
Today's run (street): 5.2 miles

Long Island is abuzz with talk about hurricane Sandy that is due to hit us some time between Sunday night and Monday. The power companies seem to be expecting the worse, and there's only so much we can do to prepare. I'm expecting to face some commuting issues on Monday, though my company has told employees they should stay home if conditions warrant it.

After hurricane Irene in 2011, I fully expect that we'll lose power to our home. Last year our electricity was cut off for almost a week. LIPA is saying that 7 day outages are expected. I hope they learned something from the Irene debacle. My level of confidence is low.

This morning I went for a run in the neighborhood and appreciated having at least one weekend day without torrential rains and gale force winds. I didn't run yesterday and hoped to make up some mileage today. I thought about going to Stillwell but those trails make for hard running that sometimes limits my distance. Conditions for my street run were near perfect, with temperatures in the 50's and partly cloudy skies.

If the weather holds I'll be able to get out for some more miles tomorrow morning. I ended up covering today's route 25 seconds per mile faster than I'd expected. That gave me a boost and it reinforced that my conditioning is in a good place right now. The Long Beach Turkey Trot is still a few weeks away. I'm hoping that hurricane Sandy doesn't wash out my training this coming week.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Anniversary walk on the Bethpage trail

Today is my anniversary and I didn't have time for a run this morning. I felt a little guilty about that until my wife suggested that we take a walk on the Bethpage bike trail. We headed over to the park shortly after the kids left for school and made our way to the trail extension.

I run at Bethpage almost every weekend. It's my favorite place for longer runs because the trail allows me to do distance training without needing to cross busy roads. The extension that runs north of the original bike trail has three segments. The first runs through an area that used to be an unpaved trail and terminates at Haypath Rd. That's the section we walked this morning.

It was fun showing my wife the route that I run on weekend mornings. The leaves have started changing and it felt a lot like fall. It was a nice change to cover this route at a walking pace. We covered about three miles on our out-and-back route. I still feel a little guilty for skipping my workout, but the bike trail proved to be a perfect choice for an anniversary walk.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Where JavaScript and running meet

JSON born
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

In my past life I studied programming languages and applied it at various jobs throughout my career. I liked the combination of structure and art that comes from programming. The structure was the syntax and logic and the art was the creation of an experience that came from typing many++ lines of code.

This blog allows me to do some fun stuff with HTML, but lately I've been playing with JavaScript. I've challenged myself to writing a process that will pull JSON data from Daily Mile that I can parse, query, calculate and display on the site. Daily Mile has widgets that do that, but they display more info than I want to show. With the work I've done so far, I can see that this will be a real challenge.

I was thinking about my approach to writing this process as I ran through my neighborhood this morning. It was a nice distraction and, more than once, I found myself further along on my route than I'd realized. I thought I was running faster than what the numbers showed, but perhaps thinking deeply and fast pacing are not compatible concepts. I ended up with a respectable time along with some new ideas about approaching my new coding project.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Benefitting from the indoor option

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

There was a period in 2010 when I avoided the treadmill for a period of months. It didn't rain most mornings when I planned to run and, if it did, I'd use the elliptical instead. I hated the treadmill because it was tedious, hard and a little bit scary to use. In spring of 2011 we replaced our twelve year old machine with a Sole F63 and I began to view treadmill running somewhat more positively.

It seems like the frequency of rainy mornings has increased since that period in 2010 and there's no elliptical option because the machine has been down for parts throughout most of the year. That has put me on the treadmill one or two times a week. Today's iffy weather put me there again this morning.

I didn't really enjoy yesterday's run that took me over a mile to find my stride. Today's was much different, even though I was very tired when my alarm jolted me awake. I briefly considered taking another rest day but reason (i.e., guilt) prevailed. This morning's progressive speed run landed me within my desired heart rate zone and the time went by quickly. A good workout is a good workout, no matter what the surface.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dressing for cold when the running gets hot

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

It's often difficult to determine the right amount of layers to wear in cooler weather. On hot summer days we wear as little as possible (I stop at running shirtless in public, though many don't). When the temperature begins to drop, I find myself reaching for long sleeves and running pants but often regret those decisions some time into my run.

