DIY 10K as November’s race schedule shrinks

Today’s run (street): 6.25 miles

Hot to Trot

For the past two years, November has been a big month for racing. Starting mid-month, I’ve run the Hope for the Warriors 10K and then the Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot the next weekend. A few days after that, I’ve run the Nissequogue River Turkey Trot (5K) that’s held on Thanksgiving day. This race is really a fun run for me. I run it at my daughter’s pace, while my wife run/walks the course with my son.

This year, things are very different. Hope for Warriors was moved back to October for reasons that I don’t quite understand. It usually coincides with Veteran’s Day but not this year. I was unable to make the new date this year because of a conflict in my schedule. That’s unfortunate because I really like that race.

Long Beach, New York, took a beating during Hurricane Sandy. The boardwalk and the beaches were destroyed and the storm left thousands of people homeless. It’s a tragic situation and the race has (of course) been cancelled.

So this leaves the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day and I’m happy to be running with my family. My kids are excited about it and even bought turkey hats to wear when they run. The Nissequogue course runs through the old former Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital that is being torn down. I’m curious to see if they’ll change the route this year.

Since I wasn’t able to run the Hope for Warriors 10K race today, I decided to do a symbolic run of the same distance. I first planned to run at Bethpage, but I saw on the website that the park is closed until further notice. I imagine that Sandy brought widespread destruction to the trees, paths and golf courses. I was left with little choice but to run locally and  set off in my neighborhood to complete my run.

I didn’t run very well yesterday, but I managed to stay within my normal pace range. I felt much stronger today, but the numbers showed that my average pace was 15 seconds slower than yesterday’s outing. The reason for that isn’t obvious. While I wished I’d run faster, I was pleased to have covered my intended distance feeling great throughout my run.

I spent the first half of my run on the familiar roads of my main neighborhood before heading south to neighborhood #2 where I surveyed the damage from the storm. The LIPA trucks were scattered about, attempting to get the last 7% of homes back on the grid. I feel great sympathy for Sandy’s victims, including those who remain without power two weeks after the storm. I’m hoping they’ll get it back soon. Personally, I’m still  excited when I walk into a room, flip on a switch and see something besides the dark.

Race report: Corporate 5K

Registration check in. Sign those waivers!

Yesterday’s run (Corporate 5K): 3.1 miles – 26:22 (8:30 pace)

I like to keep my running life and my work life separate in this blog, but every once in a while they’ll come together. Back in June we had a summer picnic in Central Park and I organized my colleagues for a 1.6 mile fun run. Last night I participated in a 5K race that was put on by my company as part of a corporate wellness program. It was an interesting experience and a lot of fun.

This 5K consisted of employees from four of our corporate divisions that have offices in NYC. The company is holding 5K’s in other cities for other divisions based in those locations. A group of us left the office for the 1 train that took us uptown to Riverside Park, where the race was being held. The registration process started out a little bumpy but they did get through the 170 or so runners (and walkers) reasonably fast. We were all asked to sign waiver forms even though we’d already done that online.

Pre-race warm-up

Before the race, the organizers had participants run through some dynamic stretching exercises. Soon after that, we assembled behind the starting line for the race. There were a few speakers who talked about the event, the importance of fitness and how our company is contributing to charitable causes that support this initiative. This went on so long that my Garmin turned off its GPS and I had to scramble to reacquire a signal before the start.

Our course was interesting. We started at 108th street and headed north about eight blocks before turning south. This turnaround put us on a secondary path that was, at different times, packed dirt and broken pavement, with lots of twigs and branches from the trees. I gingerly avoided those branches since I was wearing my very minimal Hattori’s. There were a number of rises throughout the course and some were fairly challenging.

Our route took us by the river where we did a couple of out and back loops before heading north again toward the finish. This was my first evening race and I expected to struggle but I didn’t feel much different than I normally do. The out and backs provided an opportunity to see my position in the race because I would pass the the leaders going the other way. At other times, I could see those who were behind me.

The race ended with a straight section of recently paved blacktop and I ran hard to the finish line. A number of us questioned the length of the course because our GPS watches showed it to be less than 3.1 miles. I looked at my run in Garmin Connect and saw that the signal had drifted in a number of spots. That usually accounts for distance loss since the GPS often “cuts corners” due to sampling frequency.

