Best guess how to dress

This weekend I played around with the Runner’s World feature that provides suggestions on how to dress for different weather conditions. I was curious because I sometimes underestimate how many layers I should wear during a run in the cold. Since I’d rather be too cool than too hot my default has been to wear clothes that will be comfortable for most of the run, even it that meant a chilly first mile. This has worked most of the time but I’ve been fooled once or twice when the wind turned a mildly uncomfortable run into torture. I thought that the RW “What should I wear?” widget would be a helpful way of determining the right set of gear. My experience with the app was mixed. Though it did represent a logical set of clothing and accessories based upon specified conditions it seemed like there was little difference on recommendations whether the temperature was 15 degrees and mild versus -15 degrees and windy. From experience I know those conditions require a completely different set of gear.

I went out this morning for an easy 2.3 miles. I wore both short and long sleeve tech jerseys and tight running shorts with my Brooks lightweight running hat and gloves. That was probably more than the RW app would recommend  but it was comfortable for the 48 degrees. I plan to run tomorrow and then do a final 30 minute+ run on Thursday, rest on Friday and race on Saturday.

My favorite app (hint: it has something to do with running shoes)

Without a doubt my favorite iPhone app is the Runner’s World Shoe Shop. This free app has a simple interface that enables quick navigation across the 250 or so running shoes reviewed by the magazine. The company that created this app, NearbyNow, has a holiday gift guide featuring items from retailers and fashion magazines that works in the same way as the shoe app but the content isn’t very rich. I give Runner’s World a lot of credit for its elegant implementation that includes some nice store and price finder features.

I don’t know exactly why I like running shoes so much. It may be due to my interest in technology or the fact that there seems to be so many interesting differentiators between models and brands. I’ll never be a competitive runner but I want to do the best I can and it all starts with the shoe. I think it’s interesting that when I made my commitment to running a year ago I simply put myself at the mercy of a Foot Locker sales person who sold me a pair of Nikes with no conversation about how I run or whether I pronate. Those shoes worked okay until I reached 300 miles where I began to have problems with my left leg. Those problems exacerbated to the point that I debated running a 5K in trail shoes to avoid further injury.

Looking back, those Nikes were decent shoes and I did end up running the 5K in them, coming in 2nd in my age category. I retired them the next day once I purchased the Brooks GTS-9 Adrenalins. The Brooks did not impress me right away but after almost 400 miles they’ve never given me a problem (except for the occasional pinching issue at the top of my foot). I check in with the Runner’s World Shoe Shop on a daily basis looking for information that will guide me to my next pair. I wish it had more updates and covered more of the specialty brands like Newton but I’m still very pleased with what they offer today. Plus, the price is right.

The great (internal) debate

I’ve been reading the December issue of Runner’s World and I’m finding a lot of great stuff. I love this magazine and I’m always excited when I get a new issue. There’s a lot in the front section about preparing for winter running. I’m interested in that because I want to get through the season without losing any fitness but I am extremely adverse to treadmill running. I’m concerned about days when I’m greeted with a blanket of snow on the ground and 18 degree temperatures. I’m thinking about purchasing some Yak-Trax so I can go outside on days that would normally require an indoor workout.

I’ve had some tough runs this week and AG, who is the best coach I’ve ever had regardless of sport, suggested that I skip this weekend’s runs so that I can fully recover from the Cape Cod Relay and last week’s seven mile bike trail run. Skipping a run during the week is always a self-debate but ultimately an easy decision. My weekend runs mean something different to me and I really look forward to them throughout the week. In the past I’ve only skipped a weekend run day when resting for a Sunday race. Still, since AG recommended it, I needed to take that seriously. While I read through Runner’s World this morning I saw a piece that reinforced the idea of maintaining a consistent running routine with the point that to maintain fitness the workout can still be easy.