A check of the weather last night prompted me to go with short sleeves and running shorts this morning. I did lay out my calf sleeves that would provide more leg warmth, but I'd already put on my running shoes by the time I noticed them. I also put out some lightweight running gloves in case I felt they were necessary. I decided to forgo the calf sleeves and gloves and just ran with what I had.

The temperature was in the low 40's at 4:00 AM, and though it felt nippy, I was satisfied with my gear. As I waited for my Garmin to acquire a signal, I concluded that I was no more uncomfortable than I'd typically be lining up for a race on a cold fall morning. I hoped that the chill would prompt me to get to speed quickly but I had some trouble pushing my pace.

I ended up running the first half of my route fairly slowly but made up for that on the second half. Although I was sweating when I walked back into the house I wasn't soaking wet. I think I guessed correctly in terms of layers. Once the temperatures drop into the 30's and 20's it will be more obvious what to wear on a run. One thing I know for sure: it's far better to error on the side of cold at the start than risk overheating later.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The trick to beating stress is remembering the obvious

Happy Monday. My morning started with water pouring through the kitchen light that came from an overflow from an upstairs shower. Despite that annoyance, I feel great today and glad to rest after yesterday's hilly run.

Monday rest days are perfectly timed for easing my way back into the work week. Although I'm the first to say that running reduces stress, I don't always see it as a way to blow off anxiety or tension. In fact, it's often the opposite. On mornings when I am particularly stressed, I'll think about skipping my workout. Part of that relates to getting extra rest, but some of it has to do with avoiding anything difficult.

The trick is to remember that the end of almost any run produces an endorphin response that leaves you feeling better. When I am able to overcome my reluctance to run on stressful morning, I always appreciate how my mental state improves after the workout. There are studies that show established runners sometimes achieve their "runner's high" while they are still running, because they can anticipate the rewards that follow. On those stressful mornings it would be great to start with the endorphins and go from there.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

10K training run on the old Bethpage route

I'm going to stick with the SPIbelt
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 35 minutes
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 6.2 miles

It's been a busy weekend but I did get in a few runs. Yesterday morning I had to get blood drawn as part of my annual checkup, so I elected to do a moderate length run on the treadmill. I've learned from past experience that losing blood, even small amounts like this, can effect your stamina. I didn't suffer fatigue at any point in the run but I capped my time at 35 minutes. I needed to reserve some energy for the day ahead.
The Emerging Runner family headed into the city to see my dad, along with my aunt and uncle who are visiting from France. Later, we were excited to meet up for dinner with Adventure Girl, who was in town this weekend for a friend's wedding. They are all great people and we had a great time with everyone. I was glad that I didn't push myself too hard in the morning, because I was exhausted by the time we arrived back home.

I headed over to Bethpage State Park this morning to get in some extra miles and to take on a few challenging hills. I love the new trail extension to the north but I had not run it in the southern direction in a long time. I headed down the bike trail feeling energized by the crisp fall air, but I was regretting my decision to take the RooSport to carry my phone instead of my SPIbelt.

The RooSport hangs over the top of your running shorts and stays secure with magnets that connect the inside and outside flaps. I had some issues the last time I ran with it, but I thought it was related to the shorts I was wearing. I had on different shorts today but, from the start, I felt like the pouch was slipping. I feared that it might disconnect and fall off, so I took it off and ran with it in my hand.

Other than that, my run went very well. I covered the first three miles barely breaking a sweat. My heart rate was only 84% of max despite the hilly route. On my way back I boosted my glycogen with half a GU Roctane that I had diluted 4:1 with water in my gel flask. The helped take the edge of the first of two challenging hills that need to be managed on the way back.

There were less runners and running groups today than I expected to see. Friends TC and FS, who are running the ING NYC marathon in a couple of weeks, are doing their 10+ mile workouts this weekend.. I thought I'd see more marathoners doing the same but it was mostly cyclists, including a woman who was riding a tall unicycle.

After last week's 14 mile total (due to running the 5K race and two less training workouts), I wanted to get back up to 20 miles this week. I think I might have made it but I'll have to check Daily Mile. I have a month to train for my next race, the Long Beach 10K Turkey trot. Today's 10K base run was a great start to that training.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A little love for the treadmill

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I've been running well lately, but I found yesterday's workout disappointing. It may have been my mental state at the time of the run, but I didn't enjoy the experience at all. I usually associate tedium with the treadmill and prefer the changing conditions that happen when running outdoors. Thursday's run felt like a maintenance effort, nothing more. But, as the saying goes, "I've never regretted a run."

