Smartening up for Sunday’s race

Today’s workout: Rest day

It was a beautiful morning today in Washington DC, the temperature was 65 when I woke up at 4:00. I looked out the window just as the sun was coming up to see two runners making their way along D Street. How I wished to join them! Unfortunately my schedule was too tight today to do any running, but next time I return I plan to do a few loops around the National Mall. I’ve reconciled my missed opportunity by acknowledging that I usually rest on Mondays anyway. Technically I’m tapering for an 8K I’m planning to run this coming Sunday.

I’m excited to be racing again for the first time since early April. I blew it on my last race, arriving the day after the event. This time I’m pretty sure it’s on the 13th and since I’ve pre-registered and pre-paid I’m going to pay a little more attention to the details. Last year I ran the New Hyde Park 8K with no understanding or expectations of the course. I started fast and did about 8:25 for mile one and went downhill from there. The course isn’t challenging in terms of hills but there are a few elevated sections. I recall the moment I knew I had overstepped my conditioning, I was on a section of road heading east when I started getting passed by other runners. I can remember the sound of approaching steps as one, two, three and more runners ran by and though I tried to speed up to hold them off I just couldn’t sustain it. The fifth mile was brutal although I did manage to put enough energy into a final sprint that kept me under nine minutes for pace. Barely under: 8:59.

I have not run too strongly in the last week and my pace numbers reflect this. I had been hitting 8:40 fairly often and I’m almost a minute behind that of late. The good news is I don’t really care. I’m judging the value of my runs by my level of satisfaction rather than purely by performance. However, I do want to beat last year’s pace on Sunday and finish feeling stronger. I guess I’ll need to run smarter as well.

Racing through spring

Today’s planned run: Central Park

I’m feeling rested after taking a break yesterday. I’m hoping that this will translate into some good running today and over the weekend. I’m planning to run again with my friend in Central Park at lunchtime. It should be 70 degrees by noon with lots of sun. Oh, for the want of a shower in my office!

It’s amazing that tomorrow is already May 1st. This year is going by quickly and I attribute much of that to spending a good part of January recovering from pneumonia. It’s like I lost a month. But spring is here and the weather has been nice for outside activities. I’m thinking about my racing plans between now and summer. Right now, I’ve got three events in my sights:

The Brooke Jackman Run for Literacy 5K – May 16
A local race in mid-May. It’s a run/walk so my family can also participate.

The XTERRA Trail Race Series 8K run at Stillwell Woods – June 6
This is the second Stillwell XTERRA race this year. I did the first in March and it was tough. Add 1.5 miles  to that course and you have the June 6 race.

New Hyde Park 8K – June 13
I ran this race last year and learned my lesson about starting too fast. I bonked 2/3 of the way through the course but still ended up with a sub-9:00 pace (just barely).

This would mean I’d be running three races in one month’s time. It seems like a lot but I do those distances as training runs every weekend. The XTERRA is the biggest challenge and until recently I thought I wouldn’t be up for it. I will do what’s necessary to be ready to run it by the 6th. After all, racing is a great way to train for other races.

Racing decisions for May and June

Today’s workout: Rain delay

I wasn’t surprised to see pouring rain when I woke up this morning. All the same I was very disappointed. I’d held out hope that the weather reports would be wrong and that the storm would miss Long Island. No such luck. My issue with running in the rain comes from wearing glasses. A light rain is really no problem, it’s sort of like driving through mist. But when the rain starts to come down hard it’s windshield wiper time. Since my glasses don’t have wipers, running through rain can be very disorienting. I’m surprised there isn’t some rain protection invention for runners who wear glasses. I guess corrective goggles or using contact lenses would be my only choices. Neither option is too appealing.

The weather reports are indicating intermittent rain this afternoon so I may luck out for running later. I had hoped to run with a friend earlier this morning but it was just too wet at 6:00 AM. He and I are planning to try again next Sunday since I’ve decided not to do the RXR 10K race next weekend that would have conflicted with that. I may run one of the local 5K’s taking place later in May or just skip this month for racing and focus on racing in June. There’s the XTERRA Trail Series 8K at Stillwell on June 6 and the New Hyde Park 8K on the 13th. The Stillwell #2 race would be my toughest racing challenge to date. Stillwell #1, held this past March in the ice and snow, was very difficult even with the course cut down to 3.5 miles due to trail conditions. I ran New Hyde Park last year and struggled with pace, clocking in just under nine minutes per mile. I’ll need to decide which to run in June. Maybe I’ll run both.

