Back in August I wrote about my frustrations with running performance. At that time I thought I could improve my pace by pushing my heart rate beyond my typical 75% of Max. After seeing some very weird numbers coming from my FR35, I figured I was either experiencing a medically concerning pulse or there was something wrong with the device that captured my heart rate. To get the details, see below.
|Well Preserved this morning|
Happy Bastille Day! Despite meeting my distance target for June (goal was 65 miles and I actually recorded 66.84, but who’s counting?), this is the first post I’ve written in July. I now have more time to post and I’m running a lot more, but there isn’t a lot to write about when every run is pretty much the same. Today I had the pleasure of running again with SIOR who accommodated my mediocre speed and actually had me pacing at a level I haven’t seen in a number of months, More on that further below.
Back to the monthly mileage goal for a minute. I measure my runs using Gmaps to get a more accurate distance number than the Garmin records. This is because GPS watches have a technical limitation with the way they track vectors around corners and sometimes on straight roads. You can improve the accuracy by increasing the number of GPS “pings” per minute. It would be an easy fix, but battery life would be terrible. I’ve figured out that my watch generally under counts distance by about 2% so (technically) I probably ran 68.17 miles in June. But again, who’s counting?
Today was not about distance or speed, although I ultimately covered 3.4 miles and paced better than my average. It was about getting in an easy run and having good old conversation. I haven’t been able to keep up with the speedy Runsketeers in the past year, but SIOR made it easy for me.
We met at the Massapequa Preserve trail head at 7:30 AM with a plan to do a three mile out and back. After the usual game of Marco Polo (SIOR was in the big lot, I was in the small lot) we found each other. I had a big day Saturday up in Putnam County at Cold Spring and Bear Mountain and wasn’t feeling great. I told SIOR that I’d understand if she wanted to run her pace but she was having none of that and we took off together.
|This looks like a lot more than 3 miles|
SIOR claimed she also wasn’t feeling great and we stopped from time to time and walked. That may be true, but I think she may have done that because 12 minute paces hurt her knees. Whatever the reason, today was a throwback to the “early” Runsketeer days when I was better able to hold my own in these group runs. Some pretty funny conversations used to happen back then, with me and SIOR verbally jabbing and counter punching and TPP laughing and encouraging it all.
According to my Garmin, me and SIOR covered 2.6 miles actually running. Since we turned around at the 2 mile mark (SIOR correct me if I’m wrong) I suspect that we ran more than that. After looking at the GPS map that cut out a lot of our route and my step count on my Garmin, I’m sure we covered at least three, if not more. Here’s one example of GPS malfeasance:
|I don’t remember running across the water|
No matter the actual distance, we enjoyed it. We saw a big dog chilling in a stream and lots of other runners on the trail. I felt 100% better after my run than before it. Then there was only one thing left to do: coffee at Starbucks! You’d think after all that trail conversation we would have covered every possible topic. But you don’t know us. The thing that always amuses me when the Runsketeers get together is how little we actually talk about running. And that’s just fine with me.
I wanted to record at least three miles today so I ran over to the nearby middle school and did 4 x 160 meter repeats and ran back home. That added another .8 miles to today’s total and finished off my week with 16.5 miles. According to Garmin Connect, I’m at 36.26 miles for July which they say is 48% of of 70 miles. But my math (backed up by a calculator) says that’s actually 51.8%. So what gives Garmin? Either way, I expect to reach 70, even with GPS under counting and Garmin Connect’s “math problem.”
|Springing up in spring|
Today’s run (street): 3.75 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.2 miles
Last Sunday’s run (street): 3.7 miles
Last Saturday’s run (treadmill): 3.3 miles
Last Friday’s run (street): 3.1 miles
I know it’s been a while since I last posted, but here I am again. You’re welcome. It’s been a combination of busy schedules and the acknowledgement that my running journal-cum-social criticism blog has become somewhat redundant. The exception to that being my write ups of activities involving the Runsketeers. On the plus side, I’ve still been doing my runs and today I realized that the journal really helps me with the get outside and do it part. So here I am again.
