Friday, October 31, 2014

More tricks than treats

Happy Halloween. In the realm of trick or treat, today was a trick. Fridays are usually a treat because I can work from home and save up to four hours of commuting time. I take advantage of this extra time by going out for a morning run where I can cover 3-4 miles and still keep to my workday schedule. Instead of working from home today, I needed to go into the office. I didn't mind, but I was disappointed to lose my opportunity for an outdoor run.

I'd set up my gear for an early morning treadmill workout, but when I got up, I wasn't in the mode to do it. I regret it now, but this morning I felt too tired to run. I had to go through the humiliating process of putting my workout clothes back into drawers. I felt guilty about that, but not enough to change my mind.

Due to missing today's run, I'll likely have a low mileage week. The weekend weather does not look promising and it may interfere with my running. I think the NYC marathoners will face some tough conditions as cold temperatures and high winds are predicted for Sunday. Getting outside for a long run tomorrow morning would be treat. I've had more than enough tricks today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The curious case of the runner in the nightime

Thanks for nothing
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

A short treadmill run at 4:00 AM on a weekday can sometimes seem harder than a six mile hilly run on a weekend. Going from sleeper to runner in just a couple of minutes is tough, but I've managed to fit in at least one mid week treadmill workout over the last few months.

This morning felt a little easier than in prior weeks. That may be due to the lowering humidity. The time went by fast and I was surprised how quickly I reached the 15 minute point. I considered taking advantage of feeling that good and increasing my speed. I thought about the long drive to my office, the busy day that lay ahead and the possibility of wearing myself out. I stayed with my normal pace.

Later, as I made my way through the neighborhood, I came up behind a guy running in the middle of the road. It was still very dark, but he had no reflective gear. I didn't see him until I was practically on top of him. My headlights were lighting up his path and yet he didn't make any attempt to move out of my way. I drove behind him at 4 MPH until it was time to take a left, while he continued going straight. I wanted to roll my window down and say something, but I've learned that fools can't be taught.

I've been thinking about returning to 4:00 AM outdoor runs with my reflective vest and headlamp. After today's experience, I think I'll stick with my treadmill workouts.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Anniversary run on the Bethpage trail

Bethpage trail in fall colors this morning
Today's run (Bethpage trail): 6.7 miles

This morning's plan was for our little group to meet up at various points along the Bethpage bike trail. That would allow us to all run together for at least five miles. The logistics were set last night and I got up early so that I could do the run in time to meet some hard deadlines. SIOR and I both needed to be home by 10:00 AM (my wife and I were celebrating our anniversary today) and I had less of a cushion because I needed to be driven back to my car after we finished.

This morning, as I was getting ready to leave, I saw a note from SIOR that she would not be able to join us today. One of her kids was sick and she'd been up all night with him. That shifted the logistics and I decided to meet TPP and JC at our usual location north of the park instead of going to Bethpage and joining them in progress. Since we weren't going to meet up with SIOR, I thought I would go three miles with my friends and head north while they continued south.

By that time, TPP and JC were already at the location and they graciously waited for me to arrive. I joined them as soon as I could, and we started our run together at 7:45 AM. It was perfect fall weather and the path was accumulating leaves. I ran along with JC while TPP took the lead looking like a neon colored Energizer bunny.

I was focused on getting through six or seven miles and was pacing accordingly, but my run mates were concerned more about performance. We parted ways after 15 minutes and they continued on to Sunrise Highway while I went as far south as Hempstead Turnpike.

The return route took me through my least favorite set of hills, beginning north of Plainview Rd and continuing to where the path runs parallel to the Bethpage lot. The longest hill goes for half a mile and it seemed endless today. I experienced some fatigue about 40 minutes into the run and hoped it was temporary. Happily it was, and I recovered after ten minutes. I finished my route feeling as strong as I'd started.

