Good with my running right now

Give me a Boost?

Tuesday’s run (treadmill): 2.3 miles
Today’s run (street): 4.3 miles

Happy Labor Day weekend. It’s been a busy week, but I was able to get in a treadmill run on Tuesday. But after a long day at the office on Wednesday, I was in no shape for a Thursday run. That leads me to this morning, when I went out for a pleasant neighborhood run before starting a busy (though holiday-truncated) day working from home.

Conditions were superb at 7:00 AM – 60° and not very humid. With the sun still low in the sky, it felt a lot like fall. Friday morning I’d driven through Bayville and Seacliff and counted at least a dozen runners along the way. I envied their freedom as I made my way towards the Cross Island Parkway on the way to work. I appreciated that today I got to be one of the people running.

I covered no new ground on today’s route, but still enjoyed the experience. I thought about my current state of running, definitely slower than it was a year ago. I usually beat myself up at the beginning of each run, thinking about this difference. Am I not trying as hard as I used to? The effort feels the same, even if the speed has dropped. After going through both a stress test and physical that revealed no underlying issues, I don’t have much to blame it on besides age.

I decided today not to care. I’m not interested in competing right now, so speed isn’t that important. I’d like to get back to my previous level of performance and I think I can if I focus seriously on speed. Right now, I like my running for what it is — a way to maintain mental and physical fitness. I ended up running a little faster today than I have in recent weeks. I attribute that to the cool weather and a good night’s sleep.

I cut my day short since the office closed early for the holiday. The Emerging Runner family went out to finish our back to school shopping. We stopped into Dick’s and I tried on a pair of adidas Boost Response trainers. I’ve been curious about these shoes because they have adidas’ Boost foam that supposedly returns 30% more energy than EVA.

The fit was great and the shoe had a nice rocking effect that facilitated a rolling gait. I’m not quite ready to replace my Virattas at this point, so I put the shoes back on the shelf. In a few months I’ll be looking more seriously and will give them another go.

Great weekend runs despite the hills and rain

Today’s run (street): 5.2 miles
Yesterday’s run (Bethpage trail): 6.25 miles

It’s been a good weekend for running, starting with Friday’s morning’s fall-like conditions. Yesterday I decided to break out of my neighborhood’s boundaries and headed to Bethpage to run the bike trail. It was a little warmer than on Friday, but very comfortable in the shade. I got a late start and didn’t arrive until 9:00 AM, and the trail was packed with happy looking cyclists, runners and walkers. I picked the northern direction, running towards Sunnyside Boulevard.

It’s been some weeks since I’ve run the undulating hills at Bethpage and I felt every one. The stretch between Washington Ave and Sunnyside was the toughest section of my route and I felt some relief once I reached the top of the last hill. The rest of the run was easy and I was almost sorry to stop when I reached my endpoint.

Later in the day we hosted a dinner for friends and, by the end of the evening, I was ready to sleep where I stood. I worried that I overdid it on my run and that I wouldn’t be able to go long today. I ended up getting an earlier start this morning and took off under dark cloudy skies. Around the two mile point it started to rain, and I thought about turning back home. I decided to keep going in the hope that it would soon clear up.

My gamble paid off, and the rain stopped about ten minutes later. I ran another 20 minutes before completing 5.25 miles. Running only four times a week (these days) requires that I cover at least ten miles on weekends. Less days mean longer distances per run, and his has helped me establish a pretty good base. My speed is still well below target and I think that’s due to an utter lack of anaerobic training on my part. I plan for a speed workout some time next week and try to get  that back on track.

The paradox of high humidity and faster running

Part of today’s route. Pretty. Humid.

Today’s run (street): 4.5 miles

Happy 7th of July. For some reason, the company I work for has made both the 4th of July and today company holidays. That, plus working from home last Thursday, allowed me to run for five consecutive days. Counting this morning, I’ve covered 21 miles in that period. I wish I could do that every week.

