Runsketeers at Bethpage, the long and the short of it

Humid and happy

Today’s run (Bethpage trail): 4 miles

In keeping with our plan to do at least one group run every month, the Runsketeers got together this morning on the Bethpage trail. SIOR and TPP were aiming for about eight miles and I wanted to do four. I met up with the speed twins halfway through their route which worked out perfectly.

The weather was very humid this morning, but not too hot at 8:00 AM. TPP and SIOR came through the Haypath Road trail head and we began running together at that point. Our plan was to go two miles north before our turnaround, which would get us to our targeted distance. We immediately found ourselves yelling to a runner that SIOR thought she knew.

Who she’d never met in person.
Who actually lives in Atlanta.
It wasn’t her.

Once the woman disappeared from our sight (I’m guessing she went in search of a restraining order) we settled into our run. I’m still at the slow end of the spectrum, but my buddies stuck with me for a while before opening up the throttle. They stopped and waited a few times for me along the way, and we were all running together when a guy passed on the opposite side and yelled, “Hey, Emerging Runner group!” It was Jonathan and his wife, who I’d met along the same trail about a year ago. We saw them later after our turnarounds.

I’m still recovering from my disc rupture, so I’ve been keeping my speed moderate to prevent re-aggravating my injury. Today’s 4 miler was an improvement over Friday’s experience. My stride is getting back to normal and my foot is no longer being mashed to the front each time I run. It feels like progress.

As tradition dictates, we headed over to Starbucks for our post-run café. I was the last to arrive and I walked in regretting that I didn’t bring a change of clothing. The humidity had soaked me like a sponge.

Apparently, the guy sitting next to TPP had been giving her a hard time before I got there. SIOR was explaining the situation to me as she helped me clean up coffee I’d spilled all over the counter because I still can’t open a Starbucks milk container correctly. I wasn’t sure what the full situation was, so I positioned myself between the guy and the Runsketeers when I sat down. Nothing happened, but I’m still curious to know the details.

We had our usual conversation that veered from subject to subject like a pool ball. All too soon, we needed to head out to meet our day’s obligations. I really had a great run today and also loved our part two. I can’t wait for our June outing!

2015 Hangover Fun Run

Happy New Running Year

Today’s run (Hangover Run): 5 miles

The Hangover Run is a free event put on every New Year’s day by the Long Island Road Runners Club. I ran it for the fourth time today and, for the second year in a row, I was accompanied by running buddies SIOR and TPP. This morning we were joined by SIOR’s speedy daughter, a cross-country and track runner.

It’s usually freezing cold on New Year’s day, so it’s a challenge to choose the right running clothes. Too many layers will keep you comfortable prior to the start, but you can overheat on the run. I overdressed for warmth and regretted it. I ended up taking off my gloves and holding them in my hands during most of the run. It wasn’t the overheating that got to me today. It was the nagging sciatica that has bothered me over the past few weeks.

We all met up in the parking lot and headed toward the staging area about 15 minutes before the run was set to start. After signing our liability waivers we made our way towards the line. There were about 200 people congregated behind the time clock that counted down to the 9:30 AM start time. Without fanfare, we were off. I felt great and hoped that would continue for the duration of the run.

About a quarter mile into the run, SIOR and SIOR Jr passed me and continued on ahead. TPP did the same at the 3/4 mile point and I saw, after the turnaround, that she’d caught up with the SIORs. The course is a one mile loop with a suggested distance of five miles, so I was able to chart the progress of the others as we passed back and forth.

The soreness started on the second mile and increased as the run continued. I felt like I had another gear but I was reluctant to put too much on the injury. I still don’t know the nature of the problem, so I’m being careful about hard I push. I picked up my pace a few times during the last mile and that resulted in my second fastest split. I came through the last mile, with an overall time of 51 minutes. My friends were all  waiting for me at the finish.

As tradition dictates, we headed to Starbucks for coffee and conversation that included a deep analysis of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. We don’t always talk about running.

Happy New Year to everyone. It’s nice to start the year with a  challenging run, especially when it happens with great people.

Close encounters on the trail

 

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.5 miles

This morning I went out for a trail run at Stillwell Woods for the first time since late November. I’m still dealing with pain from sciatica and hoped that running on softer terrain might provide some relief. The temperature was in the high 20’s and Stillwell’s trails were mostly frozen mud. Even so, it provided a more forgiving surface than pavement.

