Friday, May 31, 2013

Brutally hot running, but my advice was followed

Today's conditions (artist's rendering)
Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

As I ran along my neighborhood roads this morning I thought about the heat and the fact that summer is still a few weeks away. I'm not sure what the temperature was at 8:00 AM, but with the sun, it felt as hot as a July afternoon. Actually, with the humidity, it was more like late August. I did my best to put one foot in front of the other and questioned how I was able to manage much faster paces a few years ago.

I made my way through my first mile, running the best pace I could maintain, but far slower than the 8-something miles I used to do at lunch in Central Park. I had a couple more miles to cover before I was done, and I worried that the heat and sun would sap all my energy. I thought about the New Hyde Park 8K race on Sunday and the fact that I will miss it for the first time in three years. But the idea of running hard in this type of heat for 40+ minutes reinforced my decision not to participate this year.

I didn't exactly struggle through the rest of my run, but under those conditions I couldn't generate too much speed. I crossed paths with some neighborhood women who were out for a stroll, walking on the street with their backs to traffic. I quickly said, "You really shouldn't run with your back to traffic." I didn't hear a response, but I encountered them later in my run and they were walking on the left (correct) side. It made me happy that someone actually listened when I expressed concern for their safety.

It wasn't an easy three miles, but I was glad to have faced the steamy weather and met my targeted distance. If I can get my act together and go out early tomorrow morning, I may be able to avoid a repeat of today's heat and humidity.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Running is great when you have fans

Yesterday's run (treadmill): 25 minutes
Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

Yesterday was the longest "work day" that I've experienced since leaving my company in February. It was a grind, especially due to the oppressive humidity and 80 degree temperatures. I covered a lot of miles on foot, wearing a wool suit and carrying a backpack. By my last meeting, I was a wet noodle. It's hard to believe that, not so long ago, I was doing that on a daily basis.

Prior to yesterday's trip into the city, I ran for 25 minutes on the treadmill. I knew I'd be covering a lot of ground during the day, but there's a difference between running and walking and I wanted that aerobic workout. I used the powerful floor fan that I positioned directly in front of the treadmill and set to the maximum speed. That machine makes a big difference on hot days, and it provides much greater cooling than the fans that are built into the treadmill itself.

This morning I was determined to run outside and I prepared for the high heat and humidity. I wore my Craft running shirt that does a great job wicking and channeling sweat. I tried to be strategic about which roads to follow, preferring those with large areas of tree shade. I ended up covering more distance than I thought I would, because I'd planned to keep it to around three miles due to the heat. In the end I was pretty boiled, but I was happy to be running outside again. However, I did miss my fan.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Using guilt, once again, to jumpstart a run

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I didn't expect to run this morning when I got up. For no reason I could identify, I was too tired to do my planned workout. I drank my coffee, watched the news and hoped my energy level would rise enough to get me on the treadmill. Time was growing short, because I needed to head to the city for a meeting. I decided to start my run and hope for the best.

The reason I was determined to run was simple -- I didn't want to feel guilty for skipping my workout. It's been said that the hardest thing about running is starting. I'm not talking about those runs that happen on a perfect spring morning. It's days like this, when the "rest" option is so tempting. But guilt can be a powerful motivator and today it won out.

Rain dampens demand
While I was in the city, the weather quickly changed from sunny and bright to damp and dismal. I saw a number of Citi Bikes racked in various places, as I made my way through NYC (I took this pic near Grand Central). With the pouring rain, there were many bikes to be had. The idea of a Citi Bike is good. I try to avoid taking the subway unless I need to be someplace far sooner than I could possibly travel by foot, and I would consider a Citi Bike as an alternative. But I'm a long way from trusting that NYC drivers will safely share the road.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bethpage running with a clear head

Bi-directional out-n-back
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 5.5 miles

The downside to taking headache remedies is when those medicines affect the quality of my sleep. Although Excedrin is merely a combination of aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine, it is amazingly effective in treating my migraine-like headaches. Unfortunately, caffeine taken late in the day, plus pseudoephedrine, makes it hard for me to get to sleep that night.

