Sunday, June 30, 2013

2013 Marcie Mazzola Race Report

Last turn before the finish
Today's run (Marcie Mazzola 5K): 3.1 miles

This morning I ran the Marcie Mazzola Foundation race for the fifth year in a row. This race was originally scheduled for last April, but the date was moved to the end of June because of a Mazzola family issue. I was concerned about running this race in the summer heat, but the ample shade made it bearable. This year I was joined by a couple of industry colleagues who were running this race for the first time.

As I'd expected, my performance did not match prior races I've done at this distance, but I was not disappointed. In previous years, I was racing every month and that helped me maintain my competitive focus. It's halfway through the year and I've only participated in two races so far. I ran about 15 minutes on the treadmill yesterday to "activate" my leg muscles, with a combination of elevation (training for the hill on Woodhull) and speed. It's hard to know if that helped, but I don't think it did any harm.

Team Emerging Runner arrived at 7:45 AM for the 8:30 start. Unlike the spring race, when the morning temperature requires extra layers prior to the start, it was nice to be comfortable in just my race gear. Registration went fine, and we watched the kid's fun run that happens 30 minutes before the 5K start. Soon after that I saw my friend Bill, an experienced racer, who had never run the Marcie Mazzola race.

Bill and I made our way down to the starting line on Park Ave and I noticed that the crowd was smaller than last year. No doubt this was due to the race date change, because the organizers announced that there were over 500 registrants. The race results showed 15 DNS's, most likely runners that signed up for April but had scheduling conflicts today. There were 103 less finishers this year than in 2012.

Once Bill and I established our position behind the line, we were joined by another friend, Mike, who had walked to the race from his house. Mike runs triathlons, but had not run Marcie before today. As we waited for the countdown, I described the course and tried to prepare them for the hill on Woodhull Rd. Neither seemed intimidated by it.

The official Marcie 5K Pace car
The race started on time and soon after seeing my wife and kids on the sideline, we took the right and climbed the big hill that goes on for half a mile. I felt like I was moving at a decent clip and I passed a number of runners along the way. I'm still experiencing upper respiratory issues and as I made my way up Woodhull, I started to wheeze and cough. I think I'm getting closer to recovery (it's been three weeks now!) but I was concerned about pushing too hard. I backed off the throttle slightly, until my breathing regulated. With all that, I was a little disappointed to see that I ran the first mile in 9:30.

Seconds after the start
In past years, I've run that first mile even slower and still finished in the 26:00 range. I ran as fast as I could today, but missed my average 5K finish time by almost two minutes. I was hoping to break 27:50, but I ended up finishing in just over 28 minutes. If this race had a timing mat at the starting line, I may have have hit my targeted time. Considering the lack of race training I did to prepare, I'm fine with today's number.
Post-finish hydration and electrolytes
I ran miles two and three in the high 8:00 range, bringing my overall pace close to 9:00. I never felt concern about sustaining my pace, although the last segment going east of Heckscher Park, followed by a brief but noticeable hill, always makes it challenging at the end. I always want to break nine minutes, but that didn't happen today. Still, even with a small field of runners, I ended up in the top 40% of finishers.

Racing buddies, Bill (left) and Mike (right)
Bill came in half a minute before me and Mike came in shortly after I'd finished. The path to the finish line is on an incline that has a dogleg that points runners to the chute. I thought the timer said 27:58 when I went through, but the official results have me 10 seconds after that. Either way, I was happy at the end, with my family cheering me on as I crossed the line.

After taking almost three months off from racing, it was great to be back in competition. I didn't have any expectation that I would perform well today, but I didn't want to embarrass myself either. Another Marcie Mazzola race is in the books, and I'm looking forward to my next race, that is likely to be the Dirty Sock 10K. That's a race that demands some real training so I'd better get started. But today, I'm going to focus on a little post-race relaxation.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Will what I do today affect how I'll do tomorrow?