The race is run: 8K – 53 yards = 9:00/mi

I’m happy to report that this morning I completed my third race in as many months. The race distance was 8K (53 yards short of 5 miles) and it really pushed the limits of my stamina. I’ve regularly run 5 or more miles over the last six months but usually at a comfortable (non-competitive) pace. I did well through most of the race but I did find myself questioning this whole running thing at one point. I’ll get to that further below.

Now that I’ve experienced racing a few times I know better what to expect. I arrived early to ensure a good parking spot and to allow enough time between check in and the start of the race. Despite my concerns about the planning (online registration was not enabled until the week of the race) the event was well organized and check in was orderly and efficient. I got my number, timing chip and t-shirt and got myself set up. I was alone so I stowed the non-essential items in my car and then did some stretching and warm up exercises. There were a number of people doing warm up runs but with the sun and the 65+ degree heat a warm up did not seem necessary. Most participants belonged to running clubs and there were many of those. Each club seemed to establish a base camp where they stood around and talked as we waited for the start. I was one of the odd men (and women) out but I chatted with a few people. I even showed another runner how to attach his timing chip and that made me realize that I’m no longer a complete newbie.

We began lining up about ten minutes prior to the start. I stayed on the sidelines where there was some shade as the sun was already bearing down at 9:05 AM. When I did get into place I was behind 30 or 40 other runners. Once the starting horn sounded we were off and, with the crowd ahead, it took me at least 15 seconds to pass the starting line. My plan was to start fast so I had to maneuver around some slower runners to get a clear area for running. I was pleased with my pace and very happy when I passed the display at mile 1 which showed 8:25. The course was balanced between hills and downhill stretches. I’d guess that overall it was balanced neutral to downhill. There were no killer hills but there were a few stretches where I had to put my head down and just push on for a distance. I was still tracking below 9:00/mi after mile 2 and, like the 5K in May, the time between miles two and three seemed to go very fast. I must have started to lose speed after the third mile because I had managed to hold off from being passed until then. I even passed a number of other runners after the second mile but as I headed toward mile four I got passed by at least five runners. I tried to maintain some speed on the downhill sections but I wasn’t feeling all that strong and started “borrowing” those stretches for recovery from the hill segments.

The last mile was the hardest and I seriously felt like I couldn’t maintain my pace too much longer. It felt a lot more like suffering than fun at that point. There were many people cheering as I got close to the finish and all the volunteers who were passing out water along the route were very gracious and encouraging. I felt slightly more energized once I saw the green field ahead that told me the finish line was close. Once I reached the grass I gave it everything I had and sprinted the final few hundred feet and noted that I had finished at 44:42 which meant that I beat 9:00 per mile.

Except I didn’t…

When I looked at the posted results near the finish line I was disappointed to see that I ran a 9:00 overall pace and it hit me that the 8K course was 53 yards shy of 5 miles! I started thinking about the crowded start and the fact that I probably would have beaten 9:00 if my starting position was closer to the line. But that’s an excuse, if I’d maintained the same pace for the last mile that I’d run for the first 4 I would have made my goal. It was my conditioning that prevented that and now I know that I have to train better for longer distances. I can only be grateful that it wasn’t a 10K!

Despite not beating 9:00/mi I’m happy that I came as close as I did. The post race experience was a blur. I remember having a banana, an orange slice and a bottle of water and I tried to keep moving to allow my heart rate to drop slowly. I was happy with the race I ran but I know where I need to improve. I’ve emerged a little more. So what’s next?

13 hours to the start

As I edge closer to 9:15 AM on Sunday I’m thinking a lot about tomorrow’s race. Although this is the 32nd running of the New Hyde Park 8K there is very little information about it online. I haven’t found any course maps or even a course description. One source, an experienced LI runner with whom I interact on the Runner’s World Loop, described the course as fairly flat. He’s not able to do the run himself because he has an EMT service obligation. Based on what he’s said I’m assuming that it will be a fast course.

