Around the track without a buzz

Hey, you, get offa my track!

Today’s run (track): 4.1 miles

I did my best to get out early today and I made it to the track by 6:30 AM. The sun was still low in the sky and the temperature (73°) and humidity (69%) made for decent running weather. As I made my way down the drive toward the track, I looked over and  saw there was a runner making his way around. I was disappointed because I really hoped to have the place to myself. I’m not a misanthrope, and I love to run with my friends, but I do enjoy the solitude of the empty track. Oh well.

I started out easy, but I didn’t feel the energy I’ve come to expect since reducing my sugar intake. I worried that the lift I’ve been getting was a short term gain, and that my body has since adapted to the change. I did feel stronger as I ran, but still had some residual fatigue. I got through my intended laps without a problem, but stopped short of finishing the workout with a set of intervals.

Could this be less obvious?

When I got home, I grabbed a K cup from the same box I’d used for my morning coffee. I noticed that I’d mistakenly made decaf. So this morning’s track run was done with neither carb loading nor caffeine. Knowing that made me feel better about my run. Especially at the end, when I poured it on for the last 200 meters and had plenty left in the tank.

I suppose I could also consider reducing my caffeine intake at some point, but I’ve read that caffeine is actually health positive in moderate doses. I’ll stick with managing complex carbs and sugar for now.

Undone by a mis-selected K-cup

Dear Bro: can GMC increase the font size of its decaf label?

Today’s run (street) 4.2 miles

Our trip provided three days of high energy fun but rest time was at a premium. Last night, it was a treat to finally sleep in my own comfortable bed and I looked forward to waking up feeling refreshed and ready for good long run. I got up a little before 6:00 AM and made a cup of coffee to start my engines. Instead of feeling rested and energized, I felt like going back to bed. I decided to relax for the time being, even though I wanted to get out early to beat the heat.

I couldn’t understand why I felt so tired, but I managed to gather my gear for my run. I had been thinking about a six miler, possible at Bethpage, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of fatigue. I decided to stay local and modified my targeted distance to three miles. I figured it would be better to do something, rather than not running at all.

The sun was still low in the sky when I finally took off at 8:30 AM. I kept an easy pace that I knew I could sustain. The humidity wasn’t as bad as it was during yesterday’s afternoon run, and I knew I could get through a short workout without much problem. I thought about the track workout I did with SIOR and TPP a few weekends ago when I logged some decent 400’s. I tried to duplicate the turnover I used to make those sub-8:00 quarters, but the speed didn’t come today.

Surprisingly enough, I was able to beat today’s shortened goal. In fact, I covered more distance than yesterday, when I barely got through four miles. Still, I was unusually tired after I finished, and that fatigue continued after a cooling shower and lunch. I decided to have another cup of coffee, hoping that would wake me up and help me get rid of a dull headache. That’s when I discovered the probable cause of my lethargy.

When I removed this morning’s spent K-cup, I realized that I’d accidentally put in decaf version of Green Mountain Dark Magic. I had been operating caffeine-free all day, no small thing for me. I don’t need much caffeine, but I definitely need it in the morning. One cup is all it takes to return me to the world of the normal. I quickly made a cup of leaded and, within ten minutes, I was energized and headache free.

Tomorrow I’ll try to break out of my four mile range with a longer run. I’m not sure where I’ll go, but you can be sure I’ll be starting my day with an extra strong cup of caffeinated brew.

Father’s Day track workout with the ‘skeeteers

After 14 laps of father’s day fun

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PETITE PACER

Today’s run (track speed work): 14 x 400’s = 3.5 miles

Happy Father’s Day! I’m certainly a happy dad, and I’ve had a great day. The morning started with a track workout with my running buddies. I usually do these workouts on the local high school track so traveling to SIOR‘s town was a nice change. My local track runs around the football field and is very isolated, while this track is located within a neighborhood and it felt somewhat quaint.

SIOR ran from her home and I saw her running on the road as I pulled up to the track. TPP was already there, and we started our workout a little after 8:00 AM. The weather was sunny and the temperature was still in the low 60’s.

On SIOR’s suggestion we alternated easy and hard quarters. Our original target was 12 laps (3 miles) but we all ended up running 14. We took off easy and I was able to hold a conversation as I ran. After one lap we dropped a gear and switched to race pace. I liked this method, using a jogging lap for recovery rather than stopping for a minute between hard laps. It kept my heart rate up and made it easier to transition to the faster paces.

SIOR and TPP burned up the track the first couple of times around and I envied their speed. I did fine, averaging somewhere within the 7:00 minute range on my fast laps. I can move along when I know that I only need to endure a hard effort for two minutes or less. TPP had a case of “Too much fun the night before-itis” and took it easier on her later laps. It was no surprise to anyone that SIOR flew through her laps. At one point I tried to catch up to her, but I didn’t make much progress.