When I arrived I saw a few groups of high school aged runners entering the woods. I wondered if I’d run into these speedsters on the trail. I ran by the first group who were standing around planning their workout. I followed my usual route, going north before turning southeast. When I came around the bend, I saw a couple of guys sprinting toward me on the narrow path. That was disconcerting because the protocol is to follow that section of trail in the direction I was running. I’m glad I heard them a second before they appeared so I could move over and give them room to get by.

I had a few other situations when my path crossed a group, but had no more close calls. I was disappointed that the soreness I’ve been having was present throughout the run. The pain was minor and my concern was more that running (instead of resting) was enabling the problem. But a runner’s gotta run, run, run, run, run so I decided I had to shake it off.

I’ll be resting tomorrow and going out next on New Years day with my buddies for the LIRRC Hangover Run. In the meantime, I’m putting heat on the source of the problem and using the massage stick often. Next week I return to work and that will mean a reduction in volume. Usually I’d be unhappy about that, but I realize that it’s probably the best thing for me right now.

Runsketeer reunion on the Bethpage trail

Left to right: ER, SIOR, TPP, JC

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 6.8 miles
Yesterday’s run (treadmill): 5.1 miles

Yesterday morning was a washout that left me with no choice but to spend close to an hour on the treadmill. It was humid to be sure, but I needed the miles. It wasn’t all that bad, but today’s conditions were FAR better. All the Runsketeers ran together this morning for the first time since Brooklyn, (is that possible?) and we had a special guest on today’s run.

Our guest runner, JC, is a friend of TPP‘s. He’s an accomplished triathlete and avid cyclist. SIOR and I arrived at Bethpage State Park at the same time, and I was disappointed to see that they were still collecting admission to the park. My friend who mans the booth gave me a pass, but he gave SIOR a hard time. SIOR’s SUV has dark tinted windows that make her Empire Passport hard to see, causing some disagreement in terms of its veracity. He ultimately relented and let her through.

TPP and JC didn’t bring their fake Empire Passports, so they ended up parking close to Haypath instead. They ran south on the bike trail to meet up with me and SIOR who were heading north to intercept them. We connected along the path just above the Bethpage woods. SIOR suggested that we go south for a change (we usually end up going the other way). We kept a moderate pace and I was able to stay with everyone. Soon we were back on the older south trail where we continued down the big hill and had an interesting talk about gender equality.

When we run together, the distance seems to go by much faster. About two miles in, JC and SIOR took the lead while TPP and I followed. It was nice to catch up with TPP and every once in a while SIOR and JC would stop and wait for us so we could run together. I wish I could improve another 30 seconds per mile in my pace, but I’m not there yet. After mapping the route based on my GPS output I calculated that I ran 10:17 overall. Not bad for for almost 7 miles.

As tradition dictates, we headed over to Starbucks for our post-run coffee. That was great — as usual — and it gave us a chance to get to know JC better and catch up among ourselves. Before we knew it, it was almost noon and we all needed to head out for our day’s non-running related activities.

One of Stillwell’s steep drops
The old junker 

Later in the afternoon my son and I headed to Stillwell where we followed some very technical terrain and even went off trail a few times. Lots of fun, and not so easy on my legs that had already run a mile past my base this morning. Along the way, we visited the junked car that is inexplicably positioned on one of the cross trails in Stillwell. I don’t know why this thing has remained for years in the otherwise pristine woods. I’ll admit that I used this car more than once as a landmark when I was learning the trails. Maybe that’s its purpose.

It has been a very good week of running and today was fantastic. At one point in the run SIOR turned around and asked, “Isn’t this the most perfect day for a run?” I couldn’t have said it better.

Running flat but looking cool and modern

A new outlook

Today’s run (street): 3.5 miles

This week has been a commuting nightmare. It took me two hours to get home from work on Wednesday and Thursday nights. My morning drives into the office were barely shorter than that. Happily, I work from home on Fridays. Having no morning commute provides a lot more time to work in a run. I did a short treadmill workout on Tuesday, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday have become my main days for running.

I’ve had a lot on my mind in terms of business planning for 2015 and I looked forward to getting out for a few miles today to focus on various ideas and scenarios. When I got out on the road, I felt flat, both physically and mentally. I couldn’t concentrate on my business topics, so I focused on the run. It was a decent effort, but it still felt flat. I was hoping that I’d be rewarded with an endorphin rush at the end, but no such luck.

