Long run, short route

Dark blue: primary loop, light blue: last mile

Today’s run (street): 6.75 miles

I thought I had eight more weeks to train for the Brooklyn Half, but I discovered this morning that I’d mistakenly added an extra week into the schedule. I’m glad that I noticed this before it created a disruption with my plan. I had originally built in two 11 mile Sunday runs prior to my final 12 miles the weekend before the race. I needed to eliminate one of them to make the schedule work. I have two consecutive 10’s before that and could have reduced that to one. However, I think I’m better off going 10, 10, 11 and 12, especially with the extra long runs midweek.

Corrected Sunday schedule

I had early plans today, but was still able to get today’s base run done by mid-morning. Rain was threatening, so I decided to forgo Bethpage in favor of my local streets. I really dislike running in the rain and was concerned about getting caught in a downpour. I came up with the idea of running a set lap of roads that are close by my house. I figured, no matter how hard it might rain, I’d never be more than half a mile away. The thought of running the same one-mile loop 6-plus times wasn’t appealing, but it was a practical approach.

Coming into this weekend, my batting average for good Sunday training runs was .000. The last two week’s efforts resulted in difficult and demoralizing performances. I suspected the very cold temperatures on those days were the reason, and anecdotal evidence supported that. I had a miserable five mile run on Wednesday, but much of that can be blamed on the freezing winds. Today’s temperature was over 40°, even with wind chill. I felt more comfortable as a result.

I was prepared for a tedious experience running the same loop over and over, but it turned out to be fine. The route I designed began with a moderate uphill section that lasted for the first half mile. The only negative about that part was the noticeable wind that made progress somewhat more challenging. Once I got past the incline, I had a reciprocal downhill almost back to my starting point.

It never rained, but a constant mist coated my glasses and required me to occasionally clear the lenses while I ran. Not a big problem. I started slowly and that really helped. I tend to start too quickly on long runs and it sometimes accelerates fatigue. Today I maintained a steady stride all throughout the run. I was happily surprised to find my energy level increasing midway through my fifth mile (ketosis?).

I was on the fence about whether I’d complete a full seven or cap the run at six. The lap I had charted was actually 1.05 miles, so I knew I’d get to 6.3 by default. I decided to go off route halfway through what would have been my sixth mile and added some distance. That ended up increasing my total by almost half a mile, not quite bringing me to 7. With the addition of an extra two miles on Wednesday’s run (compared to the Higdon plan), I was fine with that.

Next Tuesday I’ll attempt 6 x 400’s outdoors and aim for 5.4 miles on Wednesday. Next Sunday the long run total jumps to eight. With a trouble free, almost-seven run under my belt today, I’m feeling much better about my training.

Wind induced Turkey Trot flashback

Wind chilly

Today’s run (neighborhood): 5 miles

This morning I saw that the temperature was 33°, but the wind was making it feel like it was 19° outside. I weighed the pros and cons of going out or staying inside. I decided that I’d rather endure challenging winds than five mind-numbing miles on the treadmill. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was the smartest way to go

One of the reasons I chose to run outside was to confront this cold weather breathing issue straight on. By coincidence, the first three base runs I’ve done since starting my half marathon training have happened on the three coldest days. The theory I’m exploring is that cold air is affecting my ability to breathe efficiently and causing me to struggle far below normal lactate threshold. Interestingly, I found something online that said facial cooling triggers the vagus nerve (grow up, it’s located in your face) which can slow up heartbeat.

I’ve had trouble getting my heart rate above 80% of max on these cold runs, so the answer may be in there somewhere. My plan this morning was to run fairly easy, since I did intervals yesterday. I started out feeling okay, but not speedy (which was fine). I was also wearing more layers than a pâte feuilletée and that was probably slowing me down. The wind was brutal and running directly into it practically stopped my forward progress. It was like a flashback to the Long Beach Turkey Trot last November, but happily without the sandstorm.

Race fitness: It’s just a matter of Venn

The two main objectives to my training are to increase my endurance well enough to cover 13.1 miles and improve my stamina to allow me to maintain a targeted pace over that distance. I’ll be honest and say that today’s run did not provide any sign of improved speed, but I was able to handle the mileage better than on Sunday.

