Friday, November 30, 2012

Are male runners more competitive than female runners?

The 4 hour cliff 
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes - 2% grade

If you are a member of Athlinks you may have received an email that shows a graph of 2012 marathon times (above). The graph shows 2012 finish time distribution frequency, and it clearly illustrates that marathon times peak right before the four hour mark (I inserted a blue arrow to highlight that point). Not shown here was another graph that compared times by gender. That graph showed that 58% of men (vs. 42% of women) finished faster that 4:00. One might conclude that men approach these races more competitively than women. The sharp spike between 3:50 and 3:59 times indicates some very tactical planning.

I can't speak to how women view racing, except through anecdotal conversations with female friends who race. I wouldn't say that women are any less competitive, but they may carry a different perspective on their performance goals. Many men (including myself ) simply pick a targeted time and  focus on beating it. Women (more often it seems) will view their finish times as secondary to the experience of running their best. They are no less competitive than men, but they don't seem to be as discouraged if they miss a specific time target.

It would be wrong to say that women don't care about hitting performance targets. That spike on the graph at 4:00 represents a lot of female finishers. But I would say, generally, that woman view and value performance differently than men. One approach is more quantitative and the other is more qualitative. In the end, I wonder who's more satisfied with their results?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Incomplete recovery is better than none

Yesterday's troubles continued through the night, and I got to bed early in hopes on sleeping off my pounding headache. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling no better, so I took some pseudoephedrine and Advil and went back to bed. When I got up, my headache was far less noticeable and the heavy fatigue I'd carried most of Wednesday was gone. Still, I knew better than to try a run. I learned something from yesterday.

Headaches of this type are really debilitating and, when they finally leave, the world feels so much better. But even with that improvement, I wasn't out of the woods. I felt well enough to go into the office but some slight dizziness and a mild headache remained. Sudafed saved the day, but it wasn't a complete victory. Another dose this morning brought further improvement.

I'm not sure what's behind these headaches but the only way to get rid of them seems to be a combination of sleep, NSAIDs, and pseudoephedrine. Missing a day's workout, like I did today, would normally bother me because it will make it harder to reach my weekly goal of 20 miles. But an article from Tuesday's sent to me by FS, says that (for older endurance athletes) it's better to keep weekly mileage below that number. Older endurance athletes that run 7:30 paces or faster that is. So I guess I'm good with my 20.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Debating "You'll never regret a run"

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I often quote the line, "You'll never regret a run" to make the point that the effort to exercise is always worth it despite how you might feel. Just this morning my wife said the same thing to me about her workout. Ironically enough, I may have found the exception to the rule today, having completed a treadmill run and suffering the consequences of that decision.

It's hard to differentiate between feeling tired because you've just woken up and feeling fatigued for other reasons. This morning I went through my routine of preparing for the treadmill (30° outside temps made that an easy decision). Though I felt groggy, I expected that feeling to pass once I got going. That happened, but soon after I'd cooled down I was ready to return to bed for more sleep.

Since my schedule is tight on weekday mornings, I had to ignore the dizziness and feeling of weakness. I left for the train, hoping that I could get a decent seat and take a nap. The LIRR is running less trains due to Sandy-related issues and the cars get very crowded, but I managed to secure a good spot and slept for 20 minutes.

I'd hoped that would solve the problem but my fatigue continues. Despite some strong coffee and analgesics I'm still hurting. I don't know if running on the treadmill was best thing for me this morning. Had I not done that, I could have taken an extra 30 minutes to rest and avoided the physical impact of running. If I skipped my run, I'm wondering whether I'd be feeling any better. Or would I feel worse due to the guilt of missing a workout? I'm taking solace in the thought that while I may regret today's run, I would definitely have regretted skipping it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our BH X1 is a bad houseguest

BH Fitness X1: down for the count?
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

This weekend we had guests who stayed over in our spare bedroom. It's actually a misnomer to characterize this room as a spare because, next to the kitchen and den, it is easily the most utilized room in the house. Besides being the staging area for my morning runs, the guestroom is also where my wife does her daily treadmill workouts and it occasionally serves as my home office.

The guest room is fairly large and, besides having a bed, side table, armoire, wall unit and work table, it also contains a treadmill and an elliptical machine. The elliptical has been dormant, awaiting parts since March. Still, with all that stuff, the workout section of the room can seem a little tight. If we'd known back in March that our BH Fitness X1 was going to be out of commission for seven months (and counting), I'm sure we'd have either moved it to the basement or kicked it to the curb. But it sits there every day, mocking us for naively thinking BH Fitness will some day send us the needed parts.

I really miss using the elliptical and we had high hopes when our local service person (unaffiliated with BH Fitness) informed us that that replacement parts had come in. Unfortunately, once the technician arrived, we learned that they'd sent the wrong parts. I'll try to be diplomatic here and just say that BH Fitness machines are overpriced, seem to wear out quickly and you can't get parts. On the other hand, if you live on Long Island and need your home equipment fixed, I'd certainly recommend Busted Fitness.

