No longer running like a broken down car

Out and back on the north trail

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 4.4 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.2 miles

Going back into the office after two vacation days was a challenge. I didn’t get back into workout mode until yesterday. I’m happy to report that I’ve maintained my nutritional discipline, cutting out the bulk of processed sugar in my diet and avoiding conditions that may spike blood glucose and insulin response. The results speak for themselves. I’ve lost some weight, gained more energy and I’m handling work stress far better than before.

As far as running, there has been impact, but no tangible performance gain. Using automobiles as a analogy, I would compare my running a month ago to one of those cars from the ’80s or early ’90s that I often see on my daily commute. These junkers sound like they need mufflers, transmissions and valve jobs and struggle just to keep up with traffic. It takes everything they have just to get where they’re going. That was me in June. I struggled through every run at paces that were 2-3 minutes per mile slower than I used to go, just a couple of years ago.

Using the same analogy, my current running is more like me in my car. I can keep up with traffic without struggling. If I want to drive faster, I can. The only reason  haven’t pushed the pedal any harder is that I’m enjoying running for the first time in a long time. I now look forward to getting outside instead of dreading the effort. The question is, when should I shift to focusing on pace?

Yesterday’s run around the neighborhood was easy and I threw in some speed at times. I’d gone out around 6:30 AM before the sun was baking hot and the humidity reached 90%. That would have been a good idea this morning, but I didn’t get to Bethpage until 8:00 AM when the temperature was already in the mid 80s and getting hotter.

I had the same energy at the start that I’ve experienced since my diet change, but I did have some trouble loosening up. It took about a half a mile before my stride felt fluid. The trail was fairly shady and it made a big difference when I was shielded from the sun. I didn’t feel as strong as I did on Friday, but the difference in temperature probably had a lot to do with that. Despite weather conditions making it tough, I still felt like I could cover more ground today.

I considered running past Washington Ave which would have extended today’s run to five miles. I had the energy, but I hadn’t fueled properly and didn’t want to overdo it. Better to run well and appreciate the effort than to go too far and regret it. The trail was full of cyclists today, many more than usual. Curiously, there three or four dead mice on the trail, something I rarely see. I also saw a fair number of bunnies who were happily hopping around.

If I can get my act together I may get out really early and run at the track. I’d like to do a few intervals to activate muscle memory and push myself out of my current pacing. I’m looking forward to running tomorrow, no matter where I go or what I do. That’s a great change in a very short time.

Bethpage’s hills didn’t scare me today

Where bike trail meets dirt trail

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 4.3 miles

I’m discovering that my new approach to eating has yielded some improvement. As I mentioned yesterday, a measurable reduction in processed sugar intake and longer breaks between meals has given me more clarity and energy. Although it has been less than two weeks, I’m noticing positive changes, physically and mentally. It’s too early to know if these changes are producing real results or if the improvements are more of a placebo effect. It may be a little of both.

I got out to Bethpage this morning and parked at Runsketeer HQ off of Haypath. I usually run north to Washington Ave., but today I decided to go south toward Bethpage State Park. Like yesterday, I felt great from the start to the end of my run and I truly believe it has to do with reducing refined sugar and minimizing insulin response. While this change is exciting, my performance hasn’t improved.

Great run despite 88% humidity

Today’s pace was fairly typical compared to what I’d normally run for four miles. The difference is that maintaining that pace is now far easier. I normally grit my teeth to get through my runs and focus on the end result: finishing. There was none of that today, even though I took on some challenging hills between Haypath Road and my turnaround point on Picnic Polo Road.

So what about performance? If I continue to feel the way I did on my last two runs, I can start focusing on speed. That’s something that I haven’t done in a long time. Either way, I’m enjoying, rather than enduring the experience in way I haven’t in quite a few years.

Three runs and a little culture

Selfie in the Scharf black-light room

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 3.75 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 4.75 miles
Friday’s run (street): 3.2 miles

I’m in the middle of a four day break from work — five days if you count working from home on Friday.  Although I still have long gaps between my last run of the weekend and the first one of the week, I always try to run whenever I’m off.

