Afternoon runs are hard when you’re a morning runner

I wish all races started at 10:00 AM

Today’s run (street): 5.3 miles

All things being equal, I run much better in the morning than I do later in the day. The numbers don’t lie and I have had enough bad afternoon runs to know it’s true. I don’t know if it relates to biorhythms, psychology, or nutrition (or some combination of the three). In any case, I usually avoid running during the second half of the day. The above chart is an unscientific but fair representation of my performance throughout the day.

I’ve felt a little off my game this week. Not exactly tired, but not as strong as usual. I skipped my run on Thursday to give myself a day to catch up. Yesterday’s run on the treadmill was fine, although I didn’t feel as energized after the run as I usually do.

This morning I woke up at 6:45 AM, a full hour later than usual for a Saturday. I clearly needed the sleep and was happy to lose a little time to gain the rest. Due to that, the morning schedule was compressed and I lost my window to run. Other things took priority and it wasn’t until after lunch that I finally headed outside.

Today’s plan was to go to Bethpage, but I didn’t feel like taking the drive over there. I wasn’t pleased about my late start and I really wanted to get my run done as quickly as possible. At around 2:00 PM, I finally had my act in gear and started off. My targeted distance was five miles. Normally that would be easy, but I was concerned that the later hour would make it tough.

The weather felt cool, even though the reported temperature was 45 degrees. A very light rain was falling and I considered wearing my running raincoat but I feared overheating. I ended up putting on my Zensah calf compression sleeves for warmth and that was a good call. Plus they have an energizing effect that I’d hoped would help.

In terms of performance, it wasn’t the worst five miles I’ve run on a Saturday. My pace was acceptable but nothing to brag about. For some reason it was really hard to tie together five miles of roads today. The run seemed to take far longer than 52 minutes, but I didn’t have any issues with stamina. I occasionally picked up the pace during the run. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to help my overall time.

Running at 2:00 PM wasn’t the disaster I’d feared, but I suspect that I would have done better had I gone out earlier as planned. Tomorrow I hope to get to Bethpage and execute on my goal of doing one non-neighborhood run each weekend. Even if I can’t for some reason, at least today’s later run provided a different expereince. And for runners who train almost daily, a little difference can go a long way.

Back to the 4:00 AM thing

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

I’ve been busy with post-vacation business and have not had a chance to post until now. Later this week my division will be holding its summer picnic in Central Park and I’ve organized a 1.6 mile non-competitive run/walk. I’m hoping we get a good crowd of participants like last time.

It was back to 4:00 AM running this morning. After so many hot and humid days, I was fortunate to have temperatures in the high-50’s. These conditions were further helped by the cooling mist from lawn sprinklers along my way. I didn’t break any speed records this morning, but I was proud of myself for getting up and out again at that early hour.

Night or day, inside or out?

Worth a read

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

In her new book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?”, Mindy Kaling writes, “There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.” I thought that was a very funny line (it’s a great book) but I have to disagree a little. As I stood at the train this morning I saw the sun coming up and the first thought I had was, “Finally, I can now go out on my long weekend runs before 6:30 AM without needing a headlamp.”

There’s a big difference, psychologically, when I run in the dark versus running in daylight. My 4:00 AM runs serve a purpose, but that purpose is primarily fitness maintenance. My weekend runs provide a far wider benefit to both mind and body. A run on the trails is visually fascinating, the terrain is challenging and the lack of concern for traffic (except for mountain bikers) allows for deep thinking.

This morning I was at the complete other end of the spectrum, running my 25 tedious minutes on the treadmill. A friend of mine just bought a True treadmill that is very feature-rich. One capability is heart rate cruise control — the machine will automatically speed up, slow down or change elevation to keep the runner at a specific heart rate. It also has a 14″ LCD screen that takes input from a smartphone, PC, iPad, etc. That would be amazing compared to my humble Sole. But in the end, I’d far prefer to be running outside, just after sunrise.

Inner peace at 4:00 AM

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

My 4:00 AM runs are productive, not only from a conditioning perspective, but as a method of focusing on key items in my business or personal life. The world at 4:00 AM looks a lot like 6:00 AM, except that it’s significantly quieter. Every morning when I go out to run I think about all the people in the houses that I pass. Most people are still sleeping and generally all the company I might have is the car that drives around throwing the New York Times onto driveways. It’s peaceful and still and the stars are in bright focus. So for the many who ask why I run at that ungodly hour, this is why.