I ended up having an interesting day – lots of calls kept me busy and I took a break in the early afternoon to pick up my new glasses. My teenage daughter pronounced them cool and modern (translation: she’s no longer embarrassed to be seen with me). That made me happy.

Unfortunately, this weekend’s weather is supposed to be very wet. Tomorrow morning’s planned group run is being postponed until next week. I’m really looking forward to that as it’s been far too long since we’ve gotten together. I may end up doing some longish runs on the treadmill this weekend, a possibility that does not excite me. But at least I’ll look cool and modern while I’m doing my workout.

Runsketeers weekend, dinner and a Mother’s Day run

Me and the moms (minus SIOR’s chin)

Yesterday’s run (street): 5.7 miles
Today’s run (Bethpage trail): 9.6 miles

This has been a Runsk-terrific weekend. Yesterday, our queen of speed, SIOR, hosted a great dinner for our small group, including grownups and kids ranging in age from 2 to (almost) 16. The food was great, the company was great, and the energy level was high. TPP and I finally got to meet Mr. SIOR, who was a personable and welcoming host, and their fantastic, adorable kids. It turns out that Mr. SIOR and I have some friends in common. What are the chances of that?!

Earlier in the day on Saturday, I went out for 5.7 miles around my neighborhood. My new schedule makes it difficult for me to run during the week, so I needed to cram some mileage into the weekend. The run itself was unremarkable, though I worried that a mid-length run on Saturday might affect my running performance today. There are a number of reasons why I fell short of my planned distance of 12 miles today, and that could have been a factor.

Today’s Mother’s Day long run started in different places for the Runsketeers. TPP and I met along the bike trail north of Haypath Rd with the goal of eventually meeting up with SIOR, who was starting her run at the southern end of the Massapequa Preserve. TPP and I ran north and turned around when we reached the point where I’d calculated that our southern direction would get us to the Bethpage lot in time to rendezvous with SIOR.

For different reasons, the timing had us at Bethpage earlier than expected. Me and TPP waited about 10 minutes before resuming out southern direction with the intention of intercepting SIOR along the trail. We all met up at the bottom of the big hill right before the lot, and ran north, making a brief stop at Bethpage. We all got water from the fountain because, while it was relatively cool, it was extremely humid. The two “rests” along the way may have contributed to a degradation in my ability to maintain pace. In retrospect, I think it was my failure to bring a water bottle that made my last miles very difficult.

We ran further north and I watch SIOR grow steadily smaller as she opened up space between me and TPP. TPP was able maintain a better pace than me and I followed about 30 feet behind her until we met up with SIOR who was waiting for us at Old Country Rd. SIOR suggested taking a picture at that point, which was a good idea since we often forget to do that. It would have been great to get a selfie at dinner last night, but we never got to it. I think that’s because we were having too much fun to think about it.

Shortly after we took our pictures, I reached the point where I needed to stop running. SIOR continued all the way to Sunnyside Boulevard (mind blowing, considering all the miles she’d already covered and the challenging hills north of Washington Ave). TPP ran another mile and met up with me where I’d stopped. After she returned, we started walking back to our cars knowing that SIOR would eventually catch up. That happened about a mile north of where we parked, so the three of us got to have a nice talk without anyone worrying about finding an oxygen tank for me.

I ended up covering 9.6 running miles, plus those walking miles at the end. I wanted to finish my Brooklyn training with 12 miles, but I didn’t quite get there. I think with a resting taper, carrying water and maintaining a consistent pace next Saturday, I’ll be able to get through the distance. There’s no way I’ll PR and there’s a good chance I won’t beat my original half marathon time when I ran with an injured knee. But Brooklyn is about the experience and being with friends. I hope they won’t mind waiting for me at the end.

11 miles of fun and friends on the Bethpage trail

This was the best shot of me (out of 3) so imagine the others

Today’s run (Bethpage bike path): 11 miles

This morning I set out to cover 11 miles on the Bethpage bike path. It was the company of friends that helped me manage so well and made the experience great. Prior to today’s run, my longest run in 2014 was 9.7 miles. This was a 12% mileage increase, but I felt fine throughout the run.