Emerging Runner family running
Long Beach boardwalk
I was able to stay on schedule and got home in time for our planned activities. We headed to Long Beach for lunch and to spend time on both the boardwalk and the beach. It was windy and a little chilly, but the sun helped with that. On our way back we stopped at the iconic Marvel ice cream stand for an anniversary indulgence. Soft serve pistachio was worth all the calories. Besides that, according to my Garmin, I ran off 600 of them this morning.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

When running watches use German syntax

Don't not not change to Yes
Today's run (street): 4 miles

Things started off badly this morning. I failed to think through a question that was asked by my Garmin running watch, preventing me from tracking my progress. Garmin is a German company and they seem to use German syntax (subject before the verb) in their menus. So instead of saying, "Use GPS?", my 210 says "Use indoors?" with the default of "No." All that double negativity caused me to incorrectly change it to "Yes", which disabled the GPS function.

All attempts to cycle through the menus or otherwise cajole it to turn on the GPS were fruitless. Unless I was willing to do a full reset of the Garmin, I was stuck with nothing but a stopwatch. At least the HRM synched up. I decided to make zitronen into limonade and do the run by time rather than by distance.

My run went pleasantly through the first 20 minutes, but despite maintaining less than a 75% of max heart rate, I started to feel tired. My legs were feeling heavy and it reminded me of how I had some surprising struggles last winter, even on some shorter runs. While I was dealing with that, I crossed paths with a woman who came onto the street a block ahead of me. I couldn't tell how fast she was running, but I tried to catch up to her.

I made up some distance and remained close until she cut over to another road. Pushing speed when I felt like slowing down added to my fatigue, but I managed to recover after a few minutes. I started feeling stronger and was able to increase my pace for the remainder of the run.

Since I ran by time and not distance, I needed to Gmap today's route to get my mileage. I would have liked to have GPS enabled so I could see my splits, but I lost my chance by telling my Garmin, "Keine GPS für mich danke!" After 700 or so runs with this watch, I guess that was going to happen eventually.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Caught in the rain

Today's run (street): 4 miles
Thursday's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

It has been a rainy week and I was too busy to run until Thursday morning when I did a treadmill workout. Yesterday turned out to be a very long day. On top of that, I probably covered five miles in the giant building I work in.

The rain was coming down hard this morning but I hoped for a break. The skies cleared a little before 8:00 AM and I got out quickly with the goal of getting through my run before the rain returned. I was almost successful. It felt colder than the reported 51° and I was glad that I wore track pants and a long sleeve shirt. I made the rounds and spent a lot of time on the sidewalks while the school buses made their way around the neighborhood.

My goal was to get in at least three miles, but since the weather was holding up I decided to continue a little longer. I pushed my luck too far and ended up running the last quarter mile in the rain. I'm not sure why, but the run felt very hard today. I'm hoping for better experiences this weekend, especially on Sunday when the fun bunch once again get together for a long group run.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Running with pride in the 18th ranked state

Greenbelt trail head
Today's run (street): 5.3 miles

A few years ago we went on a vacation to Colorado Springs, supposedly the fittest city in the country. Except for the Olympic Training Center, I saw scant evidence of that. Even on the trails I saw few other runners, but I did see some fit looking deer. I hadn't thought much about fitness relative to geography since then, but Runner's World has an interesting analysis of how each state compares in terms of running.

My home state, Massachusetts, came in first (overall), followed closely by my brother's adopted state (Vermont) which ranked third after Oregon. New York, where I've lived since 1990, came in 18th. At the other end of the scale is South Dakota (48), West Virginia (49) and Louisiana (50). South Dakota's low ranking surprises me because I'd assume the runners there are fairly hard core. I also expected New York to rank higher given the active running communities on Long Island, NYC and boroughs, as well as the suburbs north of the city.

The route
Doing my part for New York, I got out early today and headed off to the northern end of the Greenbelt bike trail. After seeing people on the trail yesterday, I thought it would be interesting to take on the long hill along Sunnyside. The air was cool and dry and the sun was still rising when I made my way across the middle school field. I quickly reached the Woodbury neighborhood that leads to the start of the bike trail.