On Friday, I got out in very pleasant conditions and covered my usual loop in time to start an early business day. With schools out for summer, the roads were fairly clear. At one point in the run, I passed a team of landscapers. One of  them was using a high powered weed whacker and, as I ran by, I felt the sting of a pebble that hit my elbow. It left a mark, but at least it didn’t break the skin. That was the most memorable part of that run.

Yesterday I had a little more time to run, so I broke out of my neighborhood and headed over to the business park. On my way back, I did a loop in a connecting development and ran by a parked car whose occupant was puffing on a vile smelling cigarette. The acrid odor followed me up the road and didn’t disappear until I rounded a corner that put me downwind of the source. As I made my way out of the neighborhood, I noticed that the car was gone, but the reek of tobacco remained

I went over to Bethpage  this morning to run the bike trail. Again, my time was limited and I kept it fairly short. I got out early and there were already plenty of walkers, cyclists and runners on the trail. There was even a skateboarder (or skateboarder wannabe) who stood unmoving on his board in the middle of the path, listening to music. On my way back, he was in exactly the same position, still not moving.

The reason I needed to do a quick run was because the Emerging Runner family was going to the Nassau County Museum in Roslyn Harbor where they had two amazing exhibits: Kenny Scharf and Glamorous Graffiti featuring works from Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura, Lee and Cash. The grounds of the museum are beautiful and filled with interesting sculptures. There were lots of animals running around, including this fox. If you live in western Long Island, I highly recommend a visit to this place.

Moments later it jumped over a lazy dog
The only Speed Racer I saw today

Artist: Lee Quiñones

Keith Haring originals
I thought I saw TPP

Tomorrow is the Fourth, and we’ll be doing all the usual Independence Day stuff. Before that, I’m hoping to get in a few miles. If I get to the track early enough, I may get it all to myself.

A long run and an unconnected home

Along the Bethpage trail

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 5 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.2 miles
Sunday’s run (street): 4.4 miles

Last Sunday I wasted so much time on a home technology project that I ran out of time to write about my run. I barely recall the workout and had to look at Garmin Connect to remember the route. It was around my neighborhood and not very memorable. Later in the day I took on the challenge of adding the internet of things to my home network, involving a linking hub and programmable LED bulbs. I expected that to take about 45 minutes. After resolving all the technical issues, it ended up taking over three hours.

As much as I wanted to run on Wednesday or Thursday, my work schedule didn’t allow for it. I didn’t have bandwidth to do a workout until Friday. I worked from home and wanted to get out around 6:00 AM. That’s when I typically leave for work and I often see runners around the neighborhood. I was curious if I’d see the dummy who runs in the middle of the street and never moves over when I’m behind him in my car.

The runners I did see were self aware enough to to keep to the left side of the street. I had a little more flexibility in my schedule yesterday, but decided to stick with my usual Friday route. It’s always a struggle resuming my running after not running for four days. After a couple of minutes I fell into a comfortable stride.

Weather conditions during my run

I had a early task this morning that delayed the start of my run. I ended up going to Bethpage for five miles on the northern end of the bike trail. The weather was near perfect, perhaps a little warmer than I’d have liked. I did fairly well on the hills, although I did get passed by a guy pushing a jogging stroller up a steep a section.

But not very well

I’m not sure where I’ll run tomorrow. It’s supposed to be very windy, although the weather reports aren’t talking about rain. Hopefully I’ll get to some other home projects on my list. I ended up sending back the bulbs and hub because the app used to control the system was pretty useless. Being a technical masochist, I’m planning to get a different brand and try again. Just like running, you can’t stop just because of one bad experience.

Neighborhood run around

Old neighborhood, new directions

Today’s run (street): 4.75 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.25 miles
Sunday’s run (Bethpage): 5.1 miles

Another busy work week resulted in a zero workouts between Monday and Thursday. Last Sunday I went to Bethpage and ran along  the northern end of the bike trail from Haypath to Washington Ave and back. I worked from home yesterday and got in a surprisingly brisk run around my neighborhood. This morning I planned to meet SIOR at Massepequa Preserve for a group run, but I had an unexpected issue that delayed me from getting out early enough.

Everything worked out and I considered a number of places to run (the track, Stillwell, business park…) but ended up sticking close to home. My one  concession to routine was to run without a planned route. I picked a direction and chose lefts and rights at random. After seeing the route map on Garmin Connect, I realized that it looked pretty much like my usual pattern. What was different was the order and direction that made it seem like a different experience.