We were hoping to make this a full Runsketeer run, but SIOR had to attend the soccer games and track meets for her dozens of children (4 really). TPP and I met up near the Bethpage trail and started our run north. We were hoping to run into Jonathan who I met on the bike path a couple of weekends ago. Our hopes were met when we saw he and his wife Katherine running in our direction. We quickly fell into formation running south.

Jonathan and Katherine are training for an upcoming marathon in Vermont and they have been training a lot on this bike path and the dirt trails that run close by. Bethpage provides a lot of hills and that’s probably good since they’ll be racing in Green Mountain country. We ended up running about two miles together before our friends, who’d started about three miles north of our starting point, turned back. They are great people and I look forward to running with them again.

TPP and I continued our run, going beyond the north trail head, passing through Bethpage State Park and then further south past Hempstead Turnpike. We turned around at 6.25 miles. On the way back, TPP unleashed her inner greyhound and began to insert 100-200 meter bursts of speed. She’s very quick and I can see why she was a sprinter in high school. If she was the hare, then I was the turtle, maintaining the same pace throughout most of the run. I did pick up my speed a few times as we got closer to the finish point, when I felt I could spend some energy.

TPP, in living color

The trail wasn’t as crowded with runners as it normally would be on a pleasant Sunday. Perhaps everyone was off running the LI marathon, half and 10K today. Still, there were cyclists and some runners. TPP, with her vivid attire, got her share of admiring looks. TPP felt that today’s run was a good affirmation of her current conditioning and I felt the same. After covering 11 miles and feeling great, 13.1 miles in Brooklyn feels far less intimidating.

Our next Runsketeer event will be very different (more to come on that) and SIOR will definitely be a big part of that. We really missed her today. I’m very pleased with today’s run and I owe much of it to my friends who make me a better runner.

Runsketeer Sunday on the mountains of Westbury

The concrete roller coaster

Today’s run (SUNY Old Westbury): 7 miles

What goes up must come down. That is an apt description of the loop I ran today at the campus of SUNY Old Westbury. SIOR, who discovered this beautifully torturous running venue, described the course as “hilly.” She certainly wasn’t kidding. With the exception of the short drive that connects the campus to Cedar Swamp Road, I don’t think there was a level section on our route today.

SIOR was unable to join us this morning, so it was left to TPP and I to conquer this undulating beast. She wanted to run 11 miles today and I had had 7 scheduled. Our timing was almost perfect. I arrived a couple of minutes before our designated meet time and I could see TPP heading in my direction. She was probably half a mile away, but her neon yellow running jacket made her easy to spot. TPP had already run 30% of her planned distance and would cover the balance while I did my seven miles.

We headed west toward the loop running against traffic. There were a lot of cars on the route because the college was having an Open House. Fortunately there was plenty of room for the many other runners and cyclists we saw today. I followed TPP who is a very focused runner. I had to constantly occasionally remind her to get over to the left when cars were heading in our direction. Apparently her friends from the Selden Hills running club are frequently called on to do this for her during their group runs.

Elevation chart from today’s run

We encountered the first of many hills soon after we’d started. We were running easy and took it on without much trouble. Every hill was followed by an equivalent drop, making it the least fun roller coaster ever. But the run was fun, because our pace allowed us to carry on a conversation most of the time. I’ve never been able to speak when running at my regular training pace, but I did okay today.

I had been concerned about being able to cover seven miles over what turned out to be 600 feet of elevation. We decided to walk parts of some hills, but I stopped my Garmin during those times because I wanted to make sure I recorded 7 full miles of running.

I’m looking at today’s run from a couple of different perspectives. On the positive side, I had a great time running with a friend, made my targeted distance and ran a lot of hills. On the not so positive side, I probably fell short on effort, as evidenced by my heart rate that averaged only 75% of max. I think this is a signal for me to start pushing my speed a little more on my long runs. SIOR suggested running a couple of miles at targeted half marathon pace on training runs and I plan to do that during next Wednesday’s run.

Raising HR should raise performance

I want to get my heart rate up to at least least 80% of max on long runs and average at least 85% on more speed-focused runs. This is a tough change for me because the harder I push, the less I enjoy the run. But I always feel great afterward.