Running before 8:00 AM on a Sunday in the fall is a peaceful experience. Almost no cars and just a few people out walking their dogs. I made it to Woodbury Road and followed the path that starts flat but begins to climb after a quarter mile. The section I ran continues on a moderate incline until reaching the apex where it gets somewhat steeper. I took it to the overpass at the Northern Parkway and turned around. It was far easier going the other way, although a 10 MPH wind undercut the downhill's efficiency.

Once I reached Woodbury Road, I turned right and followed it east for half a mile before crossing the street and switching direction. Along the way I passed Meyer's Farm that had a sign saying you could buy ears of corn for $0.16. I thought that was a good deal until I realized that I have no idea how much an ear of corn normally sells for. So I continued on cornlessly.

The section of sidewalk that leads to the Woodbury neighborhood is one of my favorite local routes. In fall, the path gets covered with leaves and parts of the walk are unpaved so it's like being on a mini trail run. I soon reached civilization and did the opposite route through the neighborhood before crossing back toward the middle school and then back home.

Later in the day my son and I retraced part of my morning route (walking, not running) and I took the above picture of the trail head at Woodbury Road. I felt I covered a lot of ground this week, but I only totaled 17 miles. Not too far off the mark, but I do need to stretch my base runs past six miles on weekends.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Numb running

Today's run (street): 4.75 miles

A year ago I ran the Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor 5K and met TPP in person for the first time. It seems impossible that it was only a year ago. It's also hard to believe that the first time our little group (including SIOR) all got together was last November.

It would have been nice if the three of us could have done the Supervisor's race today, but only TPP could make it.

My day started in the dentist chair. Despite my fitness age of 41, my fillings are older. One had cracked and needed to be replaced. My dentist doesn't work a lot of weekends, so I had to take an available slot this morning. We talked about the race today and she said she doesn't run because of her knee. I resisted arguing that point with her, because it's hard to debate health issues with a doctor. Especially one who is about to stick a sharp object in your mouth.

I finished with my appointment and headed home. On the way out of the medical office I saw many runners and cyclists along the bike trail that parallels Sunnyside Boulevard. This is the northernmost end of the Bethpage trail that terminates on Woodbury Road. I occasionally run to it from my house and follow the path to Washington Ave. I thought about running it today, but remembered that we had morning plans.

When I got home, my wife told me that I had an hour to run if I wanted to do it. I had resigned myself to an afternoon workout, but I always prefer mornings. I quickly changed and headed outside. My mouth was numb from the dentist and I thought the run might help get my blood flowing enough to make it wear off. Unfortunately, I was still semi-numb by the time I returned home.

My wife had mentioned the humidity during her earlier treadmill run and I was prepared for it. When I got outside, it felt cool and comfortable. I decided to do a tempo and took it easy for the first mile, increasing my effort on each subsequent mile.

There were a lot of cars on the road at 9:00 AM and I was shocked to see three people walking on the right side of the street, spreading more than halfway across the road. Worse, their back was to traffic and I saw at least one car come up behind them and slow to a stop so they could squeeze by safely on the left. This was on a street with a 30 MPH speed limit. Those morons were completely oblivious.

I needed to complete my run, shower and be ready all within an hour, so I fell a little short of my targeted 5 miles. Getting my run in before the day's activities were to start was a nice and unexpected surprise. I hope TPP had a good race today. We were certainly with her in spirit.

Friday, October 17, 2014

I'm early middle aged fit

Weather induced headache
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles 

TGIF and I mean it. This week has been tough and the traffic during my commute has grown increasingly worse since the end of summer. Yesterday's rainy weather provoked one of my sinus headaches, along with pounding pressure and exhaustion. I took advantage of working from home today by sleeping a little later. That, plus a couple of ibuprofen, helped minimize the discomfort.

I haven't had a chance to run since Monday, so once I felt a little better I headed outside. Cool temps, clear skies and low humidity made for great conditions. I felt some residual fatigue due to the sinus pressure, but I got around okay. Not my hardest effort, but still a good workout.

During my run I thought about a test I took on this website that supposedly calculates your "fitness age." The site is put on by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the test covers a lot of factors. This is not "Find out what kind of tree you are in five questions."  I answered honestly and my fitness age calculated to 41. Better still, my VO2 Max score was 48, which is considered excellent for my age group.