We hope to learn soon if the correct elliptical parts will ever come. If the answer is no, we'll have to decide whether to buy a new unit. If we do, I'm not sure what brand to buy or what level of machine to get. With our experience with the X1, I'm thinking the most important question is, "If it breaks, how quickly can it be fixed?"

Monday, November 26, 2012

A different perspective on running ability

Running strata as viewed by a newbie
Over the weekend my son and I were looking at some posts dating back to late 2008. That was around the time when I started to run in a dedicated way. Most of my early posts were about discovery and understanding. One post that my son really liked was an unscientific assessment of running abilities. The above graphic shows the levels that I'd defined at the time to differentiate between newbies like me, compared to long standing runners.

In December of 2008, I put myself between "beginner" and "intermediate", though in retrospect I should have used "advanced beginner" to describe my abilities. At that time, I viewed runners who covered distances between 16 and 24 miles as "established." My 20 mile per week average puts me right in the center of that range. I guess after four years I could claim to be at that level.

But distance (or even speed) aren't really the best way of describing a person who runs. Both of those measurements have as much to do with age and circumstance as they do with experience. Today, I'd characterize it differently and say that anyone who regularly practices the discipline of running (regardless of how fast or how far they go) is a runner. That's all people really need to know.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Coffee powers an out of cycle run

Today's run (street): 4.1 miles

I got out a little late this morning because I wanted to spend some extra time with our house guests. I'm used to early morning workouts and I always anticipate a tougher time when I run outside of my preferred window. It may have been the three big cups of coffee I had throughout the morning, but I felt ready to run when I headed out close to noon.

After yesterday's change of scenery, where I covered some roads north of Jericho Turnpike, I was fine staying closer to home today. My energy level was high and my pace felt fluid, but stiff winds coming from the northwest brought the wind chill down to freezing. Running directly into the wind was uncomfortable, but a slight change in direction brought sudden improvement. I maintained good energy throughout the run, despite getting a late start. Hooray for caffeine.

I had planned to run four miles or 40 minutes, whichever came first. For performance sake, I was hoping it would be the former. I ended up covering a little more than four miles while coming in under forty minutes. This put me at 22 miles for the week, two miles over my weekly target of 20. The time off due to Thanksgiving contributed to a higher mileage week. Still, I need to start focusing on longer distances for my individual runs.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A whole new world to run, right across the street

Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

The holiday week continues with our weekend guests arriving mid-morning. I wanted to get in my run before they got here so I headed out early to try a new route. I got out of the neighborhood today, but I didn't travel too far from home. As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, I'm  reluctant to cross major roads when I run. Doing that on foot is risky, but but it would unlock a number of available routes. For safety's sake, I decided to take a short drive and park on the other side of Route 25 to start my run.

I've run on Jericho Turnpike near my house a number of times, but always on the southern side. Today I ran on the opposite side, allowing me to track north to Jackson and mimic my daily drive to the train station. I often see runners on my way to the train and envy them for running while I head to my commute. I was always curious to experience this road, but after a couple of minutes I turned into a neighborhood and followed a street that wrapped back to Jackson. This road had some rolling hills that I appreciated after running the flat streets of my neighborhood.

I eventually ran past the train station and headed east before turning back for the second half of my run. I enjoyed the change of scenery and the chance to break out of my large, but ultimately contained, neighborhood. I reached my car and made the two minute drive back to my house. This was another nice change from the 15+ minute drive I often make to and from Bethpage.

I'll probably run in the neighborhood tomorrow to save time and get it down before our house guests wake up for breakfast. New venues are always fun, even if they're less than a mile from home.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shopping-free Black Friday run

Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

I love weeks like this when I get an extra day to run without my usual time constraint. It's the day after Thanksgiving and I would have expected to see other runners on the road, working off yesterday's big dinners. But it was surprisingly quiet at 7:30 AM. Perhaps people were sleeping in, or already out at one of those ubiquitous Black Friday sales at the mall. Good luck to them. You won't find me at a mall until after New Years.

Yesterday's turkey trot was a fun event, but the way I ran it could hardly be considered a workout. Still, there were some big hills and forty minutes of moving faster than walking pace has to count for something. This morning my goal was to cover four miles and to work up a sweat while I did it.

It was 36° when I set out for my run. I'd dressed for slightly lower temperatures and was concerned about overheating. Despite that concern, I remained comfortable throughout the run. Besides a couple of cars and a sanitation truck, I had the roads pretty much to myself. My wife was in the process of making pancakes for the kids when I left. Although I could have easily gone for a couple of extra miles, thoughts of breakfast guided me back home.

My run wasn't particularly fast, but it was in the range of acceptable. It was a pleasant enough experience, but I'd like to run in a place more interesting than my neighborhood this weekend. Bethpage State Park's website is still saying that, besides the tennis facilities and golf courses, the park remains closed. Most alternatives involve a lot more driving and that's about as appealing as a trip to the mall.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Family run at the Nissequogue River Turkey Trot

Scene at the finish line

Today's run (Nissequogue River 5K Turkey Trot): 3.1 miles

It's Thanksgiving and, for the third year in a row, the Emerging Runner family ran in the Nissequogue River State Park Turkey Trot. It's an event that draws a big crowd. With some races canceled due to hurricane Sandy, even more people gathered for the race. Me and my daughter ran the course and my wife and son walked it.

