A glimpse (perhaps) of another emerging runner

Two routes to a healthy life

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles

This morning I noticed a guy walking around the neighborhood while I was out running. Everything from his noticeable gut to his white New Balance walking shoes reminded me of myself, five years ago. My journey from a sedentary life to being a runner started with early morning walks around the neighborhood. That routine led to walking with some running, then running with a little walking. After six weeks, I was just running.

I don’t know this walker or his story, but I admire him for getting outside and moving. I have no idea if he’s been a dedicated walker or whether he has plans to transition to running. One thing that walking did for me was reinforce the benefits of of an active lifestyle. I lost 30 pounds between August and November of 2008 and half of that weight came off before was exclusively running.

This week I’ve struggled with a cold and decided to forgo yesterday’s workout. During my run today, I thought about that cold and realized that I was recovering fairly quickly. I wondered if my running had helped me hold off colds in the past, and if my immunity was stronger because of running.

I completed my run and noticed that my overall time was nothing special. I’d taken it easy in deference to my still present (but diminishing) cold and I think that was a good decision. I know that running keeps me in good shape and it might just be keeping me healthy. I’d like to think that the walker I saw will follow my path and get to his ideal level of fitness. Whether it’s by running or walking, the end result will be a happier life.

Rainy day running gets you nowhere

Get it?

Today’s run (treadmill): 4.1 miles

Rain is a funny thing for me. I generally don’t mind when I’m caught in a storm, as long as I have a decent umbrella. I like the experience of reading a good book indoors when it’s pouring outside. But when it comes to running in the rain, I would rather endure freezing temperatures, high humidity and scorching heat than be subjected to pluvial conditions. Some of this is due to my difficulty seeing in the rain with glasses, but the whole soaking shoes, socks, shirt and shorts thing really undercuts my enjoyment of a run.

This morning I prepared to run outside under a dark gray sky. As much as I abhor running in rain, my favorite conditions are cool and overcast weather. I was dressed and ready to head out when my daughter looked up from her homework and said, “Dad, do you know that it’s raining outside?” I didn’t know, but I decided to walk down the driveway to see if it was rain or just light drizzle. It was rain.

I came back inside and headed upstairs to wait for my wife to finish her treadmill run. I changed into a lighter running shirt and removed my RoadID but kept on the other gear. As soon as my wife finished her workout, I fired up the floor fan, put on the news and set a brisk pace on the treadmill. The rainy conditions outside created humid conditions indoors. I prepared for 16 tedious “laps”, the most I thought I could endure this morning.

It was disappointing to be stuck on the treadmill after expecting to run outside. Yesterday I experienced some fatigue after negotiating the long uphill section along Sunnyside Boulevard. Today I felt like I had more energy, but the lack of perceived progress I get during treadmill running was mentally wearing. I focused on .25 mile increments and eventually got to my targeted “distance.”

I was glad that I didn’t let the weather prevent me from putting in the miles today. However, after four miles of humid treadmill running I’m reconsidering the merits of running in the rain.

Definitely the second title

On the road

Today’s run (street): 3.3 miles

Even before I run, I’ll usually have a good idea of what I’ll write in my daily post. If my plan is to go out for a few miles, the variables are basically the route I’ll take and how I performed. Today was different, I’d decided to try a return to the road. That invited the real possibility that I’d undo all the recovery work I’ve done over the past seven days. I wondered if I’d title today’s post, “Too much too soon”, or “Victory on the road.”

I was genuinely nervous when I stepped outside. I took extra time to do some dynamic stretching, especially with my right leg. The GPS took its time to acquire signal but it finally went to ready state. I hit the start and set off in my usual starting direction, hoping for the best.

The first test came quickly, just 50 steps away from my house. It was here that my hip injury announced itself two weeks ago, causing me to immediately stop my run. No problem this time. One hurdle cleared.

The next point of concern came up three minutes later, near the top of the first road on my route. That was how far I’d gotten the last time I attempted a street run. The pain at that time was excruciating. Later, it took almost an hour, an ice pack and an Aleve before it began to feel better. I cringed when I passed that point today. Happily, there was no pain.

I continued on, feeling increasingly confident as I made my way through the first mile. My hip felt okay, but there was some tightness. I was running very easy and that probably helped. Around mile two I started to detect a dull pain around my hip. It was barely noticeable but I became concerned that I was pushing my luck. I was about a mile from my house, so I considered my options. I could either walk back home, or continue along my route. I chose to keep running.