That was the case last night, but somehow I managed to wake up feeling rested and refreshed. Perhaps it was the absence of a pounding headache that made the difference. The weather outside was sunny and bright, although it felt unseasonably cold. I put on a long sleeved 1/4 zip shirt and a pair of lightweight running pants and headed to Bethpage for a run.

When I arrived at the park, there was a line of cars waiting to get through the entry tollbooth. That was very unusual for an early Sunday morning. As I moved closer I noticed kids being dropped off and when it was my turn to go through, my park friend told me that a big soccer tournament was being held today. I proceeded to the lot where I usually have my choice of spots and saw that the lot was as full as a Long Island train station at 9 AM. I finally found a place and quickly made my way to the trail head.

My route today went west on the old bike path for half a mile before I reversed direction to take on the big hill. My plan was to start the northern trail extension at the one mile mark and then do a four mile out and back. I felt good on the run, the high forties temperature and steady breeze counteracted the heat from the sun. The only negative was something in the air (pollen?) that aggravated my throat a little.

There were lots of cyclists out and a handful of runners. At one point I was running up a steep hill when a young woman came up on my left, said good morning and was gone from sight in less than a minute. She was probably running in the six minute mile range. I often wish I could run at that speed, but I know it requires a much different approach to training than I'm willing to follow. It also helps to be younger.

After the turnaround, I prepared for the predominantly uphill section that I'd face for the next half mile. That went by surprisingly smoothly and I finished my run feeling strong. When I got to my car, I noticed there were still cars swarming around, looking for spots. I guess the tournament must be an all day thing.  But I was done, ready to start my non-running day. It was great to run outside after yesterday's gloomy weather. Best of all, no more pounding headache.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Running, despite the pressure

Today's run (treadmill): 4.1 miles

Last night I began to notice the signs of impending headache: pressure from the back of my head to my ear, accompanied by the roar of tinnitus. These headaches have some of the traits of a migraine, but they seem to correlate more to changes in the weather. And on Long Island, the weather is always changing. I resisted taking a decongestant before bed in hopes that I might be able to sleep it off. But it the morning it was there, in full force.

I had no issues taking pseudoephedrine at that point. A look out the window revealed rain and wind. The news was reporting the temperature to be 51°. I figured I'd do an indoor workout. The decongestant did a good job minimizing the pain, but the pressure was still there. I decided to return to bed for a short nap. That worked out well, and I woke up 20 minutes later with enough energy to get on the treadmill.

Today's workout was about putting in the miles. I kept the speed moderate to keep my heart rate in check. I was concerned that moving too far into zone 3 would create more pressure and worsen my headache. The room felt cool when I started, so I didn't turn on the floor fan. I regretted that by the end. I was glad I'd done the workout but worried that I'd worn myself out for the day.

As it turned out, my run helped my headache, at least for a while. I needed to take more medicine later in the day, but I'm optimistic that I'll be recovered by tomorrow. If not, at least I might be able  get outside for a run.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A glimpse (perhaps) of another emerging runner

Two routes to a healthy life
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

This morning I noticed a guy walking around the neighborhood while I was out running. Everything from his noticeable gut to his white New Balance walking shoes reminded me of myself, five years ago. My journey from a sedentary life to being a runner started with early morning walks around the neighborhood. That routine led to walking with some running, then running with a little walking. After six weeks, I was just running.

I don't know this walker or his story, but I admire him for getting outside and moving. I have no idea if he's been a dedicated walker or whether he has plans to transition to running. One thing that walking did for me was reinforce the benefits of of an active lifestyle. I lost 30 pounds between August and November of 2008 and half of that weight came off before was exclusively running.

This week I've struggled with a cold and decided to forgo yesterday's workout. During my run today, I thought about that cold and realized that I was recovering fairly quickly. I wondered if my running had helped me hold off colds in the past, and if my immunity was stronger because of running.

I completed my run and noticed that my overall time was nothing special. I'd taken it easy in deference to my still present (but diminishing) cold and I think that was a good decision. I know that running keeps me in good shape and it might just be keeping me healthy. I'd like to think that the walker I saw will follow my path and get to his ideal level of fitness. Whether it's by running or walking, the end result will be a happier life.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lost on the run, but only for a moment

Dazed and confused
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I got outside a little earlier than yesterday to try to beat the heat. As we move toward summer, I know that I'll need to get out even earlier. Unlike yesterday's sunny, humid and hot conditions, the morning sky was overcast and the air was cool. A slight breeze from the north made it even cooler, but still comfortable.

