Showing posts with label conditioning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conditioning. Show all posts

Friday, September 6, 2013

Freedom of speech and on the trail

Into the woods
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.5 miles

Those of you who also have running blogs know that the easier you make it for people to comment, the more you'll find people who'll take advantage of that access. Over the years I've changed the criteria for submitting comments. Now I allow anyone to post, because I just don't want to leave anyone out. As a result, I have to clean out a bunch of spam comments every day. But it's a small price to pay for freedom of speech!

This morning I decided that I needed to take my performance focus down a notch, so I headed over to Stillwell for an easy trail run. It was dry, cool and sunny and the trails were in great shape. A mile or so into the run, I realized how strong I felt. Stillwell tends to beat me up badly, and this was evidence that my conditioning has improved.

Besides a couple of mountain bikers and woman walking her dog, the trails were empty. I loved the feeling of running well and having the woods pretty much all to myself. There's usually a point in almost every run when you begin to feel the work. You start thinking about how much longer or farther you have to go. Today was different in the best of ways. Tomorrow it's back to road, the hills and the miles.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Two part post on this Stillwell Sunday

No actual pandas sighted today 
Today's run (street): 3.8 miles
Today's hike (Stillwell Woods): 3.7 miles

Part I - Running
Yesterday's run at Stillwell Woods was a nice change from the road and it presented a nice level of challenge. Although I started out feeling strong and energized, after 20 minutes I reached a point where I needed to take a short break. It wasn't the first time I had to take a minute to reset myself while running at Stillwell. What surprised me was how quickly I went from feeling fit to feeling fatigued.

I recovered quickly and had no issues for the rest of the run, but I was frustrated that I needed to take a break. I take it as a point of pride that I never stop during road or bike trail runs. While the shaded woods helped keep me cool, the inclines and careful footing on more technical trail sections took a toll. I've had weekends where I ran with difficulty on Saturday, only to rebound with a great run on Sunday. I was curious if that would be the case today.

I got out early this morning, before the sun became a factor. We had hosted friends yesterday afternoon and evening and I'd done a lot of unintentional glycogen loading. I figured the upside was the possibility of having more energy for the run today, but I was a little tired at the start. I tried to get my speed up during the first mile but my legs weren't cooperating. I eventually loosened up and, by the last mile, I was running at a decent pace.

I would have liked to perform better overall, but achieving negative splits was good consolation. More importantly, I experienced no fatigue during the run. This confirmed my theory that yesterday's tough times had mostly to do with the challenging terrain. While that's good, it also confirms the fact that my conditioning isn't where it needs to be.

Part II - Hiking
I downloaded my Garmin after today's run and looked at Saturday's Stillwell route map. I saw that Trailview intersected with my standard loop and decided I'd follow it south the next time I ran there. My son has been asking me to go on a hike so, I figured this was good opportunity. After preparing for the bugs with an application of OFF, we headed over to Stillwell. A light rain that had started to fall, but we figured that once we had tree cover, we'd be fine.

Once we cleared the big field, we moved south and then east, until we reached the Trailview path. At that point, the trail is rugged, with lots of steep rises, drops and gnarly roots that could easily trip someone up. We made our way carefully down the path until we reached the point where the trail paralleled the LIRR tracks. I knew that there was a trestle located east of our position and we navigated to it. We ended up in a mini bamboo forest that felt like an enclosure. My son asked, "Where are all the pandas?"

Adjacent to this section was a small road leading to a private neighborhood on the left and the trestle on the right. We passed underneath the tracks and into the northern part of Trailview Park. The sign said "Trail Closed" but we concluded that was just for one path. The trail rose from there and made our way up without much trouble. We decided to turn back after exploring Trailview for about ten minutes.

Our hike back went by quickly and we soon encountered a group of mountain bikers looking to take on the difficult terrain of that area. None were wearing helmets, a bad move generally and an especially bad idea on these treacherous sections. They didn't appear to be experienced riders either. I hope no one got hurt.