Knowing that heavy rains would be sweeping over Long Island by morning, I planned for a treadmill workout and actually looked forward to a change from the road. As I've written, the treadmill provides two advantages over street running (along with numerous disadvantages): instant availability and the option to introduce variables at the touch of a button.

I like that the time I take between waking and running on the treadmill is almost half of what it takes to gear up and get outside to run. I can sometimes save as much as ten minutes, which becomes ten more minutes to relax after my workout is completed. The treadmill allows me to custom design my workout by varying incline, and speed. The speed flexibility is key. If I want to run slowly outdoors, I need to either shorten my route or risk getting behind schedule. On the treadmill, I can jump off when I get behind and already be home.

I still prefer the trails and the road to the treadmill, but I liked my workout this morning. I followed my usual practice of starting easy and working my way up to race pace using my heart rate as a guide. The best part was when I finished. One minute after after hitting the stop button I was downing my coffee and preparing for another long day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The habitual runner

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Daily miles
At some point in my life I became a creature of habit. Twenty years ago I'd vary everything in my life, from my morning routine all the way through to my bedtime. Marriage, kids and commuting by train necessitated an eventual compliance to daily schedules and structure. But when I began running in 2008, all bets were off in terms of where, how and when I would run. Even on the streets of my neighborhood at 4 AM, I would rarely cover the same route two days in a row.

That has all changed, and my running routine now contains less variability than a watch assembly line. Every night my running gear is readied for morning, and my process going from waking to running is done on a minute by minute schedule. Instead of mixing up my route each day, it's always the same roads run exactly the same way to cover exactly the same distance (2.53 miles).

After almost four years of competing, my race schedule has also become a bit of a habit. My expectations were upset this week when I discovered that the Run for the Warriors 10K has been pushed forward from mid-November to this weekend. I love that race but my schedule won't work with the timing. I feel badly about missing this race, because even though I've only run it the past two years, it's on my racing schedule.

I took to the streets again this morning and, like yesterday, it was cold outside. I dressed with more layers today and didn't get around my route as quickly as I did on Tuesday. In fact, it took me over a minute longer, which calculates to about 30 seconds per mile. One thing that remained the same was my route. Some habits are hard to break.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The quick and the cold

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

This time of year it's hard to judge the weather for running. Last night's report showed temperatures in the mid-40's that would seem positively balmy compared to the 35° conditions at last Saturday's race. This morning I dressed in a similar way to Saturday, with a long sleeve shirt, shorts and calf sleeves. When I stepped outside to start my run, I was hit with a wave of cold that made me consider going back inside to add another layer.

I decided to accept the cold as is, following the practice of dressing for your second mile. The cold can be a good incentive to get quickly up to speed in an effort to raise body temperature. It was odd to be running through the frosty air while lawn sprinklers were spraying water all along the street. I avoided that freezing mist as much as as I could.

A quick check of my heart rate motivated me to pick up my pace. I was starting to warm up, but sweating was beginning to work against me, amplifying the chill. I continued on at a moderate speed and was later surprised to see that I'd paced 30 seconds per mile faster than I felt I was running. My best race times seem to come in the colder months so clearly there's a correlation between cold and performance. I wonder if my pace would have suffered had I added that extra layer prior to my run.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fastest running shoes? Oh, it's ON!

My pathway to six minute miles
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me a link about the Kona Ironman triathlon that listed the types and brands of gear used by competitors this year. The shoe makers were mostly familiar, but 11th brand on the list was "On", worn by 23 competitors. I looked up On running shoes and discovered that they are a Swiss company that sells its shoes primarily in Europe.

What intrigued me about these shoes (besides their interesting outsoles) was how On characterized the performance profile of each of their models. The Cloudracer has a targeted speed of 6.4 minutes per mile, while the Cloudster seems to be the shoe for us 9:00 milers. But I was thinking, "Hmm, if I ran in the Cloudracers then I too could run 6 minute miles!" If only it worked like that.

