I wish my run training worked like the movies

Another day, another 3.64 miles

There’s a common trope in film, where the lead character goes all out training for a major challenge. There is usually one scene, played out in a series of quick cuts, showing the overwhelmed hero progressing beyond his or her physical limits. Typically, this is all done to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger.” Two minutes later, the protagonist is ripped and ready to make something big happen.

I thought about that on my run this morning. Since I’m the hero of my own personal movie, I’ve set my sights on returning to performance levels I haven’t seen for a few years. I’m not completely delusional. At my age, I know I’m not going to match my best times and that’s okay. My issue is that I’m not where I feel I should be for my age range. In competition, I would usually finish between the 25th and 50th percentile (I placed best in 5Ks and worst in halfs). I’m not sure I’d even show up on the bell right now.

So my equivalent of this cinematic convention is the work I’m doing to build up my monthly mileage. In my movie, you would see a series of shots of me taking off on my daily runs, with a calender showing the day of the week superimposed transparently over my disappearing silhouette. In one shot, I’d pull up at the finish, look at my Garmin, and gasp at the evidence of improvement. My legs would bulge with muscle tone and I’d resemble one of those ectomorphs who start races in the front row and finish before most runners reach the halfway mark.

Well, in the 50 days since I rebooted my running approach, I’ve made some gains, but it’s nothing dramatic. I’ve doubled my monthly distance in that time and my average run is a half a mile longer than it was in April. Despite all this running, my average pace has improved zilch. However, in the same period, my average heart rate during runs has dropped 8 bpm. That’s telling me my fitness is improving, but I’m not taking advantage of it. I’m going to try to focus on that tomorrow to see if it’s that simple. In the movies, the hero turns their hard work into victory. I’d settle for a mid-pack pace.

The shoes I run in, ran in and revere

All hail the OG Kinvara!

Unless you are a runner who follows in the barefoot steps of Abebe Bikila, chances are that you’ve put some time into selecting, using and eventually discarding your running shoes. In the ten years since running became an important part of my lifestyle, I’ve probably owned over 30 pairs of trainers. I still have a lot of them, but quite a few have been donated or trashed due to their condition. I have one pair that I no longer use, but will never give up. Yes, I’m talking to you, original Kinvara.

Now that I no longer spend 2-3 hours a day commuting, I have more time to focus on the details of life. Upping my running from three to six days a week has caused me to pay more attention to my gear. More running means more running clothes and I’m planning to go through my sizable collection of running shirts to see what to keep or donate. Today I took on the easier task of addressing the assemblage of running shoes in my gear cabinet and you can see the results further below.

Over the years I’ve owned just about every major brand of running shoe: ASICS, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Saucony, Brooks, along with some less well known brands such as Karhu, Helly Hansen, Spira and Sketchers. Many of these shoes were sent to me by manufacturers when I was maintaining Emerging Runner’s sister site, Runner’s Tech Review. Some shoes were worn over 1,000 miles, but a couple of pairs were donated after only a few runs.

Right now, I have three categories of running shoes in my house: 1) regular rotation, 2) special conditions and 3) decommissioned. Category three is where I’ll be getting rid of some pairs. Going through my shoe collection has caused me to reflect on all my shoes and I thought I’d share those thoughts here.

REGULAR ROTATION

I try to run in a different pair every day because I read that shoes need recovery time too. Happily, I have a lot to choose from.

New Balance Zante 2
Responsive and comfortable

If I ever race again, I’ll wear this pair. Low and energetic. They remind me of the Kinvara 5, but feel a little faster.

Brooks Launch 
Smooth and stable

This shoe was a surprise gift from my daughter. They would be a great everyday trainer, similar to the Adrenaline, but lighter.

Saucony Triumph ISO
If the Toyota Avalon was a shoe

When my feet are sore and I have to run, this is my go-to pair.

Saucony Kinvara 5
Light and energetic

I stopped running in these for a couple of years because of heel wear, but now they’re back in the rotation. Not quite as peppy as the Zantes, but they are running royalty nonetheless.