Next time we may start at Stillwell and follow the trail all the way to the trail head on Jericho Turnpike. Eventually, I'd like to hike it north all the way to Cold Spring Harbor. Today's hike was just the right distance and a nice adventure for me and my son. I was thinking recently that I haven't spent enough time at Stillwell. I certainly don't feel that way after this weekend.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

SNAP'd out of the gully

Surprisingly good energy snack
Today's run (street): 5.2 miles

Unlike blogger friends A.S.E., Petite Pacer and A Running Chick, who regularly do long distance training runs, I've seemed to settle into the 3 to 4 mile gully. This time last year I was gearing up for the LI Half Marathon and regularly running 8 to 12 mile weekend runs. With no half to prepare for in May, and a recent bout of pain around my hip, I've lost some critical base conditioning. I went out today determined to cover at least five miles and I managed to do that.

Non-runners think that a long distance run would be hard, because they perceive the challenge as not "having enough wind." Runners know that the toughest part of a long run is battling both tedium and muscle fatigue. Let's face it, much of running is voluntarily suffering and while we've all found "the zone" at one point, most runs are teeth gritting experiences. Nature's way of getting us to keep doing it involves the release of endorphins at the end. This make us forget how much we hate running.

I headed over to the local business park by way of a loop through the neighborhood. I'd forgotten to turn left into the middle school that has a passage to my planned destination. I ended up doubling back a bit, and taking the penalty of running up an unplanned span of inclined road. In the scheme of things, that mistake probably made it easier to achieve today's distance goal.

Before I left on my run, I tried a half portion of SNAP infusion "super candy" that was given to me by my friend KWL. I went out later than I expected and was feeling pangs of hunger as I prepared. This was due to only having a small breakfast hours earlier. SNAP contains a combination of antioxidants, electrolytes and carbs and the whole package (I had just half) is only 110 calories. I expected it to taste good, but this was legitimately great. Good enough to compete with real candy.

It didn't occur to me until I'd reached the first half mile that my effortless running may have been enabled by the supplement. Despite forceful winds chilling the already cold air, I felt great, engaged and ready to cover more miles. I didn't work out yesterday (though I covered a lot of ground on foot) so perhaps that break from running helped me today. But the positive experience I had with SNAP made me want to try it again.

I covered the business park and an adjacent neighborhood before turning back towards home. I enjoyed the run, but maybe I'm just brainwashed by the endorphin effect. I'll blame my middling performance on the combination of head-on winds and the hilly route around he park. No matter, I finally broke 5 miles for the first time since early March. Compared to the others, it's still not impressive distance, but it did push me out of my gully.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debate highlights distract me from the incline

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

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

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

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

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learned my lesson, but can I handle the mileage?

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

As I come closer to the anniversary of my first half marathon, I'm thinking about both the training and my increased risk of injury. Most training programs recommend a careful approach to adding to weekly mileage, usually no more than a 10% increase per week. The idea behind this is to prevent overuse injuries that come from running longer distances than your body is ready to handle.

Last year I played my half marathon training by ear, occasionally stepping up distance without regard to the consequences. In my case it wasn't the aggregate mileage that hurt me, but the fact that I arbitrarily threw in long runs without building up to them. A nine mile run on the trails at Belmont Lake a week before the half marathon created a knee problem that plagued me throughout the race.

This year I'm taking a practical approach to my training and, hopefully, I'll be better prepared on race day. Since I can't really increase my mileage between Monday and Friday, I'll need to step up my long running on the weekends. This weekend I'll need to total 13 miles, by April 7 weekend I'll target 18 and, before my taper, I'll need to cover 21. Easier said than done, but it looks like I'm going to become very familiar with the Bethpage bike trail.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Speed is not important if the run feels fast

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

It was easier getting out the door this morning than I had expected. My first run after a race can be a bumpy experience with the residual soreness from exertion peaking 48 hours later. I took off feeling like I was moving well and free of any pain related to the race. I assumed that my speed would be better than average for a 4:00 AM run because my legs were used to fast turnover. After checking the Garmin I saw that wasn't the case, although the run felt fast.