After crossing the line, we spent a few minutes recovering. After that we claimed our bags and headed back to the subway to get us to our trains and buses. Others stayed for drinks and hors d’oeuvres but most of just wanted to get home. I have to say that all my colleagues did well. KWL finished in the top 10% and FS also finished high. Everyone else came in around mid-pack, as I did. With the majority of runners in the 20-29 age category, I think we did just fine.

My first July race (corporate approved)

A corporate 5K – what’s not to love?



Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

Today was one of those automatic pilot runs where I got up, got changed and headed outside without thinking about the effort ahead. Unlike yesterday, I let my natural rhythm determine my pace and I paid the price with a run that took over a minute longer than Tuesday’s (along the same route). I gave myself a break after yesterday’s hard run and was glad at the end.

It’s all well and good to run easy, but suddenly I have a new race on the calendar and I have to train for speed. My parent company is holding a 5K in the city on July 25th and I’ve signed up. This would be my first ever July race. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to run with my colleagues. Many of my work friends have signed up to do it and I’m looking forward to the event. It’s has an evening start time (6:00 PM) and I’m a morning runner, but I’m hoping to make the best of it.

Race report: 2012 Marcie Mazzola 5K

The big finish
Today’s run (Marcie Mazzola 5K): 3.1 miles
26:48 (8:38 pace)

Once again, Team Emerging Runner headed out early on a Sunday morning (6:55 AM) for my fourth running of the Marcie Mazzola 5K. Although the race starts at 8:30, we like to get there before the crowds, because the parking lot gets filled quickly. We arrived to see things in full swing with dozens of volunteers dressed in the race’s signature purple shirts. 

I got my race number and we settled in for an hour’s wait until the start. I’ve participated in this race for the last four years and my wife and I recognize many of the people from prior years. This race attracts runners across the spectrum, from the very young, to those in their 80’s. There are always lots of people from running clubs and corporate teams, but the total number of participants was still a manageable 440.

Colorful crowd prior to race start

We were concerned about the weather, because conditions were dark and cloudy when we left the house. The news stations were reporting light showers throughout the morning. By race time, things had brightened up and we lined up to the start under partly sunny skies. I chatted with the runner next to me while we waited. He asked me if my Hattori’s (yep, decided to go with a reliable favorite) hurt my knees. I told him, with a mid-foot strike, that they are actually kinder to my knees than cushioned shoes.

Seconds after the horn, we turned onto Woodhull, which the race announcer described as being 5/8ths of a mile in distance. I ran it more aggressively than last year and expected my first mile split to be better than the 9:17 that was called out by the race volunteer. But it is a big long hill and last year I spent 9:35 covering the same distance. Once we crested, the road began its downward slope and I pushed hard to make up some time.

I ran well over the second mile and passed a good number of runners. I do believe all the long runs I’ve been doing are helping my speed. My 2 mile split was 17:30, which brought my overall pace down to 8:45 at that point, a half minute per mile improvement. With that progress and the feeling that I had sufficient energy to sustain my pace, I thought I was in for a PR-challenging run.

Once I crossed West Main Street and reached Prime Avenue that borders Heckscher Park, I knew I’d soon be challenged on the turnaround that leads to the final streets toward the finish line. About an eighth of a mile before the end sits a short steep hill that I always dread. I wanted to preserve whatever I had left for my final sprint, but I needed to spend precious energy getting past this hill.

Hard charge around the final dogleg

With no choice but to charge up the hill, I poured it on and hoped for the best. Seconds later I passed mile 3 and made my way up a less challenging hill, past the cheering crowds, where I saw my family waiting along the final dogleg leading to the finish chute. I had given it everything I had, running a 7:40 pace as I crossed the line.

Road ID – It wasn’t for performance but I won!

We hung out after the race to watch the award ceremony and then waited for the results of the raffle. My kids always hold out hope of winning one of the prize baskets, but it didn’t happen this year. There’s a raffle just for the runners, and I was fortunate to win a gift certificate for a Road ID. Timing is everything, because I just got one a couple of weeks ago! But this one will be put to good use.