Back when I lived in Massachusetts, I would drive along winding, tree-lined county roads through nearby towns like Dover and Sherborn. It was quite scenic, but visually indistinct.  I'd sometimes be so focused on my thoughts that I'd zone out and lose track of where I was exactly. I was very familiar with the area, but the specific location context was missing. Eventually I'd see something distinctive and immediately reorient.

As I moved along this morning, my thoughts became focused on some new business and technology ideas. Somewhere around the two mile point of my run, I realized I wasn't paying attention to my location. I wasn't too concerned because I've literally run my neighborhood roads more than a thousand times and I know every street, house and car on it. But for 20 seconds, I had no clue which street I was running on or whether I'd missed taking a turn on my planned route.

I finally recognized where I was, happy that I didn't miss the approaching turnoff. It was fun to be in that moment, when my boring old neighborhood looked unfamiliar. It was also nice to disengage from the run and still make progress on my distance. I'm not looking to zone out like that all the time, but today it brought some novelty to some well trod ground.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Running, thinking, creating, implementing

This week's obsession
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I've always been interested in media and technology. In fact, my whole career has been focused on those two things. Among the benefits of being "retired when convenient" is that I can focus on things that really interest me. I recently created a Drupal CMS that I'm developing as an XML publishing system. In the past, I would have had to do this late at night or on weekends, but now I can work on it whenever I feel like taking a break from other things.

One of the reasons I enjoy working with technology is that it combines creativity with functionality. The creative process can be based on design, problem solving or building something cool. I had reached the point on a Drupal technical challenge that was monopolizing my focus. I needed to take a break, so I went for a mid-morning run.

The temperature was around 70 degrees when I went outside, but the sun was harsh and the humidity was high. I wasn't concerned about going fast today and that helped me deal with the hot weather. I found a pace that allowed me to move along without thinking. I was thinking, but just not about running. As I moved along, I thought about different options for addressing my technical challenge. By the time I reached home, I had my answer.

It wasn't a particularly impressive workout in terms of metrics, but the heat kept my efforts in check. I liked that I was able to combine running, technology, creativity and business in a way that resulted in a win, win win, win situation.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rainy day running gets you nowhere

Get it?
Today's run (treadmill): 4.1 miles

Rain is a funny thing for me. I generally don't mind when I'm caught in a storm, as long as I have a decent umbrella. I like the experience of reading a good book indoors when it's pouring outside. But when it comes to running in the rain, I would rather endure freezing temperatures, high humidity and scorching heat than be subjected to pluvial conditions. Some of this is due to my difficulty seeing in the rain with glasses, but the whole soaking shoes, socks, shirt and shorts thing really undercuts my enjoyment of a run.

This morning I prepared to run outside under a dark gray sky. As much as I abhor running in rain, my favorite conditions are cool and overcast weather. I was dressed and ready to head out when my daughter looked up from her homework and said, "Dad, do you know that it's raining outside?" I didn't know, but I decided to walk down the driveway to see if it was rain or just light drizzle. It was rain.

I came back inside and headed upstairs to wait for my wife to finish her treadmill run. I changed into a lighter running shirt and removed my RoadID but kept on the other gear. As soon as my wife finished her workout, I fired up the floor fan, put on the news and set a brisk pace on the treadmill. The rainy conditions outside created humid conditions indoors. I prepared for 16 tedious "laps", the most I thought I could endure this morning.

It was disappointing to be stuck on the treadmill after expecting to run outside. Yesterday I experienced some fatigue after negotiating the long uphill section along Sunnyside Boulevard. Today I felt like I had more energy, but the lack of perceived progress I get during treadmill running was mentally wearing. I focused on .25 mile increments and eventually got to my targeted "distance."