The pleasure of a Saturday morning run plus the RW article tipped me toward running and I set off with the intention of going 30-35 minutes without regard to pace or distance. I dressed warmly since the temperature was 30 degrees and I didn’t want to be tempted to run fast to warm up quickly. I felt very good and actually worked hard to keep my pace moderate. I covered parts of my neighborhood and parts of neighborhood #2 going 3.9 miles in about 37 minutes. I was surprised that my pace was mid 9:00 because it felt slower but I verified the distance on Gmaps. It was the best run I’ve had since the relay and although it wasn’t taxing it produced the requisite level of endorphins to reinforce the value of the workout. I think I characterized this type of running as “comfort food miles” and that’s how they felt today. I’m considering a very brief speed workout tomorrow (4 x 800m) if I feel strong. Otherwise I may just rest. Hopefully AG will approve!

I guess horribly wonderful describes it

There’s a great Adidas ad in the July issue of Runner’s World: a background of pavement with two running shoes, the back of one and the top of the other. The image evokes two runners in line. The tag line is “Because I’m loving every wonderful horrible minute of this.” So true. I’m probably the 50 millionth runner to conclude that running is fun because it’s hard but it’s also fun to see that sentiment recognized by others. Even if it’s in an ad.

Last week I came across a book in the library by a British author named Russell Taylor. The title of the book is “The Looniness of the Long Distance Runner.” This title is obviously homage to
“The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” by Ian Sillitoe but the book is actually a diary of writer as he prepares to run the New York Marathon. The format of the book reminds me of my own blog with its daily (or, in his case, not daily) accounting of workouts and progress. He’s a lot funnier than me and his one year plan to go from being an out of shape late 30’s aged guy to a marathon runner is more ambitious than my modest goals. Reading the book does remind me of the obligation one takes to remain fit and to keep progressing. But we do it because – to borrow from the Adidas copywriter –
we love every wonderful horrible minute.

This morning I rounded out my holiday weekend running with a 4.7 mile run that (not counting when I take a car) took me farther outside my neighborhood than ever before. I intended to explore neighborhood #4 and then make my way over to neighborhood #2 but I reached a point where I could run along the sidewalk of a relatively busy road that would lead to a new series of neighborhoods in Woodbury. The sidewalk on this main road was covered with dead leaves that had a cushioning effect not unlike cinders. I enjoyed the respite from the pavement when I could. I turned into one neighborhood and realized that we had looked at houses on the street before we bought the one that we’re in. I ran by the house and decided we’d made the right decision because the neighborhood we chose is much better for running.

Yesterday I took our bikes out of the shed for the first time this millennium and after pumping up the tires, fixing the chains and washing them off they were ride ready. I took my bike out a couple of times, the second time I followed one of my running routes. It was amazing to cover that distance in a fraction of the time with a fraction of the effort. Fun but not the horribly wonderful experience I get from running.

19 days and counting…

My race countdown clock is now at 19 days. What was once an abstract, future date is now just three weekends away. Many runners I know have competed for years. They have t-shirts, running bibs, PR’s and stories. Aside from a corporate challenge I ran in 1992 that is disturbingly fuzzy in my memory, I am a complete newbie.
I do appreciate the encouragement that I’ve received from more accomplished and experienced runners. Unlike other sports where I’ve competed, ice hockey, karate and, yes, tennis, there seems to be little in the way of trash talking among those who run. The Runner’s World Loop community is an interesting and eclectic group of runners at all stages. Some are new to the sport and others are quite experienced. I often see RW Loop blog posts from people who run 6 and 7 minute paces and wonder what they think of those (like me) who brag every time they break a 9:00 mile. My guess is that they think “good for you” based upon the encouraging comments I’ve seen on mine and other’s blogs.

I weighed in today exactly where I wanted to be. I ran 1.8 miles at 9 min/mile and, by stretching before I ran, I had minimal leg soreness. I’m ready for my first race. In fact I wish it was this upcoming weekend. But since it isn’t happening for 19 days I’ll take the opportunity to refine my performance a little more. I hope to maintain or exceed an 8:50 pace for the 4 miles. I’ve heard that racing provides extra motivation and adrenalin and I’m counting on that for meeting this goal.

Defending the treadmill – part 2

I’ve received a lot of comments and emails from my post on Thursday on both the Emerging Runner site and the Runner’s World Emerging Runner blog. First of all, I am so happy to hear from people on this subject (and to hear from them in general). I hope people continue to share, it helps define the Emerging Runner experience and it reinforces that my experience is anything but unique. For those who read my posts on the Runner’s World Emerging Runner blog, please note that I have additional content on, including my guest columnist, the Sedentary Man, who (just to be clear) is not me. I value both channels because they serve different purposes, I look forward to hearing more from you.