Long line for Mr. Softy

Like last year, the race organizers hired a Mr. Softy truck to hand out soft serve cones to race participants. It was a welcome treat again this year, and that one cone made its way through the entire Emerging Runner team.

It was another great Marcie Mazzola race, my second race of the year, and a good break from my weekend long runs. I would have liked to break 26 minutes and I thought I was on track to do that, but it didn’t happen. Still, I improved on last year’s time by 44 seconds – not too bad.

Tomorrow it’s back to the office and next weekend I’m back to long base running. I’m happy with this morning’s race and now it’s all about the LI Half in May.

Waiting for the Marcie, once again

Last year’s Marcie 5K, just before the big hill

My vacation is drawing to a close and the last item on my list is tomorrow’s Marcie Mazzola Memorial Foundation 5K. It will be the my first race since February’s Snowflake 4 miler. Given the extremely mild winter, it might have been nice to run a race in March. On the other hand, I’ve been able to use the time to train for the upcoming LI Half Marathon.

Prior to this week, most of the runs I’ve been doing have been more LSD than PDQ. The surprising result has been that long slow running has provided enhanced stamina that is helping my speed. After months of morning runs where breaking a 9:00 pace was a rarity, I’ve done it three times in the past week.

How will this affect my performance at tomorrow’s race? I’m hoping that some hard running this week, followed by two days rest, will translate into a good run. The Marcie Mazzola 5K is a nice race and this will be the fourth time I run it (my first year the distance was 4 miles). The community feel, and the fact that it was my first race, makes it a sentimental favorite with Team Emerging Runner.

Hopefully the rain will have moved out by the 8:30 AM start and we’ll have clear conditions for the race. Not much to do at this point but think about my strategy, gear, nutrition, hydration and shoes. All good distractions. Race report tomorrow.

Inclined to train with a treadmill taper

Sunny skies at the end of LI

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

We left for our trip today, but I got in a treadmill workout this morning. I debated the type of run I’d do, first thinking I’d focus on speed, but then realizing I’d pushed pretty hard yesterday. I ended up splitting the workout between an incline segment and a progressive speed run.

Sunday’s 5K course begins with a hill challenge so I set the machine to a 6% incline and ran that for the first mile. I brought that down and upped the speed every couple of minutes and finished my run at a high 8:00 pace. Between the incline and the speed progression, I was pretty worn out by the end. I was pleased with the workout, one more to go before Sunday.

We’re enjoying the early season sun in Montauk and I’m trying to figure out how I’ll finish my taper. If there’s a route by the water, I’m there.

Upping my game to reach an elusive PR

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

Tabata training and intervals have got me thinking about my current racing performance. The good news is that, since last June, I’ve been on a streak where I’ve set new PR’s for 4 miles, 8K and 10K. In addition, I’ve achieved best ever times on five races that I do every year. The bad news is that I’m about to come around again to those races and the challenge of meeting or beating my best times will be much harder.

I believe that my improved performance is attributable to three things: more racing experience, smarter preparation methods and better weather conditions. I can’t count on the weather and there’s not much more I can do in terms of race day prep. The key for continued achievement in 2012 will be better training. I have a few ideas about that.

My next race is six weeks away. It’s a 5K and I generally run those races as a controlled sprint. 5K is the only distance where I didn’t PR in 2011, even though I ran three of them. My 5K PR is 25:50 (8:19 pace) from a race I ran in 2009. I came within 16 seconds of that time last December, but almost doesn’t count.

The key to my training for the Marcie Mazzola 5K will be a much greater focus on intensity. This, coupled with increased core and strength workouts, may help me move the time needle from 25:50 towards 24:52 (8:00 pace). I have no expectation that I’ll get there in April, but I may yet beat my 8:19 PR.

Race report:Bethpage Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5K

32° at start time, I was tempted to wear the race sweatshirt

Today’s run (Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5K): 3.1 miles – 26:06 (8:24 pace)

I wanted to finish up the year with a December race because I’ve never competed in this month. Not counting the Nissequoge Turkey Trot that I ran for fun on Thanksgiving, today’s race was my tenth of the year. I had no idea of the scale of the Bethpage Ho Ho Ho Holiday Run, but there were well over a thousand people milling around when I got there.