Only so many ways to cover these streets

Two years ago this weekend, me and my buddies ran the Brooklyn Half. There’s no way I’d be ready to do that today. I want to start working on my base and hope to get in five or more miles tomorrow. According to the latest prediction, the weather should start to clear around 8 AM.  I may bite the bullet and go out earlier even if the rain is still coming down. Maybe I’ll run at the track. If the rain gets too bad, I’ll never be more than 200 meters from my car.

A detour on the path and a pain in the knee

Detour at mile 3

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 5.1 miles

I headed out to Bethpage this morning around 7:45 AM. It was a little later than I’d hoped to run, but I needed to stick around the house and help my son get ready for today’s science fair. I didn’t help with the actual project, that is so complicated and sciency that I can’t understand anything in his research reports and display board except his name. My contribution was to help him tie his tie before he boarded the bus to Great Neck.

I don’t have an Empire Passport this year so I didn’t go to the park to start my run. I probably could have got in for free because the guy who works the entry booth sometimes lets me park without paying. He’s a great guy and a really good judge of people. Instead, I parked on Colonial Road which is located about a mile north of the Bethpage lot.

My plan was to run north so that worked out fine. I usually start on the bike trail at Haypath and run to the LIE overpass on Washington Ave and back. That’s just about five miles. Today I decided to get my five a different way with a detour up Old Country Road.

I did not get off to a good start. My legs felt heavy and my stride felt awkward. I really hoped it was something that would change as I warmed up. I loosened up eventually, but it took a couple of miles of running for that to happen. There were many runners out today, mainly groups. At one point I saw so many people running that I thought there was a race going on.

I turned around after two miles and ran south until I reached Old Country Road. I then ran west almost to Plainview Road and then back to the bike trail. I ended up covering my targeted five and got to see other sights off the beaten path. Actually the path on Old Country was pretty beaten. So much so, that I feared I’d trip on the many torn up slabs of concrete sidewalk.

Profound statement from CaptionBot

When I got back to my car I noticed some pain at the top of my knee. It only hurt when I put pressure on it or turned it when pushing up to stand. I looked up the symptoms online and they seem to match something people call patellofemoral pain. One site suggested ice, elevation and compression. I put on my ACE knee brace that got me through a meniscus tear without surgery many years ago.

I’m fortunate to work with experts in health and physiology and I plan to seek their advice tomorrow. I’m hoping that the brace and a couple of days rest will help in the meantime.

Running bargains, get them while they last

Friday run: note the runner on right side of picture

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 5.2 miles
Yesterday (street): 3.2 miles

I got out early on Friday before my day started and covered my minimum distance for a run (5K). When I stepped outside, I noticed the scent of spring in the air. The temperature was 59° with a steady breeze that energized me from the start. It seemed quiet for a Friday, perhaps because I went out early. No recycling trucks or buses, just me, the road and a surprising number of people out walking. I also saw a runner (see picture) who decided that the middle of the road was a smart place to run.

Today’s route

This morning the weather was cooler, high 30’s according to News12, and I dressed for it. I wanted to cover five miles and headed over to the Runsketeer rendezvous point on Haypath Road. My route plan was to start at Haypath and run to Washington Ave. as my turnaround point. I had plenty of company on the bike trail, including some people walking with large dogs. I was careful to leave a lot of room each time that I passed by.

Later in the day we went to the Gallery at Westbury and saw (as I’d predicted), that the SA Elite store was closing. This used to be my favorite place for running clothes and shoes. In the beginning it was a beautiful store with most of its merchandise related to running. I’ve bought a lot of shoes and running clothes there over the last few years.

My bargain jackets

I ended up buying a duplicate of my dog-bitten ASICS rain jacket (discounted to $13!!) and a high reflectivity ASICS jacket for $23. We also got some old-school Onitsuka Tigers for my son for $30, a yoga mat for my daughter and a couple of shirts. The whole thing came to less than $100. There’s still a lot of merchandise, so I recommend a visit soon. They say the store will close when there’s nothing left to sell.

One last  thing – I want to give a big shout-out to Runsketeer SIOR for running a great 15K race on a very hilly course in King’s Park this morning.