Last week at this time, I was feeling down about my running. I go out nearly every day, do base training runs, hill runs and occasional speed work. Despite this, I had been feeling like I wasn't gaining any speed performance from my routine. After Sunday's run, I now understand that my level of fitness is greater than I'd thought. Today I ran well, but not especially fast. That's okay. Right now I know I can access the speed when it counts.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I have a decision to make

The switch to daylight savings yesterday was a welcomed change. It made only one hour's difference but it allowed me to sleep a little longer on Sunday and still get out early for a long run. The whole day seemed longer, as did the entire weekend. This morning the train station was no longer swathed in darkness like it had been over the past few weeks. I only wish it was this light out at 4:00 AM.

Yesterday's run was plenty tough for me and I'm seriously reconsidering my plan to run a 10K race next Sunday. For no single reason, I've been off my athletic game over the last month and have not run particularly long distances on weekends. I usually cover 10-12 miles on weekends, but that average has dropped 30% since September.

I'm going to think about whether to run the Hope for the Warriors 10K or use next weekend to help me prepare better for the 11/20 Long Beach Turkey Trot. I may have disadvantaged myself yesterday by not refueling during the run that took over 70 minutes and that could account for my near bonk. I'll make a decision today so I can know how to conduct this week's training.

There was an interesting article in yesterday's NY Times about Lauren Fleshman, a 5,000 meter champion, who ran the NYC Marathon to help improve her short distance competitiveness. She talks about the need to change up training to achieve significant progress. I liked this quote: “At 30, I’m not going to get dramatically better doing the same thing.”  It made me think about my own training and what I really can expect to get out of the workouts I do, week after week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

For the record I did not eat cat

Misfortune cookies
Today's workout (elliptical): 35 minutes

Last night my family took me out to a local Chinese restaurant for my birthday and we had a great meal and a great time. We kept things going when we got home with ice cream and fortune cookies that were ostensibly packaged up with our dinner's leftovers. They gave me the honor of opening the first fortune cookie and it read "You just ate cat." There were a number of other questionable fortunes in the other cookies that were actually purchased online by my family. I found it all very amusing.

My plan today was either to rest or return to the track for some speed work. Yesterday we'd stopped by Sports Authority and I bought a stopwatch to help me with speed drills. The stopwatches on my iPhone and Garmin work fine but they are not easy to use when you do both the running and the timing. The unit I bought was $15 and it will be easy to carry as I run intervals.

When my wife started her daily treadmill run this morning I decided to join her on the elliptical to focus on some under-worked muscles. Anticipating a short session I set the elliptical to its highest resistance setting and figured I'd go for about 10 minutes. At the ten minute mark I chose to continue and worked the machine in reverse which was very difficult.

Reversing the direction was toughest on my upper body and my arms were aching five minutes in. I switched back to forward motion and continued for another 20 minutes, still at the highest resistance level. I finished feeling like I'd made some good progress in my conditioning.

I'm thinking about speed work tomorrow though I'm due for a rest day soon. There's only a few more days left for hard workouts before my half marathon taper. I need to make every one count.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Turning my attention to Sunday's 5K

I thought about doing an out-of-schedule run this morning because I'll be tapering this week for Sunday's Marcie Mazzola 5K race. As usual for a Sunday race, I plan to rest two days prior so a run today would have provided four days of running before hiatus. Although yesterday's trail run was difficult, I believe it was a step forward in terms of strength building and I didn't want to mess that up today by over-training. I'll run Tue-Thu, swapping my usual cross-training day for an additional running workout.

I'm curious to see how I do on Sunday. I haven't competed since February's Snowflake Race and most of my road training since then has focused on base and form. I have fallen short in my intention to run intervals to activate my fast twitch fibers so I'm probably not in the best shape for a speedy race. I think my long base runs will support me well during the 5K but you never really know until you're out there. I'm going to try to throw in some "speed play" segments over the next three runs. It's not a substitute for intervals but it's the best I can do at this point.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Race training has begun

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles at 8:49

I've come to realize that I'll never improve my performance by running the same comfortable miles over and over again. I can use many excuses to explain why my performance has slipped but, in truth, I've done little to help my cause. I was reading an old post where I'd written about having done speed drills at the local track. That was a long time ago. I did train on hills to prepare for the Cape Cod marathon relay and more recently to prepare for the Marcie Mazzola 5K but that was months ago. Besides throwing in a few tempos on some longer runs I haven't helped really pushed myself. I've come to realize that the only way to improve is to focus on running more "quality miles" that benefit my conditioning and performance.