I was glad that I didn't let the weather prevent me from putting in the miles today. However, after four miles of humid treadmill running I'm reconsidering the merits of running in the rain.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Running from home to the Greenbelt Trail

Section of the new bike trail I covered today

Today's run (Street + Greenbelt Bike Trail): 5.25

There's nothing like the promise of a Saturday morning training run. It's the start of the weekend and a break from business obligations. On those rare Saturdays where my schedule is open-ended, I usually go to a local park or Preserve. It's a treat to run among interesting scenery, rather than gazing at my neighborhood's expanse of manicured lawns and avoiding careless drivers. 

The drawback to park and Preserve running is the need to travel to those locations. It bothers me that I have to drive my car to get to my running destination. Stillwell Woods and Trailview are only five minutes from my home (and Bethpage is ten), but getting to them still involves logistics. If I could only get to the Greenbelt trail without needing a car...

Well it looks like my wish has been granted. This morning I decided to explore the area near my house where the town has paved some bike trails. These trails run along the busier roads that I'd always dismissed as too dangerous to run. I started from my front door and did a loop around some local roads before cutting through the middle school into neighborhood #3. This neighborhood has an exit out to Woodbury Road, exactly where the new path starts.

The trail along Sunnyside, heading north
Suddenly, I was on a protected multi-use trail that would theoretically connect me all the way to the Massepequa Preserve trail head, 13 miles to the south. I ran along the path and saw evidence of progress, with construction signs and a few short gaps in the paved surface. Sunnyside Boulevard, the road that parallels the path, has a long hill that goes for 3/4 miles. It's steeper than Waterside Ave. on the Cow Harbor course and will be a good local training spot to prep for that challenge.

Once I made my way past the Northern State Parkway just north of the LIE, I stopped to figure out where the path continued south. There were a number of "No Trespassing" signs around this area that I took more as a suggestion than a warning, since I was seeing lots of cyclists zooming by. I tried to understand the safest way to get across to the paved path that continued on the other side. At that moment, two riders came across, and I asked them how far the bike trail went. They spoke the magic words, "All the way to Massepequa Preserve." Awesome.

Truth be told, I wasn't feeling my best on the run, and the long uphill section on Sunnyside had worn me out. I'd considered reversing direction and heading home at that point, but now I had to continue long enough to see where the path would lead. I crossed the street and followed the trail south until I reached the point where the service road diverged from the LIE. I then doubled back and crossed back over to where the path continued north.

The run back was easier, even though there were some short hills to address. Most of the next mile was downhill and that helped restore my energy level as I went along. Shortly before I reached Woodbury Road, I took a tangential path to see where it led (it terminated a block west) and ran to the the crosswalk that led me back into neighborhood #3.

It was exciting to know that I could actually run to Bethpage from my house if I really wanted to. It would be about 6.5 miles - doable - but then I'd have to run home. I've run 13+ miles a few times, so it's in the realm of the possible. However, I think I'll need to do a lot more base training before I take that on.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Running happy as a performance enhancement

Today's run (street): 3.7 miles

Runners tend to focus on physical methods to improve performance. If you want to run faster, do speed work. If you want to take on steep technical trails, do hill training. There's no doubt that performance training will yield results. However, there's an aspect to running performance that has nothing to do with hard physical work. I'm talking about your state of mind on a run.

Many runners talk about how running clears their mind and provides relief from stress. I agree with that, but I also feel that "running while anxious" can compromise performance. This week I've dealt with a business issue that has been weighing heavily on my mind. I did feel more energized and optimistic after my anxiety-plagued runs, but the runs themselves were not my best efforts.

This morning my situation resolved itself and the run that followed felt buoyant. I beat this week's average pace by 15 seconds a mile. I fully believe that my better performance related directly to my mood. As good an experience as that, I felt even better after the run. So I guess the lesson here is to run when you're happy. If it were only that easy. Maybe Brooks has a point.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Under the weather, due to the weather

Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

This has been a strange week for me. Lots of business frenzy and an underlying feeling that I'm about to be hit with a cold. I've been getting migraine-like headaches about once a month, that seem to correlate to changes in the weather. They could also be triggered by pollen, although I've never suffered allergies in the past. Over the last few days I haven't felt 100% and I ended up skipping my run on Wednesday.

This morning I had a return of that headache and I treated it with pseudoephedrine that usually does the trick. It helped greatly, but residual tiredness and a full morning schedule delayed my workout. I had a window of opportunity at noon so I jumped on the treadmill for a leisurely run at an easy pace. I knew I'd get the most benefit out of a workout that taxed me, but didn't push me to the point of feeling run down.