Last weekend’s runs were unremarkable, although I did have a good treadmill workout on Saturday. I don’t remember the other two runs, but I know I did them because they’re listed in my Garmin Connect log. Further, these runs even have my average stride length because I wrote to Garmin about that metric not showing up on Connect. Amazingly enough, Garmin responded that they’d corrected the issue. Apparently this was a problem for many. I was able to re-import my runs that lacked that data. and it showed up when I imported this weekend’s activities.
My running has been dismal. With a few rare exceptions, I’m back to where I was last September in terms of performance. Slow doesn’t begin to describe it. Yesterday morning I did an early run in light rain and just couldn’t get into gear. I averaged 72% max HR which pretty much guaranteed a poor pace.
Today’s weather was far better, but my performance was exactly the same. I varied my route. Since I was running slowly, I took the time to look around my neighborhood. I noticed many new homes had sprung up in the places where prior dwellings were razed during the winter. These humble ranches and Capes Cods are being replaced big contemporaries that rise like Olympus above the Serengeti. Toto-ly stole that phrase.
Despite my lack of speed, I was happy to be outside on a cool and quiet spring morning. I know I can run faster, but lately I haven’t been motivated to push too hard. SIOR is
guilting encouraging me to re-enter the racing realm by running a 5K in July. She’s even picked one for me. Okay, let’s see what I can do.
Today’s run (street): 5.4 miles
Instead of heading out this morning with my running buddies, I was at the dentist having a broken filling repaired. I like to get out as early as possible on my weekend runs, so I can cover longer distances and still have my day. If I scheduled the dentist any later in the morning, the inevitable backups would have taken too much time. That’s why I’d asked for the first appointment of the day.
It’s been years since I’ve needed to get a local anesthetic at the dentist, so that was lots of fun (not). My dentist talked to me about Cow Harbor. She lives in Northport and has run the race a couple of times. I told her I’d run it this year if she does. I’m pretty sure I will participate either way, so I can run it with SIOR and TPP. I’m still on the fence about Dirty Sock though.
Since I have so few opportunities to run these days, I knew I had to get out today. The weather was ideal, mostly overcast, with temperatures in the low 70’s. One side of my mouth was still unpleasantly numb when I set off from my driveway. Almost immediately after starting, I was flagged down by a man on a bicycle who asked me a question about the neighborhood. I stopped my Garmin while I chatted with him, and thought I’d restarted it once I resumed running.
I had covered about 1.5 miles when it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard the one-mile chirp from the Garmin. I looked at my watch and realized that it wasn’t recording time or distance. I restarted the timer, figuring I could determine my mileage when I got home by mapping my route with Milemeter. Since I had started off with the Garmin recording my start time, I was able to back into my pace by subtracting the “chat” time from total run duration.
Surprisingly enough, my mouth was still a little numb by the time I got home and that prevented me from having my usual post-run refueling. I did drink about 24 ounces of water to re-hydrate. Within an hour, the numbness had thankfully worn off. Between the dentist and the run, I was fairly wiped out, so that came at a perfect time for lunch. I was glad to get in some decent mileage today. I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow, because the family has early morning plans. Maybe a 6:00 AM run is in order. That might help prepare me for even earlier workouts on weekdays.
|My Garmin made up most of this route|
Today’s run (street): 3.75 miles
Halfway through today’s run, I glanced at my Garmin and saw that I had covered two miles in about 17 minutes. That would have put me on track for my best training run in memory. I was puzzled because my perceived effort was nowhere near what I’d expect for that pace. I tried to rationalize the reasons for such a dramatic improvement in my performance compared to yesterday. It was 10 degrees cooler and cloudy, but could that account for running over a minute per mile faster?
When I got home and saw my time and mileage on the Garmin, I thought I’d rocked it. Maybe I was turning a corner with my training. After all, I used to regularly average 8:45 paces on my daily runs. Breaking 9:00 minutes on a run these days is a notable achievement for me. I hoped it was accurate and not some weird Garmin fail.