This morning I headed out to moderately cool temperatures. It felt nothing like Sunday's chilly air but it was certainly better than it had been a week ago. I had just read an article in Runner's World about training for a half marathon PR and realized that the type of running I'm doing isn't really contributing to my running progress. That isn't to say that the running I'm doing doesn't have benefits. It's maintaining my current level of fitness and provides a great outlet for stress. However, now's the time to step up.

I hit the street at a faster pace than I've run in a while. I thought about doing a tempo run but then figured that the distance I'd cover is short enough to push the whole way through. I didn't duplicate the effort I'd make running a 5K (going from waking up to running in 10 mins is hard enough) but I did handily beat 9:00 per mile. The run felt really good and I was left wondering whether it's more work to run easy than hard in some circumstances. I won't declare that I've moved into a new phase of performance running but conditioning will be top of mind as I prepare for the Dirty Sock run later in the month.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer running will take some patience (and better conditioning)

Today's run (street) 3.82 miles at 9:43

Shady activities
It's been a fun weekend with our guests. The weather has been hot and sunny and the kids have owned the pool. I even accomplished a chore; assembling one of those new offset swing umbrellas that can tilt and move laterally. That created a perfect place for the grownups to sit poolside while we watched the kids in perpetual motion in the water. Yesterday was a hot and humid five miles and this morning it was even more humid. I got out before 7:00 AM but it was already uncomfortable. I was glad to be wearing my Adidas AdiStar running shirt that does an excellent job of managing moisture. Eventually the shirt reached 100% saturation but I was fairly comfortable throughout the run. I wore my Brooks because I wanted maximum comfort on what I knew would be a difficult run.

I did a mile loop near my house and then headed to neighborhood #3 for a change of scenery. By the time I reached my second mile I was hot and tired and focused only on finishing my planned route. Although my leg turnover felt fast my Garmin told me otherwise and I knew I would need to work to keep my overall pace within the 9:00 range. I returned to my neighborhood for the final mile and a half and, like yesterday, finished hot, panting and soaked. I've run every day since last Monday and I'll rest tomorrow after covering about 20 for the week. We were discussing the runner's high this weekend and one of our guests mentioned that he's never finished a run and then felt a rush of euphoria. I usually feel good when I finish and, depending on the run, I can carry that feeling throughout the day. The last two days have only brought relief that the runs were over. I keep telling myself that it's good practice for hot conditions and high elevations in Colorado Springs. That said, I'm still looking forward to Tuesday morning when I get out there again.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I may be weak but I'm slow!

Up until yesterday I was feeling very good about my state of conditioning. I was chatting with a work colleague who I hadn't seen for a few weeks and he asked me if I'd lost weight. I didn't know how to respond to that question. Yes, I did lose weight when I restarted running back in 2008. Forty pounds in fact, all due to lower calorie consumption and more activity. More recently, after battling severe pneumonia, I lost another five pounds. My recovery is now complete and my weight is back to mid-December levels so I was puzzled by his question. The next thing he said floored me, "You look kind of...weak." Weak? I really didn't know how to respond to that. Then I thought about it and realized that it's probably true. While my running gives me stamina, I'm not doing all that much to build strength. A year ago I was mixing up my workouts and including core exercises and some upper body conditioning. In the time that I've returned to daily exercise I've been focused solely on running. Even my elliptical sessions have been more about speed than effort. I decided that it's time to stop ignoring my core and upper body.