SPECIAL CONDITIONS

These are the shoes I wear for trails, bad weather or indoor running. I keep two of these pairs in a separate storage area and was too lazy to go get them when I was photographing my upstairs collection.

Spira Stinger XLT
Subtle as a chainsaw

This was a Runner’s Tech Review special. Turns out they are pretty decent shoes, but the gimmick (springs in the mid sole) is ineffective. I use them when I run on pavement in the rain. Good traction.

Helly Hansen Trail Lizard
Not a good choice for technical running

Super lightweight and great for racing on hard packed dirt trails. No rock plate so they can be punishing on sharp stones and roots.

Brooks Cascadia 8
Unstoppable

Handles mud, rocks, scree and steep inclines like a Range Rover. Surprisingly runnable on pavement.

Saucony Kinvara 3
700+ miles on the treadmill

This was originally my primary 10K and half marathon shoe. I switched them to treadmill duty when I got the 5s. They still look brand new.

Karhu Fast 2
Alternative treadmill runners

These shoes were incredibly awkward on the road and only slightly better for track intervals. Stiffness lessened with use and they are now a decent treadmill and elliptical shoe.

DECOMMISSIONED

An interesting assortment of the good, the weird and the ugly. Sadly, the shoes with this little guy at the end of the description (🏃) will be recycled because they are no longer runnable.

Saucony Virrata
Minimal and cushy

I really liked these shoes because they were super light and near zero drop from heel to toe. I wore them out quickly because the out sole is primarily blown EVA. Tried them on to see if they were still runnable, but alas, they are done. 🏃

Brooks Pure Drift
Commonly asked at races: WTF are those?

Brooks sent me these as part of a wear testing program. Liked them a lot but wished I’d asked for a half size larger shoe. I thought they were as minimal as a shoe could get and then Saucony sent me the Hattoris. 🏃

Saucony Hattori
Weird but awesome

This is basically a pool shoe with better materials. No cushioning at all, no laces either. Ran a few PRs with them and used them as my daily trainers until I completely wore them out. 🏃

Saucony Kinvara
Perfect

I have never loved a running shoe as much as these original Kinvaras. I wore them out to the point where I risked knee issues running in them for more than four miles. Tried them on yesterday for the first time in seven years and they still feel perfect on my foot. No more running in them but they’re staying in my collection.

When your pace is slow, focus on the statistics

Saw this on a car in the REI parking lot today

Happy Father’s Day. My goal of more frequent postings has been stymied (only six this year including today) but I’m definitely on track for running frequency. Over the 44 days since I finished up work on May 3rd, I’ve run 36 times (82% of days). Just to compare, I only did 33 runs from January 1st through April 30th (28% of days). So run frequency is good. End of statistical report.

June so far – 14 runs in 16 days

It’s not all good news in the running department however. The three measures of progress I’m using are frequency, distance and speed. My plan is to meet a target for each point, hold that target and start focusing on the next point. I’m tracking just about 6 runs a week and have started to focus on increasing average distance per run. I’m going in the right direction, but the increase is small, up about 8% from May’s average.

The third measure, speed, is my biggest challenge and I have done very little to address it. My pace is abysmal, but I’m hoping that by maintaining high run frequency and increasing distance, my fitness will unlock some of my old speed. I don’t like being slow, but forcing my pace turns happy running into a dreaded chore. I guess I could go back to doing intervals which compartmentalize the discomfort. Once I reach my average distance goal, I’ll start putting weekly track visits into my schedule.

I’ve been planning to buy a new hybrid bike to cross train. I’d like to ride some of the great bike trails on Long Island. Two of the other Runsketeers (TPP and KLM) are serious cyclists and I’m pretty sure Professor Mike knows his way around a bike. SIOR has a bike so she has one leg up on me. KLM has been giving me expert advice and will be helping me make a purchase in July. When that happens I’m I’ll be looking to do the inaugural Runsketeer ride.

