Tough Thursday, restful Friday

A well timed break

Yesterday’s run (street): 3.5 miles

I’m not sure if it’s connected to the flu shot I received on Tuesday, but yesterday I went from feeling tired to feeling exhausted. On top of that, I developed a sore throat that grew worse as the day went on. Unfortunately, I needed to be in the city to kick off a project, and that involved a lot of talking. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but I managed to get through the discussions.

Earlier in the day, I did an easy run around the neighborhood. I’d woken up lacking energy and modified my original plan to work on increasing my cadence. I got out a little earlier than usual when temperature was still pleasantly cool. The run felt great and I thought I was off to a good start for the day. By mid morning that had all changed.

I’ve decided to forgo my run this morning. This is starting to become a habit, with the last couple of Friday runs being substituted for walks at Bethpage with my wife. We both have busy schedules today, so there will be no opportunity to get there today. I’m hoping that getting some additional rest today will get me back to full strength. I need to increase my hill training as I prepare for my upcoming 5K.

Controlled conditions can’t control humidity

Yesterday’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles 

One syllable sums up yesterday’s run – ugh. I’ve been focused on a project this week, and days of intense viewing on my laptop created fatigue that was exacerbated by yesterday’s brutal humidity. By the time I was ready to run, it was too hot and humid to be outside. I figured I’d do better in the controlled conditions of my workout room. That wasn’t quite true.

I set the CAC to 76 degrees, cranked up the floor fan to high and turned on the puny treadmill fan. My plan to start fast was a miscalculation. After a mile run at 6.7 MPH, my heart rate was approaching 90% of Max. I dialed back my speed and, even at 6 MPH, I was sitting at 80% Max. I slowed down even further, until things came more into line. I eventually worked my speed back through the last mile, but by the time I reached my targeted distance, I felt exhausted.

I was glad to get my workout done, but with the relentless humidity, I may have pushed too hard. I felt worn out the rest of the day. Conditions are less humid today, but I’m going to run easy to prevent a recurrence of that fatigue. I’ll do my last race training over the weekend and will then start my taper and rest during the week. I hope I still have some speed left in my legs.

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.

Business exhaustion + run exhaustion = redemption

Wheel of redemption

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I thought that leaving my job might profoundly change my life. Actually, it has, but not exactly in the way that I expected. I’d imagined myself taking leisurely runs on the trail each morning, followed by a variety of activities that I’ve put off for years. Despite those expectations, my running schedule hasn’t really changed. Highly anticipated activities, like returning to playing my classical guitar, have been put on hold. I may not be getting up at 3:30 AM anymore, but I’m working harder than ever.

Much of my attention has been diverted to a consulting practice that I recently started. Creating a business requires many steps, ranging from setting up legal and business resources, to selling services to clients. So far it’s been energizing, but all the meetings, calls and proposals can wear you out. That became evident this morning when some work I was doing distracted me past my scheduled run time. After forcing myself to stop, I realized staring at web code for hours had given me a pounding headache. Instead of a run I felt like I needed a nap.

We were up late last night, but I’d found it impossible to sleep past 6:00 AM. I’d planned to go to Stillwell for a trail run. Soon enough, I started self-negotiating to shorter distances on local roads. The wind was blowing hard outside, further eroding my motivation to do my run. I started thinking about forgoing my workout altogether.

In the meantime, my wife who was similarly tired from our late night, had completed her workout and taken a shower. She said it made her feel better, although she felt her run was harder than usual. Inspired by her, I made my way to the guestroom to face the treadmill. I made no pretense that I’d make it a speedy run. This workout was far more about maintaining commitment than improving fitness and conditioning.

I started by running a pace that was 15% slower than usual, and stuck with it until the display showed one mile. From there, I began to increase the treadmill speed every couple of minutes. By the time I’d reached two miles, it was feeling like five. The experience of watching the readout slowly tick toward three miles was torturous, especially since I’d increased my speed to a relatively brisk pace by then.

