Progress made on a progressive run

Progressively paced

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles

I’ve been feeling a little down about my running lately, because I haven’t been able to generate much speed on my training runs. I feel I should be meeting certain paces and I’ve come up short over the last week. The fact that my race times have been going in the wrong direction has fed into this frustration. Today’s run didn’t completely reverse my perspective, but it certainly helped my confidence.

It’s hard to explain my current issues. I’m not running to exhaustion, but I’ve felt like the effort I’m putting in isn’t translating into commensurate performance. I haven’t been pushing the pace like I’d do if I was training for a race, although I do have a 10K coming up in three weeks. I shouldn’t be expecting greatness, but perceived effort seems greater than observed performance.

I started out slowly and expected this run to be another disappointing effort, but I picked up speed every mile, finishing up a minute and half per mile faster than I started. This improvement was not apparent in the moment. It wasn’t until I’d downloaded my Garmin’s data that I saw my negative splits and realized I’d managed to hit an acceptable overall pace.

I’m glad to have tomorrow, my weekly rest day, for further recovery. I’ll need to turn my attention to race training soon. For now I’m just happy to have broken my streak of sub-par runs.

My Garmin speaks the ugly truth

It’s a match

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles

I’m incredibly annoyed with my Garmin today. I did this morning’s run and, as always, recorded my distance using GPS. I always assume the watch will under-count my distance, so I wasn’t upset to see the indicated time and pace. Usually, after Gmapping my route, I’ll need to add about 3% more mileage to the calculation. That often makes the difference between a good and mediocre pace. Today, both the Garmin and Gmaps said exactly the same thing, and what they said wasn’t good. I missed my targeted pace by 23 seconds per mile.

There’s no reason why I ran this slowly today. I’d tried to focus on form and turnover. The weather was perfect, so heat and humidity were not a factor. Perceived effort was on par with my better runs and I even ran the last quarter in a semi-sprint. But in the end, my performance did not match up to expectations. Tomorrow is my last run before Sunday’s race, so I need to make it count.

Zeotrope concept (left), example (right)

I took most of the day to be with the family and we spent it at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. The experience was great, and I even got to play with a nineteenth century zeotrope of a man running. But instead of marveling at this 100 year old wonder of technology, I was watching his form and thinking how he should shorten his stride.

Rain disrupts my plans, but not my running

Weather fit for neither beast nor trail runner

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I ended up skipping yesterday’s workout altogether, choosing to wait until this afternoon to run the trails with my friend. The early morning’s weather was perfect, but unfortunately, it was the only good weather we had today. I glanced outside throughout the day and watched the sky grow increasingly darker. It would either clear up, or I’d be looking at rainy and muddy conditions at 4:00 PM.

Around 3:00 PM, my friend Chris called to check in. He was on Long Island for business and preparing to finish a meeting, before heading to my house. The rain was coming down in buckets and any hopes that it would taper off were gone. We decided to postpone our trail run until next week.

With my afternoon freed up, I refocused on a business project. I knew I had the option of running on the treadmill so, by 4:15, I’d decided to do that. In keeping with my plan to train at faster paces, I started on the edge of comfort and increased my speed periodically throughout the run.

Some people find treadmill running easier than outdoor running, but I have the opposite experience. 6.6 MPH (9:00/mile) on my Sole F63 feels like 5K race pace. I was determined get through the run, despite increasing discomfort. I bumped up the pace with a quarter mile to go and held it until I’d “covered” my planned distance.

It was definitely one of the hardest runs I’ve done in the last four weeks and I was glad that I didn’t back off on my speed, even as the run got tougher. I need to maintain that mindset as I go through my Dirty Sock training. Even without Chris to push me or the challenges at Stillwell, I think made some good conditioning progress today.

Speed decline, is it nature or nurture?

My story in two axis

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles

Conditions were near perfect when I went out for my morning run. The 7:00 AM sun was low enough to cast great shade along my route and the air felt cool and dry. The neighborhood was quiet, with just a few cars and a couple of walkers. I moved along well and thought about the fact that my running performance has suffered greatly this year.

A few years ago, I would average around 27 minutes for a three mile training run. Over time, my normal training pace has edged up almost a minute per mile. Back in 2010, I went out on every run with a pace goal in mind, and I was racing far more frequently than I have this year. That may explain some of the loss of speed.

I’m not willing to concede any performance drops to age at this point. Although I really want to run for the sake of running, I do find myself thinking about turnover and stride length while on the road. If I look at my pace on the Garmin during a run, I’m often surprised by how much effort it takes to break 9:00 minutes.

Every time I find myself on a run, struggling to stay under 10:00/mile, I vow that I’ll go back to doing core exercises and speed work at the track. Somehow I forget that commitment once I get home. I think it’s time to get serious about speed. I’m due to run with a friend this week who tends to push me past my comfort zone. Maybe that’s exactly what I need right now.

A good effort but the clock doesn’t lie

Today’s run (street): 4.3 miles

I had an early appointment that delayed today’s run until mid-morning. The temperature at 10:00 AM was a reasonable 77°, but the sun was making it feel warmer than that. My plan was to go out fast and maintain the speediest pace I could, for as long as I could. I followed a route that would take me up and down the streets that run north of my house, and then head further south to round out the course.

I decided to check my watch at the half mile point to see what the Garmin was displaying for pace. The watch said 8:52, which seemed about right, and I figured that I could maintain that for 40 or 50 minutes. I didn’t feel too overheated and I thought I was in for a run that was close to, or below, 9:00 per mile.