Our weekends can be busy and today my daughter was hosting a holiday party for her friends. Due to that, I went solo, but I did see some people I knew once I got there. I received my sweatshirt after picking up my race number and dropped off some toy donations. After that I walked back to my car to attach my bib and store the race shirt.

It was 32 degrees when we assembled on Broadway and waited for the start. I tried to get closer to the front, but the masses of people prevented any further progress. Santa is the theme of this race and at least half the runners wore seasonal clothes with Santas and elves being the costumes of choice. I had no idea that Under Armor sold running tights in red and vivid green.

As expected, it took about three minutes before I could get up to my planned speed. There were so many people on the road I was afraid of tripping. In fact, I almost stumbled over an elf who cut in front of me just as I was about to zip by two runners.

With no chip sensor at the start, I thought my first mile split time would suffer because I didn’t get to full speed until I’d covered a quarter mile. When we reached the first mile I could see the split clock, but with the crowd in front of me I could only see the two numbers to the right of the colon.The numbers were just rolling past :00 and I figured that meant 9:00, but in fact it was 8:00. That was a happy surprise.

Race course: twice around with a loop in the middle

I figured I’d keep the hammer down as long as I could and the flat course helped. Our route was basically a rectangle of wide streets with one small loop that diverted us through a neighborhood. We ran the rectangle two times and passed the Middle School twice. I would have liked a more scenic route but the lack of distraction helped me focus on my speed and form.

Since we did two laps around the course, I knew where we were when we reached the final section that diverted from Broadway into the school driveway. I sprinted the last tenth and crossed the line a few ticks past the 26 minute mark for an overall pace of 8:24. It wasn’t a PR but it was my fastest 5K this year and I ended up in the top third rather than my usual middle pack position.

I congratulated a colleague from the office who crossed the line a couple of minutes after me, but I couldn’t find a couple of other people who I’d hoped to see. I headed home soon after, rather than wait for the awards ceremony.

Later in the day, while the party was raging at home, my son and I went to Dick’s sporting goods to get a requested item. While we were there I saw that they had the Kinvara 2’s on sale for $59.00, an incredible bargain. I asked for a pair in my size and tried them on to confirm the fit and was disappointed with the feel. I ran around the show department “track” a few times and decided, bargain or not, the shoe didn’t work for me. Oh well, the search continues.

Tomorrow I plan to do a longer run, very slow, to help me recover from today’s intense race. This was a great event and I’ll plan to run it again next year.

Seeing red at this weekend’s race

Does Adidas make technical Santa suits?

There was a write-up in Sunday’s paper about the Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5k that I plan to run this weekend. The piece mentioned that many participants dress up in Santa suits for the race. Sounds like fun. Perhaps I’ll gain competitive advantage by not wearing a bulky suit and a floppy hat as I run.

My brother and I have discussed participating in the Santa Speedo Run that takes place in Boston every year. It’s just what you might think it is. But Speedos are a little too extreme for me, although they’d be far more aerodynamic than a Santa suit. I’ll stick to my less festive but more practical running gear on Saturday. If I wear blue and white, would I get partial credit for running in Chanukah colors?

My fastest 5K ever*

Today’s run (track): 1 mile warm-up, 8 x 200, 1 mile cool down

I knew I needed to get in some speed work so I headed to the local HS track this morning. When I arrived I noticed that the adjacent lot was almost full and saw that the high school team was playing a pre-season game against another town. There were people up in the stands and standing alongside the track that circles the football field. There were also people walking around the track, seemingly oblivious to the action taking place a few feet away.

I started my workout with a brisk mile warm-up that I completed in 8:13. That wasn’t bad for a cold start. I followed that with eight 200 meter intervals, with one minute recovery periods, and averaged 6:54 for that mile. I finished my workout with a 1.1 mile cool down run that I did in 8:52. I ended up averaging 8:01 for the 3.1 miles (24:39).

*This can’t really be counted as my fastest 5K because it wasn’t a continuous run. Knowing that you can stop after 200 meters, or even after a mile, helps keep you moving fast. However, I will say that every second on that track was focused on performance. At the end, I was satisfied that I was doing my best to prepare for the Cow Harbor race.