Aspiration or underestimation?
I've only run once since last Sunday and this will go down as the lowest mileage week I've had in over a year. There's no one reason for this lapse, it's mostly circumstantial. Monday was my rest day, Tuesday was taken up with family activities, Wednesday I ran, and Thursday and Friday were days in the city that started very early and ended late. Tomorrow I'm running a 5K so I need to decide whether I should do any running or maintain my hiatus/taper.

I'm tempted to run some intervals to activate my fast twitch muscles (assuming I still have any after a week of sloth) or play out my extended rest and see if that produces a better than expected time at the race. There's an argument for both, although one involves  a lot more sweat and effort. I usually rest two days before a race, although I sometimes cut that to one day for 5K's. If I stay on the rest vector and do well, it might result in a new taper strategy for future races.

Given my utter lack of focused training for this race, my goal for tomorrow is to finish below 27:50. If I met that goal it would be the slowest 5K I've ever competitively run, but I'd still be okay with it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I'm tapering my taper

Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I didn't run or post yesterday or Monday and this will hardly count as one. My schedule has been full this week and I'm still dealing with my cough, though that hasn't been the reason for skipping my workout on Tuesday. I did manage to get out this morning before getting tied up all day on work related items. This is a taper week and I'm certainly getting the "less running" part down.

The temperature was close to 80 degrees at 8:15 AM when I went out on my run. I knew that I should try to generate some speed since I'm going to be racing on Sunday, but I really didn't push my pace. Nothing to report except that I was glad to get back on the road.

Tomorrow and Friday will be early city days so I don't know when I'll get my final taper run in. I felt good on the run after a couple of day's rest, although I am still dealing with this annoying cough. My biggest concern right now is whether I'll have a voice by the time I make a presentation tomorrow afternoon.  This isn't going to be a big mileage week, but I hope to get back on schedule next week.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When breathing gets tough, do the run easy

Easy like Sunday morning
Today's run (street): 3.2 miles

I'm finally feeling some relief from this endless cough, mostly because it's moved up into my head. I'm coughing less, but I'm now dealing with a bout of laryngitis. About twice a year, I completely lose my voice to this affliction. I can't complain (and no one would hear me if I did) because I sound terrible. Despite that, I feel fine.

Near the end of yesterday's run, my breathing started feeling restricted and I wondered if this chest cough may be related to a newly developed pollen allergy. My concern was, with even greater heat and humidity this morning, I'd have more trouble breathing than on Saturday. I considered skipping my workout or doing a hike instead. Ultimately, I chose to do a short, easy run to get my week's mileage into line.

I went out slowly and almost regretted my decision to bring my Garmin. I often wish I could just go out and run, unencumbered with tracking tools like GPS, a stopwatch timer or a heart rate monitor. I also know myself well enough that, if I ran without tracking, I'd end up reconstructing the run by estimating the time and mapping the route on Gmaps. Besides that, I always like to capture the route map in Garmin Connect.

My run started easy and stayed easy. I never approached my lactic acid threshold, although I did bring up my speed over the last quarter mile. It was at that point yesterday when I detected some restriction in my breathing. Today, that was not the case. I don't know if it's because my lungs are clearing, or if it's simply related to running easier. Either way, I was glad to get some miles in today, as I start my taper for next Sunday's race.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hey runner, got a light?

Today's run (street): 4.4 miles

I was about halfway through today's run when I noticed a guy exiting a small neighborhood park, holding a cigarette. I saw him from about thirty feet away, walking towards the street. The man began crossing the road and I wondered if I'd need to run around him. As I got closer he asked, "Got a lighter?" I yelled back, "I run, why would I smoke?" I didn't hear his response, but I'm sure it wasn't a compliment regarding my active lifestyle.

There were lots of people out this morning, and almost everyone I encountered on today's run made me question the intelligence of the average person. Shortly after my exchange with cigarette guy, I saw two women walking side by side on the right side of the road. My neighborhood has no thoroughfares, but a few roads (like this particular one) have steady traffic. I felt I should advise them on the danger of walking with your back to traffic. They acknowledged my point, but I saw them later on the run and they were still tempting fate on the wrong side of the road.