Unlike the other two races I’ve recently run, there is no pre-race day check-in so I’ll be heading over early for that. I’m hoping the event is well organized and they get everyone checked in efficiently. I’m planning to run this race without my wife and kids attending and I’ll need to time my check-in so that I get my t-shirt and/or goody bag back to my car in time to line up for the start. I’ve selected my race gear and I’m feeling about as ready as I can be. I’m wearing my Brooks GTS 9’s that I bought the day after my last race and they have felt great. I’m hoping that I have good energy tomorrow morning. Five miles may be a standard length for my weekend runs but I haven’t yet competed at that distance.

My race strategy will be to go out fairly fast for the first mile but to conserve enough to get me through the next four. AG taught me that I should use downhills to push speed and I’ve done that on my last few runs with good success. I’m worried how I’ll feel around mile 3 but that will depend mostly on the course and the heat. I’m concerned that I won’t be able to maintain my targeted pace over 5 miles. I’ll soon know if my training strategy has worked.

I’m hoping that I get good rest tonight. We spent today doing family things and the closest thing to athletics was helping my daughter learn to skateboard. I took a rest day on Thursday and felt very strong on my Friday morning run. I’m betting that today’s rest will help but it’s still the longest distance I’ve had to cover in a race.  I’ll let you know how it went!

Rest, rain, rest, run!

I had high hopes for a pre-work day run in Central Park this morning. I’m trying to optimize my readiness for my race on Sunday and I took yesterday as a rest day. I planned on a final training run today before resting again tomorrow. We had rainy weather this morning and while I actually enjoy running in the rain I didn’t think it would be nice to spend the rest of the business day looking like a wet dog.

As I headed into the office I was disappointed to see the rain was coming down lightly but steady. I figured that I’d have to put off my morning run until later in the day. I made my way over to AG’s office and she was already dressed for running. I tried to convince her to run later but she pointed to her calendar which showed meetings throughout the day. She said she was going to run with or without me so I gave in and changed into my running gear. It was rainy as we ran up town to Central Park but the air felt nice and cool. We started our timed run on the south end of the park and did one circuit around the lower loop which measured 1.76 miles. We ran at a fairly fast pace (8:30 overall) and I was happy that I was holding my own with AG – at least most of the time. Lately I’ve inhibited the pace when we’ve run but I think running in cool weather in the morning, for less than 2 miles, really helped. With our slower paced run from our office to the park we covered a total of 2.5 miles and it was a great final run before Sunday’s 8K.

My concern that I’d look spent and soaked for the rest of the day was unfounded and I was very happy that AG shamed encouraged me into running despite the wet weather. I wish I could run in those same conditions on Sunday but the reports are saying 65 and partly cloudy. Come to think of it, that’s not too bad either.

Pre-race rest

I’m still a racing newbie and while I have competed a couple of times in the last two months I’m not convinced that I have figured out the best strategy for optimizing my readiness prior to race day. I’d decided to take two rest days before my 4 mile race in April. The idea was to aid my recovery from the harder than normal training program I had been following. I ran a good race that day and despite a few killer hills I kept my overall pace at 8:50 per mile. The second race, in May, was a 5K on a flatter course and I decided to push my training a little more and my rest a little less. I only took one rest day the day before and ended up averaging 8:33 which pleased me to no end.

This Sunday’s race is my longest yet, 8K/5 miles on an unknown course. I have not had too many sub 9:00 runs at distances greater than 4 miles so I’m not really sure how I’ll do. My goal for the 4 miler was to break 9:00 and I did. My goal for the 5K was to break 8:40 and I did. My goal for Sunday is to do better than 9:07 which seems to be the best pace I’ve attained for 5+ miles in the last couple of months. If I can beat 9:00 I’ll be happier still.

I’m enjoying a rest today although I could easily have run a couple of miles. I woke up with little leg and knee soreness (icing and compression helped that) and thought one more day of rest can’t hurt. Saturday will also be a rest day if you consider back to back appointments at the eye doctor and dentist restful. Then it’s race day. I’m hoping for the best.

A penultimate pre race run

I took the day off today and sneaked in a longer than normal week day run. I’m in taper mode and wanted to get one more 3+ mile run under my belt before Sunday’s 8K. Like other times when I’ve run during the work week morning I was cautious about sharing the road with cars and school buses and I stayed on the sidewalks more than I normally do. Sidewalk running has its own risks, especially when you encounter buckled or broken sections. But compared to a steady stream of cars making their way to the local school and landscaper’s trucks maneuvering through the streets it’s a better way to go.