Sometimes you can’t argue that additional rest yields better performance and that was the case today. Despite my trance-like state this morning, my legs that had only run five miles over the last three days moved me along 20 sec/mile faster than my usual morning pace. While I followed my route I thought through a business issue that I hadn’t been able to address with the frenzy of the work day. I came back home happy with my run and decisive in my thoughts. It was only 4:30 and I still had the whole day ahead.

Back to the streets and the headlamp

Today’s run (street): 2.75 miles

Yesterday was another exhausting day and last night I was seriously concerned that I’d have the energy to run in the morning. I laid out the running gear I’d need for a cold outdoor run in the dark, including various clothing layers, reflective vest, gloves, hat, socks, headlamp and running shoes. I tried to imagine my state of mind for the morning when it came time to put it all on. When the time did come I wasn’t any more ready to run, but I knew I had to do it. So I did.

It was my first 4:00 AM run on the street in 2011 and I reasoned that it would be better than the treadmill. I stepped out and watched the moonlit neighborhood unfold as the garage door rose on its rails. It was a familiar scene though it had been a while. Without hesitation, I hit start on the Garmin and headed up the road. The air was chilly and the winds seemed to be coming from multiple directions. I was cold but not uncomfortable and though I would have appreciated milder breezes I was fine with the conditions. It’s been a long enough time that I’d forgotten the timing of my morning routes and I ended up going a few minutes longer than normal. I got back feeling refreshed and happy that I’d once again gone out at a time when most people were still in their last hours of sleep. Even though I’ve made my piece with the treadmill it was good to be back running, once again, on terra firma.

Training went well but the trains? Not so well

Today’s run (street): 2.64 miles at 9:08

Yesterday morning a small fire at the Long Island Railroad’ Jamaica Station  hub brought down the entire train system for five hours. I managed to get on one of the few early evening trains out of Penn Station and got home without too much of a problem. At 6:15 this morning the trains are still a mess and I thought about working from home when I got up. No commute would mean more time to run. Ultimately I decided to take my chances with the trains and I’m waiting with the other early birds in a cold drizzle at the train platform.

My decision to commute meant following my usual schedule and I hit the neighborhood roads by 4:00 AM. The news said it was 64 degrees but it felt cooler than that when I stepped outside. I felt moisture in the air and realized it was misting. That mist, combined with cool air, felt great as I took off on my run. I noticed that my feet, really my toes, were still sore from Sunday’s race. Although the Dirty Sock course is fairly flat and the trails are well groomed I always end up with sore and swollen feet whenever I run there. I had my Brooks today and that really made a difference in terms of protection and comfort. I pounded on, feeling good, happy for the break from hot and humid running.

I followed one of my standard routes and was glad to see that I’d recovered from Sunday’s race with no residual aches or pains. The experience this morning was so effortless that my thoughts drifted elsewhere and I had to keep reminding myself to maintain a brisk pace. I had a few extra minutes and considered extending my run but I chose to go straight home so I could check news reports about this morning’s train situation. I ended up covering 2.5+ miles at a decent pace. Near the end of the run I passed a house with a guy standing in front — unusual to see anyone outside at 4:25 AM. Maybe he was up early trying to grab an earlier train in anticipation of a delayed commute. Speaking of which, here comes my train now. Gotta go!

More things that glow at 4:00 AM

Artist’s rendering

Today’s run (street): 2.4 miles at 9:14 per mile

I was hoping for some relief from the heat after yesterday and the weekend but I wasn’t prepared for the blast of cold air that I felt when I stepped outside this morning. I’m not complaining — it was fantastic. The change in weather inspired me to take a different route than usual. For the first half of my run I chose some different roads and also followed streets in the opposite direction than I usually run them. That small change makes a big difference in terms of novelty. I fixed my headlamp problem so that was one less issue to address today and I felt more energized in my run than any other in recent memory. Unless you count my last race.

I encountered three cats and two rabbits along the way, but with the temperature at 63 degrees the fireflies weren’t glowing this morning. I did see a strange sight along one street though. A house that was under construction had one of those large storage containers parked in the driveway. All four corners of the container had segmented lights running top to bottom that emitted an eerie glow. It looked like a spaceship sitting there among the houses. About halfway through my run I glanced at the Garmin and saw that I was tracking at about a 9:30 pace and I knew I could do better than that. I picked up my speed and ended up gaining back enough time to push my overall pace to 9:14 which is (according to Daily Mile) the fifth fastest run that I’ve done over the last four weeks. I’m not sure what that means except that I haven’t run below 9:20 too often in recent days. If tomorrow is equally comfortable I’ll look forward to pushing even harder. There’s a long weekend coming up and I’m hoping to accumulate some good mileage during my days off.

Who needs a headlamp when you have fireflies?