These women weren't the only people I saw walking with traffic, but I decided to stop playing safety patrol after that. There was a couple walking on the right, who spaced themselves so wide that the man was positioned in the middle of a busy road. He was a big boy, and I just hoped his size would be noticeable to drivers who would brake, thinking he was a Fiat 500.

Between the careless walkers, cyclists without helmets and drivers that ignore stop signs as a matter of course, I'm often frustrated with neighborhood running. That's why I love running Stillwell, Trailview and Bethpage. Except, of course, for those big hills.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Good day for a run and a great day for a party

Morning scene, before the fun and frenzy
Today's run (street): 3.7 miles

Happy summer! School is done and both kids are kicking off vacation this week with pool parties. Wednesday, my son had his soon-to-be 9th grade buddies to the house. That one was easy. No decorations, basic snacks and no structured activities. My daughter is hosting a bunch of 15 year-old girls today and the planning has been far more intense. To be fair, it's also a birthday celebration for her. My duties were to set up the music downstairs and to get the pizza later. My wife is taking care of everything else, which means it will probably go very well. Sounds like it is.

Yesterday was a difficult day for me. My coughing reached an apex (I'm hoping) and I spent most of the day on calls. I'd decided early on that I didn't have time to run. With the way I felt, it seemed a better idea to skip my workout. I just looked at it as a recovery day. I was hoping later that my cough was receding, but it was back in full force overnight. It does seem better today.

Although I probably spent two hours trying to get to sleep last night, I felt well enough this morning to get outside. The weather was sunny and not yet hot, so I set off in the hope that my lack of sleep wouldn't affect my running performance. I don't think I set any personal records today, but I didn't feel bogged down either. I even extended my distance a little, figuring that I should get in more mileage since I had the time.

It's been a busy week for business, but I covered most of today's interactions before lunch. People rarely schedule meetings on Friday afternoons in the summer. The exceptions are my business colleagues in LA, SF and Seattle who have three more hours of morning than I do. So far, it's been quiet, except for all the yelling and splashing by the pool.

I'm a little more than a week away from the Marcie Mazzola 5K and haven't done much to prepare, besides following my normal running schedule. I figure I can just turn up the jets on race day and get through it since it's only 3.1 miles. That assumes, of course, that I can live with my worst 5K time ever.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Testing a grape theory

Treating the symptoms
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I'm sure people are as tired of reading about my cough as I am of of having one. My cough was as bad as ever this morning. My daughter had her annual checkup today and my wife mentioned her lengthy cough to the doctor. The pediatrician said it's likely to be allergy related, that the pollen is really high this year. She suggested taking Claritin. The only version we had was children's grape chewables, but I went for it. I'm not sure whether it's helping, but I'm a bit better than yesterday (and earlier today).

The weather was highly cooperative this morning and I took full advantage by running around the neighborhood. It actually felt cold when I first stepped outside. It was a combination of shade and breeze that masked the heat from the sun and humidity. The run went well, and with middle and high school finished, there was less car and bus traffic to contend with. I was surprised to see that my pace was faster than I expected.

These weekday runs are all pretty much the same. I can vary my route a little, but by now, every road looks as familiar as my back yard. I literally have hundreds of identical route maps on Garmin Connect. There's only so many combinations of streets that take me around for at least three miles and then back home again. The great thing about these runs is that they give me thirty or so minutes of relief from coughing. Tomorrow I'll start on adult doses of Claritin. Perhaps that will give me something to write about besides coughing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Great cough run cough

My lunch meeting
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

I really hate this cough. I'm not concerned about it because my daughter endured it for three full weeks and (thankfully) she is over it now. Someday, I'll get over it as well. As disruptive as this cough has been, it hasn't really affected my workout routine. I've noticed that I never cough while I'm running or somehow active. Too bad I can't be active all the time.

The weather was iffy this morning, so I did a treadmill run using progressive speed increases every quarter mile. It was humid, so I blasted the fan. My cough had woken me up during the night and I was concerned that I'd be dragging myself through my morning run. But I was surprised by the level of energy I was able to maintain. It ended up being a pretty good workout, although I would have liked more recovery time afterward.