Tomorrow’s weather is supposed to be much like today’s. If that’s the case I’m going to stay inside and run my three miles at “pace” on the treadmill. I’ll plan to run longer distances outside and keep the speedier workouts indoors until the weather gets warmer. If that’s what it takes to bridge stamina and speed, I’m willing to spend a little time on the treadmill.

Steep road to the Brooklyn Half

Scene of the crime

Today’s run (Bethpage Bike Trail): 5.25 miles

Have you ever had one of those long runs that felt so effortless that it seemed you could run all day? If that’s the case, I am extremely envious, because today’s kick-off to my Brooklyn half marathon training was the opposite of that. The one positive that came out of today’s workout was that I planned to run five and I did it. However, the experience itself was not good and it raised some questions about my fitness.

I had every reason to think today’s run would go well. Yesterday’s race was only a two mile leg. Although it was a tough two, it wasn’t an endurance challenge. I wasn’t pleased with my lack of stamina that caused me to slow considerably a couple of times, but my Garmin showed I’d averaged under 9:00 for a good part of the time. I figured an easy run on the paved Bethpage trail would be a nice recovery.

It was much colder this morning compared to yesterday’s race conditions. The temperature display in my car showed 28° and it was breezy outside. I had dressed for the cold, but the wind made it feel far more uncomfortable. But that was an irritant, not an obstacle. I felt fine for the first few minutes and it helped that my route went downhill for much of the first mile. By the time I reached the wooded section, just east of the park drive, I started feeling an energy debt. I made my way up some short but somewhat steep sections and realized this was not going to go well.

I often hit a wall around 30 minutes into a run, but I can usually manage through that. Today that wall came at the 10 minute mark and it never went away. Even at a 10+ minute pace, I felt weighted down. I think I’m starting to react to tree pollen that was released with the spring-like weather we had earlier this week. It may just be that all the indoor training on the treadmill at easy paces has softened me up for cold weather endurance running.

The tough running continued and I considered truncating today’s distance to 4 miles. I decided to stick to the script and adjusted my speed to maintain forward motion. I wasn’t happy to be running so slow, but I reminded myself that this was supposed to be a recovery run and I’d committed to this schedule. All the indoor training and the lack of real elevation on my neighborhood roads were working against me. The hills really took a toll on me today.

One down, nine to go

But this is why we train, right? I remember going from middle distance to double digit mileage the last time I did half marathon training. In a way it was tougher to get through a hilly six miles those first weeks than to double that distance after many weeks of base runs.  Next weekend I go for six. I’m thinking about resting Monday and Tuesday and then going for another four or five miles on Wednesday. Perhaps I’ll run 80% of my previous weekend’s distance on each mid-week run. I may use Tuesdays for weekly speed work. But not this week. At this point I need a couple of days of rest.

I really should have thought this through

Accidental self portrait after the run
I was trying to get this shot of the new gates and info kiosk

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 7.4 miles

As I made my way along today’s Bethpage route, I came up with various titles for this post. At the two mile mark, it was something like, “Great base run at Bethpage.” By the time I’d reached my turnaround point it was, “Oh the humidity!” By the time I reached the end of my run, the above title popped into my head.

Today was a base building run to help prepare me for Cow Harbor. With all the focus I’ve been putting on speed, I didn’t want to neglect the fact that the Cow Harbor course is 6.2 miles and hilly. I thought that Bethpage’s bike trail would be a great place to duplicate those properties. Cow Harbor’s race day weather can be oppressively hot and humid, so today I hit the trifecta for simulating conditions.

I didn’t plan a particular distance this morning, although I knew I’d run at least six miles. Once I arrived at the park, I decided to run a mile on the north trail before changing directions so I could do the bulk of my distance on the older, somewhat more challenging section. I had little trouble getting through this first part. It was cloudy and 73 degrees, so despite the 89% humidity, it didn’t seem so bad.

My new-found speed allowed me to pass numerous runners. This was gratifying since I’m often passed by club runners who populate this trail on weekends. My pace for the first couple of miles was on par with what I’ve been running lately, and I felt encouraged. By the time I reached mile three, I started to feel the effort, especially as I took on a couple of tough hills that come before the Plainview Road roundabout.

Despite growing evidence that my smooth base run was about to get rougher, I tried to maintain a brisk pace. The trail between miles three and four trends slightly down, so I was able to keep going without a lot of extra effort. By the time I passed four miles, it became clear that my glycogen level was depleted. I did my best to hold on while my body figured out what to do next.