Building up the monthly miles

On the comeback trail

Happy almost Memorial Day. It finally feels like summer and I’ve been doing my best to get out for runs early to beat the heat. I did that today and was rewarded with a cool and comfortable 66° temp. I wore a mid-weight shirt and shorts and wished I went with a lighter top by the end. I recently read that a worn heel is not a good reason to discard a running shoe because, “to patch such a heel prevents proper adaptation of the shoe to the runner’s particular heel strike pattern.” That inspired me to pull out my well worn Kinvara 5s for today’s run.

One of my goals for my post-work life was a return to running 18 miles per week. When I was doing 2.5 mile runs on weekdays and 7-8 miles over the weekend, I averaged about 75 miles per month. Over the past five years, my monthly average has steadily declined. Now that I’m running almost every day, I’m looking to build back to the 70+ mile target. A look back over the last 12 months shows an embarrassing monthly average of 30 miles with some pathetically low totals Jan-March.

The highest monthly total I’ve reached since June 2018 was 45.9. Now that I’m running six days a week, I was expecting to easily exceed that high point. A quick check on Garmin Connect made me think it would come down to the wire for May whether I would hit a new monthly high. When I went out on Saturday morning, my May monthly total was 40.8 miles. I was thinking I’d need to cover 5.1 miles before Monday.

We were invited to brunch yesterday and I was pressed for time, so I finished up after covering 3.2 miles. That left me thinking that I still needed 2.2 miles to reach my highest monthly total in a year. I beat that easily, and when I uploaded my final May runs to Garmin I realized that May doesn’t end on the 26th. I actually have until next Saturday to build on that total. My new goal for May is 60 miles, double my 12 month cumulative average. 60 miles a month is a big improvement, but it’s still less than 14 miles a week.

I will be aiming for 70 miles in June which would get me to almost to 90% of my target (18 miles per week). That means another 2.3 miles per week, either added to my shorter daily runs or as a step toward returning to long weekend runs. In the meantime, my performance is steadily improving. The gains aren’t dramatic but they’re real. Is it more frequent workouts, more miles or getting more sleep? Yes.

Running mileage is up, performance not so much

Rat race

I think this running thing is starting to work. I knew that increasing my weekly run frequency would help my overall performance, but I didn’t know where the benefits would come. Thanks to my Garmin F35 and Garmin Connect, I can compare my current performance metrics over the past 12 months. While I’m not quite at the pace and cadence levels I was achieving last July, I’m covering 10% more weekly mileage and my May performance metrics are up compared to the last five months.

That said, I’m still embarrassingly slow and that’s primarily due to reduced cadence and shortened stride length. When I look back at my metrics on Connect from 2011, it’s almost like I’m looking at a different person’s numbers. I know I can knock a minute per mile (or more) off my pace if I commit to running at 85% of max. I’d still be well below my peak, but the improvement would be encouraging.

My plan right now is to continue to run six times a week. So far, that’s been holding. I’ve been adding distance carefully and today I did my longest run in May, 3.3 miles. Not the six milers I used to do, but three miles a day, six days a week, would get me to my target of 18. If progress continues, I’ll probably step down to five runs a week and go longer on the weekends.

I’ve needed to stay away from Bethpage State Park this week due to the PGA Championship. That has kept me in my neighborhood for most daily runs. I need to work on my timing to avoid the parade of aggressive parents dropping off their kids at the elementary and middle schools and escape the cavalcade of yellow buses. Just for fun, I Gmapped my entire neighborhood to see how much distance I’d cover if I ran on every street. It’s a little more than 9 miles and it looks a lot like a rat’s maze. That’s definitely not the way I want to cover that distance. Happily, the golf tournament ends on Sunday and then it will be back to the trail for me.

Emerging Runner – Here we go again

Wet day, dry run

The Emerging Runner has re-emerged. I know I’ve said that before but this time it may be true. After years of almost daily posts, I slowed to a near stop at the end of 2017. I had reached a point where both my commute and the medication I was taking for an eye condition were exhausting me and affecting my running. Doing less running meant having less to write about. I never actually stopped running, but my weekly mileage had steadily dropped almost 60% from peak. Over the past two years I’ve maintained that plateau and I knew nothing would change without real disruption.