A train derailment at Penn Station last night made the morning commute difficult for LIRR riders. I prepared for an awful experience, but things had improved by the time I went in. I covered almost four miles on foot, according to my Fitbit, and that - somewhat - made up for my large lunch. I coughed the whole train ride into and out of the the city and frequently through my meetings. I look forward to improvement and I'm hoping that it happens soon. But recent history tells me it might not get better for a while.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eight chukkas at Bethpage

It's basically croquet-soccer on horses
Today's run (track): 3.5 miles

Happy Father's Day! I've written often about Bethpage State Park as a great place to run, but there are many other things to do there. This afternoon we decided to take in a few chukkas of polo for the first match of the season. It was quite an experience, which I'll cover further below.

This morning I started things off with a track workout at the local high school. This was not a speed exercise by any means, but it was a nice change from running in my neighborhood. I set off at a brisk clip as I made my way around the walkers positioned in the lane in front of me. Runners generally know to keep the inside lane open for faster traffic, but walkers usually don't follow that unwritten rule.

I did ten laps, five clockwise and five the other way. I had considered running some intervals, but I'm still battling this chest cold. I was hoping that this run might enhance my immune system, rather than wearing me out to the point where I became susceptible to a relapse. I felt good at the end, worked out but not exhausted.

After a Father's Day lunch, we headed over to Bethpage for the polo match. The Empire Passport once again proved its worth, allowing us to park for free in the main lot rather than pay the $10 parking fee for the event. Once we walked up the hill, we were greeted at the entrance where we paid $5 for our two adult tickets. Kids were free today, but I'm not sure that will be the case all summer.

Fast action
The Polo Grounds were set up with grandstands and across the way was a large tented VIP area where patrons were served drinks and food. I'm guessing their entry fee was bit higher than $5. We made due with items from the snack bar that were on sale at reasonable prices. Our seats in the grandstand put us less than 30 feet from edge of the field that is the size of nine football fields.

We enjoyed watching the match and it was relatively easy to follow the action. Polo is sort of like a combination of croquet and soccer, played on horses. Those polo ponies are extremely agile and do an amazing job of getting their riders to the ball. The players whack the ball dozens of yards ahead of them and scoring is frequent. The final score of today's match was 9-5, won by the local team.

A Lambo and a Lotus
After the 4th chukka there was a halftime break where spectators were able to walk on the field and over to the other side. Maserati was showing cars and it was fun to check them out. Better still, there was a Lotus, along with some classic Ferrari's and Lamborghini's. I would have been happy to just look at these cars the rest of the afternoon.

Scary to watch
Near the end of the second half, there was a shocking moment when one of the polo ponies collapsed during play. The rider tumbled off and play was stopped while they attended to the downed animal. The park people surrounded the horse with trucks to keep spectators from seeing what was happening and they eventually put the horse onto one of the horse carriers. No word was given on its condition but they did resume play.

We watched the rest of the match and made our way back to the car where we ran into some friends who were also at the match. We agreed that it was a great experience (despite the unfortunate incident with the horse) and a great thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. Most importantly, it was a really nice way to spend Father's Day with my family.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A run on the road and hike at Caumsett

Take a hike!
Today's run (street): 3.9 miles

Yesterday was a tough one. Bad coughs can be exhausting, and I never got to the point on Friday where I felt strong enough to do a workout. I was determined to run today, but not if it would compromise my recovery. The weather was near perfect and, while I was still coughing, I decided to head outside.

I would have liked to do a tempo run but I settled for a more moderate pace. I'd coughed all throughout the night and morning, but not once on the run. It seemed as though every landscaper in the area had come to my neighborhood to work, so I needed to be wary of workers and equipment as I made my way past all the trucks. I used the sidewalks when things got too tight.

Even though it was a fairly short run, I felt very tired by the finish. Despite that fatigue, I was glad to return to the road. Since my bout with pneumonia in early 2010, I get concerned whenever I develop a cough like this one. In this case I'm confident that it's nothing but a cold. Extremely annoying, but nothing particularly severe.