Considering the short duration, I haven’t had many runs that felt as hard. I was thrilled to kick down the speed after 3.1 miles for cool-down. Although I was wiped out, I was also energized, and my headache was gone. This workout felt like redemption and I was very pleased that I didn’t skip my workout. On the downside, I realized that I’d failed to transfer my Fitbit to my running shorts so I didn’t capture all those steps and distance. I may have lost all that data but I gained back some self esteem. 

Correlating my sleep time and run fatigue

Frozen Fitbit

Today’s run (street): 4.8 miles

Yesterday afternoon I checked my activity progress on the Fitbit only to discover that the readings hadn’t changed since morning. The numbers displayed at 5:00 PM were almost the same as they were at 9:30 AM. I took some steps to see if they would record but the numbers didn’t change. I connected the Fitbit to my laptop using the USB charging cable and that seemed to jolt it back to life.

I was happy that the device was working again, but disappointed that I wouldn’t get “credit” for the steps, miles and flights of stairs that didn’t get captured yesterday. I’ll watch the display a little more closely, now that I’ve had that experience. It was working fine this morning and I took it along during my run.

I again recorded my sleep pattern overnight and saw that I’d slept a total of six hours. The good news was that I “only” woke up six times instead of twelve. The Fitbit site assigned me a sleep efficiency rating of 96%, far better than the first time I tracked my sleep cycle.

Perhaps it was a lack of sleep time that factored into the fatigue I felt during today’s run. I’d averaged 40 more minutes of actual sleeping time prior to last night. After yesterday’s rest day, I expected to feel slightly more energized than normal, but a few minutes into the run I knew something was missing. I set the best pace that I could, determined to cover my distance target of 4 miles.

When I run, I often think about racing and how I’d feel if I was in a race in that moment. I’ll often tell myself that I could manage more speed, if needed. Depending on the distance, I can usually muster enough energy to pick up my speed and sustain a better pace. Today I hoped I had enough in the tank to get me through the route I’d planned.

I was determined to get in a full workout and, after making a few loops through my immediate neighborhood, I crossed into neighborhood #2. I had this dual sensation of feeling tired yet ready to cover my distance. There were a few points where I could have cut the run short, but I didn’t. In fact I ended up running almost a mile longer than I expected. I was plenty tired by the time I got home and a little puzzled that my heart rate didn’t reflect the perceived effort I was experiencing.

Tomorrow I may keep it short, as I’m close to reaching my weekly mileage goal. If my energy returns I may even do some speed work. I’ll try to extend my sleep time 40 more minutes and get back to average. I think that contributed greatly to my tiring experience this morning.

Caleb Smith trails: bad conditions for both run and runner

Hazards abound on the Caleb Smith trails

Yesterday’s workout (Caleb Smith State Park): 3.4 miles (run), 1 mile (hike)

It was a busy Saturday for us, and I didn’t get a chance to post about yesterday’s activity until this morning. Yesterday afternoon we headed over to Caleb Smith State Park where my wife and kids participated a candle making workshop while I hit the trails. Hurricane Sandy had done a lot of damage to the park, but they’d just re-opened the yellow trail. The blue, green and red trails still remain closed.

Prior to leaving for Caleb Smith, we’d stopped for lunch at Moe’s. That was a mistake on my part. Lunch was fine, but I didn’t give myself enough time for proper digestion. I thought I felt fine when we arrived, but soon after I’d started toward the trail I could tell that’s the going would be tough. I pressed on hoping that I’d begin to feel better as time went on.

After a mile I couldn’t ignore the discomfort. It wasn’t a stomach issue, but I felt lethargic and my legs felt heavy and unresponsive. I decided to walk it off and covered a half mile before resuming my run. The trail was in poor condition, with branches strewn along the path by the storm and thick mud from the morning rain. The parts of the trail that were covered by leaves were the most run-able.

I felt marginally better after a half mile hike and resumed my run for the next mile. I had looked forward  to this trail time, but I wasn’t enjoying it much. The trail markings were a little inconsistent and I found myself on the closed paths once or twice. In most cases I could keep going until I reconnected to the yellow trail but once or twice I had to double back.

At one point I thought I saw another runner through the trees, but couldn’t really see much, except that it clearly wasn’t a squirrel or a fox. I thought it was odd that someone would run off-trail, especially with the current conditions. During my next loop around, I detected the same movement and saw that the “runner” was actually a deer. I noticed two or three others soon after. They kept their distance but didn’t run away when our paths came together at a clearing.