I could have run outdoors but I decided to use the treadmill because I could set the speed and just zone out. It was a decent workout and helped clear my head. I'm still feeling tired, but at least I got a few miles in. The weather is supposed to get cooler from now, through the weekend. That will make for better running conditions outside. I hope that by Saturday, my health will be as good as the predicted weather.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

No run, one hit, no errors

It's official
Last night we went to an LI Ducks game using tickets that my wife won last Saturday at the Walk-a-thon. My daughter managed to snag a foul ball, much to our delight. I've attended hundreds of games and have never done that. Free tickets and an authentic game ball. What could be more fun on a Tuesday night?

It wasn't a particularly late night, but I woke up this morning feeling run down. I knew I'd be facing a busy day in the city, so I made the decision to take an unscheduled rest day. I've made the mistake of trying to power through a workout when I wasn't at my best. No upside to that. Tomorrow I'll get back into the rhythm of my run schedule. The three plus miles I covered on the streets of NYC today will need to be enough.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tension busting run

Where ya goin' mister?
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

I was dealing with some business intensities this morning, but somehow I managed to get outside. It was unseasonably cold today - about 48 degrees - but sunny. I haven't been feeling 100%, but I knew a run would help alleviate some of the tension I was feeling. I decided to go out very easy and cover my distance at whatever pace I felt.

I was concerned that I'd put on too many layers, but I started off feeling comfortable and figured that I'd stay that way as long as I kept my my speed in check. As I was coming through my first mile, a pickup with a Town of Oyster Bay logo on the door pulled up next to me. The driver called out, "Need a ride?" I laughed as I ran along, and he then asked if I lived around here. I'm not sure what he was getting at, but in my vivid yellow running shoes and neon orange shirt, I would have been the world's most conspicuous burglar.

The rest of the run was uneventful and I was almost shocked to see that I covered my route 10 seconds per mile faster than I felt I was running. Maybe I should always run when I'm stressed. Tonight we're going to a Long Island Ducks game. It's a fun activity, even if it's on a school night. Sometimes you have to do this kind of thing to beat the tension of the day.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Trail running on the Bethpage feather bed

Wood-chipped trails as soft as a featherbed
Today's run (Bethpage State Park trails): 3.6 miles

Happy Mother's Day!

After yesterday's workout washout, I decided to go to Bethpage for a run on the wooded trails. It was rainy and overcast early in the morning, but the weather reports were predicting the sun would return by 9:00 AM. Once I saw that was true, I headed over to the park and made my way up the hill where I could pick up a trail on the southern side.

Once I got past the basketball courts and picnic area, I cut into the woods and encountered a wide, wood-chip covered path. I haven't spent much time on these trails since hurricane Sandy and I was surprised how much work was done to return them to pristine condition. Running along the path gave the sensation of being on a very thick carpet or a feather bed. Even though we'd gotten a soaking yesterday, the wood chips were doing a great job keeping things dry. 

I wanted to increase the challenge, so I took some side paths that were more technical, narrow and steep. I wondered if I'd run into the paved path that runs parallel to the top of the woods, but I stayed tucked inside. The low tree cover and the dry air acted like nature's air conditioner  I made my way back to the east end and followed a few trails that I'd never run before. One of these trails ran parallel to the start of the new paved bike path. I'd run next to it a number of times before, but never on it.  

Trail running miles can feel harder than pavement miles and that was the case today. I felt like I had a very good workout and it was great to be back to the woods. The trail was as comfy as a B&B mattress, except when I was running on twisty, narrow single-track. In each case, my surroundings made the experience an energizing way to spend a cool Sunday morning. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wet, windy, cold and clowny at Eisenhower Park

Scenes from a wet and chilly morning
Today's activities: 20 minute treadmill + 2 mile charity walk

I always look forward my weekend runs because I'm free to detach from business (for the most part) and run longer distances. With more discretionary time, I'm more apt to break away from my local roads and run at more interesting places. In fact, I do almost all my trail running on weekends.