Entrance to the Caumsett grounds
After lunch we headed to Caumsett State Park for a hike on the paved trails. It's a great park with beautiful grounds, including views of Long Island Sound. We finished our walk and spent some time in the "Walled Garden" where the kids played a scavenger hunt game using pictures taken on their cell phones. I want to return there for a run sometime, although I'll need to be prepared for a lot of steep hills.

Scavenger hunting in the Walled Garden

Friday, June 14, 2013

Workout sidelined

My chest cold now includes a deep cough among its symptoms. This cough, along with a full morning of conference calls, prompted me to postpone my workout. I was optimistic about running later, but I think I'll call it a rest day and move on. I'm hoping that skipping today's run will help my recovery. My favorite workouts are typically the longer base runs I do on weekends, so I'm counting on getting outside tomorrow.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Run turned back at the driveway

Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

I watched the garage door rise to reveal a rain covered driveway this morning. It had looked dry from the window, but that was obviously an illusion. I wasn't interested in running in rain-soaked conditions that would obscure my vision and saturate my shoes and socks. I turned around and headed upstairs to wait for my wife to complete her treadmill workout.

Today's schedule was tight and I wanted to get in my run before I got caught up in business calls. I've been fighting a mild chest cold and could have used that as an excuse to skip my workout. I figured that I should at least try a run and see how it felt. I wasn't looking to push myself too hard after a couple of hard runs on Tuesday and Wednesday. I did pretty well, but I skipped the progressive speed increases.

I'm getting closer to my next race and I know I should begin tuning my runs towards speed. I'm not sure which approach to take: intervals or tempos. I can't really do speed work at the track during the week because school is still in session. If the weather is clear over the weekend, I may head to the high school. I think all the hill running I've been doing is helping to build my fitness, but I don't know if it's also helping my speed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The hard running continues, although that wasn't the plan

Today's run (treadmill): 3 miles

Yesterday's run was fun, but it was also tough. I felt worn out afterwards and wondered how I'd feel this morning. There was no question that I'd do a workout but I didn't think two tough runs in a row would be a good idea. I needed to get into the city, so time was short. Although the weather was spring-perfect, I opted to run on the treadmill to save time.

I ran fairly slow yesterday, so I set the pace a little faster today. I had little trouble maintaining my speed, but I felt like this might end up being a tedious run. I was surprised when I saw that I'd passed the ten minute mark and, before I knew it, I had done ten more. I was in danger of missing my targeted my finish time, so I increased my speed by 2/10ths of a mile every minute until I finished.

That ended up being a very hard run and I was concerned that I'd pushed myself too much. I needed to be alert for the business conversations that lay ahead. I ended up rebounding well and had a great lunch with some industry friends, one of whom will be running the Marcie Mazzola 5K with me, along with the Dirty Sock and Cow Harbor 10K's. After ten challenging miles over two days, I think I may go for an easier workout on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A running first: Bethpage Park to home

Before the run and all the hills
Today's run (Greenbelt Trail): 6.6 miles

Ever since my first run on the Bethpage bike trail five years ago, I've always envied those who lived near the path. How great would it be to run across the street or through your backyard onto a protected trail that runs from Bethpage State Park to the start of the Massepequa Preserve? Pretty great I thought. I knew of the Greenbelt trail north of Bethpage that runs in various forms all the way to Cold Spring Harbor. But up until recently, that was mostly dirt paths with separations between sections.

Now that the Greenbelt has been paved all the way to Woodbury Road, I've been running parts of it from the north and other parts from the south, starting at Bethpage State Park. My dream of running from my house to Bethpage was getting closer to reality, but I had never run the full distance. That is, until today.

My friend KWL is a great runner and triathlete who finishes half marathons in 100 minutes and rides Gran Fondos, sometimes within days of each other. He and I have done many runs together, and once we mountain biked at Stillwell and followed that with a long trail run. KWL loves hills, and though I don't, I couldn't help suggesting that we run the full length of the northern Greenbelt from Bethpage to my house.

