Long runs and minimalist shoes

Today’s run: Central Park (planned)

It’s only been one day since I’ve run but two mornings in a row without a workout seems too long. Tomorrow’s planned run will be relatively long but we’ll be keeping the pace moderate. Today I’m going to Central Park to put in a few fast miles. The weather predictions are making me think it will be cooler and drier than my last CP run and I’m hoping that’s the case. I’m not all that pleased to see the summer coming to a close but as a runner who prefers cooler conditions, I am looking forward to the fall.

I have my Brooks today but I may wear my Kinvaras tomorrow because I’m curious to see how they feel after seven miles. The longest run I’ve done with these shoes is 5.25 miles and I had no problems on that day. Adventure Girl ran a tough trail half marathon in Oregon earlier this month while wearing her Kinvaras. She liked them a lot, even over that long distance. Today on Runner’s Tech Review we’re posting an article from a runner who has been deployed in Iraq and has put many miles on a variety of minimalist running shoes. It’s a great piece because his impressions are based on miles of running, not just the initial test findings you’d get from most shoe reviews.

Should be a good weekend of running starting today. Only 28 days to the Great Cow Harbor 10K so my focus is turning to distance and stamina.

Training is paying off with two speedy runs despite the hills

Friday’s run (Central Park): 3.25 miles at 8:39
Today’s run (street): 4.5 miles at 8:36

We have guests coming over today so I set out early to get in my run. My focus, both today and yesterday, was on maintaining a brisk pace over routes that presented some hill challenges. Yesterday I headed to Central Park around noon and followed a route that started by following the lower and upper loop on the east side. I crossed to the west north of the Great Lawn and finished my run down the loops along the west side. The temperature was around 75 degrees and that helped at the start. I ran the first mile, that has a couple of noticeable elevations, at around 8:05 per mile, which is fast for me. My split speed decreased for miles 2 and 3 but I did keep my pace well under nine minutes the whole way through. A focus on speed has definitely improved my performance and I’m happy with the numbers but I do wish I could just go out there and run for fun. But running for fun does not contribute enough to conditioning and I only have one week before the Dirty Sock 10K.

My run this morning mostly took place in a business park located near my house. it’s not the most visually interesting place to run but the wide open streets and a loop that is 2/3 uphill and 1/3 downhill makes for a great training ground. I ran the loop two times and tried to maintain a rapid cadence. I averaged 88 SPM for the first mile and gradually fell to 83 SPM by the last half mile. Even so, I bettered the 80 SPM that I have averaged most of this summer. I finished my training cycle by ducking into neighborhood #3 which is mostly flat and provided a welcome relief from uphill running. From there I headed home, tired but still remaining under the 9:00 threshold.

Last night my wife told me about a 5K race that was being held at Sand’s Point this morning. She suggested I run it because it’s a beautiful place right on the water. I decided that I needed to do the hill training instead, to prepare for next week’s race. It would have been fun to spontaneously run a 5K but part of my enjoyment of racing is the anticipation of the event and the strategy and training that precedes it. I’m really curious about how I’ll do next Sunday. Will my performance training pay off or will I end up close to my time from last year? I thought I’d trained better and incorporated better strategy before the New Hyde Park 8K in June but I ended up no faster (or slower) than my 2009 run. I’m planning to run with my friend KWL tomorrow and then run on Monday through Wednesday during the week. I’ll finish my taper with an elliptical session and rest for Sunday. At least that’s the plan for now.

NYC running – many choices, but there’s only one Central Park

Today’s run: Central Park (planned)

It’s looking fairly gloomy on this Friday the 13th morning. The local news station predicts that the low cloud cover will burn off by noon and that nice weather will follow. I’d be happy to keep the overcast skies and just eliminate the threat of rain. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Central Park run and I miss the experience. I’m planning to return to the park today and I have high hopes for relatively cooler temperatures and low humidity.

Last summer I covered a lot of the city during these summer Friday excursions. AG, who knew most of the running routes in the NYC and surrounding areas, introduced me to the west side bike paths, the Old Croton Aqueduct trail and the experience of running over the Brooklyn and GW bridges. I ran north on the bike paths earlier in the summer with my friend Steve but other than that I haven’t migrated far from Central Park.

Bike paths at Chambers Street

It might be fun to run south on the bike path to Chambers Street as we did often last year. It was a one way trip that ended downtown near Whole Foods. After the run we could walk a block to Whole Foods and get some recovery drinks (I liked the bottled water with added electrolytes) and we’d hop on the subway back to the office. I suppose I could do that today for a change of scenery. Still, Central Park is seductive and it has the hills I really need for my training. I’ll wait until noon to see how I feel and whether the weather will cooperate.