Even though I was up before 6:00 AM today, I managed to squander the early hours and didn’t start my run until a little after 8:00 AM. When I stepped outside it didn’t seem all that humid. There was a slight breeze from the north that combined with the mid-70’s temperature, creating what seemed to be comfortable conditions. That was an illusion.
The neighborhood looked very nice under sunny skies and the first mile of my route was fairly shady. From then on, the temperature seemed to rise by the minute, along with the humidity. I mixed up my route in an attempt to break the boredom of my local streets and found myself running up what passes for a long hill in my neighborhood. Between the treeless road and the thickening air, I moved into direct drive mode. That’s when I put all resources toward getting through the distance.
I often forget that when I put a little more power into my stride, my running efficiency (speed benefit as a function of expended energy) increases. This is the trick I occasionally use when a faster runner begins to overtake me in the neighborhood or on the Bethpage trail. By lengthening my stride and increasing cadence a little, I can lower my pace by a mile per minute for short periods without feeling like I’m working that much harder. 
About half the time I can hold back speedy challengers until one of us turns off to another road. Running harder, despite the humidity, helped get me to the 4 mile mark faster than I expected. The only issue is that I usually reach a point where I can no longer sustain the greater speed. Fortunately, I was able to maintain the pace and I even took it up a gear for the final 200 meters.
When I went inside to cool off before my shower, I realized that my level of sweat was equivalent to having jumped into the pool. In fact my running clothes looked like I had just done that. I have a different schedule this week that will involve some travel, so I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to run again before the weekend. If the timing works out favorably, I may be able to fit in a couple of mid week runs.

Addressing my need for more speed

My experience today

Today’s run (street): 5.1 miles

I’m back into a three day running cycle and I ran in the neighborhood yesterday and today. My morning schedule was tight, so I needed to get outside early. Fortunately, it was still relatively cool and (bonus) not as humid as Friday. I had no route or distance in mind, but I did want to cover at least five miles.

Like yesterday, I started with good energy and tried to establish a faster pace from the start. It seemed a lot faster than it was. I still find it curious that putting in the same effort compared to a year ago will typically yield a 30 sec/mile slower pace. I’m not planning on doing any races before Dirty Sock, so I’m not really upset about that. Still, I’d like to gain that time back if I can.

Tomorrow the Runsketeers will get together for our first group track workout. I look forward to seeing how fast these two speedsters can run when they don’t need to reserve energy. I’m not going to be able to cover as much distance tomorrow as I would on a typical Sunday, so this week’s mileage total will be extra low. But track miles are quality miles. If I can figure out a way to add one more workout a week to my running schedule, I can get back to pre-commuting weekly volumes.

Not a step back, but not what you’d call progress

Disappointing cadence

Today’s run (street): 4.6 miles

I wasn’t sure what to expect on today’s run but I hoped I would find it easier to reach my targeted performance numbers after seeing some improvement yesterday. To my dismay, I felt less energy this morning and I hoped that I’d rebound during the run. Although I did quickly get into rhythm, I found even the first couple of miles difficult. I wasn’t sure if I’d started too fast, or if I was simply too tired.

I’ve read numerous times that an ideal (non-competitive) pace will allow a runner to maintain a conversation while still providing some level of challenge. For most people, that’s 75-85% of max heart rate. A check of the data from today’s run showed that I stayed primarily between 76 and 79% of max for the first 3.75 miles. Even though I was primarily at the lower end of the HR scale, the going felt difficult.

My response was to pick up the pace and, for the last 3/4 of a mile, I kept heart rate between 80-86% of max. In terms of technique, I adopted an almost bouncing stride that I hoped would translate to greater speed. It did, but it still fell short of today’s expectations. My cadence, even after using my new form, never got out of the middling range. The one upside is that getting my HR into the higher 80% range is good preparation for harder workouts.

I don’t know if I can return to doing 8:00 minute range training paces, but even if I can’t, I still have lots of room for improvement.

And all this time I thought I was running!

 It’s official!