This morning we drove to Bethpage and parked my car in the lot before getting on the bike trail north. We kept a moderate pace, because it was hot, humid and we knew there would be hills. To his credit, KWL never complained about running so easy. I tried to make a case for the benefits of LSD and he accepted it. KWL is participating in a Ragner Relay at the end of the week. This race is the first Ragner staged in Canada and it goes from Cobourg to Niagara Ontario, A total of 192 miles. Each team has 12 runners who run three legs each.

A few years ago, Adventure Girl captained a Ragner team that ran the Woodstock to Bronx course and I remember the details, logistics and team management that went into that. Not to mention the fact that everyone ran about 20 miles, throughout the day and night. KWL won't need to worry about all of that, but he'll be doing all that running.

Our run today took us past the spot where I'd previously turned back toward Bethpage. There was almost another mile of running before we would reach my southern turnaround point from last Saturday. I was excited to have traveled every foot of the paved Greenbelt, but I also knew we were now at the foot of the first of three sizable hills.

With nothing to do but face the challenge, we made our way either uphill or down for the next three miles. By this time the heat and the hills were starting to get to me, but I wasn't looking for an excuse to stop. Once we'd passed the third hill I knew it was mostly down or flat the rest of the way. We reached Woodbury Road, the end of the line. Not for our run, but it was the end of the paved bike trail.

We proceeded to cross the street and run through the local neighborhood before exiting at the middle school and making our way to my driveway.  According to Garmin, we'd covered 6.6 miles with a total elevation gain of 440 feet. It sure felt higher than that. We cooled off and drove back to Bethpage to get my car. Along the way, we noted the ground we were covering and the fact that we'd just ran that entire distance.

I'm looking forward a shorter and (hopefully) easier run tomorrow. I finally got the chance to run all the way home from Bethpage, and I was fortunate to do it with great company.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Running off a pressure headache

Last November's food panty effort
Today's run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I had another tough night due to the onset of a pressure headache. I woke up at 4 AM and treated it with the usual combination of pseudoephedrine and aspirin. That combination helps, but it doesn't quite eliminate the problem. It also makes me groggy and I spent a few hours trying to sleep with little success.

About midway through the morning, I needed to decided whether I'd do a run or skip it for the sake of recovery. I usually reserve the weekends to do my long runs, with Sunday typically being the longer of the two. I listened to my body very carefully and decided on a treadmill workout. I thought that made sense because I could dial in a comfortable speed and use the big floor fan to stay cool.

I covered my "distance" slower than I would have outdoors, but that was fine because I was more interested in the overall time I put into the workout. The act of running seemed to help my sinus pressure and, though I felt tired at the end, I also felt a little better. Later today, we're heading to East Northport to volunteer at a food pantry. We did this last November and felt great about the experience. I'm glad to have done my run today, I think it will keep me energized for the work ahead.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

If you like hills, you'll love this run

Did I mention there were hills?
Yesterday's workout (elliptical): 30 minutes
Today's run (Greenbelt trail): 5.9 miles

Yesterday's weather gave me no expectations for an outdoor run on Friday. Much of Long Island received 5+ inches of rain, with measurable flooding in low lying areas. The area where we live sits 200 feet above sea level, so we rarely have floods. However, we do get our share of weather related power outages. I had a busy schedule (surprising for a Friday) so to save some time, I did an elliptical workout while my wife ran on the treadmill.

Today was a different story. Yesterday's gray skies transitioned to clear and sunny. Humidity and heat were expected later in the day, but it was comfortably cool at 8:00 AM. I'm planning to run the Greenbelt trail from Bethpage State Park to my house on Tuesday morning. My friend is coming by, and we'll park my car in the lot and then run north. When we get home, he'll drive me back to the Park to get my car. I'm excited by the idea of running that route which will measure close to seven miles.

My route today mimicked part of that run. I cut through the middle school and then through neighborhood #3, before reaching the start of the newly paved bike trail. Unlike the previous time I ran this way, I had some expectations about the hills I'd encounter. I learned later that I should have expected more.

The part of the bike trail that goes along Sunnyside Boulevard starts flat, so the going was fairly easy at first. There are still orange webbed "fences" set up on the path where they continue to do construction, but it's simple to step around them. More difficult are the three unpaved sections that are either 10'x20' rectangular mud patches, water filled puddles or beds of sharp rock. Getting around them was slightly difficult, but it wasn't the biggest challenge of the morning.