During yesterday's unpleasant migraine, I wondered if I'd ever feel well enough to run again. By last night I had recovered enough to set up my running gear for a morning workout and when I woke up I felt surprisingly good. I didn't want to push it too hard, so I settled in with a moderate pace and slight incline and ratcheted up the speed as I progressed through my 25 minute run. But if I was wearing On Cloudracers, who knows how fast I would have gone?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Well timed rest day

I don't think I could have picked a better day to schedule a rest from running. I developed an intense headache last night that was probably triggered by an afternoon of working to recover data from one of our laptops. I had hoped that a good night's sleep would bring some relief, but that hasn't been the case. Just to top off my misery, I went for a company-provided flu shot this morning. I had a slight reaction to it last year and I'm concerned that it may cause me some problems today.

If my existing and anticipated ailments clear by tomorrow morning I'll be back on the road for a run. I've always found sleep to be the best medicine. But right now, it's hard to believe that I'll have the energy to do anything as strenuous as running.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Easy doesn't always do it after race day

Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

Between tapering and running just 3.1 miles on race day, I usually come up well short of my weekly average when I run a 5K. That was the case this week where my total miles barely cracked the teens. Despite the lower volume, I can say confidently that both runs this weekend were high quality efforts.

I usually rest the day after a race, not because it's a good practice, but because most races are on Sundays and my rest day is Monday. For Saturday races, I usually try to get out for a recovery run because I read once that an easy workout that follows a hard effort effectively forces out lactic acid that can cause leg soreness.

My lower output this week prompted me to target at least 5 miles today. The last couple of times when I followed a race with an LSD run, I found myself struggling after 30 minutes despite going slow and easy. I realized last time that running a little harder actually felt better.

I had that in mind when I went out this morning, taking the first mile at around a 9:00 pace before settling into a mid-9 pace for the duration of the run. I chose the hilliest streets in the neighborhood to get my heart rate going. After a race, almost any effort below race pace feels easy and that was the case today. I could have gone another few miles but I didn't want to overdo it. Besides, we are celebrating my son's birthday today and I needed to get home to shower before we all went out.

I look forward to tomorrow's rest day but I'm eager to start training for two 10K's in November. I have always run my best 10K times at these races and that's probably due to the cooler weather and relatively flat courses. Still, I'm planning to maintain my hill training because that seems to make me  a better runner, regardless of the elevation.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Race report: 2012 Oyster Bay Supervisor's 5K

Big crowd, 70 more runners than last year
Today's race (Oyster Bay Supervisor's 5K): 3.1 miles 
25:58 - 8:22 pace

When running a race, it's always good to be familiar with the course. I tend to do better the second time I run a particular race, as I did at today's 2012 Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor's 5K. I came very close to achieving a PR this morning, but ended up falling short by eight seconds. Still, I did break 26 minutes, if only by two seconds.

I arrived a few minutes after 8:00 for the 9:00 AM start. The temperature was a chilly 35° and I was concerned about parking too far away from registration. I was counting on parking close to the starting area so I could stay warm in my car before heading to the line. I ended up parking at the high school, which was a quick three minute walk to the registration area.

Registration went well, just like last year. The race shirt was actually a sweatshirt, this year's in grey with blue and black graphics. I returned to my car to pin my bib and fuel with Accel Gel. I headed back up with 15 minutes to spare and lined up near the start. On my way there I was passed by a runner who tripped on a loose cable while doing strides. Fortunately, his spill onto gravel didn't diminish his spirit and he was up and running seconds later.

For some reason, a large crowd of runners had assembled in front of the line, perhaps because the area had a lot of warming sun. The race starter announced that people needed to move behind the line, and a big wave of people pushed us back a little. The starter then asked that the front area be reserved for 6:00 pace runners.

The guy in front of me turned and asked (not in a nice way) if I ran 6 minute miles. I didn't answer him, but I did make sure that he saw me when I passed him going up Berry Hill Road. So there were 630 nice people at this race and one jerk. That's a pretty good ratio.

The race started right on time and I looked forward to attacking the long hill that would eventually give way to an equally long downhill stretch. I felt great from the start and the cold air helped a lot. I wore a long sleeved jersey, shorts and compression sleeves on my calves. It was the right combination of gear and I was comfortable throughout the race.

Since I was familiar with the hill, I knew where I was when we passed the 1 mile point. I came through in 8:30, over 30 seconds faster than last year. I had trained on hills and it was paying off. Berry Hill Road becomes a little steeper at the one mile mark, but I knew that and was prepared to work harder. I was surprised how many people I was passing on the hill. I almost finished in the top third today (okay, it was the top 39% percent) but that's better than my usual spot, exactly in the middle of the pack.