Although my wife and I have accumulated a closet full of hand weights I'm loathe to use them. I find weight lifting to be mind numbingly boring. I've been thinking about getting one of those stretch band systems that attach to a doornob and provide a variety of ways to exercise muscle groups. It's low tech but it works, as do sit-ups and push ups. This morning I chose the elliptical but cranked up the resistance as high as I could handle. It felt good and it was good preparation for my trail race. The benefits that come from moving the unit's upper poles is questionable but it's better than doing nothing. I'm going to put some more attention to strength building and I'm hoping to gain about five pounds through upper body muscle development. I suspect that strengthening my core will also lead to better running performance.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Impatience and apprehension about my return to running

Another morning without a run. How long can I go without my daily workout? I've reached the point where my impatience to run is beginning to compete with my need to support a full recovery. Earlier in the week I had designs on running on the treadmill and working out on the elliptical while incorporating rest days in between. My return to work, with the early commute and a challenging schedule has been exhausting and I've done none of that so far. While I've been tempted to push through the fatigue and exercise I keep thinking that it may do more harm than good.

The question on my mind is whether I'm being smart about resisting this temptation or whether I'm just apprehensive about facing the fact that I need to rebuild everything I've worked for over the last 16 months. I really want to run outdoors, ideally on a trail. Trail running inspires me and I miss the experience a lot. I also miss my neighborhood runs and as I drive the streets I think about how I used to own them at 4:00 AM - my streets, my playground. I know that the first time I go back out  it will be tough. Those early, 20-25 minute maintenance runs that I would do 3-4 times during the work week will present a very different challenge to me today.

I know I'll get to where I need to be, and soon. I have a 5K scheduled for April and there's another 5K in March that's tempting me. It would be nice to have a short term goal like a race to help frame my expectations for getting back to peak conditioning. I'm conflicted about whether to run tomorrow on the treadmill or just wait for the weekend. I'll see what my body says, I'm ready to listen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two-a-day training for my marathon relay

Back when I started running I would often go out two or three times a day. This activity was performed primarily on weekends as my daily run was often limited to 15 minutes on the treadmill. On weekends I'd go out early and do a mile. I'd often try to stretch that to two miles but it took some time before I got there. Later in the day I'd do another short run (or two) so that I'd cover a total of 3 miles on Saturday or Sunday. Stretching out the time between runs was essential to that because in my early running days I'd need a lot of rest between activities. More recently, as runs have become longer and my conditiong has improved, I'm less apt to do multiple runs in one day unless the second run is a modest two mile jog with my daughter on a Sunday afternoon.

Training for my marathon relay brings back the idea of two-a-days and in my case that means two runs within two hours. Last Sunday was an interesting experience because it revealed my limits very quickly. My first segment went fine, a 3.1 mile run that would normally serve as a typical weekend distance (at the shorter end). I stayed in my running clothes to simulate the conditions for the race. I'm not expecting that I'll have access to a changing room during the actual event although I may change into a clean jersey in the team car. After toweling off I did swap shirts and then had a bowl of cereal with dried fruit as I waited to run my next segment. Exactly 120 minutes after I finished my first run I set out again for the second leg. The lesson I quickly learned was that two hours rest allowed me to recover well enough to go out with some energy but the wall comes up hard 30 minutes later. I struggled to continue at that point and came up short of my 9 mile total distance goal.

I have about four weekends left to train with these two-a-days. The biggest concern I have for the race relates to the unknown elevations of the course and the level of heat and sun that day. I'm going to assume it will be hot and hilly but I really hope I'm wrong. 9.05 miles, even broken up into two segments, would still be a record distance for a single day. I'm up to the challenge and hoping for the best.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I had read that performance is often tied to attitude and I wondered if there was any correlation between my mental state and some disappointing runs I've had over the past three days. Friday was a tough run, mostly due to my physical state. I'm not sure what was affecting me but I was tired and I struggled to cover the 3.9 miles I did in Central Park. The Central Park run should have been a great experience with my side trip through the Rambles but I didn't really enjoy it and it felt a lot like work. Saturday's neighborhood run was really just maintenance and I clocked 5K with little in reserve by the time I got back home. I tried to break the streak yesterday with a run at Stillwell Woods. Trail running has become a passion and I anticipated the experience but I lacked strength and feared the hills instead of embracing them. I ended up covering 3 miles but it felt unsatisfying. Later that day my daughter and I ran 1.25 miles and that felt great and I realized that much of the reason was that she was by my side. My head was in the right place for running for the first time all weekend.