Today was different. My wife had signed us up to walk for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, a charity that we strongly support. The walk took place at Eisenhower Park and we headed over early. The organizers were expecting over a thousand participants and, even with the nasty weather, they had an impressive turnout.

Since our morning schedule was tight, and the weather was windy and rainy, I opted to do an unusually short workout on the treadmill. I figured that we'd be covering a lot of ground on foot, but I wanted to make sure I got in some "cardio" as well. My plan was to do another 20 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical later in the day, but so far that hasn't happened.

The Ronald McDonald House event was well planned and a surprising number of people had already arrived when we got there.We'd dressed for light rain, but the weather turned worse as we made our way around the grounds. There were lots of snacks and drinks for the taking, much like what you would see after a race. My wife won Ducks tickets at the KJOY booth (a local radio station), so we'll going to a game next week.

I wore my ASICS running windbreaker with a zipper that no longer works. It was windy and I was getting colder by the minute. Fortunately, as Walk participants, we all got an event tee shirt. That extra layer really made a difference.

The walk itself started at 10:00 AM and, almost immediately, the rain and wind began to intensify. We joked about heading straight back to the car, but the kids were into it, so we continued. The route was only a couple of miles. However, with the cold, wind and rain (and the crowds that slowed our progress) it seemed far longer. By the time we finished, we were soaked from head to toe. But we still had fun and were glad to support such a great cause.

Through all the activity, I've exceeded my daily goals on the Fitbit, so I'm not sure whether I'll do another workout today. Right now there are booming thunderstorms, so whatever I'd do, it would be indoors. I may be better off waiting until tomorrow morning anyway, when they are predicting far better weather conditions.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Variability, structure, running and Thai food

Post run reward
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

My definition of work is much different than it used to be. When I was going into the office every day, I'd follow the same routine. My morning regimen would usually include a workout and shower, followed by a train ride into the city. Now that the world is my office, the flow of my day can be very different. The consequence of having a less structured schedule is that my posting frequency has (slightly) suffered.

Due to this, I couldn't find the time to write about a treadmill run that was almost exactly the same as the one I ran the day before. So here's a recap: I turned on the treadmill, ran about 30 minutes, then stopped. For details, see my prior post.

Today was different. I had a mid morning appointment, so I did an early run outside. It was my first outdoor run since Tuesday, and I appreciated the sunny and warm conditions. I spent most of my time on the road, rather than the sidewalk, and I'll admit that I preferred it that way. It wasn't an easy run and I'm not really sure why. I can't blame it on hard work, as my pace was exactly average.

Since I now follow a variable schedule of my own design, my wife and I took a time-out for lunch and headed to the Lemonleaf Grill (my favorite Thai restaurant in the area). Soon after that, it was back to business, but only through mid-afternoon. It was a beautiful day so I decided to start my weekend early. After all, a variable work schedule also means variable leisure time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When the treadmill is a welcome change

Treadmill redemption
Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

This morning started out gray and rainy, and I wasn't looking forward to trekking to the city. I planned to run early and then head for the train mid-morning. Some unexpected scheduling changes allowed me to avoid going in at all. That worked out very well for me, because it allowed me to make some progress on a new consulting job. I ended up using a treadmill run to force a break from my work.

I don't love every run, but I always look forward to running outside. That's especially true on weekends, when I have the time to travel to places more interesting than my neighborhood. At the bottom of my list is the treadmill, and I think it's because the experience provides no feeling of progress. Worse is when I when I crank up the speed. Like the saying goes, it's like going nowhere fast.

Today was different, the intensity I was giving to my project needed to come down a few notches. I was actually looking forward to getting on the treadmill to spend 30 minutes not thinking. The time went by fast for a change and I felt great when I was done. After a quick shower and lunch, I was back to the laptop. As good as that was, I'm hoping for better weather tomorrow so I can take my running break outside.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Off road running as a safer strategy

New sidewalks make for safer running
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Over the last couple of weeks, I've found myself running on the sidewalks more frequently than on the road. I'll admit to being extremely safety conscious when it comes to running, and the driving behavior I see in my neighborhood supports that position. After years managing production and technology operations, I've adopted the philosophy of minimizing or preventing risk whenever possible.