Hoping for a Central Park run today

Yesterday’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes
Today’s run: Central Park (planned)

For some reason four day work weeks can feel longer than five day work weeks. That certainly wasn’t the case this week as I still can’t believe it’s already Friday. I’ve had so much to do lately that I wasn’t even able to post on Thursday. Not that I have much to report. Yesterday’s workout was very low key, about 25 minutes on the elliptical. The high humidity that morning produced a sweat that made it seem like I was working hard but I wasn’t really pushing it. Today, if I’m satisfied with my progress with my current project I’ll head out for a mid-day run.

I’ve been thinking about some of the more adventurous runs AG and I did last summer; over bridges and exploring places that were new to me. If I had more time today I would consider doing one of those runs. Given my schedule, if I do get out it will likely be the park. With the sun and temperatures in the high 80’s it will be difficult to cover a lot of distance. I may run the bridle path because there are many spots with good tree coverage along that route. If city running doesn’t work today I will probably take off early and do a run closer to home followed by a swim in the pool. I’m going to have a short weekend because I have to leave for a trip on Sunday afternoon. I still hope to get a couple of decent runs in both days.

Summer running

After four days of sunny weather it really feels like summer has arrived. I’m no fan of the heat but I’m not dreading it as much as I did last year. It was the hot weather that pushed me to do more trail running last summer and I’ve enjoyed that experience many times since. Now that the state parks on Long Island have been fully funded I’m looking forward to revisiting some, like Caleb Smith State Park along with others that were due to close. My company is once again offering “Summer Fridays” that allow staff to finish the work week around 1:00 PM. I usually work the mornings, go out for a NYC run at lunchtime and then head home. I did some great Friday runs last summer with Adventure Girl in Central Park, on the west side bike paths, over the Brooklyn and GW Bridges and along the Old Croton Aqueduct trail. Just thinking about the possibilities gets me excited and I hope to recruit some running friends to join me this year. I used to dread summer because of the heat, but running on the trails and in the city has turned that into a real positive.

3,877 smoot run, 400 on the bridge

Today’s run: (paths, river, bridges) 4.1 miles at 8:40 per mile

While I’m not a big fan of duplicating my route on consecutive days I think I could run along the Charles River every day of the week. I feel the same way about Central Park. That said, I didn’t exactly duplicate yesterday’s run this morning. Unlike the day before, I started my run outside my hotel and crossed directly over the Longfellow Bridge into Boston. It was a different experience for me because I usually run west on Memorial Drive and over the Mass Ave (AKA Harvard) bridge first. Crossing the Charles, I was pleased to see so much activity on the water with sailboats and rowing sculls of all sizes. Like yesterday, there were plenty of other runners, cyclists and walkers making their way around. I was prepared to run a shorter distance today because it felt much hotter than Tuesday and I basically kept to the circular route between the bridges. Along the way I covered the distance of the Harvard Bridge which has regular markings of “smoots” which is a (nonstandard) unit of measurement that represents the height of Oliver Smoot, a Lamda Chi Alpha pledge at MIT in 1958 who was used as a human ruler as a prank. According to the markings, the bridge is about 400 smoots, give or take an ear.

Upon returning close to the point where Main Street meets the Longfellow Bridge I shifted over to the feeder road and continued east until I reached my hotel. I covered 4.1 miles at a speedy 8:40 mile pace and was very happy with the run. This morning there was some discussion of technologies to increase the speed and efficiency of runners and I saw a demonstration of a leg device that allows a person to run with some speed while expending less energy than walking. Great when viewed as an alternative to city transportation but for recreational running I’d say “What’s the point?” I was fortunate to get to see my brother for dinner on Monday night and do the same last night with some good friends. I’ll report more on the performance and measurement technologies in the coming days.

Cambridge to Boston and back at 6:00 AM

Today’s run (street/path/bridge): 4.4 miles at 8:40 per mile

I’ve anticipated this morning’s run for a while and I wasn’t disappointed when I went out at 6:00 AM under sunny skies and already warm temperatures. I headed to Memorial Drive, wending my way around the roads and paths until I got to the river. Alongside the paved path are narrow packed dirt paths. I crossed over to run on those paths to take advantage of the softer landing. I’d considered running past the Mass Ave bridge but that involved crossing a road with many cars turning to go over the bridge. I ran over the bridge on the pedestrian walkway and headed west once I got to the Boston side. I ran west until I passed the 1.5 mile mark and then followed the path along the Charles going east.

When I reached the farther bridge I thought about running Charles Street but foot traffic was too dense to make that practical. Instead, I headed back to Cambridge over the Longfellow and encountered a number of runners coming from the other direction, squeezing past on some of the narrower parts of the walk. When I reached the end of the bridge I just kept going up Main Street in Kendall Square until I reached my starting point. In all I covered 4.4 miles at a decent pace, due in part to my Saucony Grid Tangents. It was a great way to start the day and I’m planning to head out tomorrow to do it all over again.  