Core competencies

This month’s Runner’s World ran a story on core fitness that illustrated the various muscles that, when developed, enhance a runner’s performance. The other side of this is the injuries that are likely to occur if a runner fails to condition properly. I decided to try the 15 minute workout to gauge the impact and to see if it isolated muscles that I’ve, ahem, neglected. I was pleased to see that not only was the workout (5 exercises) possible to do in 15 minutes it was more relaxing than arduous. The article had very clear illustrations and provided guidance on how to ensure you were doing it correctly. They even suggested ways to make it harder. Maybe next time for that.

After the core exercises I was very energized and decided to do a medium long run. We’re going to a family event tonight and I didn’t want to be too tired to socialize (admittedly, I have trouble in that area under any circumstance) so I cut my run a little short of 4 miles. The good news was the core exercises provided a great lead in for the start of my run. No “stage 1” struggles and the first mile came so fast I had to check twice to make sure I wasn’t misreading the display. The bad news was I grew very tired around mile 3. I kept on telling myself the glycogen boost was imminent I just needed to hold on but the boost didn’t come. Being slightly insane I constantly calculate my pace by looking at the time and mileage on the treadmill and the mileage on the Sportband. That’s a lot of math to do in real time but it gives me a good distraction. I can tell if I’m losing steam when the mileage numbers on my Sportband (which is tied to stride and foot speed) and the mileage on the treadmill (a constant) begin to diverge. That happened around 3.1 miles (at least I hit 5K at intended pace) and I barely managed to run another half mile before I slowed to cool down.

So I think I will integrate the core exercise workout into my fitness program but it’s going to be difficult to find the time to do it consistently. Perhaps I can do it at night although my time after I get home from work is already short. Well 15 minutes isn’t a very long time so I can’t make excuses. The energy boost you get is worth the effort.

Definition of running success

Runner’s World recently ran an article about the various types of runners breaking it down to three groups, short distance (5K, 10K), middle distance (10 mile/half marathon) and long haulers (marathons+). There’s a quiz that helps you identify where you slot into these categories and the tone is egalitarian in terms of respecting all three types. That said, it seems that most runners would be horrified to find themselves branded anything other than “marathon material” since completing a marathon appears to be the sport’s ultimate achievement. No one openly disparages shorter length races but I’ve seen many references to half marathons as warm-up or training events. Runner’s World itself would be hard pressed to publish a cover without prominently displaying the word “Marathon.” I’m asked a lot about when I’ll be ready for my first marathon and my answer to that is “probably never.” To me that’s not a goal. I would have to sacrifice too much time and subject myself to a level of training that goes beyond what’s required for fitness and balance. If I could complete a half marathon some day I’d be proud but for 2009 a 10K is the goal.

A new challenge

I looked at the 2009 race calendar and saw that while a number of races are scheduled in January, none were listed for February and only one race was listed for March and April. The calendar will get updated as the year goes on but right now those are my choices. January is out – I have too much planned already and won’t have time to properly prepare. The event in April looks interesting, a 4 mile run on the 19th, which happens to be my birthday. It’s a USATF sanctioned event for a good cause and it also includes a kids fun run. I really didn’t want my first race to be a 4 miler but I’m up for the challenge.

In that spirit I had a fairly intense workout this morning running 3.62 miles at a decent pace. I was working on distance more than speed and was pleased with the way I felt. I could have gone another mile but since I run almost every day I don’t want to push myself into injury territory. In the January issue of Runner’s World there’s a Q&A called “Ask Miles” where someone asked how many runners there are in the US. I posted on this subject but from a different source a couple of weeks ago. Miles’ answer was different, but amusing:

“…About 16 million of us are “frequent runners” (we run 100-plus days per year). Those who run 365 days per year are called “injured runners…”

I like Runner’s World. What other magazine would have this headline on it’s cover?

I’m hoping to hit the street or track tomorrow if the weather cooperates. Should be pretty quiet out there on Xmas morning.