Me and SIOR finishing an easy lap

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PETITE PACER

Per tradition, we followed our workout with a visit to Starbucks. SIOR and TPP caught up on Game of Thrones and we covered a lot of subjects. Interestingly enough, there was little mention of running. I needed to cut it short because I had some Father’s Day activities. My wife and kids were going to take me to Lemonleaf Grill for lunch, but it didn’t open until 1:00 PM and I’d worked up quite an appetite from all that speed work. We ended up at Quetzalcoatl in Huntington, so it was Mexican rather than Thai. But it was really good, as usual.

It’s been a great Father’s Day spent with friends and family. I am so glad that I got to see my Runska-buddies and do that workout with them in such beautiful weather. The day isn’t finished and I’m looking forward to more family activities this evening.

Flexr running bottle, I hardly knew ye

Have you seen me?

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 6.25 miles

This morning I met up with my running buddies to take on Bethpage’s northern bike trail. We haven’t run together since the Brooklyn Half (technically, only TPP and I ran together that day), so it was fun to regroup. Now that the weather is warming up, I’ve been thinking that I need to carry water on longer runs. I’ve had little luck with running bottles, but a company called Flexr Sports had sent me one that interested me, so I decided to try it today.

SIOR was waiting on the trail when I arrived at our rendezvous spot. I told her I was thinking of carrying the Flexr bottle today (she has one as well) but I was concerned about the weight (my bottle held 21 oz.) and its lack of a hand strap. I tossed it back in the car, but SIOR mentioned the rising heat, so I decided to take it along after all.

TPP arrived at that moment and we quickly decided to go north. I wanted to cover six miles today, TPP was thinking 6-8 miles and SIOR, who had already run a mile, was thinking about going beyond the Cold Spring Harbor Labs publishing building. We ran together long enough to hear the details of SIOR’s missing kitten saga (everything turned out fine!), but we separated by pace soon after that.

In terms of pace, mine was the slowest. That didn’t discourage me, but I wished I could get closer so I could participate in the conversation. Of course, if I did push myself to their pace, I wouldn’t have been able to contribute anything but gasps and grunts. My friends waited for me to catch up at the road crossings and that proved valuable for planning the next stages of our run.

The last section of our route, between Washington Ave and Sunnyside Boulevard, is very hilly going north. It’s so hilly that I tend to use the LIE underpass as my turnaround point instead of taking on that challenge. But the Runsketeers don’t shy away from hills, so I dutifully followed them up and over. TPP has had some recent struggles with endurance and speed (as have I) but today she moved along very well.

TPP and I reached Sunnyside after SIOR, who had continued on further north. We turned around at that point (3 miles) and headed back to our starting point. We knew SIOR would catch up to us eventually. Soon after we crossed Old Country Road, we were all reunited when SIOR ran into us like a freight train from behind. She is very speedy.

Although both of my friends got out in front of me after that, I picked up my speed and ended up covering the last 1.2 miles in a pace range that I haven’t seen in a long time. It felt great to run harder as I got to the end and I enjoyed being cheered in by my buddies who had already finished. We took our traditional selfies after that. My skill in that area seems to be getting worse.

Um, how do you use a camera?

I ended up liking the Flexr bottle for its squeezable (rather than rigid) construction and its cap that worked much better than my Ultimate Direction bottle. I did wish it had a hand strap, but the shape helped make up for that somewhat. The bottle retails for about $11 and has disposible liners. I think it’s a bargain.

Flexr has removable liners – nice idea

Unfortunately, I had placed the bottle on the back bumper of SIOR’s car during our photo shoot and then forgot about it. Too bad, I was really starting to like it. We kept our other tradition of post run coffee at Starbucks and it was great to catch up. Soccer mom SIOR needed to leave first, but TPP and I hung in for a while and talked about running shoes and proprioception, a word I bungled badly, although TPP could pronounce it perfectly.

It was a great day to run and to be with running friends. I wish I’d remembered to take my Flexr bottle, but it won’t cost a lot to replace. In the meantime, I’m pleased with my progress. I didn’t run fast, but I was faster than yesterday. As long as things keep going in that direction, I’m okay. Speed work soon. I think that’s the only way to return to past performance levels.

Forced ageism on the treadmill

Demographically insulted

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.6 miles

I knew it was going to rain this morning but I thought I might be able to fit in a run before the weather changed. As often happens on Saturday mornings, I got a little too comfortable settling in with a big cup of Green Mountain Double Black Diamond Extra Bold (thanks again Bill!) and watching the news. Time passed until I finally managed to tear myself from a hard hitting news story about dog racism and headed upstairs to change.

My wife is extremely disciplined about getting things done and that includes her daily workout. When I got upstairs, she was already halfway through her treadmill run. Knowing that I’d planned to run outside, she looked at me sympathetically and said, “You’re probably better off using the treadmill rather than running outside that this point.” A look outside supported that view. I got caught in the rain about halfway through yesterday’s run. Although it only lasted a couple of minutes, I found it extremely unpleasant.

My run went fine. No heroics on the treadmill. I set a moderate pace and stayed with it throughout my targeted time. I got tired of switching the channel between the local news station, MSNBC, CNN and HLN every time they went to a commercial. I changed over to the Music Channels and was amused to see how the display ads differed depending on the type of music selected. The Classic Rock and Soft Rock stations kept showing an ad with an older guy holding a cane, with the headline “Having Difficulty with your Knees?”