Clearing the path before the Fun Run
After the 1K Fun Run for kids that was led by a guy dressed head to toe in a turkey costume, we all made our way toward the starting line. The race is not very well organized and the start often runs late. Much of that is due to the high number of race day registrants who are still in line at gun time. Today the start was only six minutes late, which was a nice surprise.

The size of the crowd prevents any fast running at the start, but it worked fine for me and my daughter. We fell into an easy pace as we made our way along the first, mostly uphill, mile. It's a different experience running easy during a race instead of pushing for a PR. I enjoyed having my daughter by my side and we were happy to reach the turnaround at the halfway point of the race. We saw my wife and son, who were moving along briskly, on the other side.

The last mile is mostly downhill and we cruised along until we reached the finish line. My wife and son came in about six minutes later and we quickly headed to our car. The exit line from the race gets backed up fast and we needed to get home in time to shower, change and head to our Thanksgiving dinner.

The rest of the day was spent with family and we're all a little beat, but it was great to participate in a race as family. Tomorrow I'll go out for a nice long run and burn off some calories from today's feast.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A chilly run today and a Turkey Trot tomorrow

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Most big holidays start earlier than their date on the calendar because people often day before off to travel. That's certainly the case with Thanksgiving. The LIRR continues to be plagued by ongoing signal problems in the East River tunnels (due to Sandy) so there are less trains, more stops and big crowds. It was a pleasant surprise to board the train this morning and have my choice of seats. And for that I am thankful.

My office will be very quiet today because many of my colleagues are doing this day-before travel. I really do like my co-workers but, without any meetings, I'll be able to make good progress on some projects. We'll close the office early so I'll get a little extra free time as well.

Nissequogue course map
Tomorrow morning Team Emerging Runner will become Race Team Emerging Runner, as we run the Nissequogue 5K Turkey Trot for the third year in a row. We won't really be racing, but it's a race. Last year my daughter and I ran it while my wife and son did it as a run/walk. That's the plan for tomorrow as well. After that will be Thanksgiving with family and then more family arriving over the weekend.

I really didn't want to go out into the cold this morning, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I dressed warmly because I was concerned that the wind might make conditions even more uncomfortable. There was only a mild breeze but the warm layers were still necessary. I started out easy but picked up speed in response to the cold air. Once I get to a certain pace, between steady and brisk, I tend to hold it. I completed my route slightly faster than I normally run it.

The weather for the rest of the week is looking promising and I'm optimistic that I'll exceed my 20 mile average with some longer runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It's been a long time since I've raced, so I'm really running out of habit and not training for anything in particular. I do have a 5K coming up in December but that seems a long way away. For now, it's about running for fun. Tomorrow's event should be just that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rejecting rest is easier when you have options

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

This morning was a time of quick compromises. I set out my running clothes last night anticipating a cold morning run. Occasionally, I'll wake up an hour before I need to get up and then struggle to fall back asleep. I usually win that struggle, but the ensuing sleep cycle puts me out until my alarm buzzes. This leaves me groggy and without much energy.

Today I had one of those mornings. My first thought was how much preparation time I'd lost by sleeping to my alarm. I usually wake up ten minutes prior to that and take the opportunity to start earlier. The time it takes to put on layers of clothes, a hat and running shoes (plus my SPIbelt, reflective vest and headlamp) is longer than you'd think. Add to that the wait time needed to acquire a GPS signal, and suddenly I'm up against my time budget.

After waking up this morning, my mind went first to the easy solution: a rest day. Sleep induced logic argued that I'll be off on Thursday and Friday leaving me time to make up the miles with longer runs. I then remembered that on Thursday we're doing the 5K Turkey Trot and I'll be running that at an easy pace with my family. Knowing that I'd lose another hard workout on Thanksgiving, I rejected taking a rest day.

The next best option was to run on the treadmill. Running shorts, shoes and a HR monitor were all I needed and in just a few minutes I was off and running <smile>. I started easy and it took almost ten minutes of speed increases to get my heart rate into my targeted zone. By the end, it felt like a good workout and I managed to salvage about five minutes of additional downtime before my shower. A quick compromise was better than an impromptu rest day. At least it was today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Something more fulfilling than running

Setting up for the many in need
Last night me and my family spent a few hours helping to provide basic items to families in need. Some of the recipients were facing difficult economic circumstances, while others were still disrupted from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Our task involved handing out vitamins, baby food and supplies to people. My wife possesses great process and organizational skills and she had me and the kids working seamlessly to serve the many dozens of families that came through our station.

We found out about this volunteering opportunity through Island Harvest, a food bank on Long Island. I was happy to help, but I never expected to feel so good about what I was doing. When you offer things of value to people for free, you'd expect a little greediness. I was amazed by how so many asked only for what they needed, and were so gracious about receiving it.

That experience made me think about how racing and charity are often tied together. Just about every race has some cause attached to it. In some cases, the race is explicitly about the charity, like breast cancer or multiple sclerosis. Other races, like the ING NY Marathon, raise a collective $25 million by allowing teams of charity runners an opportunity to run in the race.