Despite that wishful thinking, it did turn out to be a badly confused GPS. For some odd reason, the Garmin put my starting point 3 miles north of where I began my run. Looking at the run data through Garmin Connect, my course appeared to have frequent 50-foot elevation changes. That’s definitely not the case for my relatively flat route. I’m guessing that the low cloud cover may have interfered with the GPS signal and caused it to skip.
I Gmapped my route and was disappointed to see that I’d only covered 3.75 miles, rather than the 4.35 that the Garmin said I’d run. I wanted to run 4-5 miles today and thought I’d met my objective. The good news is that I beat yesterday’s pace by 42 second per mile. The other good news is that it’s a long weekend and tomorrow we’re hosting a Runsketeer pool party. If the weather reports are accurate, the skies will be clear and I’ll be able to get in a longer run in the morning.
Today’s run (street): 3.6 miles
I decided to do some data mining on Garmin Connect to compare my historical averages with my current performance. In order to keep the information consistent, I only used data captured from one source, my Garmin 210 that I bought in 2010. I know I’ve lost a lot of speed over the past year and my interest was in seeing whether my recent history is an aberration, or if it merely reflects a long term decline.
Charting the trends reveals a changing relationship between race speed and overall speed. My average pace has followed a linear decline, but my race paces have dropped measurably since 2012. Up to 2012, I generally paced 7.5% better in races compared to my overall average. After 2012, that gap has closed and is now almost equal to my training run times.
As I often say when working with business data, these findings are only directional. The Garmin data, acquired by GPS, has a variable margin of error. I tried to correct for that as much as I could, but the numbers do have some skew. I only selected runs I’d tagged as “street running” to filter out slower trail paces and faster track paces. It’s also important to note that the 2014 data is only through May 25, not a full year.
In terms of these findings, I’m not happy to see declines, but at least the drop-off has not been as sharp as I’d suspected. I did today’s run as a tempo, taking it easy through the majority of the distance and picking up the pace more at the end. The last mile was a minute faster than the prior few, and I finished feeling great. I wish I could tap into that speed more often, but based on my recent race performances, it’s a little more complicated than just trying a little harder.
Today’s run (treadmill) 3.25 miles
Today has been an interesting day, due to an odd combination of business and non-business related happenings. Amidst this jumble, I managed to work in a treadmill run. Although the roads are fairly clear, we saw snow overnight that made street running dangerous and sidewalk running impossible.
I’ve been somewhat frustrated by this January’s weather that has forced me off the road and onto the treadmill so often. I looked at Garmin Connect and was a little surprised to see that 70% of my runs this year have been indoors. Curiously, a search of last January showed that I did the same percentage of treadmill runs in 2013. That made me feel slightly better.
The good news about frequent use of the treadmill is that it eventually becomes a manageable routine. I’ve found myself getting more comfortable with the different cadence and a more restricted stride. It’s always a good workout and a safer way to get my miles than the road these days. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m liking these workouts, but I have started to appreciate them.
|Sure looked like fall along the trail|
Today’s run (Bethpage): 6.25 miles
The Hope for Warriors 10K next weekend prompted me to head to Bethpage this morning for a base run. I’ve plateaued on distance since Cow Harbor, having completed only a handful of 5+ mile runs since that race. After a week of rainy and windy conditions, today’s clear, dry 57° weather made a run at Bethpage very appealing.
|More scenes from today’s run|
When I arrived I saw that the right side of the lot was fairly full. There were lots of people with bikes and I wondered if there was a cycling event planned. I don’t think it was anything that formal, although there were a lot more bikers on the trail than I usually see. Considering the density of cyclists on the path, along with many runners and a good number of walkers, I encountered few reckless riders.