The final 1.3 miles went fine. By the end, I knew I’d done no harm to my hip. The important thing was that I’d successfully completed a run on pavement. Hours later, my hip still feels fine. We had a family get-together in the afternoon and I didn’t notice my hip at all. The question is, do I go longer than three miles tomorrow? Further, since this injury has improved with rest and careful workouts, is it necessary to keep my appointment with the orthopedist next week?

The Emerging Runner turns 3

Yep, it was three years ago that I began to document my experience as a new or “emerging” runner. At the time that I started this blog, I was just getting back into shape after a number of years of inactivity. I used to run a little when I was was in college, but it was something I did to maintain fitness for more favored activities like karate. In the early ’90’s, when I lived in Manhattan, I’d go out every morning for a run through my Murray Hill neighborhood. Running the streets of NYC turned out to be a frustrating experience and I stopped that after about six months.

Even though I didn’t like the city running experience (at the time), I still liked to run. After losing weight in the fall of 2008, through exercise and a smarter diet, I was ready to try again. My love of technology helped me stay interested in progressing as a runner. Almost from the start, I used devices to track my performance. First it was the Nike+ chip and wristband and then the Garmin 50 & 60. Now I have the FR210 that captures the metrics of my runs via GPS. The technology improves along with the runner.

Over the last three years I’ve had many fantastic experiences running with friends, with my family and in races (22 and counting), on trails, through national parks, on roads and even back in NYC, which is now a favorite place to run. I love running gear, running shoes and running gadgets and I still look forward to seeing the new stuff when it comes out every season. But I’m happy to say that most of that matters less as time goes by and the experience of running itself matters more. Perhaps I’ve emerged a little since November 18, 2008 — but I still have a long way to go.

Update on Emerging Runner’s 2011 goals

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

This has been a big week for nature, first with the earthquake and now hurricane Irene is threatening to disrupt my weekend running. When you’re a runner, it’s all about the weather. Since there’s not much I can do about that, I thought I’d focus on things where I have some control.

2011 Goal review

It’s almost September and we’re through 75% of the year. Let’s see how I’ve done.

1. Run a half marathon.
Did it! I ran the LI (Half) Marathon in May and I’m still tired.

 2. Score settling: Run my best times ever on the Dirty Sock and Cow Harbor 10K’s. Beat my time in the New Hyde Park 8K (44:42 two years in a row!).
So far I’m on track. Achieved best ever times in both the NHP 8K and Dirty Sock 10K. Cow Harbor 10K happens in three weeks.

3. Running tourism: Run outside of Long Island at least six times. Bonus for competing in a race outside of LI.
I ran in Florida in January and Massachusetts more than once this year. Lots of running in New Hampshire and Maine. Still no races out of Long Island.

4. Hit those trails: Add Caleb Smith, Sunken Meadow and one more state park to my trail running experience.
Still no runs at Caleb Smith or Sunken Meadow but that could change by year’s end.

5. Performance: Run 1 mile under 7:50/mile or 2 miles under 8:00/mile.
My last serious speed workout in July did the trick. First mile at 7:50 and did 8 x 200’s at 6:50. I also ran two continuous miles at 8:20 which doesn’t meet the goal, but it’s not too far off.

With four months left in the year I’m hoping to fully meet every goal. Right now I’m pleased with my progress.

Six weeks to complete my 2010 running goals

It’s almost the end of November and less than 6 weeks left in 2010 so I thought I’d see how I was doing against my running goals. Hopefully, anything I haven’t achieved can be done in the time remaining. 

1. Fully transition to mid/front foot running style.
I’m not sure if I have actually done this because it’s hard to know exactly where your foot falls when you run. I must have adapted my style to some degree since I’m running primarily in the neutral Kinvaras without any problems. Landing mid foot would be a good explanation for that.

2. Raise at least $200 for charitable causes by donating $5 per race mile.
I’ll be updating the donation widget at the end of this week. As of the Hope for Warriors 10K I surpassed $200 and last Sunday’s 10K plus this Thursday’s 5K will add $47 more.

3. PR in a race – preferably in a longer distance than 5K.
PR’d at 10K over two consecutive weeks. Better than I’d hoped for.