My buddies SIOR and TPP scored in the "teen to grad student" age range, not a surprise because they are both extremely fit. If you don't believe me, try keeping up with them on the hills at Bethpage. If I truly have the fitness of the average 41 year old man, then I have to conclude that 41 year olds run slower than I thought.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day coda run

Current thinking
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

I've run 21 miles since Wednesday, and capped things off with today's low-power workout. I covered more distance this week than in any six day period since early summer. That's 20% more volume than my current weekly average. In terms of performance, I'm not yet where I want to be, but I have been making some small improvements with my pace. I hope those gains continue into the fall as the humidity and temperatures drop.

High performance was not a factor this morning. After yesterday's group run, followed by an afternoon hike that included numerous quad-burning inclines, my legs were fairly beat. I only get to run outside on Mondays during holidays or on vacation days, so I felt I should defer my rest day until tomorrow.

I stayed in the neighborhood today and kept to the usual roads, except for a short detour I took along Jericho Turnpike. It felt cold in the house and that prompted me to over-layer (long sleeves, track pants) despite an actual temperature of 50°. I didn't get overheated, but that possibility mitigated a harder effort.

I have an appointment on Saturday morning so I won't be running the Town of Oyster Bay 5K. The Run for the Warriors 10K happens in early November and I will probably run that. My wife and kids are planning to volunteer again and TPP will also be racing. It's a great race for a really good cause and it may be just the thing to bring back my competitive mindset.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Runsketeer reunion on the Bethpage trail

Left to right: ER, SIOR, TPP, JC
Today's run (Bethpage bike trail): 6.8 miles
Yesterday's run (treadmill): 5.1 miles

Yesterday morning was a washout that left me with no choice but to spend close to an hour on the treadmill. It was humid to be sure, but I needed the miles. It wasn't all that bad, but today's conditions were FAR better. All the Runsketeers ran together this morning for the first time since Brooklyn, (is that possible?) and we had a special guest on today's run.

Our guest runner, JC, is a friend of TPP's. He's an accomplished triathlete and avid cyclist. SIOR and I arrived at Bethpage State Park at the same time, and I was disappointed to see that they were still collecting admission to the park. My friend who mans the booth gave me a pass, but he gave SIOR a hard time. SIOR's SUV has dark tinted windows that make her Empire Passport hard to see, causing some disagreement in terms of its veracity. He ultimately relented and let her through.

TPP and JC didn't bring their fake Empire Passports, so they ended up parking close to Haypath instead. They ran south on the bike trail to meet up with me and SIOR who were heading north to intercept them. We connected along the path just above the Bethpage woods. SIOR suggested that we go south for a change (we usually end up going the other way). We kept a moderate pace and I was able to stay with everyone. Soon we were back on the older south trail where we continued down the big hill and had an interesting talk about gender equality.

When we run together, the distance seems to go by much faster. About two miles in, JC and SIOR took the lead while TPP and I followed. It was nice to catch up with TPP and every once in a while SIOR and JC would stop and wait for us so we could run together. I wish I could improve another 30 seconds per mile in my pace, but I'm not there yet. After mapping the route based on my GPS output I calculated that I ran 10:17 overall. Not bad for for almost 7 miles.

As tradition dictates, we headed over to Starbucks for our post-run coffee. That was great -- as usual -- and it gave us a chance to get to know JC better and catch up among ourselves. Before we knew it, it was almost noon and we all needed to head out for our day's non-running related activities.

One of Stillwell's steep drops
The old junker 
Later in the afternoon my son and I headed to Stillwell where we followed some very technical terrain and even went off trail a few times. Lots of fun, and not so easy on my legs that had already run a mile past my base this morning. Along the way, we visited the junked car that is inexplicably positioned on one of the cross trails in Stillwell. I don't know why this thing has remained for years in the otherwise pristine woods. I'll admit that I used this car more than once as a landmark when I was learning the trails. Maybe that's its purpose.