Between a lack of fuel and the overwhelming humidity, I was hurting. Why, after seeing the weather report showing close to 100% humidity today, did I forget to bring a water bottle? My pace had slowed 90 seconds per mile compared to the start, and I switched to a more mechanical stride in an effort to just keep going. I nearly bonked at mile six, but instead slowed my pace even more. I needed to prepare for the dreaded hills that make up most of the last mile leading to the trail head.

By the time I reached the biggest and longest hill, I was moving slowly. But I was moving. I even passed a woman on a bike who was struggling to get up the hill. About 4/5ths of the way to the top, my energy began to return and I stepped up my pace enough to put me back into target range. I was thrilled to run the final section of trail leading to the lot. Stopping never felt so good.

It was a very tough workout and I’m still feeling the effects seven hours later (although I did participate this afternoon in our family’s annual obstacle race – a summer tradition). I don’t know if today’s experience was due to fitness gaps or if it was more about the weather. Last weekend I ran almost the same distance and performed much better, so it probably had more to do with conditions than conditioning. Next time I’ll think about going out so fast on a base run and I’ll definitely remember to bring along water.

Bethpage run plan ruined by Barclays

Today’s run (street): 6.3 miles

Last night I thought about heading to Babylon in the morning to run the Dirty Sock 10K. I planned to cover the same distance on today’s run and thought it might be fun to do my workout as a race. I ultimately realized that signing up for the race but not running it all out would not work for me. And I knew I wasn’t ready for either the course or the pace that I’d want to hit.

Instead, I went over to Bethpage to run the bike trail. With just four weekends before Cow Harbor, I knew I needed to work on my base and prepare for the Northport hills. When I got to the gate I was stopped by a guy who told me that there was no access to the parking lot or trails due to the Barclays 2012 golf tournament that’s being held on the Black course.

That was disappointing. I thought the parks were for the people, not for the banks that sponsored golf events. It’s not as if I wanted to sneak over to watch. The only thing more boring to me than playing golf is watching other people play.

With no opportunity to run at Bethpage, I headed back to my neighborhood. I considered the routes I could follow to cover 6 miles and decided to run to the business park that has a long loop and some hilly sections. After one time around the park, I cut over to neighborhood #3 and made my way through to Woodbury Road where I continued east.

The per capita income of Woodbury NY is one of highest in the country, yet the condition of the sidewalks along its busy main road is terrible. The grass overgrows the pavement, the concrete is uneven and tree branches hang down so low that some sections are barely passable. I managed to get through it without slowing down too much, and I cut north into a neighborhood to bypass the worst sections on the way back.

I was fortunate to have cool temperatures and moderate humidity throughout most of the run, but I ended up soaked with sweat just the same. It was a solid effort and I was pleased to cover the distance this morning. I had no regrets for having missed Dirty Sock after three consecutive years of running it. But I do regret that Bethpage will be closed to runners until after August 30.

Base restoration, Day 1

Today’s run (street): 6.4 miles

It’s been weeks since I’ve done a run greater than five miles, so I planned for a longer run today. By the end of April (prior to the half), I was at my training peak, averaging over 22 miles a week. Right now I feel like I’m in a bit of a valley in terms of my training and performance. This is due mostly to running lower mileage weeks over the last month. I recognize that I need to refocus on my base training.

Today’s route was a departure from my usual neighborhood course. After a counter-clockwise loop around the northern roads, I headed toward the local business park to run the main loop with its hilly section. On the way out, I turned into neighborhood #3 and ran a loop around those roads, finishing with a mile and a half back in my neighborhood.

I’ve felt slightly tired and “under the weather” since last weekend. That continued this morning, although it didn’t affect my stamina. I ran about 20 seconds per mile slower than I’d planned, but I still covered my distance in a credible time.

I’m planning to rest as much as I can over the weekend in hopes of restoring my energy level. I’d like to cover another six miles tomorrow to get me to 20 miles this week. Either way, I’m happy to have run over six miles today. a good base is hard to build, and easy to lose.

Psychological struggles on the Bethpage trail

Six down and six up

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 12 miles

Unless you are an elite runner, or someone who covers 70 training miles a week, 12 miles is a long distance to run. It’s 92% of a half marathon and it felt very much like a full marathon this morning. I know a good number of people who run marathons and half marathons, and I am privately amazed by their confident view of these races. To me, a half marathon is an “Event” that takes many weeks of tough training and still guarantees to beat me to a pulp. My friends certainly give their training its due, but they don’t seem as intimidated by the challenge.