Once the turn onto Sandy Hill Road came into view, I knew I'd have some relief. I was careful to remember that I still needed to keep pushing for that last mile and a half. The downhill stretches did help me recover and I felt like I was running as fast as I could while still maintaining a safe stride. The last thing I needed was to overrun my turnover capability and take a spill on the course.

At around the 2 mile mark, my friend BL came up on my side and said hello. He's a great example of how discipline and hard work can deliver amazing results. Two years ago BL was twice the size he is today, but he started walking, and then running, and he hasn't stopped since. He races almost every weekend and is now faster than me.

The course takes a left turn onto East Main Street where the downhill ends and the road rises. It actually felt good to be climbing again. I was able to tap some surprising energy as I surged along the final quarter mile. The clock said 25:01 when I passed the 3 mile mark and I hoped to make it to the finish in 48 seconds to secure a new PR. Unfortunately, it took me almost a minute more to cross the line.

I felt great at the end and I didn't care that I'd missed a PR. I caught up with BL who broke 26 minutes for the first time today, finishing almost half a minute before I did. I was happy that he achieved a PR. He certainly earned it.

This is a great race because it gives as much as it takes. The long hill is a great challenge but manageable with training. I realized today that I should probably focus on downhill technique which would have helped me today. Still, no regrets. My next race will be the Run for the Warrior's 10K in November and I'm excited to start training for that. But for now, a little rest today and a long recovery run tomorrow will do just fine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Following the primary rule of racing

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

It's probably overkill to rest two days before a 5K race, but that's what I'm planning to do. I have gotten away with a single day's rest before some races, but I've also paid the price for running hard prior to race day. The primary rule of racing is "Don't change what works." In the same way that you'd never try a new gel or sport drink or wear new running shoes for the first time on the day of a race, there's little to be gained by changing your preparation methodology.

Today was supposed to be my last training run for my taper and I looked forward to running the streets of my neighborhood. The weather report said clear skies by morning, so I geared up and headed downstairs, ready to hit the road. Unfortunately, as the garage door lifted, I could see the rain coming down hard. I would have run in a light drizzle, but this was not going to work.

I headed back upstairs and shed my outdoor gear before hopping on the treadmill to do my workout. I ran fairly hard yesterday, especially with the 3% incline, so I locked into a comfortable pace and resisted temptation to increase my speed throughout the run. Sometimes you get more out of an easy run than an intense one. After the hard training I've done over the past few weeks, I'm going to enjoy the next two days of rest. Hopefully, that will put me at my best on Saturday.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The ups and downs of hill running

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes - 3% grade

Some people claim that they'd rather run uphill than down. To me, that's like saying they'd prefer to skip dessert, although I know some people who do. I love downhills because they allow me to back off on my effort during a hard run and use gravity to maintain a good pace. But every hill, either up and down, is different. I like the fact that Saturday's race has a sizable downhill section, but I wouldn't want it any steeper than it is.

Running downhill can be a challenge when the grade is high because it takes work to maintain balance, lest you begin to move faster than your legs can go. There's a whole different set of muscles at play when negotiating steep declines. I write a lot about Cow Harbor's formidable hill on James Street, but that elevation goes two ways. There's a part of Eaton's Neck Road where I wish the sharp drop would just flatten out, which it does briefly before rising for a mile on Waterside.

This morning I set my treadmill to a 3% grade and cranked my speed so that I'd get to a race-ready heart rate. It wasn't the most comfortable workout, but I was able to sustain it over 25 minutes. I can't simulate a downhill on the treadmill although some high end machines can do that. I'm not sure I need to practice downhills because every time I run at Bethpage I run down exactly as much as I go up. I just enjoy that part more.

Monday, October 8, 2012

October made me a runner

Burning up the treadmill four years ago
October has been a significant month for me in my history as a runner. Modern history I should say, because my running experience in the early '90's (and before that) is hazy and undocumented. But in August of 2008, I took my first running steps during my walking workouts. I steadily increased the ratio of time I spent running during my walks, all through September, and then into early October.

The reason I know the details of my early progress is because I'd used a Nike+ wristband and chip and I'm still able to look back at my workouts and see the histograms that show my pace and distance. It's interesting to see the first run/walks, where I traveled at about 15:00 min/mile, with short sections dropping into the 10:00 range.