My family has a particular attachment to the Marcie Mazzola Foundation race that is held every April, because it was my first-ever race and it's all about the Foundation. Other races I run are less clear about the causes they serve and some are not tied to a charity at all. I've decided that, in the future, if I run in a race that that has no clear connection to a cause, I'll donate money for every mile I run. But as good as it feels to donate money, I've learned that it's even more gratifying to donate time.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Four years emerging and a trail run to celebrate

Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4.2 miles

Four years ago today, I published my first post on the Emerging Runner. I had made some unsuccessful attempts to run in the past, but in 2008 I fully committed to running as a lifestyle. I'd also started a few blogs before that time but never managed to keep them going. My hope on that day that I published that post was to break that cycle. After four years, I think I can say that I did.

In the October issue of Runner's World magazine, Captain "Sully" Sullenburger was featured in the section called "I'm a Runner." The interview is short, but interesting. I especially liked this quote, "I'm not a good runner, but I'm better than someone who doesn't do it at all." That statement sums up everything I've written over the last four years.

Over the past four years I gone from being someone who faced every run as a difficult challenge, to a solidly mid-pack race competitor. I was talking to my brother yesterday about my four years as a runner, and how I struggled so hard on my first runs. I remembered hoping for the day when I'd be able to run and think of something besides discomfort and pain. Soon enough, my runs became my best process for thinking through any problem.

If not for Hurricane Sandy, I'd be spending most of this post recapping the Long Beach Turkey Trot that was scheduled for this morning. The hurricane devastated that city and destroyed the boardwalk that is almost half of the 10K course. I love racing in Long Beach for its ocean views and flat, runner friendly roads. I hope the community gets back to normal quickly, not for the runners, but for the sake of the residents. 

High visibility on the trails
Today called for a change from the neighborhood roads that I've run since returning home after our power was restored. Stillwell Woods was the perfect choice and I headed over with a plan to run my favorite two mile loop a couple of times. I'd recently bought a nice, high visibility running shirt at TJ Max for the bargain price of $7.99 and thought Stillwell would be the perfect place to use it.

The mountain bikers were out in force and most shared the trails very well, politely warning me when they were closing in. I'm sure the bright orange shirt helped them see me in plenty of time. I took it easy on the trail and was careful to avoid branches that had fallen on the path from Sandy. It was difficult at times to see the trail because the rising sun was hitting me head-on. I got whacked in the head a couple of times by overhanging branches but my hat protected me from any damage.

It's been a nice fourth anniversary of my running/blogging life so far today. Later on, the Emerging Runner family is heading to East Northport to assist in an effort to get food to elderly and housebound people whose lives were disrupted by Sandy. Next week is Thanksgiving but I am thankful often, especially today when I am able to help myself and help others. The decision I made to run in 2008 has much to do with that.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Autumn running brings front loaders and pumpkin bread

Today's run (street): 5.3 miles

A runner's reward
 I needed to drop off my car for inspection this morning and that delayed my run until 9:00 AM. That was no big deal, but the world is far more awake at 9:00 than at 7:00. People who are awake tend to drive their cars, so the streets were busier than I prefer. Worse, the tree trucks and front loaders were also out in force, attending to the remaining pockets of destruction caused by Sandy.

On weekend runs in the neighborhood, I usually stay fairly free-form in terms of my route. That way I can run distances as they play out: 4, 5, 6 miles or more, depending on where I am when I decide to head for home. Today I pre-mapped the streets I'd follow, because I wanted to cover at least five miles. With a couple of exceptions, my run went fairly well.

The temperature was in the 40's but it still felt cold, probably because there were strong winds blowing from the north. The combination of wind and a slightly rising road made for a tough start. At one point something - a leaf, twig or small acorn - hit me in the face, right above my brow. Fortunately, my glasses had prevented it from hitting my eye.

Along my route I encountered crews of workers that were blocking the road with their trucks and equipment. I saw a few large sanitation trucks that were picking up some remaining debris. I avoided a couple of streets that looked impassible, and stayed on the sidewalk while I managed around a particularly big work operation. I ended up running my distance a little faster than I thought I might. I wasn't concerned about speed, but it was nice to see that I beat my performance expectation.

When I got home, my wife and kids were in the process of preparing their famous pumpkin bread that they bake every year around Thanksgiving, for friends and family. To a ravenous runner, the smell of pumpkin, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon was intoxicating. After a quick shower, I was treated to one of the mini-muffins that were baked from the batter. Recovery food doesn't get any better than this.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Observing transformation on my morning run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

One day can make a dramatic difference. During my run this morning I saw that most of the downed trees were removed some time yesterday. Some scary looking wires, artfully draped over a busy road for the past two weeks, were back up on their poles. The streets were clear of residual brush, and it looked like we'd never even had a hurricane.

This morning was colder than yesterday, but only by a few degrees. I wore my prized City Sports running pants and a lightweight 1/4 zip top with an short sleeve jersey over it. This combination worked well for the near freezing weather. Had I run longer, or pushed myself harder, I would have felt overheated. I ended up covering my route a minute slower than yesterday, although the effort seemed about the same.