While I couldn’t stop taking medication, I could do something about the commute. So I did. About a year ago I informed my company that I intended to stop working and a week ago I finally left. One week after leaving my job, I’m asking myself why I waited so long to do it. Instead of heading out to the office around 6:00 AM, I’m getting outside for almost daily runs.

I’m keeping my distances short, but the increased frequency has brought me up to 12 miles a week. My performance hasn’t improved much, but my stamina seems better. My hope is to return to averaging 18 miles a week, which was typical when I was training 5-6 days a week. I’d like to meet that target by the end of June, which I should be able to do while increasing weekly mileage less than 10%.

Today’s weather was windy and rainy but I wasn’t going to let that force me onto the treadmill. I dressed lightly and wore a hooded rain jacket and a pair of running shoes that do well in wet conditions. Now that I no longer wear glasses, running in the rain is a viable option. The low cloud cover made it seem earlier than 7:30 AM, and the streets were quiet. The only annoyance was the pooling of water at some intersections that required some careful stepping.

I finished my run very pleased that I’d ignored the rain. I didn’t see a single car the whole time I was out there and it reminded me of the days when I’d run with a headlamp and reflective vest at 3:45 AM. I always felt like I owned the road back then. If I can maintain the discipline, I will aim to get out by 6:00 AM before the garbage trucks, school buses and commuters invade my territory. The only guy I ever saw driving in the neighborhood at 6:00 AM was me and I would watch the occasional neighborhood runner with envy. Now I get to be that runner.

Hanging Over with the Runsketeers

Flower inserted due to behavioral issue

According to my records, I only had three Emerging Runner posts in all of 2018. That’s pretty pathetic. This was mostly due to the fact that I didn’t post on the other 362 days. However, I am proud to say that I’ve posted every day in 2019. I’ve also run every day this year. Not so pathetic now, huh?!

I give credit for today’s run to my long time running nemesis friend, She Is Out Running (SIOR) who decided that the Runsketeers would return to Eisenhower Park to do the 2019 LIRRC Hangover Run. For some reason we skipped it last year, but now we’re back on track. While some Runskies weren’t able to make it today, they were with us in spirit.

The Hangover Run is a great event because it provides all the great stuff about being in a race (organization, other runners, time clock, free food!) without the pressure of competing. Everyone starts together, but after that you’re on your own to do as many loops of the one mile course as you’d like. Since the event happens on New Year’s Day, it’s usually a chilly proposition, but today’s morning temperature was about 56°, albeit with some stiff winds along the route.

I arrived at the park around 9:20 AM for the 9:30 start and looked for SIOR. I knew TPP needed to work, but wasn’t sure if Professor Mike (PM) or KWL would be joining us. I didn’t see anyone from the crew so I lined up for the start, figuring I’d run into the others along the way. After the LIRRC guy counted down the start, we were off. I knew I’d be running this course a lot slower than in the past due to some medication I’m taking. It was both interesting and a little humiliating to go from being a solid mid-packer to back-of-packer. At least I was passing walkers!

About 3/10ths into the run, a couple of speedsters slipped by and were running directly ahead of me when I realized they were SIOR and PM. I said something snarky, which they ignored, so I tapped SIOR on the shoulder and surprised them. We ran together for a couple of minutes. It was probably my fastest quarter and definitely SIOR’s slowest of the day. She caught up with PM and they resumed their pace. I watched them on the other side of the loop each time I went around, getting ever closer to lapping me. On my third mile, that’s exactly what happened and I ran the remainder of the route with SIOR.

It was the fastest three miles I’ve run since April 1st of last year. Still nothing to write home about in terms of pace, but it underscored how much I’d regressed by running solo much of 2018. We grabbed some coffee and food and then SIOR decided to run one more loop before we headed off to Runsketeer HQ, also known as the closest Starbucks.

Rare pic of SIOR acting like a grownup

PM and SIOR were waiting at a table by the time I arrived. Starbucks was sparsely populated and I gave my buddies holiday presents because last year we skipped the Hangover and I didn’t give them their gifts until July. I grabbed a coffee and we got into it right away — politics, religion, medical issues, work, kids, anything but running. It didn’t matter that it had been months since we got together, it’s always as if we saw each other the day before.

