Soggy taper

I really blew it by acknowledging my incredible luck with the weather in my last post. My window of opportunity slammed shut yesterday when I decided to forgo my early morning run in favor of a city run later in the day. Had I got out at 4:00 AM on Friday I would have avoided the rain that fell over the rest of the day. Plan A, a 7:30 run in Central Park, was washed out with the wind and rain as were Plans B & C to run at lunch or before I left for the day. Plan D was the treadmill at home but I’d conceded to a rest day by dinner time.

The reason I wanted to get in a run yesterday was to complete my tapering for my race on Sunday. I considered just skipping today as well to go into the race with plenty of rest. It was either guilt or good strategy that got me out this morning for a short but brisk run. I figured that anything under 20 minutes would have minimal impact on my readiness for tomorrow and I set out with the intention of covering a couple of miles at a leisurely pace. Like last Monday’s long run, I felt very strong so I went with that and pushed harder covering a little over two miles in the high 8:00’s. Helping that along was a steady rain that started about halfway through the run. By the time I made my way home it was pouring and though I found it a little hard to see I didn’t experience the disorientation I felt the last time I found myself in that situation.

I don’t know too much about the course we’re running tomorrow so I don’t know what to expect for surfaces and elevation. I know that Eisenhower Park has some hilly areas but I don’t know whether they are on the race route. I’m surprised with all the resources available to map and share courses that the LIRRC has not done this. I’ll find out tomorrow and deal with whatever I encounter. I’m hoping for cool weather and a flat course. A little less rain would be nice too.

The Cow Harbor 10K – great event, bad timing

I did my first run since Sunday’s trail race this morning covering 3.7 miles at about a 9:20 pace. I’m not surprised that my pace was as slow as it was since I covered the first two miles at a moderate pace and sped up as I went. According to my Garmin I was tracking below 9:00/mile for the last mile or so. I was more tired than I’d expected to be after a day off from running but I did do a hike yesterday that involved some steep hills. Today was definitely a maintenance run, nothing remarkable to report.

I’ll admit that I do miss my iPhone and although I still haven’t had more than a couple experiences with the GPS tracking apps that reported within the range of acceptable accuracy. I did like the maps they create and the built in compass and iPod functionality on one of them. My desktop support person from work promised me that I’d see a replacement for my failed iPod from FEDEX either today or tomorrow so I’ll live with limited tools until then.

I’ve identified my next race: a 4 mile run that’s part of the Long Island Road Runner’s Club (LIRRC) that will take place in Eisenhower Park on September 13. The LIRRC holds these informal races often and registration is day of race only. The cost is less than $10 and it seems like a good basic event. A 9:00 AM start makes it easier in terms of travel but it could be hot. I’ll need to miss the Great Cow Harbor 10K because of a schedule conflict. I’ve heard more from Brian, who reads this blog, about the Cow Harbor 10K. He told me that The Northport Running Club holds a number of practice runs every Wed. night at 6:00 PM and those who are interested should check the website for information. Brian also sent the Training Assistance Program Weekly Progression Table (above). Clicking on the picture will produce a larger view. 
I’m glad to have a new upcoming run to help me focus my training. More to come in October and November.

Lessons from my first race

I indulged myself this morning by skipping exercise. It’s not that racing 4 miles yesterday really required me to rest today. I considered going on the elliptical but then I decided to create separation between my first race and my second: the LI Marathon 5K on May 2nd.
Tomorrow I will start my training for that event and while the distance is shorter I am not assuming the race will be easier. Despite reading articles, posts and comments online and hearing first hand from friends who race, I didn’t fully understand the experience until it happened. Here’s what I learned:
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1. There’s a lot of positive energy on race day. Everyone is competing but mostly with themselves.

2. You need to ask a lot of questions: “How do you attach your bib number?” “Where are the bathrooms?” “Where do we line up for the start?”

3. No matter how cold it is at the start, it’s worth dressing lightly because you’re going to get very hot very quickly.

4. It’s really hard to drink water from a paper cup while running. It’s also hard to grab a paper cup from a table while running.

5. Hill training is not an optional technique if you plan to compete.

6. Familiarity with the course is more helpful than just knowing distance in terms of gaging progress.

7. It’s amazing to see people who you’d never guess could even run around the block pass you, quickly.

8. The toughest 100 feet are those leading to the finish line.

9. The cheering, fatigue, heat and crowd at the end is very disorienting. I forgot to stop my Garmin so it continued to record long after I had finished the race.

10. You may get very hot during the race but you’ll cool off fast. Put on more layers as soon as possible.

Those are the things that I remember the most. I’m sure, after my next race, that I’ll have a few more to list.