As it turned out, I began slowing down after passing the first mile. By the time I reached three miles, I saw that my pace was 30 seconds off my targeted range. It bothered me that my performance did not match the level of effort that I was putting into the run. After downloading the Garmin and correcting for distance errors (the GPS accuracy has been abysmal this week), I saw that I’d run the first mile in nine minutes, but my pace had crept up into the mid-nine range until improving near the end.

The combination of heat and effort prompted me to cap my run at 40 minutes, for an overall pace of 9:23. I was disappointed with that result because I felt I’d pushed harder than normal. I wanted to break nine minutes, but I don’t think I did all that badly. I’m planning to go longer (and probably slower) tomorrow. It’s okay really. After the past week’s running, I know what I’m capable of doing.

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.

A reason to appreciate my next good run

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

Tuesday’s post contained a quote about relishing bad runs so that you’ll appreciate the good ones. I had plenty of reason to relish this morning because I ran my route over a minute slower than yesterday. I knew I was in for a disappointing time from the beginning. I may have improved my pace in the second half, but it was fairly pathetic effort.

Every weekday morning I question my expectations for performance. I’m out of bed at 3:45 AM and standing on my driveway ten minutes later. While I’m definitely a morning person and a morning runner, I understand that my body may not respond as well after abruptly waking up  from a sound sleep. Sometimes it does respond and other times, like today, it doesn’t.

Today my legs felt leaden and that affected the fluidity of my form. Affected in the sense that I had no form. The residual tiredness, that I usually lose after a few minutes during these runs, remained. On Tuesday and Wednesday I’d pushed myself at certain times and ended up with decent overall paces. I had no appetite for that today and kept both my effort and heart rate low.

In the end, I was disappointed to see how slowly I had run. I was secretly hoping that the Garmin would show (despite my less than vigorous effort) that I’d actually flown through the course. The fact is that you get out what you put into a workout, and I contributed very little. So I’ll relish this sub-par experience knowing how much I’ll appreciate my next good run. Anyway, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Reflecting on a mediocre race

The gloom of a dark, rainy Monday matches my mood perfectly this morning. One more weekend day would have been nice, even with this wet weather. Despite an hour’s nap on Sunday, I think I need a recharge. I’m fairly certain that yesterday’s race-day struggles relate to either a lack of sleep or fighting off a virus. I’m not sure there’s anything in my training or preparation that I would have done differently.

While I am disappointed to have missed a PR by a large margin, I’m not down about my performance. One bad race is no longer enough for me to worry about my fitness or potential. I’ve been fortunate to experience most of my bad runs during training sessions, with the 2011 half marathon being a key exception. But yesterday felt like a really bad run.

I’m wondering if I should plan to go out tomorrow morning or take another day’s rest before resuming my training schedule. At this point I’m not sure whether I’m better off getting back on the horse, or letting the horse rest a little longer.

Rough time at Stillwell Woods

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.1 miles

Some runs are easy and some are not. I can usually predict how I’ll perform based upon how I feel before I start. I’m at my best between 7:00-11:00 AM and any time before or after that will rarely yield an extraordinary performance. The worst time for me to run is mid-afternoon, especially after a big lunch.

Knowing this, it won’t be a surprise when I say that today’s run at Stillwell was:

  • Not Fun
  • Very difficult
  • Disappointing
  • De-motivating
  • 50% short of my intended goal

I’m on vacation this week, which is great, but there are a lot of things to do while I’m off. I spent most of the morning with the electrician, resolving some long term problems with one of our circuits. This forced me to push my run later in the day. We had also planned a Mexican-themed lunch that may have been a contributing factor in today’s poor experience.

I headed to the trails at Stillwell Woods thinking that the rough terrain would provide a great excuse to run only for time, independent of pace. My goal was to go out for an hour and cover whatever distance I could.

I parked near the street, as far from the trail head as I could get. I set off along the paved drive that runs almost a kilometer before reaching the trail. I felt an energy deficit right away but hoped that, once I got going, things would improve.

When I reached the trail I became concerned whether I’d have enough energy to run my intended route. The paths were muddy in parts and I feared that I’d slip on the unstable surface. There was only one other person on the trail when I was running, a mountain biker, who passed me a couple of times in both directions.

I slogged on and did fairly well with the two steep sections that come along halfway through my usual loop. But by the time I reached two miles I felt like I’d done enough. I decided to head back to my car, which meant that I needed to cover just one more mile.

I usually love the experience of running at Stillwell, but today it was tough and uncomfortable. I’m going to blame the time of day and the fact that I had a big lunch prior to my workout. Tomorrow is another day. I’m hoping it will be a better day for running.

Tough end to my taper

Today’s run (street) 2.25 miles

I had planned today’s run, my last before Cow Harbor, to be an easy workout that affirmed my readiness for the race on Saturday. I wore my Brooks GTS-10’s to protect my Achilles and looked forward to a pleasant run. It didn’t quite go as planned.

I double checked that the Garmin was recording properly as I took my first steps toward the road. No problems there. Instead of my expected slow but rolling gait, my stride felt off balance and I experienced some pain in my left shin. My legs felt heavy and my energy level was half of what it was yesterday. I considered stopping and returning home but decided to tough it out. My plan was to run slow and that wasn’t going to change.

I’m not sure why I was feeling off today, but it was both physical and mental. I’ve had a busy week in the office and that continues today, so perhaps it’s fatigue as much as anything else. I made it through my run though I changed the route and covered less distance than usual. I felt the workout after all and I’m hoping that whatever afflicted me this morning will be gone by Saturday morning.