I'm thinking about this weekend's running and I was disappointed to see that the New York State Parks website said that, besides the clubhouse, tennis facilities and golf courses, "Other areas of the park will remain closed until further notice." I need to find an alternative to Bethpage for my long weekend runs. Perhaps I'll head to Stillwell Woods tomorrow to do some trail running. It's been a long time since I've gone off road and I really miss that experience.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Running in Sandy's spooky aftermath

The shadowy world of a 4 AM runner
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Hurricane Sandy is more than two weeks gone but the after effects will remain for a while. People have been saying that it's just too soon for Thanksgiving to be happening. One of my favorite times of the year is the period between mid-October and early December. That's when the leaves turn, the air smells like fall, and Halloween and Thanksgiving kick off the holiday season. Hurricane Sandy interrupted that whole experience. On the other hand, having our power restored and not sitting in gas lines will be top of mind when we give thanks next Thursday.

As I made my way to the top of the first street on my morning run, my headlamp revealed what looked like two cords of wood stacked on the curb in front of a neighbor's house. If I had a wood-burning stove or used our fireplace, this would be a good time to save money on firewood. Running through the neighborhood is a little eerie these days, especially on mornings like this when there's little moonlight. My headlamp and the occasional streetlights played off the huge trees, downed by the storm. In the dark at 4:00 AM, it looks like a scene from "Where the Wild Things Are."

In the days between Sandy and today, we've seen temperatures drop, especially in the early morning. I dressed accordingly and appreciated the extra layers as I made my way around the neighborhood. The cold air definitely helps motivate me to run a little harder and I found myself pacing faster than the day before. The spooky shapes created by the storm were a fun distraction and my run seemed to go by quickly, even though I only beat Wednesday's time by 32 seconds. Sandy overshadowed Halloween this year, but I got it back a little today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Athlinks bemoans declining race times

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I had a funny exchange yesterday with Troy Busot, the founder of Athlinks. This website aggregates race results and allows members to compile a rich racing history. Athlinks members can comment on their race experiences and compare their performance to "rivals" (other members who have participated in 2 or more of the same races that you've run).

The reason I contacted Troy was that he'd sent an email that, in a tongue and cheek way, chided runners for what he called, "an alarming decline in U.S. racing performances in distances across the board." He compared average finish times for the most common race distances plus Olympic, Half and Full Ironman Triathlons. He made his point but I noticed that his times for half marathons were exactly the same as for 10K's, an obvious typo:

Average Times for Leading
Race Distances from 2009-2012

Distance20092012Change% Change
5K Run30:3031:47+1:17+4.04%
10K Run1:01:011:02:28+1:27+2.34%
Half Mara1:01:011:02:28+0:18+0.15%
Olympic Tri2:52:532:55:55+3:02+1.73%
Half Iron5:59:436:05:49+6:06+1.73%
* Marathon times were the only notable improvement.

Troy quickly fell on his sword after I sent him a note about it and he gave me the correct figures for 2009 and  2012, which were 2:15:16 and 2:16:40 respectively. Troy wrote, "Yep, I have quit the company in typo-shame." I've never run a full marathon but I have run the other distances. In every case (except my first half), I've beaten the average, both for 2009 and 2012. So perhaps I'm not as average as I thought, although my scores would not be so favorable were the comparison more age and gender based.

Speaking of average, my pace this morning was exactly that. The temperature was 35 degrees with a noticeable breeze, and I wore some extra layers anticipating the cold. I stayed comfortable throughout the run and didn't really have a clue how fast I was going until I looked at my heart rate near the end. I saw that I was at 80% of Max. I tried to get it to 85% in the remaining quarter mile, but I didn't quite get there. Even so, my average morning run still gets me around the course 45 seconds per mile faster than the 5K average!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fighting the sleep fog for the good of the run

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Am I done yet?
Every evening I follow a process to prepare for my morning workout. This involves a  few steps, beginning with check of the morning weather on the local news channel. I then select my running gear based on expected conditions at 4 AM. My favorite part of this process has nothing to do with running. It's the discussions I have with my son and daughter who talk to me while I get my gear ready. It only takes fifteen minutes from start to finish, but I've had some of my best conversations with my kids during those times.

Last night my son and I were discussing sleep. I asked him if he ever looks forward going to bed and he said that he doesn't like to sleep. He recognizes the need for sleep, but doesn't like that it takes away from his (many) interests. I had to agree, to a point. As it happens, I typically get 5 to 6 hours sleep on weekdays and 7 to 8 hours on the weekends. Even with those brief interruptions there never seems to be enough time.

But sleep is seductive. Getting up and out of bed after a deep sleep is very hard to do. It's especially difficult to maintain a commitment to run while your brain is still suppressing histamines, norephinephrine, and serotonin. The only way to break through the fog is to give yourself an ultimatum: "Regardless of how I feel, I'm running."

That's what it took today to get me on the treadmill. Once the machine began to turn, I was able to distract my focus from sleepiness to being semi-alert. I'm afraid of the treadmill so my safety instinct took over and, by the three minute point, I was running at target for the first phase of a progressive speed run. All residual effects from sleeping had passed, and I thought about pushing harder to get my heart rate up into zone 4. I ended up meeting my goals and felt energized throughout the run.