Not the worst way to spend your birthday

This morning I completed my first race, a 4-mile run through and around Huntington, NY. I had anticipated this for quite a long time and the excitement built as I edged into the weekend. My goal was to finish with an overall pace below 9:00/mile and I was pleased to have done that. I ran the course at 8:50 per mile and I finished the second two miles slightly faster than the first two.

The day began with a Kid’s Fun Run and both of my kids participated. It was about a quarter mile race that ended at the same finish point as the big race. All the participants received medals and I was proud that my kids were part of the event. As soon as the Fun Run completed, I made my way to the starting line that first involved a trudge up a big hill. When I got to the line I saw that this steep road was actually the route off the line, so at least the start would be downhill. As we lined up and waited I spent time looking at my co-runners, wondering who had raced before and who (like me) was racing for the first time. I also noticed the outfits that people were wearing. Asics and New Balance were definitely the most popular shoe choices and I was surprised to see so many people wearing jackets and multiple layers since the temperature was in the high 40’s. I was originally planning to wear a Nike Fit Dri shirt that AG had given me but I had washed and air dried it and it was still damp when it was time to leave. Instead I wore a different technical shirt and my new running shorts. I was cold but I knew that after a mile I would start heating up.

I had a tracking chip from the race around my ankle and I brought my Garmin foot pod which helped me keep track of my progress as I ran. Coming off the starting line downhill, many people were whizzing past in what seemed to be unsustainable paces. That’s relative to their conditioning but I had decided to run my own race and I held back in anticipation of the BIG HILL that I knew would come at the half mile mark. I learned today that I had not properly trained on real hills, this was quite a challenge both because of the grade of the hill and the fact that we would be ascending it for close to a mile. I was glad that I had studied the course before the race so I knew what to expect in terms of path and direction. Although my Garmin told me how much distance I had traveled, it was the understanding of where I was on the course, relative to the finish, that underscored the amount of work ahead.

Volunteers along the course shouted out cumulative distances at each mile point and I was encouraged to know that I was beating a 9:00 pace, which was my goal. As we drew closer to the finish I considered pouring it on with everything I had but then, like a cruel joke, I encountered another big hill with a little more than half a mile to go. It was a struggle getting up that incline but somehow I managed and came around to the sound of spectators cheering us on toward the finish. I was really ready to stop by that point and as I came around the last corner I pushed it up the slight rise that led to the finish line and crossed the line to the loud cheers of my wife and kids.

I was immediately asked for my timing chip as a race volunteer handed me a bottle of water. Some minutes later we saw that they had posted the results and I made my way over to see how I did. It wasn’t a big field of runners and I finished mid pack but I did place in single digits for my age group. The thing that matters most is that I ran my race, achieved my goal and had the strong support of friends and family.

Plus, I won a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant because it was my birthday!

From the Emerging Runner Laboratories

This morning I went to a running store in Northport, NY (Cow Harbor Running + Fitness) that is providing the T-shirts and goody bags for tomorrow’s race. The store is small but they have some very nice stuff and I bought a pair of Pearl Izumi Infinity shorts while I was there. I was disappointed to find that the store wasn’t distributing the runner’s bib numbers or tracking chips so I’ll be lining up for that tomorrow morning. My countdown clock is down to just hours at this point.

On a different subject, I’ve recently heard from a few companies that are looking for ways to publicize their events or products. While this blog is not commercially focused I am not opposed to recommending or highlighting things that may be of interest to readers. I don’t accept payment for any of this but if I ever move in that direction it will be in the form of an ad and I will be very clear about that relationship.

One of the two items I am mentioning today is about a movie called “Beyond the Epic Run” about a couple from Switzerland who sold all their belongings to literally run around the world. The trailer for the film is above this post. Runner’s World Loop readers can see it here. Running isn’t the subject of too many movies so why not check it out?

The second item to mention is a company called MixMyGranola that built a business around custom blended granola. It’s a clever idea. You go to the site, choose a base, choose your other ingredients and a couple of days later you’ll receive a pound of mix. I’ve gone so far as to choose, order and receive my mix. I will soon publish a full review from the Emerging Runner test kitchens.

In the meantime I have some stretching and resting to do before my 8:30 AM start time tomorrow. I followed the race course by car today and there are some impressive hills over the first mile and a half. Well, as my son pointed out, what goes up must come down.

See you at the finish line!

Just give it a rest

I had planned to do a light elliptical workout this morning to minimize the impact on my knees and leg. When I got up I thought about my weekend workouts, especially yesterday’s, and decided to give my legs a complete rest. I ended up doing an upper body workout with my elliptical which I do facing the front so I can stand while grasping the arms of the machine. I’ve done this in the past and even with resistance set moderately low, it’s a great way to work on arm strength. I would really prefer to do this workout facing the front of the display so I can track progress and control resistance. As it happens, the pedal width is slightly too wide to straddle comfortably so I really can’t do it that way. Overall, the forward facing method works very well and when done at a fast pace it provides a very good cardio workout.