4. Run trails at three or more NY state parks that I have yet to visit.
Muttontown only so far. I need to actually run, not hike Caleb Smith. That still leaves a third.

5. Run a continuous 10 mile route under 9:30/mile.
This is actually two goals – distance and pace. I’m going to focus on the distance and even if I don’t achieve the pace goal I’ll consider it completed.

6. Participate in at least 5 races.
Completed seven already this year.

7. Finish the year as excited about running as I am right now.
Hopefully nothing will change in the next six weeks!

I’m looking to do a long run over the Thanksgiving break targeting 9+ miles. If I cover 10 it’s another goal completed. If I don’t do it this week I still have five more weekends to reach that milestone.

I stand corrected

Today’s run (street) 2.4 miles

Yesterday I wrote how fitness and performance levels tend to decline in middle age. I believed that to be true and, absent proper training, it probably is true. Out of curiosity I looked back on my running history on Garmin Connect and compared my performance (street runs only) between April 1 and October 31 to the same period last year. Some things surprised me. It was almost uncanny that the number of runs, year over year, were virtually identical: 119 in 2009 and 118 in 2010. However, it was the differences that caused my surprise.

Gains for the period 4/1 to 10/31 (2009 vs. 2010)

  • 12.4% more distance overall, average distance per run was up 12.5%.
  • Cumulative running time was 9% overall, average run was 9% longer.
  • Average pace was 4.6% faster.
  • Average cadence was 3.6% greater.
  • Median distance per run was up 11.5%

The only thing that declined year over year was average heart rate, dropping 1.4% this year. I use the HRM intermittently so that one comparison isn’t statistically valid.

So despite what I’d read I have seen some real improvement. Emerging Runner friend and contributor James suggested that I focus more on building a base with comfortably paced runs and using that conditioning to improve my speed. James is an accomplished and dedicated runner who structures his training well. I’ve already started doing what he’s suggesting by focusing more on distance and less on performance. In addition, almost weekly, I’m running with a friend in the city where we pace minutes slower than my current goal rate. This weekend Dave and I are planning an LSD run in preparation of our first (of two) 10K’s that we’re running this month. If running slow and comfortably will help me on race day I’m all for that.

2010 running goals — progress report

Today’s workout (elliptical): 26 minutes

Somehow it’s already September and it has been months since I’ve done a check in on my 2010 running goals. My year started out tough with my recovery from pneumonia through most of January. I still feel like I lost a month but I’m certainly back into the fold these days. A quick review of my goals that I set in late January shows I’m fairly well on track. I think there’s a good chance that I’ll make most of them.

Progress report on 2010 goals

1. Fully transition to mid/front foot running style.
I’ve been spending more time with my Saucony Kinvaras, shoes that help me land on my mid-foot rather than off my heel. Still, I prefer my Brooks for longer distances as well as my Grid Tangents that have a more conventional build. I’d say that my style is generally mid and forefoot oriented but a full transition has not happened and may not by year’s end.
2. Raise at least $200 for charitable causes by donating per race mile.
So far I’ve raised $130 (I’ve also had an anonymous donator) and I should be adding $30 more after Great Cow Harbor. That will leave $40 to raise (eight more race miles) between then and New Year’s. I believe this is highly possible.

3. PR in a race – preferably in a longer distance than 5K (but I’ll happily take a new 5K PR!).
Well, technically, my XTERRA trail race in March was a PR because it was a new distance but I won’t take credit for it as a PR. This is because the race distance was modified just prior to the start and it’s almost a given that I won’t run a race with that unique length again. I had my chances on the Marcie Mazzola 5K, the New Hyde Park 8K and the Dirty Sock 10K but didn’t do better than last year. Cow Harbor will provide an opportunity to beat my 10K PR although the deck may be stacked because my prior 10Ks have been on a dirt course.

4. Run trails at three or more NY state parks that I have yet to visit.
I guess I can’t take credit for my Colorado park running so I’m 1 for 3 having run in Muttontown Preserve. I have my eye on Caleb Smith this fall so that leaves one more — Bear Mountain or the Gunks in New Paltz would be awesome.

5. Run a continuous 10 mile route under 9:30/mile.
My personal distance record is still 8.15 miles although I have been working toward more frequent long runs that will prepare me for an eventual 10. Ten under 9:30/mile? That’s another challenge.