It was a chilly 34 degrees when I started this morning’s run at Bethpage and I decided to start with a lap around the large parking lot before reaching the main trail. I thought that front loading some distance would give me a psychological edge, making my long miles on the trail seem a little shorter. Unfortunately I miscalculated a little and paid for it at the end.

I ran without water because my Amphipod bottle is not usable and my Ultimate Direction bottle had not arrived. I could have run with bottled water but I decided to go without, rather than deal with the need to carry a bottle without a hand grip. I took along a GU gel in case I needed a boost later in my run. I ultimately chose not to take it because I didn’t want to consume it without water.

My extra distance at the beginning of my run provided the surprise of reaching the 4 mile point earlier than I expected. My milestone for that distance is a point just south of the Southern State overpass near the Linden Street crossing. Before long, I was running in the Massapequa Preserve where I planned my turnaround after six miles. That was a mistake.

Bethpage is a rolling trail that does a good job of torturing me at certain points in my run. There are some hills to manage during the first few miles, but it isn’t until I reach the Southern State overpass where it becomes hard. The section is steep, but not too long, and I get over it fine. The problem is knowing that I’ll soon face it coming back, the northbound section being longer, with two difficult inclines.

I like the Massapequa Preserve because the path is macadam, not concrete, and everyone on that section of the trail seems to be friendly and smiling. I cruised along well but I did begin to feel fatigue as I approached the six mile mark. I considered having the GU, but I didn’t want to deal with the stickiness without water to wash it down. That won’t be the case for the Half where I’ll run with water or take GU at a water station.

Once I cleared the Southern State I tried to feel good that I wouldn’t have to deal with big hills for a couple of miles. For some reason I began feeling down and was questioning why I was subjecting myself to this long boring run. I knew even then that much of running is psychological and that I needed to get my head straight if I was to cover the next five miles without going insane.

I did recover from that malaise, but my boredom was soon replaced by dread. I was facing the two big hills near the end and wasn’t feeling very strong. I again considered taking my gel but decided that I’d almost be finished with my run by the time I felt any effect from it. As I approached the Quaker Meetinghouse Rd. crossing, I seriously considered taking a break. The wooden bench looked tempting but, when I reached it, I just kept going.

The first of the two dreaded hills was easier to handle than I’d expected, though I knew I was running pretty slowly. Another runner passed me and disappeared into the distance and I cringed before looking at my Garmin to check my pace. The last big hill was harder than expected, but I knew once I passed it I’d soon be done.

Wrong!

In my decision to turn around at six miles, I failed to consider that I’d run about half a mile prior to starting on the bike trail. That meant that, by the time I reached the parking lot, I’d only covered 11.5 miles. In order to reach my 12 mile goal I needed to circle the entire lot. While the parking lot is flat, my mind was set to come off the trail and trot over to my car, stop the Garmin and rest. Instead I had to make that last loop, trudging through final half mile as I wistfully viewed my waiting car.

I was beat up pretty badly, but I succeeded in reaching all my training goals for next weekend’s race. I will definitely take gels when I fatigue and stop at the water stations or carry my own hydration. Next Sunday will be 1.1 miles more than I covered today. I know it will be hard, but at least the LI Half race course doesn’t have Bethpage’s hills. That’s what I kept telling myself this morning.

Empty bottle syndrome

Amphipod Hydroform: leaky top

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 9.1 miles

This has been a tough week by any measure, and I’d hoped to address my sleep debt by getting eight full hours last night. I didn’t quite make that, but I did manage seven. Even so, I still felt a little off this morning. I was glad this wasn’t my half marathon weekend because it wouldn’t have gone well.

My plan was to run 12 miles today. Over the past six weeks I’ve done base training at Bethpage on Saturdays, going from 7 to 11 miles by adding a mile every week. Last weekend I broke that cycle, because I was resting on Saturday for Sunday’s 5K race. With only two weekends left to train for the LI Half, I knew I needed to go out for long run today. Sunday is likely to be a washout with heavy rains expected.

I had a late morning appointment so I tried to get out early, but I didn’t quite succeed. I determined that I’d run out of time if I stuck to my original plan, so I cut my distance goal to 9 miles. I had bought some Gatorade G Series Prime Fuel, it’s sort of like a gel in liquid form, and added it to the water in my Amphipod hand bottle. I wanted to test that combination for use during the half.