In the end, I'm always happy that I followed through on my commitment to run. It's almost an act of faith to go through the motions of putting on running clothes while eyeing the bed that they sit on. But every time I run when I want to rest, I feel better mentally, physically and emotionally. You just have to believe that you'll get past the fog.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Emerging Runner risk mitigation policy

What's wrong with is picture (see rule #1)?
Running after Hurricane Sandy (though I think we're supposed to call it a "post-tropical cyclone" now) has become a little more complicated and dangerous. I do everything I can to avoid risk when I'm out on the roads, but two weeks after Sandy hit, my local streets are still covered with debris. In addition, some roads still have hanging or fallen wires, along with electrical cords running across the street from neighbors sharing generator power.

I got a comment from Running On Candy who expressed concern about the dangers of the road under these conditions. I was horrified to read that she had some close calls with cars due to limited room on the roads that she runs. I'm a low risk runner and, even under the best conditions, I'll never cross a busy road on a run unless traffic is sparse. I'll only run on a main road if there's a sidewalk and most of my runs happen within my neighborhood or at parks and preserves like Stillwell and Bethpage.

I occasionally see a hostile dynamic with drivers who don't like the idea of sharing the road with runners. Ask any runner and they'll tell you the same. I also don't trust that drivers are paying attention or consider stop signs anything more than a suggestion. For what it's worth, this is the The Emerging Runner's risk mitigation policy:

  1. Always run on the left side of the road (facing traffic).
  2. Assume that every driver is distracted, drunk, high, texting, on the phone or incompetent.
  3. Do not run on main roads that don't have a sidewalk.
  4. Keep in single file formation when running with others on the street.
  5. Wear bright, colorful, reflective clothing no matter what time of day you run.
  6. Wear a reflective vest when it's dark, at dawn and at dusk.
  7. Wear a headlamp or some type of light when running in dark (too be seen as much as to see).
  8. Avoid crossing four-lane roads, even those that have traffic lights.
  9. Don't listen to music at a level that will drown out the sound of approaching cars.
  10. Always have an exit strategy for cars (run up on the lawn, prepare to dive into a snowbank).

It's also a good idea to bring a phone and carry ID of some kind for emergencies. Accidents can be avoided as long as runners consider their safety as importantly as the do their workout.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

DIY 10K as November's race schedule shrinks

Today's run (street): 6.25 miles

Hot to Trot
For the past two years, November has been a big month for racing. Starting mid-month, I've run the Hope for the Warriors 10K and then the Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot the next weekend. A few days after that, I've run the Nissequogue River Turkey Trot (5K) that's held on Thanksgiving day. This race is really a fun run for me. I run it at my daughter's pace, while my wife run/walks the course with my son.

This year, things are very different. Hope for Warriors was moved back to October for reasons that I don't quite understand. It usually coincides with Veteran's Day but not this year. I was unable to make the new date this year because of a conflict in my schedule. That's unfortunate because I really like that race.

Long Beach, New York, took a beating during Hurricane Sandy. The boardwalk and the beaches were destroyed and the storm left thousands of people homeless. It's a tragic situation and the race has (of course) been cancelled.

So this leaves the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day and I'm happy to be running with my family. My kids are excited about it and even bought turkey hats to wear when they run. The Nissequogue course runs through the old former Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital that is being torn down. I'm curious to see if they'll change the route this year.

Since I wasn't able to run the Hope for Warriors 10K race today, I decided to do a symbolic run of the same distance. I first planned to run at Bethpage, but I saw on the website that the park is closed until further notice. I imagine that Sandy brought widespread destruction to the trees, paths and golf courses. I was left with little choice but to run locally and  set off in my neighborhood to complete my run.

I didn't run very well yesterday, but I managed to stay within my normal pace range. I felt much stronger today, but the numbers showed that my average pace was 15 seconds slower than yesterday's outing. The reason for that isn't obvious. While I wished I'd run faster, I was pleased to have covered my intended distance feeling great throughout my run.

I spent the first half of my run on the familiar roads of my main neighborhood before heading south to neighborhood #2 where I surveyed the damage from the storm. The LIPA trucks were scattered about, attempting to get the last 7% of homes back on the grid. I feel great sympathy for Sandy's victims, including those who remain without power two weeks after the storm. I'm hoping they'll get it back soon. Personally, I'm still  excited when I walk into a room, flip on a switch and see something besides the dark.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Selfishness, empowerment and running

People are suffering, but ya gotta pay us first!
Today's run (street): 3.8 miles

Let's start with the good news -- the power to our house was restored yesterday and the Emerging Runner family has finally returned home. We are grateful to our hosts for seven (!) days of heat, lights and hot water. That was especially appreciated after enduring the first four days of Sandy in a cold dark house.

The not so good news is that our phone service, that stayed up during and after the hurricane, suddenly stopped working yesterday afternoon. Verizon is saying it will be nine days until the service is restored. It's annoying, but we all have cellphones. And compared to losing your power, it doesn't even register.

