Treadmilling before the crack of dawn

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I think this early treadmill workout thing is beginning to stick. This morning, for the third week in a row, I got in a few running miles before starting my work day. I went to bed intending to do this run, but I’d forgotten to prepare for it. When I got up, I saw that I hadn’t laid out my running gear or put towels down for my brief post-workout recovery period. It doesn’t take that long to do those things, but in the morning every minute counts.

Time was my friend today. I got up before my alarm went off. Even with those extra preparation steps, I was on the treadmill before 4:00 AM. The bargain I make with myself is to cap these early runs at 25 minutes. That’s a short enough time to seem manageable before the crack of dawn, but long enough to provide some benefit.

The run went well from beginning to end. I guess I could have pushed harder, but I knew I had an hour-plus drive and a full day’s work ahead of me. I finished feeling like I’d worked reasonably hard, but I still had plenty of energy. I probably won’t have a chance to run again until Friday so it was nice to have a couple of miles in the weekly bank. I’ve felt really good on my last few runs. I hope that continues.

Back to the 4:00 AM run

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

The alarm woke me up just before 4:00 AM and that gave me enough time to roll out of bed, change into running clothes and hop on the treadmill at 4:05. It’s been well over a year since I did a run at that early hour and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t quite ready to go back to running with a headlamp on the the dark streets of my neighborhood, so the treadmill had to do.

Even though I planned to run just 25 minutes this morning, the time passed so slowly that it felt like I’d been on the treadmill for an hour. It wasn’t a particularly hard workout or the fact that I went from sleeping to running in a matter of minutes. Some runs are like that. And those runs happen most often when you’re on the treadmill at 4:00 AM.

Night or day, inside or out?

Worth a read

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

In her new book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?”, Mindy Kaling writes, “There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.” I thought that was a very funny line (it’s a great book) but I have to disagree a little. As I stood at the train this morning I saw the sun coming up and the first thought I had was, “Finally, I can now go out on my long weekend runs before 6:30 AM without needing a headlamp.”

There’s a big difference, psychologically, when I run in the dark versus running in daylight. My 4:00 AM runs serve a purpose, but that purpose is primarily fitness maintenance. My weekend runs provide a far wider benefit to both mind and body. A run on the trails is visually fascinating, the terrain is challenging and the lack of concern for traffic (except for mountain bikers) allows for deep thinking.

This morning I was at the complete other end of the spectrum, running my 25 tedious minutes on the treadmill. A friend of mine just bought a True treadmill that is very feature-rich. One capability is heart rate cruise control — the machine will automatically speed up, slow down or change elevation to keep the runner at a specific heart rate. It also has a 14″ LCD screen that takes input from a smartphone, PC, iPad, etc. That would be amazing compared to my humble Sole. But in the end, I’d far prefer to be running outside, just after sunrise.

Surprise encounter at 4:00 AM

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

I’ve probably done close to 250 runs at 4:00 AM. Through that time I’ve seen a handful of walkers or people leaving their houses. A couple of years ago I was spooked to see what seemed to be a race walker pass me like an apparition one morning. There was no acknowledgement of any kind from this person who slipped by less than two feet away from me.

This morning I had my second close encounter and it was a different experience. I was running well and had just reached the halfway point of my route when I noticed movement about 200 feet ahead of me. It was very dark and this person was out of headlamp range, but I thought it might be someone walking in the opposite direction. Suddenly, as I rounded a bend, I saw it was another runner, heading my way. A young guy, teens or 20’s, no reflective wear or headlamp. Not even a shirt. We got within ten feet of each other before he reacted with a startled sideways jump and a gasp.

He quickly realized that I was just another runner on the road and I yelled a friendly “Good Morning!” and he responded in kind. He must have been in the zone not to notice me until we practically met but I understand that as well. 4:00 AM running can be a little hypnotising until you get used to it. I’m hoping that my shirtless friend learned a lesson today about staying alert. Perhaps the next time I see him he’ll have his own headlamp and reflective vest.

First post-half marathon run

Today’s run (street): 2 miles

This morning I returned to road running for the first time since Sunday’s half marathon. Yesterday’s elliptical session yielded good results and it gave me the confidence to push  a little more today. I’d already tested the soundness of my knees and legs with some strides up and down the corridors of my office yesterday morning. It was just after 7:00 AM and there were few people around so I didn’t feel ridiculous running the few hundred feet in my black oxfords. That “running” confirmed my belief that I was ready to do it for real.

Although the temperature was showing 58° on the local news channel it felt colder than that when I stepped outside. The driveway was wet and I thought it was raining but that turned out to be runoff from my neighbor’s sprinkler system. I started easy with short strides and a relaxed cadence but everything seemed to be in working order. The first half mile was run deliberately, but with a runner’s form. As I ran that first segment I thought about my last half mile on the race course and how hard it was to simply propel my legs as I came through Eisenhower Park toward the finish line. My stride felt much more natural this morning.

I ran the second mile 1:20 faster than the first and this further validated my belief that moderate activity after a long run helps restore muscles, speeds recovery and increases performance. I’ll go out for a long run this weekend and then take some time to run intervals. I’m curious to see if building my base and also training for speed will yield the performance that has eluded me lately.

Inner peace at 4:00 AM

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

My 4:00 AM runs are productive, not only from a conditioning perspective, but as a method of focusing on key items in my business or personal life. The world at 4:00 AM looks a lot like 6:00 AM, except that it’s significantly quieter. Every morning when I go out to run I think about all the people in the houses that I pass. Most people are still sleeping and generally all the company I might have is the car that drives around throwing the New York Times onto driveways. It’s peaceful and still and the stars are in bright focus. So for the many who ask why I run at that ungodly hour, this is why.

Sometimes you can’t argue that additional rest yields better performance and that was the case today. Despite my trance-like state this morning, my legs that had only run five miles over the last three days moved me along 20 sec/mile faster than my usual morning pace. While I followed my route I thought through a business issue that I hadn’t been able to address with the frenzy of the work day. I came back home happy with my run and decisive in my thoughts. It was only 4:30 and I still had the whole day ahead.