Do you like hills? I don't! About halfway through Sunnyside, the elevation begins to increase at a 5% grade for the next half mile and then down again. The next three miles followed a similar pattern. It was a little like running the big hill at Bethpage over and over again. Along the way I saw a number of cyclists who were struggling as much as me (or more) to get up these hills. And they had gears!

Per plan, I went as far as Washington Ave. before turning around for the second half of my run. At this point, I've run most of next Tuesday's route. There is still a .7 mile section in between today's turnaround point and the farthest I've gone north from Bethpage. I look forward to experiencing that new ground next week. I hope it's all downhill.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A good run today - but why?

Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

I thought about yesterday's NY Times article when I went out for my morning run. As I took off, I realized how much I've focused on mid-foot landing at the start of every run. Today would be different. Let my foot fall where it may!

It was another perfect running day. I appreciated the experience, and was pleasantly surprised to see few cars and buses on the road. I went out earlier than normal because I had business in the city and needed to catch a morning train. My stride felt completely fluid and I wondered whether I was running more efficiently by not attempting to land on my mid-foot. It could also have been the cool, dry weather that was making the run feel easier.

Moving along this way, I'd hoped to see at the end that I'd compiled an amazing time. No luck there, it was just slightly better than my normal moderate pace (faster than easy, slower than brisk). Still, it was an improvement of 15-20 seconds (per mile) over what I'd averaged this past week. Was it the decision to run without thinking about where my foot landed? Or was it that I had some additional energy today? Perhaps it was the fact that I pushed just a little harder this morning.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mid-foot running, what used to be right is wrong

Coffee bad good, land on your mid-foot heel
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

There are some things that are constantly reported by the media in terms of safety and/or health benefits. Coffee is one. Years ago I read that consumption of coffee is tied to nervous system impairment and hyper-stimulation of the adrenal glands. Recent studies now position it as a super-food with minimum health risks related to the over-consumption of caffeine.

Another subject is barefoot-style running. Back in the olden days (pre-80's), running shoes were minimal in design and people suffered injuries when running. The answer to that was generation after generation of over-built and highly cushioned running shoes with corrective technology to control pronation. But the injury rate remained exactly the same.

Following studies at Harvard University and publication of the book Born to Run, minimal shoe design returned to the marketplace and an emphasis was put on mid-foot landing and "natural" running style. These shoes have captured almost 10% of the market and I'll admit that I've bought into it as well.

Today, the New York Times published an article in their Well blog, with research supporting heel striking as the "more physiologically economical running form, by a considerable margin." What!?? I was very surprised to read this, because the minimalist approach seems more logical. Why wouldn't a shoe that supports a bio-mechanically correct stride be the better choice?

According to the studies, heel striking seems to facilitate more efficient energy expenditure. This is the opposite from everything I've read before about the subject. I'm not sure what to do with this new information. I'll probably continue to use lighter, flatter and more minimally constructed running shoes because I prefer them. Besides that, despite all my efforts to run with an efficient mid-foot stride, my outsoles still show quite a bit of heel wear.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer is coming, but spring running is here

Work in progress
Today's run (street): 3.3 mile

Our house has been taken over by tree service people, who are taking care of some much needed trimming. The pool is now open, but the water color is closer to Pantone 364C than sky blue. That should clear up after a few days of shock treatments. The only thing left is to replace the fence on the outward side of the pool that was damaged by overzealous county workers doing Sandy repairs. The new fence goes up next week. Summer is coming.

Happily, it's still spring, and the humidity and gloomy skies have finally moved on. I went out for my run this morning, right after the last school bus exited the neighborhood. There aren't too many days in the year where running conditions are near perfect, but today was one of them. It may have been the lack of heat, or perhaps the cooling breeze that made my start effortless. This run came after my one weekly rest day, so that could have been a factor as well.