I gave myself a quarter mile to work out the leg stiffness that remains on my right side and then focused on keeping my pace steady and brisk. I felt good and the weather was cooperative so I expected that I’d end up pacing below 9:00 minutes overall. I was a little time pressed and needed to return home within 35 minutes of departure so I knew I’d probably run less than 4 miles. I purposely kept the Garmin in time mode rather than pace or distance. I wanted to see how I would run if I concentrated on speed without knowing how much distance I’d covered or what speed I was running. As I came upon the last segment of my route I tried to run faster, lengthening my stride and quickening my cadence. I finished and saw that I’d covered 3.6 miles at 8:54/mile. I was happy that I broke 9:00 but I’m still wondering why I’m not in the 8:30 range at this point. Oh well, I plan one more run on Friday and perhaps I can again push the speed and get ready for a faster pace on Sunday.

I will soon announce a new section/site related to the Emerging Runner that focuses on running technology: Runner’s Tech Review. The first review will cover the Moji knee icing wrap which I am wearing as I write this. AG field tested it with her team during her recent Patch Sprint mountain race. I am also starting to work with the QStarz GPS Sports Recorder and will report on that soon.

Stay tuned for lots of new stuff on emergingrunner.com including “Running Gone Wild” and, every week, “Sedentary Man.”

8K’s a week

It’s getting down to the final days leading up to my 8K race on June 7. It’s hard to believe that it’s already June 1st. You wouldn’t know it this morning with temperatures in the 40’s in the suburbs east of NYC. It’s too early to count on the long range forcast for next Sunday but the race starts at 9:15 AM and I’m hoping the humidity will be relatively low at that point.

I’ve decided to taper my workouts this week, starting yesterday with a shorter (but faster) 2+ mile run. I covered the distance at an 8:50 pace which compares to the 9:07 average I ran in May. Knowing that it would be short I kept up my speed throughout the run and benchmarked distance from the Garmin against known waypoints on my route. I saw that the Garmin was undercounting my progress so I ignored the readout and just followed the route I’d Gmapped prior to the run. In all, the Garmin was off by 5% and I manually adjusted the watch so it should be accurate now. I followed my run with some time in the pool where I did kicking exercises that, combined with the cold water, helped my quad soreness.

This morning I did 22 minutes on the elliptical as a weekend recovery workout (totaled 12.5 miles between Friday and Sunday). Tomorrow I plan to do a weekday run outdoors using the vest and head lamp I borrowed from AG. I’m taking off Wednesday so I hope to do my last long run before the race and follow that with a rest day on Thursday. Friday morning I hope to do a relatively short city run with AG to finish the taper and rest on Saturday.

Giving in to low tech

During the check-in for my 5K race there was a man handing out flyers for the New Hyde Park 8K race that’s scheduled to be held on Sunday, June 7. The race is only a few towns away from where I live and my wife encouraged me to sign up. Although the application says you can register online at http://www.nhprunners.com/ the site is still set up for 2008. I tried to find more information online but everything kept pointing back to the New Hyde Park Runner’s Club website. I started wondering if the event was even going to happen and I was concerned that with no online registration there would be few people participating. The race is nine days away and although I have been training for it I started thinking that it might be a good idea to start looking around for another race.

As it happened, I tried one more time to find information and saw a link to the Runner’s World Racefinder. The listing had contact information, including a phone number, so I called and spoke to Harold Axelrod who told me the race is very much on but their website is having problems. I asked him how many runners he expected for the race and he said 350 to 400. That sounded good to me. Harold offered to send me an application but I already had one in paper form. I told him I’d send it in and he wished me well in the race.

I’m excited that I’m back on track for this 5 mile race. I’ve been running about 20 miles per week over the last month and have been focusing on both pace and hills. The race starts at 9:15 on the 7th and I’m hoping that the sun won’t be too intense at that time. Tomorrow AG and I are planning a long run along the Hudson (weather permitting) with a goal pace of under 9:00/mile. She’s just had two consecutive weekends of highly intense competition and this will be her first run since the Patch Sprint. I’m looking to cover 12-15 miles between tomorrow and Sunday, perhaps starting with 5 or 6 on Friday.