Seeing my buddies and running better than I have in a long time was inspiring. I really hope we can get the whole group together soon. I wouldn’t call it a resolution, but I am serious about getting back to 18-21 mile weeks before mid year. I have a strategy to get me there, and running more with the Runsketeers is part of that plan.

The Runsketeers hit the track and the porch

Runsketeers™ L-R: KWL, Prof Mike, TPP, SIOR, ER

Today’s run (track & street): 3.5 miles

Happy Bastille Day! In that spirit, the mighty Runsketeers™ got together this morning for the first time since last November. Today’s run was at a high school track in Rockville Center, the same place where SIOR, TPP and I did speed work a few years ago. This morning we were joined by KWL, Professor Mike and a friend of SOIR’s who is training for a big triathlon. SIOR needed to be home before 9:00 AM so our run was relatively short. The Runsketeers mostly ran in circles while the triathlete did ladders. Well that’s what SIOR said he was doing, but I didn’t see anything on the track that looked like a ladder.

When I arrived, KWL and TPP were already running on the track. SIOR and tri-man showed up soon after. They had run from SIOR’s house and had already covered 1.5 miles. Professor Mike recently tweaked his back and was taking it easy and walking. I ran at times with KWL and TPP and with SIOR and Mike who decided to run easy for a while. Even with easy pacing, they broke away from me. I was happy to run at my pace with my buds joining me from time to time. I actually passed Mike on the track once.  Full disclosure, he was walking.

Due to time constraints, we finished quickly and convoyed to SIOR’s house. SIOR hosted us to coffee and food on her enclosed front porch that kept us in shade and free of bugs. Happily, it didn’t keep us free of daughters or dogs. Mike brought home baked banana bread and SIOR served melons, grapes and fruit salad. SIOR was having trouble getting the kettle to boil, but managed to get the coffee to us in short order. I, of course, brought my Runsketeer coffee mug.

Couldn’t say it better myself

We hadn’t all gotten together as a group in a long time. Besides being Bastille Day, it was also Christmas in July, as I FINALLY had the chance to give TPP her Christmas present. We covered the usual subjects: jobs, commutes, home improvements, cycling, movies, TV shows, file sharing, cable alternatives, running injuries and, as always, Stew Leonard’s. Interestingly, we hardly talked about running.

I have a picture on my Facebook page that always makes me laugh when I look at it. It’s a Runsketeer selfie where, at the last second, SIOR covered my face with her hand. I always think how that picture visually captures who we are. Today, TPP decided to continue the tradition (below).

The original

It was really great seeing all my buds and running together today. I ran another mile when I got home to get at least three miles in today. Although I’m still pretty slow by Runsketeer standards, I ran over a minute per mile faster than normal this morning. There’s a few reasons why I think that’s the case and I’m planning to continue what I’m doing to keep improving. More running with the Runsketeers will help get me there.

Running hot and feeling debris

Sorry, it’s not my vault

Today’s run: 3.2 miles

I recently looked at an old post about my experience dealing with a herniated disc I experienced a few years ago. That caused me to look at some related posts and then some unrelated ones. I appreciated how Emerging Runner served as a reliable, if narrow, chronicle of my life experience between October 2008 and February 2018. I also felt badly that I had let so much time go by since my last post, which was my only entry in 2018. I’ll make no promises about what I do after today, but here is my second post of 2018.

As you’d expect, a lot has happened over the past five months. For one thing, I fixed the hand towel holder in the guest bathroom twice. Actually, that’s about it. Last week we decided to replace the slate in our first floor hallway with oak. Between the jackhammer and bandsaw noise, demo debris, dust, stain and sealants, it’s been a bit uncomfortable.

Due to its center hall location, the contractor needed to build a platform across the floors while they dried between coats. This created a ninja warrior-like challenge to get from one side of the house to the other. By the time the floors had dried and cured, we all became experts at vaulting from the den to the platform and back. Timing was everything. A misstep could easily land you on the sticky floor.