I ended up running over 3 miles, though not continuously. I was happy to be finished and vowed not to repeat my mistake of having a big lunch prior to an effort of that scale. After my run, I spoke for a while with a ranger whose team maintained the park. He told me it would be some months before the cleanup was completed. There’s a lot of tree damage that they can’t get to with heavy equipment so it comes down to a two man crew that uses old fashioned methods to precision cut and remove damaged trees.

I’m planning to do a neighborhood run later this morning and really hope that yesterday’s running difficulties don’t carry forward to today. I’d rather have yesterday’s lunch to blame than to be dealing with a bigger issue related to being ill.

Incomplete recovery is better than none

Yesterday’s troubles continued through the night, and I got to bed early in hopes on sleeping off my pounding headache. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling no better, so I took some pseudoephedrine and Advil and went back to bed. When I got up, my headache was far less noticeable and the heavy fatigue I’d carried most of Wednesday was gone. Still, I knew better than to try a run. I learned something from yesterday.

Headaches of this type are really debilitating and, when they finally leave, the world feels so much better. But even with that improvement, I wasn’t out of the woods. I felt well enough to go into the office but some slight dizziness and a mild headache remained. Sudafed saved the day, but it wasn’t a complete victory. Another dose this morning brought further improvement.

I’m not sure what’s behind these headaches but the only way to get rid of them seems to be a combination of sleep, NSAIDs, and pseudoephedrine. Missing a day’s workout, like I did today, would normally bother me because it will make it harder to reach my weekly goal of 20 miles. But an article from Tuesday’s WSJ.com sent to me by FS, says that (for older endurance athletes) it’s better to keep weekly mileage below that number. Older endurance athletes that run 7:30 paces or faster that is. So I guess I’m good with my 20.

Debating "You’ll never regret a run"

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I often quote the line, “You’ll never regret a run” to make the point that the effort to exercise is always worth it despite how you might feel. Just this morning my wife said the same thing to me about her workout. Ironically enough, I may have found the exception to the rule today, having completed a treadmill run and suffering the consequences of that decision.

It’s hard to differentiate between feeling tired because you’ve just woken up and feeling fatigued for other reasons. This morning I went through my routine of preparing for the treadmill (30° outside temps made that an easy decision). Though I felt groggy, I expected that feeling to pass once I got going. That happened, but soon after I’d cooled down I was ready to return to bed for more sleep.

Since my schedule is tight on weekday mornings, I had to ignore the dizziness and feeling of weakness. I left for the train, hoping that I could get a decent seat and take a nap. The LIRR is running less trains due to Sandy-related issues and the cars get very crowded, but I managed to secure a good spot and slept for 20 minutes.

I’d hoped that would solve the problem but my fatigue continues. Despite some strong coffee and analgesics I’m still hurting. I don’t know if running on the treadmill was best thing for me this morning. Had I not done that, I could have taken an extra 30 minutes to rest and avoided the physical impact of running. If I skipped my run, I’m wondering whether I’d be feeling any better. Or would I feel worse due to the guilt of missing a workout? I’m taking solace in the thought that while I may regret today’s run, I would definitely have regretted skipping it.

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.

Half listening to my body

Today’s run (street): 4.2 miles

So much for focusing on speed, at least for today. Despite getting almost eight hours of sleep last night, I woke up with little energy. I considered listening to my body and skipping my workout, but I thought that was too extreme. As a compromise, I decided to forgo my original plan to do tempo run to start my training for the June 3rd NHP 8K. This run would have to be short and easy. 

Things started out fine and I had no expectations about my performance. I kept my pace moderate and, with the cool temperature and sunny skies, I should have enjoyed the run. I planned to keep it under 45 minutes so, by mile three, I was ready to turn toward home. It was surprisingly hard to cover that final mile. I finished feeling more tired than I should, for a four mile run.

I’m hoping that I recover sufficiently by tomorrow so I can go out for more miles. I don’t regret my decision to run, but I’m glad I kept it short.