I dressed lightly for the low-50’s temperatures, but I should have worn an even lighter top layer because it was HUMID.  Almost immediately after I started my run, I noticed that the hand bottle was leaking and sploshing red-tinted liquid all over my hand. I had wrapped a paper towel around the bottle for insulation and dryness but that quickly soaked through. I wasn’t even a half mile into my run when I decided to dump some of the contents to minimize the spillage.

I wore my Brooks Adrenaline to help prevent further aggravation to the sole of my left foot. Prior to putting on my sock, I had rubbed some capzasin cream onto the area that has been giving me trouble. I don’t think it did much to help, but it didn’t hurt to try. By the time I finished mile one I knew that my foot wouldn’t be my biggest problem on the run.

There were many runners, mostly in pairs or groups, along the trail today. Almost everyone greeted me as we passed. I had hoped that all my base running and recent speed focus would make today’s run easier, but I really struggled throughout most of the way through. By the time I reached the steep incline leading over the Southern State, I was concerned about having the strength to complete the entire out-and-back.

I only went .75 miles into the Massepequa Preserve before turning back and facing the climb over the parkway from the other direction. Once I came down I knew I had less than 4 miles to go, but I knew the last two miles would be very difficult.

By the time I was ready to drink from my bottle I saw that there was nothing left to drink. This was a disappointment and the lack of hydration, combined with glycogen and electrolyte depletion, made me grateful that I didn’t attempt the full 12 miles, as originally planned.

I ran the first half of today’s run a minute per mile faster than the second half. The humidity didn’t help an already tough situation. As I slogged through the last two hills, I kept visualizing the final downhill section that would lead me to my car. Nine miles this morning was far tougher than the eleven that I ran two weeks ago.

Due to the Amphipod’s failure, I wasn’t able to assess the effectiveness of the G Series Prime Fuel as a supplement to my water supply. Worse, I am now without a useable water bottle for the race. I hope to find something this week that I can test next weekend. I’m traveling next week so I’m not sure when I can do that. One more week to train and then it’s time to run the LI Half once again. At least I’ve trained hard for it, so far.

An inspiring birthday present

My new inspiration board

Wednesday’s run (treadmill): 15 minutes
Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

This has been quite a week, especially the last three days, and I’m truly thinking: TGIF. I was proud to receive a nice industry award on Wednesday night and my wife and kids came into the city for the event. That, combined with an all day meeting, made for a very long day. In anticipation of that, I limited my Wednesday morning workout to 15 minutes, so I could get some additional rest that morning.

Yesterday was my birthday and my wife surprised me when I got home, with a board displaying a selection of my race bibs from over the past three years. She included some finish line pictures as well. I’m going to put it up in the guest room next to the treadmill for inspiration. What a great present!

This morning I returned to the road and covered my usual route, taking about the same amount of time as I normally do. I didn’t push myself too hard, but the run felt faster than the actual elapsed time. I plan to go out for 12 miles tomorrow so I was careful not to strain anything today. Two more weekends to train for the LI Half. This Saturday should be my longest run prior to that race. I’m hoping for clear skies and cool temps in the morning.

Base training has its benefits and so does peppermint oil

Today’s run (street): 4.8 miles

Happy feet guaranteed

One of the benefits of base training is that it redefines the scale of a challenging run. For instance, over the winter the average distance of my weekend runs dropped to about 3.75 miles. That meant that any run greater than four miles was an envelope pusher. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t run 6 miles or more, but it would have felt like a lot of work to do that.

My training plan has me covering one extra mile on my long weekend runs each week. I’m building up to a final base run of 12+ miles prior to the half marathon. Yesterday I ran 10 miles and today I covered 4.8. I went out with the intention of running between 3 and 4 but it felt so easy (I wasn’t really pushing the pace) that I extended my route to almost five miles.

While these longer Saturday runs are making my Sunday recovery workouts feel easier, my feet have begun to protest. It’s been a long while since I covered the equivalent of a half marathon over the period of a weekend. I’ve done just that over the past three weeks. Foot soaks with peppermint oil soap have helped a lot. I recommend it to anyone.

I’m feeling more prepared for the Half than I was last year. Eleven miles is on the schedule for next Saturday. Hope it doesn’t rain again.