Business travel provides a different running experience

Today’s workout: Rest day

This will be a busy week. I’ll be out of the office four out of the five days and traveling for the first three. Today will start with an hour and a half presentation that I have to give before I head to Penn Station to hop on the Acela to Boston. It’s not a bad trip and I’m planning to see some great people and do some interesting things. I’m also hoping to get some city running in while I’m there. I’ve mentioned the Memorial Drive run that I love and I wish I had time to extend that run on the Boston side to include a loop around Boston Common. There’s something great about running where the city meets nature. Running in Central Park is always interesting to me because there’s so much to see with things changing all the time. Due to business conditions I haven’t traveled as much in the last year as in the past but I have another trip coming up soon. My schedule will be tight so I don’t know if I’ll get to run there but I’m hopeful that I can. I don’t enjoy business travel or being away from my family but running in new or different places makes for a far better experience.

The Saucony Kinvaras make a great first impression

Saucony Kinvaras ready for their first run

Today’s run (Central Park): 3.2 miles at 8:47/mile

My shipment from Saucony arrived yesterday and I’m very excited to put these two pairs of lightweight trainers to the test. Lightweight is the word, the Kinvaras practically floated out of the box when I opened it. The pictures promised a different looking shoe and the Saucony Kinvara is certainly different. The outer layer on the upper is translucent and it looks like it was air brushed. My kids thought they looked amazing and my daughter asked me if they came in kid sizes. But looks are one thing, fit and feel are another and I put them to the test today at noon in Central Park.

The Kinvara is a minimalist shoe that can be used for racing. It’s more flexible on the forefoot than the other running shoes that I own with an extremely small drop off from heel to toe that encourages mid foot landing. When I put them on I had the same reaction that I had when I tried on a pair of Nike Frees – it felt more like a slipper than a running shoe. Once I began to walk in them and got a sense of how they worked with the foot I realized they were nicely responsive. I started my run at the bottom of the lower loop and was happy to note that the ride was no harder than the Brooks Adrenalin’s although the feel was different. I moved along well and passed some runners, even on the hills. The sun was out and it was very humid so the run was already feeling like hard work by mile 2. However, I maintained a decent pace throughout the entire distance and was pleased to average 8:47 per mile. I have to give credit to the shoes for helping me attain that pace since I can’t think of another factor that would explain it.

Over this weekend I hope to test the other pair of shoes I got from Saucony, the ProGrid Tangent 4’s. Like the Kinvaras, these shoes are extremely light and have some stability control for those, like me, who pronate. The fit, like every Saucony I’ve ever put on my foot, feels natural and correct. As much as I’m excited about the Kinvaras I’m thinking that the Tangents may be competition for the Brooks as a daily trainer. I’ll be testing both pairs in the coming weeks. I’m still not sure whether I’ll race on Sunday but if I do I plan to wear the Kinvaras. Since it’s just a 5K on Sunday I’m not too concerned about racing with new shoes. Today’s running experience seems to validate that decision.

Once around the park (literally)

Harlem Meer in north Central Park

Yesterday’s run (Central Park): 6.15 miles at 9:20

It’s always fun to break new ground in terms of running experience and that was the case for me yesterday. I’ve been getting to Central Park every Friday afternoon for a run and this extra mileage has helped me push closer to my weekly goal of 20 miles a week. I have stuck to the routes I’d learned through running with Adventure Girl last year but prior to Friday I had never braved the territory north of the reservoir. Classes have ended at Yale so AG is back in town for a few weeks. She’ll be heading to the west coast to conduct a graduate research project over the summer. In the meantime we’ll get a few runs in when we can.

We headed up to Central Park under sunny skies and 69 degree temperatures. When we reached the start along the lower loop we did some dynamic stretching before starting off. While that was happening I felt something hit my back but largely ignored it. I figured it was a big bug or something that fell off a tree. Once done we headed north at a sub-9 minute clip that we maintained for the first mile or so. About one mile later we came upon a waterfall tucked in beside the path. We took a brief break to look at it and saw goldfish swimming in the stream fed by the falls. AG said that it’s common and unfortunate that people dump pets like fish, lizards and snakes in Central Park because it’s not ecologically sound to do this with non-indigenous species.

We were soon on our way past the Meer and I got to experience the famous “Harlem hills” that weren’t all that steep but they went on for a long while. Once we got past them it was a bit easier going although there were few noticeable hills just north of the reservoir as we headed south. By the time we reached the southern end of the reservoir I was back in familiar territory and the last few miles were more downhill than up. Despite that, I was pretty exhausted and when we finished I saw that we’d covered 6.15 miles. When we arrived back at work AG followed me into my office and saw that the thing that had hit my back before we started our run was a “gift” from a bird overhead. I was lucky it hit my back and not my head and very glad that I didn’t know what happened at the time.

It was great to run again with AG in the city. It was the first time since last August that we’d run in NYC and longer still since we’d run in Central Park. I’m happy to have finally run the full loop and I plan to do it again this summer. Those hills are plenty tough but after yesterday’s experience they just don’t scare me anymore.