This morning I woke up feeling great. Perhaps it was a good night's sleep or the cool temperature and low humidity but I set out on my run this morning with the right attitude. I didn't plan my route except for the beginning section that I call neighborhood #4, a departure from my usual course that would provide a good distraction. I'm a bit fed up with the GPS apps on my iPhone so instead I relied solely on my Garmin to track distance and used Pandora on the iPhone for music.

At about the 20 minute mark I realized that I still felt very strong with more energy than I had at the beginning of my last three runs. After covering that initial neighborhood I did a loop around my own, covering the south, west and northern roads until I passed the five mile mark. It was at that point that I realized I could probably do 6 miles for the first time since the Dirty Sock 10K. Once I reached that point I decided to go for a personal distance record which, for me, was 6.62 miles. I re-routed my direction to get another mile between me and home and ended up covering 7.4 miles @ 9:31 (by Garmin) or 7.58 miles @ 9:18 (by Gmaps). Either way it was a personal distance record for the Emerging Runner. Better still, it was validation that my training was going in the right direction and that my conditioning was where I wanted it to be. I guess all it took was a good attitude.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tapering on

A couple of weeks ago AG asked me about my "taper plan" for my upcoming race. Being a race newbie I didn't understand the phrase. I actually thought it had to do with taping my foot for support. She explained that runners often reduce, or taper, their running routine during the weeks leading up to a race. The object is to build an optimal balance between rest and conditioning.

With my race less than two weeks away I've been thinking about the best way to prepare myself for competition. Last weekend (counting Friday) I did longer runs for three consecutive days for a total distance just short of 12 miles. In deference to a slight but persistent leg injury, I have folded in a few elliptical sessions this week which provide less strain on certain affected muscles. I'm out of the office on Thursday and I'm hoping to do a long run in the morning plus longer runs over the weekend.

Next week is when the tapering will start. I'm going to be traveling on business for most of next week so I'll need to work my routine around that. Happily I'll be up at MIT and if weather and schedules cooperate I'll get to spend some quality time running near the Charles river. I'm traveling back on Saturday and I'm not planning to do any running that day. In fact I'm thinking of resting on Friday as well, perhaps only doing core stretching.

Will it make a great difference to rest a couple of days before the race? I'll let you know on the 19th.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Easy like Friday morning

I woke up this morning and noticed that my big toe on my right foot was hurting. I've felt some discomfort with it throughout the week but this was a little worse. I had just read in Runner's World about foot afflictions and this appears similar to their description of "Runner's toe." It didn't help that I walked a lot on it yesterday after a 2+ mile morning run.

This has been a challenging week and while I love what I do I'm really looking forward to the weekend. Spring weather is predicted and, with sunrises coming earlier, I think I'll be okay running outside at 6AM. Every weekend I set a running goal, usually related to distance. This weekend I'm hoping to continue my speed work and finish one or both of my long weekend runs under 9:00/mile. I may trade some distance to do that but I'll cover at least 3.1 miles (5K) on Saturday and more than that on Sunday. I need to total at least 8 miles every weekend until my first race.

Since today is a TGIF day and I'm worried about my toe I decided to do an upper body only workout this morning. I used the technique where I face the front of the elliptical and work just the arms. I did this for 21 minutes and was glad I took some time to work on arm strength. It wasn't as hard as I'd hoped and by the end I was only mildly sweating. I didn't want to overdo it and strain a muscle but the next time I try this workout I'll turn up the resistance a few levels.

It was an easy session, not quite a rest day, but close. I'll see if today's rest from running will pay off for me tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The observer effect and starting struggles

The observer effect in quantum physics refers to changes made merely through the act of observation. In less scientific terms, it's the act of putting attention to a problem that contributes to its solution. Since I wrote the post "Stages of my daily run" where I lamented the difficulties of getting through the first mile, I've had virtually none of the problems related to the starting minutes of my run.