With my headache and sinus pressure gone, I felt good energy along the trail and felt less intimidated than usual by the big hills. That isn’t to say that I particularly enjoyed them. My plan was run 5K south and turn around at the 3.1 mile mark. It works for me to break a middle or long distance run into parts. For that same reason, I like to familiarize myself with a race course before running it for the first time. It’s always valuable to understand the challenges of the course before you face them for real.
|New Garmin Connect cadence graph|
I didn’t dog the pace but I wasn’t looking to simulate race conditions either. The purpose of this run was to get a 10K distance under my belt close to the real thing a week from Sunday. When I downloaded my Garmin after the run, I saw that they’d changed the data visualization on Connect and added a new metric: average stride length. Better still, the site has a pop-up that helps explain SPM and running dynamics. I felt good when I read this in the explanation: “The data values in the green, blue, or purple zones are typical for more experienced or faster runners.”
|Good context on cadence|
Ideally, I’ll see less green and more blue data points as I work to increase my cadence. Races tend to bring out our best performances (my recent history excepted) so I might even get myself into purple territory next week.
|A tale of three races|
Today’s run (street): 5.25 miles
This morning I downloaded my recent runs to Garmin Connect. I noticed a feature that compares selected runs, allowing users to see performance data by split (click above picture to read). The difference between this year and the last two year’s times are easy to see. One thing that puzzles me is that the times on split 4 are really inconsistent. This year I covered .11 miles in 50 seconds at 7:55 pace, Last year it took me one second less but the pace was 7:18. In 2011, it took one second more to cover that distance, yet the pace showed 23 seconds per mile faster than this year. Very strange.
Today my thoughts were on recovery rather than performance. Due to my tapering, I covered far less than my normal 18-20 weekly miles since last Sunday. I took it easy and aimed for five miles. Although the temperature was a moderate 54°, it felt colder. I wore a light running shirt with 3/4 length sleeves and shorts, along with a pair of light running gloves. It was a good combination to start, although by the end I was wishing for shorter sleeves and no gloves.
I ended up running faster than I planned, but not all that fast. Recovery runs are a strategy to facilitate muscle repair and eliminate the built up lactic acid that causes soreness. I wish I’d taken it just a little easier. I’m looking ahead to November 10, when I’ll be running the Hope for Warriors 10K. It’s a great event (although the course itself is only so-so). My prep for this weekend’s 5K fell short, and I want to do better. 10K means more base runs as well. Better get started soon.
|Little bit, lots of Fit|
Today’s run (street): 4.3 miles
In life, timing can make a big difference. The big news that I’m leaving my company after 20 years was followed two weeks later by the yet to be confirmed news that my company is in talks to be sold. I’m unbelievably glad to be leaving before that happens. At the other side of the good timing scale, my company is (once again) offering staffers the opportunity to purchase Fitbit trackers at a sizable discount (80%). If I’d left a few weeks earlier, I wouldn’t have scored that discount.
The first time they’ve offered this, I bought a device and gave it to my wife. The Fitbit One is simple to use and it captures a copious amount of performance data. Among the metrics are steps taken, staircase climbs, calories burned and it can even track your sleep patterns. My wife uses it daily to track both her workouts and her daily steps. It provides fun feedback and motivation on its little display.
I decided to try using it because I’ll no longer be in an office where I am constantly moving from place to place. My wife pointed out that, even though I’m good about doing my morning workouts, I risk falling into a sedentary lifestyle the rest of the day. I’ve learned in business that tracking indicators (of things you can control) helps to optimize desirable outcomes. So there you go. I hope to see my new device some time next week.
This morning I went outside for a run for the first time in two weeks. I couldn’t believe that was the case until I checked my Garmin Connect logs and saw all the treadmill (and a couple of elliptical) workouts dating back to February 2nd. After checking the weather, I dressed for the cold and made my way outside. I had a slight concern about the residual snow that covered my main escape route, the sidewalks. I figured that if I felt any concern for safety, I’d do a dive into a nearby snowbank.
It turned out to be a very safe run with very few cars. The cars that were on the road maintained a respectful distance and drove slowly. Still I was hyper-vigilant because I don’t trust drivers under even the best conditions. I wore a bright orange outer layer on top to maximize my visibility to drivers. I probably could have done with one less layer underneath, but I was fine overall.
My run went well and, despite 14 MPH winds, I managed to beat my average training pace by about 10 seconds per mile. If not for the winds, I may have improved that by another five percent or so. As I ran, I thought about next Saturday when I’ll be racing in Long Beach. Last year the temperature was slightly above freezing and there was a mix of sleet and snow falling. I wore my ultra-minimal Hattoris and my toes went numb. But I still ran my fastest 4 mile race that day.