Running on the sidewalk minimizes the chance of an encounter with a car, but sidewalks can also present problems. I tripped and fell badly at the end of a run a couple of years ago, when my toe caught a slightly raised section of my driveway. The town has done an impressive job this spring, replacing sidewalks that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy. However, there are still plenty of sections in need of repair that could trip a runner.

I did about 85% of today's run on sidewalks, only using the street to cross or when I encountered an impassible section. Besides the safety benefit, the relative flatness of sidewalks (compared to roads that are banked on the sides for water runoff) prevents my right foot from doing more work than the left, because I always run on the left side of the street.

I did encounter some rough sidewalks along my route this morning, but I managed to step around or over the trickiest sections. I tried to push a little harder than I have of late, and was rewarded with an overall pace that was slightly faster than average. I expected to do better than that, and I wonder if I'd shortened my step slightly on uneven sidewalks. If that's the case, I'd rather run slower and be a little safer.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bethpage is better, but some bikers are bozos

The new, improved Bethpage trails
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 6.4 miles

It's a beautiful day on Long Island, sunny and a little cooler than yesterday. Today is Cinco de Mayo but we're not doing anything related to that. Tequila lost its appeal many years ago, but by dinner time I may be persuaded to go out for Mexican food. Today is also the day of the Long Island Marathon, Half and 10K. I feel slightly guilty for not participating this year, but I'm glad that I didn't need to run 13.1 miles this morning.

It's been at least six weeks since I ran at Bethpage and I've missed it. The last time I was there, me and KWL did an early morning run and covered six miles. I haven't done too many runs greater than five miles this year, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to renew my Empire Passport and run the bike trail. 

After getting my sticker, I drove to the lot and saw that much work had been done to the trails since I last saw them. The entrance to the north trail was now open, and a small structure had been put up next to the trail head off the parking lot. There was fresh paint marking the newly paved sections, and a new sidewalk was added along the main driveway.

When I reached the northern trail entrance I noticed more improvements. I saw some new access points to the dirt trails and some decorative fencing around rest areas. They'd also stenciled distances in tenth of a mile increments in bold white numbers. Even though I wear a Garmin, I still found that to be extremely helpful during my run.

I felt good at the start and had no trouble with the rolling trail as I moved north. I wanted to go six miles to get a little more base conditioning and my energy level seemed to support that. A year ago I was at Bethpage every weekend doing progressively longer runs as I trained for the half marathon. I thought about the LI Marathon and Half that was going on as I ran. I did feel strong, but I don't think I could have managed a half today.

I crossed Haypath without a problem and then Old Bethpage Rd. Neither had much traffic. I wondered if I'd reach my projected turnaround point of 3.1 miles before I hit Old Country Road. I preferred not to cross that busy street if I could avoid it. I was about a quarter mile short of my halfway mark, so I needed to keep going. There was a traffic light and crosswalk, so I had no safety issues except for the bozo on a bike who cut me off when I reached the other side.

There were many walkers and cyclists on the path today, along with a smaller number of other runners. I had another bike incident, when a cyclist riding in the same direction that I was running, passed me with an inch to spare. She was busy talking to her two friends and wasn't being careful. I yelled "hey!" but she didn't react (or apologize). Most cyclists are courteous and careful, but it was amateur hour this morning.

I covered the second half of my run faster than the first. I had no trouble getting past the two short but steep hills located a mile from the trail entrance. For some reason I began feeling stronger on that last mile, so I picked up the pace. That helped get my overall time into my "acceptable range." When I got back to the lot, I saw what looked like a clown car convention. It was actually a Mini Cooper show taking place at the park. Unfortunately it attracted some losers who decided to tear around the parking lot in their cars (not Mini Coopers BTW) before exiting at a high rate of speed.

I was very happy with my run today, especially for the fact that I haven't done a six miler in a while. Now that I have my new Passport, I look forward to visiting Bethpage and the other state parks without needing to pay an entrance fee.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I Love My Park Days at Caleb Smith

A beautiful day to volunteer
Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

We had a busy morning planned, so I got out on the road early, for a run around the neighborhood. It was another beautiful spring morning, sunny and cool enough to wear long sleeves. Just for a change, I took a route that goes by the middle school. It's always nice to see some different roads.