Today’s run (street): 2.42 miles at 9:23 per mile

One benefit of high humidity

There’s no relief from the heat and humidity this week, even at 4:00 AM. On occasion I’ll catch a break when a slight wind pushes the mist from a lawn sprinkler towards the road. This is akin to walking along the streets of NYC on a hot day and feeling the cold blast of conditioned air from an open door. Most of the time it’s just hot and humid and you appreciate that there’s no sun to add to the misery. Running and discomfort go together like politics and blame so runners suffer through the tough parts and enjoy the good. Or as Haruki Murakami says about running: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”

Despite the weather, I was pleased with how I ran this morning. I still cannot understand how running the same way on different days yields such different results. I definitely did not slack off during my workout this morning and I consciously focused on my cadence. I may have moved the needle a little in terms of overall pace but not by much. At one point in the run I was traveling down a dimly lit street and noticed something shining back at me. I first thought it was a cat or small animal whose eyes reflected light from my Petzl headlamp. I then discovered that my lamp was off so it couldn’t be that. I’ve been having trouble with the unit switching itself off for no apparent reason and I’m wondering if a replacement is needed. The light wasn’t a reflection after all, it turned out to be fireflies. I soon saw a bunch more and also noticed the air was fragrant with the smells of honeysuckle and dogwoods. I forgot the heat and the discomfort for a few minutes and focused only on the scene before me.  Soon I was back to the job at hand, finishing my run and starting my work day. It would have been nice to experience cooler conditions this morning but overall it was darn good run.

The morning blues

Today’s run (street): 2.3 miles at 9:16 per mile

I looked forward to this morning’s run as I prepared my gear last night. I’ve just come through two weeks of tight deadlines and four speaking obligations and today’s run was the first time in a while where I could go out free of those pressures. I’d run in my Grid Tangents the last three times and the magic of speed seems to have slipped away. Tuesday’s performance was no better or worse than my usual experience with my GTS-10s. I decided to return to the Kinvaras and see if I could gain some efficiency by running in this light neutral shoe that promotes mid foot landing. I know two other people who own Kinvaras and they have both had concerns about running longer distances with them. So far my experience with the Kinvaras has been good. I see little difference between them and my other trainers.

Some mornings I move faster than others and today was a slow day. I’m not talking about on the road, I mean the process of preparing to run. Consequently I didn’t step outside until 4:06 and I took off without doing any stretching because I didn’t want to fall further behind. The skies were dark with no moon and overcast conditions. The rain had stopped but the roads were wet and the streetlights were reflecting garishly. It was quiet and I saw no other activity but it didn’t feel peaceful. During Tuesday morning’s run I saw a few cars and trucks and even saw another person on the street. It was a young woman taking a walk near the middle school. I kept my distance because I didn’t want to spook her. Odd to see someone out walking at 4:30 AM.

I ended today’s run after about 22 minutes. I was glad that I had run but slightly disappointed by the experience. I’m hoping to go out longer tomorrow morning and take advantage of the extra time I’ll have working from home. I think I need rest and I’ll try to sleep a little longer on Friday morning. It’s been a while since I’ve had a satisfying long run. I’m hoping I can change that this weekend.

An illuminating run

Today’s run (street): 2.4 miles at 9:40 per mile

Not quite this bright!

I know I’ve already made too much of Sunday’s long run but this morning my legs were really sore. I tend to feel the effects of a tough workout a couple of days later and that was the case today. My first thought upon awakening was to give myself a break and take another rest day. I dismissed the thought and considered an easy elliptical or treadmill session instead. Once I saw that the temperature at 4:00 AM was in the high 60’s I decided to run outside.

The last few times I’d run with my Petzl Tikka headlamp I noticed that the intensity of the LED beam seemed low, even on the brightest setting. It had been a year since I bought the Petzl unit and had not yet changed the batteries. I corrected that on Sunday and this morning I was amazed by how well the lamp illuminated the streets. I had obviously become used the diminishing beam and had actually done an early morning run recently without the headlamp and didn’t notice until I returned home. It was fun seeing my neighborhood lit up this morning, the bright blue-tinged light again creating illusions of evil faces reflected off the front of BMWs and Acuras. More importantly I could see the road better and was able to avoid a torn up stretch where a gas line was recently installed.

I didn’t run fast today but I really felt great while I was out there. The air was cool enough to keep things comfortable and my legs, though tired, were fine once I hit the street. It may not have been my most rigorous workout of late but it was one of my most enjoyable early morning excursions. Today I plan to visit Jackrabbit with a friend who is looking for a new pair of running shoes. Between this morning’s run and an opportunity to visit a running store during the work day, I couldn’t be more pleased.