Each time they showed that, I felt like yelling, “How dare you infer that I need your services just because I choose to listen to the Steve Miller Band! I’m running!” (actually I may have yelled it once). In the end, today’s workout was exactly what I needed. I’d planned to throw in some fartleks, but SIOR made the point that I should not be focusing that much on speed at this point. Unlike some recent runs, today’s felt energizing and I had no breathing issues or fatigue. Perhaps the warmer weather is helping. And not a moment too soon.

Zapped and tired

Zapped again

Today’s run (treadmill): 45 minutes

I woke up feeling tired with a scratchy throat this morning. Morning is when my energy level peaks, but even with two cups of coffee, I felt fatigued. It was “near-end-of-vacation-pancake-day” so I had to participate. I added a cup of decaf to my coffee intake and figured the extra carbs from the pancakes would help fuel my run. If that was the case, it was a short term benefit.

My treadmill workout did not go very well. I knew I’d have trouble maintaining Friday’s pace, so I started at a speed that I thought I could sustain for 40 minutes. Although the temperature has risen throughout the week, the humidity has remained low. About three minutes into the run, my hand brushed the treadmill’s HRM grip. This caused a spark that wiped out the display but I didn’t notice it for another minute. I reset the treadmill without knowing how far I’d actually gone.

The next ten minutes went okay, but I soon felt tired. I usually wouldn’t stop a run due to fatigue, but today I made an exception. I gave myself a minute to recover before restarting the machine and dialed down the speed a half a MPH. I was able to manage through for another 30 minutes, though I don’t know if it was wise to continue.

I’m hoping my strength will return so I’ll be on my game tomorrow. I keep expecting a cold to come, but so far it’s mostly just fatigue and an irritated throat.

A weekend of Yin and Yang

Yesterday’s run (treadmill): 3.2 miles
Today’s workout (treadmill): 40 minutes

My workouts really varied over the last two days and were as different as Yin and Yang. Friday morning had us doing last minute preparations in anticipation of a house full of guests. That, plus calls related to a big business project, almost forced me to cancel yesterday’s run. By 9:30 I was able to break away and switch to workout mode. With little time to run, I opted for the treadmill.

For my Yang run, I decided to go full tilt from the start and set the speed at 6.6 MPH. On my treadmill, that speed feels much faster than a 9:05 pace. Though I feared it might be a hard rate to sustain, I quickly settled into the pace and was able to hang on for the duration of the run. I would have liked to have had a longer recovery period after I’d finished, but I was soon out of time.

Our guests started arriving around noon. My brother and his family were down from Vermont and my mother and her friend were in from Florida. The remainder of the day was spent on non-running activities and after a big dinner and desserts, me and my sister-in law took a walk around the neighborhood. We moved along at a brisk pace, but it was relaxing compared to my run that morning.

I wanted to spend as much time as I could with our guests this morning so I delayed my run until everyone had left. After a busy afternoon, I decided that I needed today’s workout to be more Yin than Yang. Running hard late in the afternoon would probably not have positioned me well for another run tomorrow morning. I’ll admit that I felt too lazy to put on cold weather gear and the thought of an easy workout on the treadmill seemed far more appealing.

I set the treadmill’s incline to 3% but gave myself a break on speed. I eventually brought down the incline when I felt some leg burn. The intention of this workout was not to push to the level of discomfort. Although it’s still only Saturday, it feels like it’s been a three day weekend. I mean that in the best way.

My brother brought me a Keurig brewer and sent some coffee to go with it. I’m looking forward to having a cup of Kenyan to fuel my morning run tomorrow. Good coffee and running, yet another perfect Yin and Yang.

Revealing an imperfect placebo

Nothing works like the real thing

Today’s workout (elliptical): 40 minutes + 15 min light upper body work

It’s amazing how easy a moderate elliptical session can feel the day after a long run. Though I’ve read that the elliptical machine provides a harder workout than perceived, it still seems easier than running the equivalent distance. It certainly did today, and I think I know why.

Following the elliptical, I ran through a series of arm and chest exercises using a device I’d bought at Brookstone a few months ago. The device is short pole that’s weighted and sprung in a way that it can be shaken to provide unstable resistance. I think it has something to do with “muscle confusion” that supposedly yields fitness benefits through the technique of constant change. I used the device in the intended way and also used it in the more traditional way, by bending it to build up arm and chest strength.

After I worked out I decided to have a last cup of coffee. It was then that I realized I’d been drinking decaf coffee over the past week. My wife had bought a different brand of decaf (that I usually only drink later in the day when entertaining guests) and I thought it was the fully leaded stuff.

That may explain why I’ve struggled more than usual in my morning workouts. If that’s the case then I probably should be a little concerned about my dependency on caffeine. On the plus side, I did manage to run more than seven miles yesterday with no caffeine. I did not take a single gel or even drink water throughout my 75 minute run. That proves I can deal with having no caffeine in the morning. I’m just happier not to.