Now that things have returned to normal I am able to look at LIPA without the lens of anger and frustration. My view has not changed and after two consecutive years having lost power for multiple days (and with no communication from LIPA throughout), I'm advocating for a regime change. is collecting electronic signatures with a goal of delivery a petition with 10,000 names to the New York State House, the New York State Senate, and to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The petition is entitled "Hold LIPA Accountable for Poor Preparedness and Response to Hurricane Sandy." Click this link to sign it:

In today's Newsday there was an article about how LIPA's workers forced out-of-state workers to join their union (and contribute 22.5% of their pro-rated pay) before the could begin to help storm victims. The level of selfishness, negligence and incompetence coming from LIPA and this union is astonishing. There's a reason why the Department of Justice regulates the performance and behavior of monopolies. Too bad that LIPA is a New York State authority. The only way to effect change will be to vote the LIPA leadership out.

Since this is a running blog, I'll mention that I got out this morning for my first run since Wednesday. I'd hoped that two days rest would result in an energetic effort, but my performance was decidedly average. As I ran, I saw many homes in our neighborhood that are still without power. Even after 12 days, the scars from hurricane Sandy are starkly visible. I could see many tree and line trucks along the street, a rare sight until recently. I'm hoping that our neighbors will finally get their power back today.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Powerless Runner

Should I make this my new logo?
Okay, time to put another X on the calender because my house is still off the grid. We are slightly encouraged to see that a traffic light on one of the outlet roads is finally working. Rumor has it that a couple of of neighborhood streets got power yesterday. It's been eleven days with no power to our house and no communication from LIPA. Governor Cuomo is suitably angry about the situation, but in his press conference yesterday, he made it seem like the solution was out of his hands.

The disruptions caused by temporary living quarters, 2+ hour commutes standing in a packed LIRR train and other stressful forces have cut into my already too short sleep cycle. I went to bed intending to do a treadmill run this morning, but I decided to forgo it when I woke up. This isn't the first step towards the slippery slope of skipping morning workouts however. Power or not, I'll be doing my first weekend long run tomorrow. Where I'll be doing it will be determined by LIPA.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

LIPA's failure has ruined my motivation to run

Yesterday's promise by LIPA that they'd reach 90% restoration of power for Long Island customers has been broken. We remain without electricity for the tenth consecutive day. The Nor'easter that came through yesterday was bigger than I expected, and it surely impacted LIPA's ability to meet its service target. Still, for all those affected, it's cold comfort to see @LIPAnews brag about its thousands of deployed workers while providing a completely useless outage map and no information about crews or restoration times. 

After an almost three hour commute home last night and facing even worse conditions in the morning, I decided to forgo my workout today. Between the weather, the loss of electrical power, storm damage and a significant scarcity of gasoline, Long Island living is not too great right now. At least the storm is moving out. Perhaps a miracle will happen and our power will return today. That could happen, but something tells me I'll be putting another X on the calendar tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Running election scenarios on the treadmill

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

This is a running blog and not a platform for my views on politics. However, today's treadmill run had me thinking about the scenarios that would play out based on the results. In an effort to get going on my run as quickly as possible, I resisted the temptation to flip on the TV or look at my smartphone to see the election outcome. So at 3:45 AM I was distracting myself from my run, wondering whether we'd have a new president or a shift in the control of Congress or the Senate.

I finished my run by 4:10 and a few minutes later I had my answers. I'll admit that I was pleased with the results, and especially happy that both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lost their respective races. That's not a partisan view, plenty of my Republican friends feel the same way as me. 

My positive perspective from the election and a pretty good treadmill run was dashed when I reached my local train station. I discovered that the train that I'd planned to make was canceled due to equipment problems. That meant a half hour's wait in the cold, followed by a train packed like sardines. 

It's day nine and still no power to my home, long lines at gas stations and the LIRR running on a "modified" schedule. But in the long run, everything will return to normal. Although for the LIRR, normal is never all that great.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Treadmill beggars can't be choosers

Slipping and squealing but soft underfoot
Today's run: (treadmill): 2.6 miles

When LIPA announced that it could take seven to ten days to restore power after Sandy came through, I thought they were setting up expectations so they could exceed them. After the criticism LIPA took about its response to Hurricane Irene last year, I wondered if their projections were exaggerated so they'd look good when they beat them. I'm obviously naive.

We are still without power eight days after losing it. I'm used to keeping our cars in the garage but we are parking outdoors while we stay with our hosts. That meant five minutes of scraping ice off the windshield this morning in 27° weather. Earlier this morning, the steam from my shower set off the smoke detector, waking everyone up at 5:30 AM. We miss our house.

I used my mother-in-law's treadmill this morning because I wasn't comfortable running in their neighborhood at 4:00 AM. The neighborhood itself is safe, but I didn't want their security people to be alarmed by a crazy person with a headlamp running around this community. The treadmill is a Nordic Track and the tread platform has a little give compared to our Sole's. The Nordic Track machine was in need of maintenance, judging from the occasional squealing and slipping of the belt. The slipping did decrease after a few minutes.