Before I knew it, I'd passed my first mile and I was tempted to do a true distance run, rather than a standard weekday 3.x mile workout. I reminded myself that, although I follow a flexible schedule these days, I still have work to do. Especially on a day like today, when business will keep me in the city late into the evening.

I enjoyed my run today and finished with an overall pace that was lower than any run I've done in the past week. The great weather certainly helped that happen. I enjoyed the run a lot and, like so many great things, it was over all too soon.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Which side should you run on a bike trail?

My halfway point on the northern trail
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 6.5 miles

I managed to get out of the house fairly early this morning and got to Bethpage just after 7:00 AM. The heat was moderate at that time and conditions were pleasant at the start. I'd taken along the cooling bandanna in anticipation of the rapidly increasing temperature and I think it helped. The morning sun was low enough to be blocked by the trees, so the first miles on the northern bike path were well shaded.

As I made my way up the hill leading to the trail head, I thought about the New Hyde Park 8K that was due to start at 8:30. I've run the last four races, but I decided to skip it this year. I didn't really like my experience in 2012. It's a fine event that I've enjoyed in the past, but I felt it was time for a change. Besides that, I don't feel prepared for competitive running right now.

My first steps on the bike trail felt odd. Had someone told me that I'd gained 30 lbs. overnight, I probably would have believed them. It was Virtual Heaviness Syndrome, as explained here in simple terms. I didn't feel especially tired or low on energy, my body just felt heavy. I figured I'd propel myself along and hope for the best.

There were a surprising number of cyclists on the trail and a smaller number of runners and walkers. I got plenty of "on your left!" warnings from approaching bikers. I began to wonder, after all these years, whether I should be running on the left side of the bike path, just like on the road. After studying the other runners and walkers, I decided there are no rules, but people generally keep to the right. I read later that runners should stay to the far left, but I think that person had a cycling-centric view. Probably wishful thinking, rather than accepted practice.

I was originally planning to run all the way to Washington Ave. and turn around, but that would have put me past 7 miles (out and back) and I wasn't looking to do that today. Instead, I turned around where the trail showed 3.1 miles, making my total run (including segments from the trail to the lot) 6.5 miles. I ended up gaining strength as the run went on and finished strong.

I really like the the Bethpage trail because the out and back route makes base run distances seem more manageable. There are lots of hills and you feel like you're getting a workout, but it's never intolerable. I was able to stay relatively cool today by going early, but by mid summer it will be tough going. Fortunately, the wooded trails run directly below and/or adjacent to the paved trail, so I'll be able to duck onto the dirt paths for some relief from the sun.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hard to run and hard to start (talkin' 'bout my generator)

Good reputation, but hard to start
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

So much for running early today. Knowing that the temperature would exceed 90°s, I'd envisioned running the Bethpage bike path at sunrise. But the morning got busy and, before I knew it, it was past 8:00 AM. By then, the temperature had risen to the low 70's and I considered going out for a run. After seeing on the news that a big storm is expected for Sunday, I needed to test the generator.

After five minutes of futility, my "high quality" generator failed to turn over. I bought this unit because the research said it's a great unit. However, since we got it, starting it has been a problem. Without delay, my son and I took it to Home Depot to let Mike the technician look at it. I had to leave the generator behind and hoped it wouldn't be an expensive service issue.

Somewhat helpful
I considered a neighborhood run when I returned home, but the weather was already past the point of bearable. I almost abandoned my plans for a workout entirely, but my wife said I'd regret that later. I took the opportunity to test a recently purchased cooling bandanna while I did a run on the treadmill. I figured that I could further optimize my cooling using the big fan.

I'd say that the bandanna was marginally helpful, but the heat and humidity were brutal. The protection from the sun and the breeze from the fan made the treadmill a good choice. I got through the run with little time to spare. We were getting together with some people right after lunch and I barely had time to cool off in the shower.

Later in the afternoon, Mike called and said, "Bad news, it's going to be an expensive repair and it's not covered by the warranty." I was thrilled when he told me he was kidding. It was just $20 for labor, oil and additional gas. I hope the storm doesn't materialize and that I can get in a decent run tomorrow. But if it does storm, at least I know the generator will start.

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