It has been a very good week of running and today was fantastic. At one point in the run SIOR turned around and asked, "Isn't this the most perfect day for a run?" I couldn't have said it better.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A return to the darkness

Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

In my last post, I mentioned a Runner's World web post that was similar to one that I wrote a couple of years ago. The subject matter, gender equality in racing, was provocative enough to prompt a reader to leave a long, thoughtful comment. The funny thing about that is the reader left it on She Is Out Running's (SIOR) blog.

This was no accident. The commenter said that he views SIOR, The Petite Pacer (TPP) and this blog as a set. I now pronounce us the United Blogs of Long Island! Feel free to leave comments for any of us anywhere. We'll figure it out.

Today is Friday and that means working from home and finally being able to run outside. This morning I decided to get in gear early (pun intended :) and go out for my run. This wasn't a 4:00 AM adventure, actually closer to 6:30, but still dark outside. I put on my reflective vest and started my headlamp. It's hard to tell how strong the beam is until you are outside, but since I haven't used it in almost a year I didn't expect too much illumination.

Stepping outside in the darkness brought back a lot of memories of when this was a daily occurrence. I acquired a signal quickly on my Garmin and off I went. The neighborhood was still quiet except for the town recycling trucks that are driven by maniacs. I always try to avoid the streets along their route. If I can't, I'll stick to the sidewalks.

The batteries in the headlamp will need to be replaced as the light was fairly weak. There was plenty of light from the full moon, so the lamp served mostly as a way to make me more visible to cars. A little before 7:00 AM, I could see the sun starting to rise. By then, the middle school buses were on the road, the streets began to fill with cars and I was done with my run.

Even though some elements of this morning's run were similar to my 4:00 AM running days, today had a different feel. Back then, everything was timed to the split second and I ran the same route every day at around the same pace (9 min/mile). A minute's slip could impact my whole morning routine that included making an early train. I only needed to commute as far as my home office after today's workout.

Tomorrow morning is supposed to be rainy, so I'm not sure what I'll do. Sunday's weather looks better and SIOR, TPP and I are planning to get out for a few miles. It will be a momentous occasion for the United Blogs of LI.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

That "women-only" thing, again

Today's run (treadmill): 26 minutes

Runner's World ran a story on their site today that reminded me of a post I did in June 2012. The RW article is titled "Do Women-Only Races Still Have a Purpose?"and my post was titled "Are gender-specific races sexist?" In both posts, the point was made that the original reason for having "women-only" races was to provide a safe experience for women.

I didn't write my 2012 post to debate that reasoning. I agreed that women-only races were a good idea back in 1972 when women were marginalized as competitors. Even worse, women encountered hostility from men who were clearly threatened by female competition. But in 2014, gender plays no role in the outcome of an open race and I have never seen hostility directed towards women at any event. In fact, in 2013, almost 2/3 of participants in open races are women (per the RW article).

I think what continues to bother me about women-only races is the tacit suggestion that: 1. women are still disenfranchised, 2. women have not yet achieved parity with men in non-professional competitions and 3. women need to be treated differently. This type of exclusion would not fly in other circumstances where a population's civil rights have been restricted. Can you imagine if someone suggested a "gay-only" race to the LGBT community or a race that excluded all but one ethnicity? You can say this is different, but is it really?

Despite my arguments, I appreciate that many women seem to love the experience and the camaraderie of events like the Mini-10K and the Diva and Princess Half Marathons. But I still think it supports a double standard.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A chilly, windy, wonderful run

Circuitous route
Today's run (street): 5.6 miles

Yesterday's steamy treadmill workout reminded me that we're not quite done with humid days. All I hoped for this morning was clear skies so I could get outside for my run. What I didn't expect to see were temperatures in the mid 40's -- cold even for early October. Goodbye humidity and hello dry air. I was thrilled.

45° is chilly enough to wear long sleeves, yet warm enough for shorts. Since I'm more concerned about comfort than fashion, that's the combination that I went with. The stiff wind from the west made things occasionally unpleasant. Changing direction along today's circuitous route helped to keep things manageable.