A scan of the log shows that I averaged 9:34 per mile on October 21, 2008, making that my first full run over a mile with no walking. One year later I ran on a relay team at the Cape Cod Marathon where I achieved a then-personal record distance of 8.75 miles (over two relay legs). Two years after that, I took my big spill on the driveway at the end of a morning run that scraped me up so badly that I still have scars a year later. You have to take the good with the bad.

I guess the longer your running history, the more you'll have to look back on every month. Still, I'll always look at October as a most important month, because that's when I truly became a runner.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rapid recovery run

Today's run: (street): 4.9 miles

The weekend weather has been highly cooperative for running. The rain held off until the afternoon on Saturday and today was a repeat of that pattern. This morning it was especially cool outside as I made my way through the neighborhood. But it wasn't so cold that I couldn't run in shorts. The temperature was around 50° and dry. Compare that to Chicago where they were reporting 38° for the start of the BoA Marathon.

After yesterday's fun on the hills, I didn't want to run too hard. I took it fairly easy at the start and focused on the purpose of this workout. I needed to recover from muscle strain and get in a few more miles before I taper down next week.

I appreciated the weather as I made my way through the first mile. I felt surprisingly energetic at that point and hoped that would continue as I went along. I only checked my heart rate a couple of times but noticed it was higher than I expected. I later realized that was because I was running about 25 seconds per mile faster than I thought I was at that time.

I'd originally planned to cap my distance at four miles but I felt so good that I changed course and added almost a mile to my total. Once I calculated my overall pace, I realized that I'd achieved the level of fitness I'll need for Saturday's 5K. I'm hoping to maintain that level until race day. Right now I'm feeling ready.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Attacking the hills at Bethpage

View of the recently re-opened bike trail head
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 5.3 miles

I was up very early with hopes of getting to Bethpage before 7:00 AM. I couldn't get my act together and ended up stalling until almost 8:00. Although I felt okay, I was experiencing some of the symptoms that caused me to cut my run short yesterday. I debated whether to stick around and run closer to home, rather than heading to the park.

This is the last weekend I have to train for the upcoming 5K and I knew that I'd be better off running at Bethpage because it provided the best resource for hill training. When I arrived I saw a crowd of people setting up for the "Lean on Me" 5K Walk and Talk that benefits the Breast Cancer Network. It looked like it was going to be a fun event.

Walking and Talking today at Bethpage
My plan was to run the longest hill of the bike trail a couple of times. The hill goes on a bit, one trip up and down equals a mile. After I reached the top for the second time, I headed north and ran the upper trail to Haypath Road and back. Like the rest of the bike trail, the upper section is rolling and it has a few hills. One hill is fairly steep, but its relatively short length makes it manageable.

Once I got by those hills it was easy running and I reached the end having covered 5.3 miles. When I got back to the trail head I saw that the crowds had grown at the Walk and Talk event and the music was booming. I hoped the rain that was predicted to move in would hold off and I'm guessing that it did.

Despite feeling a little off, I had a decent run and the hill practice will hopefully pay off next Saturday. I'm not sure what type of workout I should do tomorrow. That will be determined by the weather and the way I feel. I probably should do some speed work before I taper off, but I don't want to push hard if I really need the rest.

Friday, October 5, 2012

From bad to worse and then worse again

Today's run (street): 1.1 miles

Today's workout started badly and got worse. Everything started out fine, I changed into my running clothes and was out the door ahead of schedule. I felt fine as I waited to get my GPS signal, but when I took off I noticed my energy level was a little below par. My legs felt heavy and my stride felt flat. I decided to press on in hopes that I'd loosen up and rebound after the first downhill section.

Instead of feeling better, I began to feel worse and around the half mile point I started to feel queasy. I decided on the spot to run straight home. When I reached my house I discovered that I'd locked myself out for the first time in four years. I had to call my wife to come down and let me in. I'm sure she was alarmed when the phone rang at 4:00 AM, but at least it wasn't because of anything bad. Of all days to do that.