I appreciated the respite from leg exercise this morning and my soreness is much less noticeable. I’m planning to run hard both tomorrow and Wednesday and finish my taper either with an easy run or an elliptical workout. My son signed up for the Kids Fun Run (1/2 mile) the day of my race so we’ll both be participating in Sunday’s event. My daughter is also considering running and we’re hoping that she decides to join us.

The weather for next Sunday morning is supposed to be mostly cloudy, in the low 40’s with a 20% chance of precipitation. That sounds ideal and I’m hoping it’s accurate. 5 Days, 13 hours to go…

Racing season

I’ll start this post with a shout out to Adventure Girl who ran the NYRR 10K Scotland Run in Central Park on Saturday. Despite the driving rain and cold temperature she ran a strong race at an impressive pace. She told me that the energy that came from running with such a big crowd (over 7,600 finishers) helped her performance. Considering that (until recently) she was away from running for months recovering for a soccer injury I think this is a great return to competition.

I’m in my final week leading up to my 4 mile race and I’ve tried to get some mileage in before the work week. This week will be mostly travel so I’m not sure how much street running I’ll get to do. Yesterday afternoon my wife and I decided to do a second workout. Although I did some tempo runs that morning I didn’t feel as though I had taken enough time to work on endurance. My wife did a second elliptical workout as I ran on the treadmill. I didn’t want to overdo it so I kept it to two miles with an overall pace of 8:51.

Today we all went to the track. It was busier than I would have expected since it’s Easter Sunday. My kids did a little running and a lot of playing. There were a few serious runner types doing tempo runs and they all passed me very quickly. A number of runners came and went while I did my 4 miles. I may not have matched their pace but I outlasted them all. My intention was not to run fast and I paid no attention to my pace. I ended up running 4 miles at a mid-9 pace and I felt good that I could cruise at that speed even with stiff headwinds over half the track.

I am planning to do a light elliptical workout tomorrow and then possibly one more long run before my race. 6 days and 17 hours to go.

The Emerging Runners, Jr.

My kids are on spring break from school and today my nine year old son is coming in with me to work. He is, as they say, a “serious young man” and he’s dressed for the office, tie included. We used to run together on the weekends but after injuring his toe (non-running related) he took a hiatus. We’ve been talking about returning to the track together and he’s also interested in trying the trails. My wife and daughter are also interested and I think a run/hike might be a fun activity to plan for later this spring.

Right now I’m very much in race mode so my running activity this weekend will need to be primarily about that. I have received a lot of good advice in preparation of the event. These are a few essential points:

1. Rest two days prior to race day.
2. Moderate hydration and good carbs pre-race.
3. Dress as lightly as possible.
4. Don’t go out too fast, save enough energy for the end.
5. Pay attention to everything and enjoy the experience.

I’m feeling prepared and my biggest concern is pulling a muscle or causing an injury during speed training this weekend. I have another race (a 5K) two weeks after the upcoming four miler. The 5K event will also feature a Kid’s Fun Run so there may be an opportunity for me, my son and my daughter to experience racing together.

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.

19 days and counting…

My race countdown clock is now at 19 days. What was once an abstract, future date is now just three weekends away. Many runners I know have competed for years. They have t-shirts, running bibs, PR’s and stories. Aside from a corporate challenge I ran in 1992 that is disturbingly fuzzy in my memory, I am a complete newbie.
I do appreciate the encouragement that I’ve received from more accomplished and experienced runners. Unlike other sports where I’ve competed, ice hockey, karate and, yes, tennis, there seems to be little in the way of trash talking among those who run. The Runner’s World Loop community is an interesting and eclectic group of runners at all stages. Some are new to the sport and others are quite experienced. I often see RW Loop blog posts from people who run 6 and 7 minute paces and wonder what they think of those (like me) who brag every time they break a 9:00 mile. My guess is that they think “good for you” based upon the encouraging comments I’ve seen on mine and other’s blogs.

I weighed in today exactly where I wanted to be. I ran 1.8 miles at 9 min/mile and, by stretching before I ran, I had minimal leg soreness. I’m ready for my first race. In fact I wish it was this upcoming weekend. But since it isn’t happening for 19 days I’ll take the opportunity to refine my performance a little more. I hope to maintain or exceed an 8:50 pace for the 4 miles. I’ve heard that racing provides extra motivation and adrenalin and I’m counting on that for meeting this goal.