Unlike last Sunday's long run, I didn't encounter too many oddities along the way. I did notice that the Justice Monkey sign was replaced by a small kick board that someone had hung in its place. Once again, puzzling and strange. I also followed a skateboarder down one of the longer roads. I tried to stay with him, but was never able to catch up. How fast do skateboards go?

I would have liked to do a full six miles this morning, but I needed to get back in time to meet our day's schedule. Even so, it was great to be outside and running in the crisp fall air. A review of the run data shows that, despite replacing the battery in the foot pod, it didn't record my cadence. That was disappointing because I tried to work on that and would have liked to see the results. I'll probably have to re-link the foot pod to my Garmin 210 to make it work again.

Hoka Clifton (top), Saucony Kinvara 5 (bottom)
Today's run was a nice antidote to yesterday's treadmill slog and I hope this cooler weather sticks around until next weekend. I'm starting to think about replacing my Virratas and I'm on the fence on whether to stay with a minimal platform (i.e., Kinvara 5) or join the new wave of cushioned running shoes that Hoka started. After running in Hattoris, Kinvaras, Pure Drifts and Virratas over the past four years, I'm open to a change.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oppression of the humid kind

Maybe I need a bigger fan
Today's run (treadmill): 5.25 miles

Any thoughts of braving the rain to do today's workout outside were dashed when the skies grew dark and a light drizzle turned into a downpour. With no good alternative, I tried to make the best of doing a treadmill run. I set the floor fan to high and found a decent movie to distract me from the tedium of going nowhere for 50+ minutes.

Running 5-6 miles is a fairly easy challenge for me, especially in the fall when the humidity is low and the temperature is moderate. I never think about time when I'm running outdoors, except when I'm being held to a tight schedule. In fact, outside running minutes almost seem to go by too fast. On the other hand, minutes spent on a treadmill can seem excessively long. I often look at the treadmill's display multiple times only to find that I'm still in the same minute.

I didn't count on the day's oppressive humidity. Had I thought about it, I would have kept a bottle of water nearby and positioned the fan to blast me in the face from 2 feet away. I set the TV to show closed captions since the excessively noisy treadmill overwhelmed the capabilities of the speakers. For the first few minutes, it all came together. Once the humidity rose in the room, things started to get ugly.

Unless you're having a spectacular run, or your distance is predetermined by route or plan, there's often some amount self-bargaining that goes on. Today I was promising myself that I'd take down the pace once I reached a certain time or distance milestone. It's a mind game, but so much of running is mental. I never actually slowed down throughout today's workout. In fact I ended up increasing my speed over the final ten minutes.

The fan ended up helping, but not as much as I'd hoped. The movie went from being a nice distraction to a major annoyance. Reading captions on a TV is not compatible with the treadmill experience. That's why I usually just put on the news. The weather tomorrow is supposed to be much improved, so I plan to get out somewhere. Another indoor run like today's would be hard to take.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Running flat but looking cool and modern

A new outlook
Today's run (street): 3.5 miles

This week has been a commuting nightmare. It took me two hours to get home from work on Wednesday and Thursday nights. My morning drives into the office were barely shorter than that. Happily, I work from home on Fridays. Having no morning commute provides a lot more time to work in a run. I did a short treadmill workout on Tuesday, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday have become my main days for running.

I've had a lot on my mind in terms of business planning for 2015 and I looked forward to getting out for a few miles today to focus on various ideas and scenarios. When I got out on the road, I felt flat, both physically and mentally. I couldn't concentrate on my business topics, so I focused on the run. It was a decent effort, but it still felt flat. I was hoping that I'd be rewarded with an endorphin rush at the end, but no such luck.

I ended up having an interesting day - lots of calls kept me busy and I took a break in the early afternoon to pick up my new glasses. My teenage daughter pronounced them cool and modern (translation: she's no longer embarrassed to be seen with me). That made me happy.

Unfortunately, this weekend's weather is supposed to be very wet. Tomorrow morning's planned group run is being postponed until next week. I'm really looking forward to that as it's been far too long since we've gotten together. I may end up doing some longish runs on the treadmill this weekend, a possibility that does not excite me. But at least I'll look cool and modern while I'm doing my workout.

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