6. Participate in at least 5 races. Bonus points for running one in NYC.
So far it’s four with one on the calendar and another planned for November. I’m looking for races in October and December to make it 8 for 2010. Maybe one in NYC?

7. Finish the year as excited about running as I am right now.
Definitely on track for this one!

A gloomy day makes for great running

Gloomy but rain-free morning

Despite losing an hour due to daylight savings time this morning I was happy to wake up to an overcast but rain-free sky. Even though I maintained a better than average pace during yesterday’s run on the treadmill I was largely unsatisfied with the distance. I felt like I’d worked too hard to cover 2.8 miles even considering that I’d done another 1.2 miles on the elliptical prior to my run. As I ran yesterday I thought about Dean Karnazes who supposedly ran 211 miles on a treadmill within 48 hours. Acknowledging that Karnazes’ fitness is at a level that allows this, I still cannot imagine how he handled the tedium of running for two full days without going anywhere. Karnazes claims that he sleeps while he runs during ultramarathons but running on a trail or on straight empty roads is different than running on a treadmill where any stumble can result in hitting the ground (or the tread belt) at speeds of over 6 MPH. I’ve said it before, treadmills scare me.

The conditions at 7:30 AM this morning were near perfect for a run. The temperature was just shy of 40 degrees and the strong winds from last night had calmed to a steady breeze. The air was humid which caused an odd combination of chill and warmth when I ran directly into the wind. Many times during my run my glasses fogged but it was never so bad that I needed to clean them off to see. I did not give a thought to my pace though I knew I was running slow. When I reached the 34 minute mark I thought about the way I felt on Sunday when I reached the same point during the race. It was a very different feeling running on level and stable ground with no pressure to reach the finish line. By then I knew I could maintain my easy pace for a long time so I decided go for 50 minutes and ended up covering 5.3 miles at around 9:35 per mile. At that pace I felt I could have run another five miles without a problem but I had told my wife I was going out for 45-50 minutes and I didn’t want her to worry.

On days like this I sometimes think about my readiness to run a half marathon and I’m sure I could complete one with some more focused training. In the meantime I’m considering running the 10K in this year’s Long Island Festival of Races and doing the full 5 mile Stillwell XTERRA in June. All in good time, today I was happy the rain held off long enough for me to finish five+ miles feeling strong and fit.

I heart my Valentine’s Day run

This weekend has been a holiday treat with Valentines Day today, President’s Day tomorrow and the start of the Olympic winter games on Friday. Well the Olympics games aren’t really a holiday but they are fun. My kids are off all next week from school so they are pretty happy right now. This morning we celebrated Valentines Day with a pancake breakfast, cards and small gifts.  In the spirit of good eating I sprinkled Chia into my pancake mix. I still don’t know if this stuff provides any noticeable benefits but, if nothing else, it is a great source of Omega fatty acids. My kids shared their holiday treats and I probably exceeded my daily sugar intake by 8:00 AM. I can only hope that the Chia works the way it’s described by isolating simple carbohydrates in the system and delaying their conversion to sugar and fat.

The other thing that helps burn off sugar’s effects is exercise and running is my workout of choice. I decided that the noisy treadmill was too much to bear today so I suited up in layers and headed outside. The temperatures have remained cold since last week’s blizzard so most of the snow we got is still on the ground. That made me slightly concerned because many sidewalks – my escape route from cars – are still snow-covered. The streets themselves are completely clear and I figured that I could always jump onto a roadside snowbank if I needed to. I wore my reflective running vest over my thermal zip top (it was about 32 degrees when I went out) as an extra precaution.

My goal was to run 30 minutes through the neighborhood at whatever pace felt natural and comfortable. It may be the fact that I’m still on the tail end of my recovery that I care much less about pace than I did two months ago. All the same, when I resumed running after my illness, I was happy to see my paces go from low 11:00 minute to mid-9:00 miles. I really don’t know if I’m hitting mid-foot or not and today I didn’t care. My Brooks GTS-9’s felt great and, like yesterday, I ran my distance with no discomfort, only the pleasant feeling of floating along. Well most of the time anyway. The wind was sharply blowing from the north and that made for some chilly times. By the end of my run I was happy to have that cold air to cool me off.

It’s been a very nice Valentine’s Day and there’s plenty left to do. My weekly mileage is starting to build and my average distance has been increasing about 10% each week. I’m pleased with my progress and very glad I got outside today.