I can't really assign a good reason for this except that I acknowledged the problem. I haven't changed my level of fitness much over the last few weeks. My improvement may be related to the integration of core workouts but that routine is too new and is done too infrequently to have made much of a difference at this point. Adventure Girl mentioned that her starting struggles went away when she reached 6-8 mile training distances. That may actually be a key reason for my improvement. I'm nowhere close to 6-8 miles in my regular training runs but my distances are 30% longer on average compared to a month ago. I've heard from another blogger that her starting struggles relate to her pace, presumably starting too fast to sustain that rate of speed. There's something to that as well, as I focus more on distance I'm backing off on speed and that definitely contributes to starting comfort.

While it's great to feel better about the start I still struggle with the finish. Last weekend was good for total miles but still a disappointment in terms of reaching individual distance goals. I need to start regularly exceeding 4 miles on my weekend runs so that I am properly conditioned for the April race. It looks like the weather will be dry and warm (30's) enough for track running this weekend. I cannot wait because as much as I love the treadmill there's no substitute for the road.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Core competencies

This month's Runner's World ran a story on core fitness that illustrated the various muscles that, when developed, enhance a runner's performance. The other side of this is the injuries that are likely to occur if a runner fails to condition properly. I decided to try the 15 minute workout to gauge the impact and to see if it isolated muscles that I've, ahem, neglected. I was pleased to see that not only was the workout (5 exercises) possible to do in 15 minutes it was more relaxing than arduous. The article had very clear illustrations and provided guidance on how to ensure you were doing it correctly. They even suggested ways to make it harder. Maybe next time for that.

After the core exercises I was very energized and decided to do a medium long run. We're going to a family event tonight and I didn't want to be too tired to socialize (admittedly, I have trouble in that area under any circumstance) so I cut my run a little short of 4 miles. The good news was the core exercises provided a great lead in for the start of my run. No "stage 1" struggles and the first mile came so fast I had to check twice to make sure I wasn't misreading the display. The bad news was I grew very tired around mile 3. I kept on telling myself the glycogen boost was imminent I just needed to hold on but the boost didn't come. Being slightly insane I constantly calculate my pace by looking at the time and mileage on the treadmill and the mileage on the Sportband. That's a lot of math to do in real time but it gives me a good distraction. I can tell if I'm losing steam when the mileage numbers on my Sportband (which is tied to stride and foot speed) and the mileage on the treadmill (a constant) begin to diverge. That happened around 3.1 miles (at least I hit 5K at intended pace) and I barely managed to run another half mile before I slowed to cool down.

So I think I will integrate the core exercise workout into my fitness program but it's going to be difficult to find the time to do it consistently. Perhaps I can do it at night although my time after I get home from work is already short. Well 15 minutes isn't a very long time so I can't make excuses. The energy boost you get is worth the effort.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stages of my daily run

By this point in my return to running my conditioning has prepared me to run far longer than I ever have before. Running a full mile, an imposing goal back in August, has become just another part of my run. While the first mile is no longer an imposing challenge I've discovered that getting through it can still be pretty tough. My typical run experience goes through these stages:

1. Starting struggles
During the first three minutes of a run I often carry on an internal debate about whether I am prepared to run my targeted distance. If I haven't stretched properly (true 98% of the time) I tell myself I'm unprepared to go on any further.

2. Acknowledgment that I will continue
Despite the internal dialog I never actually quit. About seven minutes into my run I usually check my Nike+ Sportband to see my progress and note that I'm almost at a mile. This motivates me further.

3. Comfort
Some time after mile 1 I am properly warmed up and I have established a comfortable pace and stride.

4. Sweat
Before my second mile I'll usually begin to feel the workout. That's really the point. It's at this stage that I assess my progress and gauge whether I'll run more or less distance than originally planned.

5. Equalibrium
Depending on the length of the run there can be a point when I begin to feel stronger. This is sometimes described as a second wind. I find that this frequently happens around mile 3.

6. Negotiating the finish
Once I get closer to my planned endpoint I'll decide whether to extend my run. Nearing completion sometimes results in fatigue as I anticipate the finish. If I can convince myself to go on I'll try to append an extra quarter or half mile to my run.

As I run longer distances and improve my conditioning I'll be curious to see if my stage 1 struggles end. Although I do have these beginning run challenges I know by now that it's just a stage that I will get through.


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