Some improvement running at Bethpage

Making strides

Today’s run (Bethpage trail): 5.1 miles

I’m happy to report that I was not the dog’s dinner on today’s run. I wanted to break away from my neighborhood and headed over to Bethpage to run the bike trail. I know I should be running 6 or more miles at least once a week to raise my base, but that hasn’t been happening. I wasn’t prepared to do six today, but I thought five was reasonable.

With 9 MPH winds, the real-feel temperature was 42°, although it felt much chillier. If my running jacket hadn’t been ruined yesterday, I may have worn it as a top layer. I was lucky not to have that option because I heated up a lot as I progressed. By the end, I was regretting my second layer, hat and gloves.

The run went okay, but the hilly route felt ponderous. I felt a little rough throughout the first half mile and realized that I’d only covered a tenth of my targeted distance. I hoped that my aerobic engine would soon kick in. I cruised along, tolerating the ups and downs of the rolling course and dreading the mini-mountain I knew I’d need to climb at the start of my last mile.

Most of the run was at my usual speed but, near the end, I began experimenting with different pacing. I shortened my stride and increased my cadence while maintaining the same level of effort. I didn’t know this at that time, but this change provided a measurable improvement in my pace.

I don’t know if I can permanently adapt to this running style, but if I’m successful, I should be able to improve on my current performance. I plan to try doing it for longer periods in hopes that it will begin to feel more natural.

Feeling low and staying low

Declined to incline

Today’s run (street): 4.2 miles

There are days when I know when I’m in for a good run and other days when I strongly consider other workouts. I wasn’t feeling it this morning and my instinct was to explore options such as strength training, elliptical or core. Rather than decide, I took the easier path and ran. Not that the running was easy. It was not.

Yesterday’s difficult run could be blamed on overdressing or overeating (or both). I had a decent night’s sleep and chilly weather in the morning. Both are positive conditions for a good run. However, I lacked my usual energy and that accounted for a change in plans from my original route.

I was going to run to the top of the Bethpage bike trail at Woodbury Road and follow the path to the LIE overpass and back (red highlight on map). By the time I reached that road, I decided that I wasn’t up for that long incline and elected to follow Woodbury Road to Meyers Farm and back. My run along Woodbury Road turned out to be harder than expected as the path was covered in a thick layer of leaves.

Despite lacking energy, I was able to hang in for a couple more miles. Like yesterday, I was pretty worn out by the end. Not a great week for mileage, but I did manage to get in four workouts. I’m hoping I’ll rebound by next weekend.

Personal distance best at Bethpage

Hardly sweating after seven

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 7.1 miles

I was determined to make progress against my distance goals this morning and set my sights on the Bethpage trail. I targeted seven miles to make this my longest run this year. The chilly, high 30’s temperature compelled me to pull my Opedix Knee-Tecs out of storage as well as a mid-weight quarter zip. All geared up, I headed out early because I knew it would take a while to get through this run.

I didn’t bother to drive to the park because last week they were still charging to use the lot. I went to our regular rendezvous spot and immediately took off south. I do most of my Bethpage runs north of Haypath Road, but lately I’ve been missing the old trail. I took off south and quickly got past the short, steep hill that greets runners about a third of a mile into that route.

This morning I read an article in Runners World that encouraged hill-haters to embrace them for their conditioning benefits. I tried to keep an open mind as I encountered one hill after another. The Bethpage bikeway is rolling, with a few challenging hills and a lot of elevation changes. Sometimes these lesser hills seem like bumps and other times they seem mountainous. It may have been the mindset I got from the article, but none seemed that bad today.

Record breaker

My longest run in 2015 had been about 6.4 miles, so my plan was to turn around after 3.5 to guarantee my seven. Since I went out early, I had the path pretty much to myself. I appreciated the sights, sounds and maple-y smells of the late fall morning. The few who were out on their runs were friendly, although there were two teams of three cyclists who didn’t quite get the concept of sharing the path. One of them passed me pretty closely and almost got the concept of my sharp elbow.

Despite my layers, I remained fairly comfortable as the temperature rose to low 40’s. It struck me that today’s run felt no more taxing than yesterday’s, even though that was less than half the distance. With four workouts this week and my personal best for distance, I’ll consider this a good week of running.