While approaching the school, I noticed a woman running about 100 feet ahead of me on the right side of the road. She was running slower than me, so I eventually caught up with her. As I was passing her, I said hello, and suggested that she run on the left side for safety. She said that she'd been running for 25 years and wasn't worried because there's hardly any traffic. I said that things are different now, with people talking on the phone and texting. She acknowledged that, but I didn't see her moving over. I can only do so much.

I completed my run and, soon after that, we all headed to Caleb Smith State Park to participate in "I Love My Park Days." This is a program where volunteers perform numerous tasks to help NY parks that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Caleb Smith lost 300 trees in the storm and the goal was to replace them all. Our task today was to plant a tree at a designated spot. Did you know that the New York State tree is the Acer saccharum, better known as the sugar maple? We didn't!

One down, 299 to go...
We were given a map and told to locate a yellow marker with the number "4" written on it. The park gave us a bucket of loam, a gardening spade and a sugar maple sapling to plant. We trekked along the yellow path until we found our marker. The kids did most of the work by digging a hole in the root-covered ground, planting and positioning the tree, and adding supporting loam. We remembered where we planted it, so we can visit it and watch its progress as it grows. 

We do love our parks!
After we turned in our bucket and shovel, the park people offered us the chance to fill a small cup with sunflower seeds embedded in dirt. My daughter took one cup to replant in the back yard, once the seeds germinate inside. We did a short hike in the park and were then rewarded with "I Love My Park Days" tee shirts. It was perfect weather for visiting the park and it was nice to be able to help out today. I look forward to watching our tree's progress every time I run or hike at Caleb Smith.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A rare Friday double

View from the high ground
Today's run (street): 3.75

I can't believe it's already Friday. Yesterday was taken up by business tasks and the only workout I got was a short, easy elliptical session. That was actually fine, because I'd covered over 11 miles on Wednesday and I needed to give my legs some rest time. I wanted to get back on track today, so I went out fairly early for a neighborhood run. It was cool and sunny at 7:30 AM, with a breeze that made it feel colder at times. I felt great from the start, and adopted a pace that was neither slow nor aggressive.

Hurricane Sandy did a lot of damage to my neighborhood and uprooted many trees that stood for decades in front of homes. Over the last few weeks, the town has rebuilt a number of sidewalks that were torn up by these falling trees. The sidewalks in my neighborhood were already in rough shape due to years of wear. I've always avoided running on the sidewalk because I feared I'd trip on one of the many uneven surfaces. Now that the sidewalks have been repaired, I'm using them more often. I feel much safer when I'm out running, especially during the time when the school buses are on the road.

Do the  twist
My son did not have classes today, so he, my wife, and I went over to TrailView State Park for a hike. My wife had heard all about our previous adventures and my son was happy to play guide. We took the hiking path north and came back on the longer bike trail. The weather and tree cover kept us cool and comfortable and we covered a couple of miles. There's always something new to see in the woods, like a tree whose branches wrapped it like a rope (left).

 It was great to, once again, get two workouts in on the same day. I highly recommend a mid-afternoon hike to break up the work day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Shouldering pain from a long day on the streets

Relief is imminent
Today's workout (treadmill): 30 minutes + 8 miles walking

I had planned to be in the city today and tomorrow, but some meetings have shifted to next week. I consolidated the remaining business into today's schedule, making it a very long day. NYC is a big place and my meetings are often located many blocks apart. I try not to use the subway unless it's raining, or I don't have enough time to walk.

My workout was really tiring this morning and I was concerned that I'd pushed too hard. I knew I would be covering a lot of ground on foot and I'd also be carrying my laptop. Today I went from 33rd to Union Square, up to 54th, down to E. 34th and then back to Penn.  I wasn't feeling great when I arrived at my first appointment, so I went down to the subway and put $5 on my MetroCard. I wanted to be prepared in case I wasn't up for walking forty-five blocks uptown to my next meeting.

After lunch with some friends, I was feeling much better and did my walk as planned. My Fitbit is now showing 11 miles and 21,900 steps for the day, including this morning's treadmill run. I'm really feeling it in my shoulder, probably because the weight of the laptop caused some additional strain. I really could use some rest and naproxen sodium. I'll decide tomorrow whether to take an unscheduled break.

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