Runsketeer run in Eisenhower Park

Well at least I can drink coffee as fast as them

Today’s run (Eisenhower Park): 6.7 miles

It took a lot of late night planning to choose today’s running venue, but it paid off for the Runsketeers this morning. With Bethpage’s trails still “out of operation” and the Runner’s Edge Fun Run taking place on public roads, we decided to meet at Eisenhower Park. SIOR qualified for Boston and has been following a training program that required her to cover 14 miles today. She ran 7 miles around her local roads and then met me and TPP at the park to run seven more.

I’ve been dealing with the beginnings of a cold that has sapped a lot of my energy. Yesterday’s run on the treadmill was very difficult and I wasn’t confident that I could run the miles that my Runska-buddies were planning. I was also concerned about maintaining a pace that wouldn’t bore them silly. Their support got me through the distance (I hadn’t run more than five miles on pavement this year). As usual, they were extremely gracious about accommodating my pace.

I don’t know why my stamina and performance have been so poor the last couple of months. I suspect it’s due to my lack of focus and boredom from running on the treadmill. SIOR runs faster on the treadmill to get through her workout faster. I run slower so I can be more easily distracted by the TV. In less snowy times, when I’d run outside every day, it was easier for me to add speed into a run. I would also add chunks of distance by spontaneously choosing different roads to follow. I know I can easily add speed and distance when on the treadmill, but I don’t.

All around the park today

Graphic courtesy of The Petite Pacer

Our route today went all around, due to construction being done to build ice rinks in the park. I lagged behind my buddies by a few feet much of the time, but they worked to adjust their speed to keep me within talking distance. There was one point when we followed the same route that we ran on the New Year’s Hangover Run. This allowed me to rest a minute while my friends followed the end of the loop and met me on the other side. So in terms of total distance, I probably ended up covering fifth of a mile less than my running partners.

With the exception of a few parts on the path that required careful stepping (and a short walk) over icy snow, Eisenhower’s trails were fairly clear. I didn’t think I would be able to go more than four miles early on the run, but the fun of being with my little group made the distance fully manageable.

Despite another snowstorm predicted early tomorrow morning and the return to Polar Vortex temperatures, I am hopeful that this snow will soon be gone and I can get outside and resume performance-focused training. I’d like to be able to keep up better with the Runsketeers so I participate more in the conversations during the run.

The good news is that it takes no effort to sit in Starbucks and recount the experience after the run. We were all time constrained today, but we made the best of it. It was so great to see my friends and spend time doing something we all love to do. I almost ran seven miles today after weeks of treadmill 5K’s. I couldn’t have done that without the Runsketeers.

LIRRC Hangover with the Runsketeers

Hangover gang (from left: L, ER, TPP, SIOR)

Photo courtesy of LIRRC.ORG 

Today’s run (LIRRC Hangover Run): 5 miles

It’s always great to start off the year with a good run and that was certainly the case today. For the third consecutive year, I participated in the LIRCC 5 Mile Hangover Run. Unlike the past two years, I was accompanied this morning by running buddies SIOR and the Petite Pacer (TPP). We even had a guest Musketeer, L, who SIOR knew from a prior race. Even though we ran at different paces, it was fun to do this together.

The Hangover event consists of five laps around a one mile course. Although the four of us started at the same time, SIOR and L quickly put some distance on me and TPP. Left to run her own pace, TPP could have easily kept up with the other two (no one was focusing on performance this morning), but she stayed with me through the first couple of miles.

It was very cold, but we all dressed for that. The wind from the south chilled my hands and face, but after a couple of miles of running, I was sufficiently warm. TPP picked up her pace and then waited for me to catch up a couple of times, but then switched to overdrive for the remainder of the run. It was fun to see SIOR and L gaining ground the other side of the loop. By time I completed my fourth mile they were coming up on 4.5 miles.

My fastest laps were my first and fifth, both done around 9:20. My overall time was 48:34, just a few seconds off last year’s finish time. The others had finished a few minutes before me and when I crossed the line, TPP asked if I wanted to go around again. I was pretty much done with running at that point. We headed toward the New Year’s cake which, combined with a cup of instant coffee, tasted like heaven.

Post run refueling

After that, the four of us visited Starbucks, the official clubhouse of the Runsketeers (I just renamed us). As much as I loved the run, the après-run conversation was the highlight of the morning. All too soon it was time to leave. When I got home, my wife and kids had prepared all the fixings for tacos. It was a perfect way to refuel from a great New Year’s Day morning. Happy New Year!