As a result, I'm going into the weekend a little short of my targeted mileage, but I hope to make that up tomorrow. My plan is to run the big hill at Bethpage a few times to prepare for the race the following weekend. I recovered quickly from this morning's incident and I'm hoping to feel much better on tomorrow's run.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debate highlights distract me from the incline

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Last night's debate went past my bedtime, so I took advantage of my indoor run today by watching the highlights and recap on the early news. The Emerging Running covers a lot of things, but politics isn't one of them, so I'll hold my comments. I'll admit that hearing what was said (or straining to hear over the din of the treadmill and fan) made the time go by fast.

Since the Town of Oyster Bay 5K has a very long hill at the start, I made elevation the theme for today's run and put the incline at 3% for the duration. Despite the humidity and extra incline, I still struggled to get my heart rate to target range, though I reached it about five minutes before the end by increasing my speed.

I feel like my conditioning is a little above average right now and that's making me hopeful that I'll run competitively on the 13th. I hope I can keep up this level of performance all the way through next weekend.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gaining speed by pushing HR

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

The threat of rain and fog kept me indoors on the treadmill this morning. The big fan positioned in front of the machine negated the high humidity (for the most part). I spent little time getting up to speed before locking into a sub-9:00 pace for the duration of my run. I wish I had thought to use my heart rate monitor earlier than August because I've found it to be a far better method of improving my pace than simply monitoring my speed on the Garmin.

My current treadmill method is to steadily increase my heart rate by increasing speed every couple of minutes until I reach Zone 4, usually in the last few minutes. I can accelerate that by increasing incline but right now I'm more focused on pace. I'm planning to run with my friend CK on Friday at lunchtime and I hope the harder efforts I've been putting in will help me keep up with him. Either way, I know it will be a challenging workout.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nice performance despite some sleep-running

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

It felt humid when I changed into running clothes this morning and I saw that the temperature was about eight degrees higher than yesterday at that time. I was already sweating when I put on my heart rate monitor and a quick check showed normal readings just before I started. I haven't downloaded the run to Garmin Connect, but I expect that I'll see an even HR pattern across the timeline when I do.

I'm never quite sure how I'll feel before I take the first few steps off my driveway each morning. Some days it feels as though I'm carrying sandbags around my ankles. Other times my stride feels fluid and my energy level feels high. This morning it was much more the latter, although I did feel some twinges in my leg muscle as I pushed up the first street's slight incline.

My response to those twinges was to apply more power. Despite my harder pace, I was doing a little sleep-running and found myself nearing the one mile mark sooner than I'd expected. A check of my Garmin showed that I was still running below my targeted heart rate. I picked up speed once again, but finished slightly below my goal of reaching Zone 4.

My overall time was good and, since I've been monitoring my heart rate, my average pace on these morning runs has dropped close to 15 seconds per mile. I have one more weekend to train for the Oyster Bay 5K so I'll need to make every run count till then. This morning was a good start. I hope I feel the same tomorrow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Heart rate spikes and my HR monitor

Mystery spikes at the beginning of my runs
I started using my heart rate monitor again in late August and it's helped me understand how much (or how little) work I'm putting into a run. Instead of looking at my Garmin and checking my pace for that moment, I now display my heart rate and adjust my effort depending on what I see. I've learned that my default pace happens when I'm running in the zone 2 range, far below what I would have thought.

Now, when I see that my heart rate is still in the "easy" zone, I'll pick up the pace to cross the threshold to the next level. I aim to reach zone 5 by the time I finish most of my runs and I usually get there.

I was looking at the readings from yesterday's run and noticed that my heart rate was holding close to 100% of Max through the first three minutes. From there it dropped precipitously down to 76% for no apparent reason. I had seen this happen before, my first few minutes of the Cow Harbor 10K show a spike to 100% of Max before dropping to 80% at the five minute point.

In the case of Cow Harbor, I was pumped up for the race and had consumed a 2nd Surge gel with caffeine right before the start. In contrast, yesterday's run was low key, with no gels or caffeine to influence my physiology. In both cases I felt no different between the high and normal readings. Since it doesn't correlate to my condition, I'm thinking the reason is completely benign.

In both cases the humidity was low and I had not wet the HRM sensor before I linked it to the Garmin. Without moisture from sweat, the readings were probably unreliable. After a few minutes of running (and sweating) they dropped to an expected level. I'll test this theory tomorrow by ensuring the contacts on the HRM are wet before I start my run. I'm pretty sure I'll see a smoother curve along the timeline.

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