I discovered that the machine would not go any lower than a 1% incline, but in the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, I took it as a challenge on top of just pushing my speed. I ran faster on this treadmill than I usually run on our home unit, but you can't compare machines that may be calibrated differently. With any luck, our power will come back tomorrow and I can return to the road. That is, if the coming storm doesn't force me indoors, once again.

Monday, November 5, 2012

2:03 is fast for a marathon but not for the LIRR

LIRR, eat my dust!
It has been a while since I've been in the office and it's nice to be back. Our building is running at half power so it's a little chilly, but it isn't so bad that you can't work. My commute seemed to take forever this morning. The Long Island Railroad is running on a modified schedule and this morning it stopped in places that I didn't even know existed.

It usually takes me an hour and twenty minutes from the time I leave my house to when I walk into the building where I work. Today it took me two hours and three minutes, exactly the same time that it took Geoffrey Mutai to finish the 2011 Boston Marathon. Fifteen of those minutes were spent walking uptown from Penn Station, a distance of one mile.

Out of curiosity, I Gmapped the straight-line distance from my temporary home to my office building and came up with 30.7 miles. That meant that my commute this morning - car, train and brisk walk averaged 4:00 per mile, while Geoffrey Mutai pulled off his marathon record at 4:41 per mile. Practically outrunning a train is pretty impressive, unless you're talking about the LIRR.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Still no power, but the running hasn't stopped

Gas lines: the downside of using generators
Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

It's day three in our temporary home and our quality of life between today and last Friday morning is measurable. We stopped back at the house to get some needed items and though we hoped to find the power restored, our house was still dark and cold. We are probably (at least) three days away from getting our power back. That's created some strain on the gasoline supply and we saw long lines of people queuing up to fill portable gas containers (above).

I'm concerned about having a much longer commute to work tomorrow. At least I'll have a hot shower to start me off. I certainly appreciated having hot showers after the three runs I have done since we've relocated to "The Greens." This morning I went out with a plan to cover about five miles. Just for fun, I decided to run yesterday's route in the opposite direction.

The temperature was in the mid-30's when I started out, but my City Sports running pants and two layers on top kept me comfortable throughout my run. I felt strong from the start and maintained that energy as I made my way through the neighborhood. The hills were in different locations today, but the net elevation was the same. When I returned to the house, my mother-in-law presented me with a couple of slices of challah french toast, fresh off the griddle.

The work week starts tomorrow and I hope that the trains are running on time. I'll probably do some treadmill runs over the next few days. With any luck, we'll be back in our house before the end of the week.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Running in the Greens

Yesterday's run (street): 4.5 miles
Today's run (street): 5.2 miles

We're staying at our in-laws for what looks like the duration of the power outage. The accommodations are first rate and we're appreciating the heat, hot water and electricity. My running schedule has been disrupted this week by the storm, but I've managed to cover almost 14 miles, with 9.7 of them on the streets around our temporary location.

Yesterday's run was a nice change from my neighborhood streets. Our hosts live in a gated community called "The Greens" that is meticulously landscaped. While the homes are fairly similar, the colors and architectural features vary throughout neighborhood. There are a couple of long roads that bend around, creating an approximately two mile loop. I ran variations of that route over the last two days for different distances.

I felt great on both runs, the roads varied in pitch all along the route. I wouldn't call them hills, but some roads provided rolling elevations for short periods. The tough part of the run came during times when the wind was hitting me head on. Between the chill and the force it was hard to maintain a smooth stride. I ended up averaging mid-9:00 paces both runs. Without the wind I probably would have gained 10-15 seconds per mile overall.

I plan to head out again tomorrow for my second weekend run. There's a chance that we could regain our power by the time I have to return to the office, but I'm not counting on that. If we need to stay longer I'll use the treadmill during the week because I forgot to bring my headlamp and reflective vest from home. Oh well, using a new treadmill is always a fun experience.

In other running news, I was surprised to learn that the NYC marathon was canceled. I completely understand the reasons behind the decision but I feel badly for my friends who were planning to participate. It's easy to second guess someone else's timing, but I think it would have been better to call it off a few days earlier. That way more out of town runners could save their travel expenses and free up hotels for displaced residents. I'll miss watching the race, but I respect the organizers and the mayor for doing the right thing.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane damage assessment run

Yesterday's run (street): 3.5 miles

Hurricane Sandy has left most of Long Island a mess. Our neighborhood sustained a lot of damage.Yesterday, I went out for a run for the first time since Sunday and saw the damage up close. A number of roads are blocked by safety tape due to fallen trees or power lines. We, like hundreds of other families in the neighborhood, still have no power and it's not likely that we'll get it back until next week.

My run was interesting because of what I saw, but the run itself, in terms of performance, was not very good.  Without the ability to charge my Garmin, I used my old FR60 as a stopwatch and timed my run which I was able to Gmap at 3.5 miles. I'm hoping to get out for a run today but I'm working remotely and today is (unsurprisingly) busy.

We're planning to stay with my in-laws tomorrow so we'll get to enjoy hot showers, access the Internet and not worry about draining cellphone batteries. This is very much like what we experienced last year with Irene. That took far longer to resolve than we ever expected. Hopefully, LIPA will surprise us and restore our power before we overstay our welcome.

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