The other thing to mention, in light of this eponymous blog, is that I have continued to run. I’ll give myself credit for lacing up and getting out as often as ever, but my workouts have become rote. I won’t dwell on performance, but that hasn’t gotten any better. Fortunately, I don’t care much about that right now. I’m just glad to be out there, doing my run on my own terms.

That isn’t to say that I’m complacent. Due to ongoing issues with my eyes, I need to take drops and, occasionally, other medicines. It’s all good, but the drugs can have an effect on my heart rate, making it hard to exceed 75% of max HR. This has been going on for a while and I’ve adjusted my expectations accordingly. I’ve recently started incorporating moderate fartleks to keep my HR above a certain threshold, hoping to get closer to 80% at least part of the time.

Post run delirium 

This morning I got out a little after 6:00 AM. Humidity was already 79% and the temperature was pushing 80°. At that hour the trees were still casting long shadows and I took advantage of the shade as much as possible. Conditions were fine for the first couple of miles but the humidity began to get to me. I was sweating so much around my eyes that it was hard to see. I needed to clear them continuously with a cloth to maintain visibility and to minimize the sting from sweat.

I was about 2/3 through my route when my Garmin unceremoniously stopped working. It was my own fault because the battery had been running low and I kept forgetting to charge it. I wanted to make sure I covered at least three miles. Without the GPS for guidance, I quickly thought through a route that would get me my distance before returning home.

The sun had risen a lot in the 20 minutes since I’d started, upping both heat and humidity. I began to feel like I was on the last mile of a 5K. I soon turned onto my street for the final dash to my house and floated to the driveway, soaked with sweat and happy to be done.

I hope to get back to doing at least one post per week. Some changes to my medication may help me move the needle in a better direction for performance. If that’s the case, I’ll be a lot more motivated to share that progress.

Emerging or submerging?

The emerging will continue

Today’s run (street): 3.2 miles

Happy New Year! Okay, I’m about 40 days off the mark, but you get the point. Chinese New Year starts on the 16th so it’s still valid to say that. Those of you who used to follow this blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted since late November. There’s a reason for that*. Anyway, it’s 2018 and everything is great. The stock market is going gangbusters, Congress is unified and the White House isn’t being led by an unqualified, dishonest, ignorant, racist, misogynist. I may have some of that wrong.

You’re probably wondering whether my hiatus from blogging meant that I stopped running. The answer is no. I’ve continued to run, but frequency and distance have both come down. Speed? What’s that? Am I emerging or submerging? Unclear.

I’ve had a cold for the last three weeks. It’s not the flu. A doctor told me that. But I do have a dry cough that won’t go away. The cough seems to be improving, but it’s very disruptive at work when I have to interrupt conversations by coughing into my elbow. Every time I do that I’m sure my colleges are convinced I’m going to make them sick. Of course it was one of them who made me sick in the first place.

This morning was overcast but free of rain. I headed out in 50° weather for a run around the neighborhood. I’m not sure when I last ran around here, because the freezing weather kept me on the treadmill most of January and early February. It felt like good running weather, cool but not face freezing cold.

A few weeks ago I ran at the track in -5° weather. I had face protection, a winter weight hat, triple layers top and bottom, running gloves inside of running mittens and two pair of wool socks. I had to stop after four laps because my hands were stinging from the bitter cold. It took two minutes before they warmed up enough to wrap my fingers around the steering wheel. I finished my run at home on the treadmill.

I only ran outdoors once last weekend. Yesterday I stuck to the treadmill and tomorrow I’ll go outside again, weather permitting. My stride has shortened and my cadence has lowered. Not the direction I need to go if performance is important. That’s the thing. When I run without regard to speed, I enjoy the experience a lot. When I need to hit the gas to prevent being passed by a neighbor-runner I don’t enjoy it. Plus I usually get passed anyway.

For the New Year, I hope to do more runs and miles than in 2017. In terms of performance, I’m guessing more running will lead to more speed. The groundhog community has spoken and it looks like six more weeks of winter cold. I’ll do my best to get out more often. If I work from home more frequently, I can probably get in more runs. Emerging Runner will have its ten year anniversary in the fall. I need to live up to that name.

*I got tired of doing it.