This past Sunday I wrote a post about my declining pace performance. I showed a graph with speeds in MPH based on GPS watch data. My Garmin often under-counts my distance, so the speeds on the graph are probably 3.2-4% slower than my actual average speed. I was a little surprised to see a comment that seemed targeted to the lowest pace on my graph. The comment said, “The official name of anything below 5.5 is ‘walking.”’

This is good to know, because all this time when I was running 10-something paces for ten or more miles on the Bethpage trail, I thought I was actually running. But what about those race-walkers that reach paces in the 6:00/mile range? Very confusing. Technically, I believe it is considered running when both feet leave the ground, versus walking, where one foot always remains on the ground.

I know this commenter was just being sarcastic (if a little mean). Perhaps he/she can clear up some other questions for me, such as, “What’s the official difference between rapping and singing?” In the meantime, I’m declaring anyone who calls themselves a runner to be one. And no matter what speed they actually run, it’s still running.

The history of my running speed

Directional declines

Today’s run (street): 3.6 miles

I decided to do some data mining on Garmin Connect to compare my historical averages with my current performance. In order to keep the information consistent, I only used data captured from one source, my Garmin 210 that I bought in 2010. I know I’ve lost a lot of speed over the past year and my interest was in seeing whether my recent history is an aberration, or if it merely reflects a long term decline.

Charting the trends reveals a changing relationship between race speed and overall speed. My average pace has followed a linear decline, but my race paces have dropped measurably since 2012. Up to 2012, I generally paced 7.5% better in races compared to my overall average. After 2012, that gap has closed and is now almost equal to my training run times.

As I often say when working with business data, these findings are only directional. The Garmin data, acquired by GPS, has a variable margin of error. I tried to correct for that as much as I could, but the numbers do have some skew. I only selected runs I’d tagged as “street running” to filter out slower trail paces and faster track paces. It’s also important to note that the 2014 data is only through May 25, not a full year.

In terms of these findings, I’m not happy to see declines, but at least the drop-off has not been as sharp as I’d suspected. I did today’s run as a tempo, taking it easy through the majority of the distance and picking up the pace more at the end. The last mile was a minute faster than the prior few, and I finished feeling great. I wish I could tap into that speed more often, but based on my recent race performances, it’s a little more complicated than just trying a little harder.

The elusive convergence of speed and distance

 

Today’s run (street): 6.4 miles

I was channeling Chicken Little yesterday as I made my way through my 4:00 AM run. All the hard training I’ve done up to this point seemed to be for naught and I struggled to get through 25 minutes of moderately paced treadmill running. Some of that was likely due to the very early hour and fatigue from my abrupt change in daily routine. Today’s run was far longer, and much better than yesterday’s, but it wasn’t particularly fast.

My new work engagement provides a lot of scheduling flexibility and today I was able to work from my home office. That let me fit in a medium length base run and cover my longest distance since last Friday’s 9.7 miles. This spring weather is puzzling, but I won’t complain because there’s no snow on the roads and temperatures haven’t yet reached oppressive levels. However, my decision to wear shorts and short sleeves made me feel chilly throughout much of today’s run.

I was concerned that I’d suddenly lost some endurance, but I could tell from the first few steps off my driveway that I would easily cover my targeted miles. That was good news. What isn’t so good is that once I go beyond 85% of HR max, my stamina starts to slip. I can handle endurance or speed, but not both together. With only a couple of weeks until the Brooklyn half, I should be farther along in terms of performance. I don’t expect to PR on the 17th, and I’m not even confident that I can break 2:10. I’m going to continue to focus on base because, while speed is desirable, endurance is what gets us over the finish line.

Introducing some speed into Brooklyn Half training

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I skipped Tuesday’s speed workout due to a timing conflict but I put it back on the schedule for today. According to my training plan, this was supposed to be a tempo run that peaks at 10K pace. I’ve gotten out of sync on my speed work and thought I’d do intervals instead. Although this morning’s weather was very nice, I was running behind schedule and elected to save time by staying indoors.

It wasn’t until I got on the treadmill that I decided which workout to follow. Thinking at first that I’d run intervals, I began with a warm up at half marathon race pace. I wanted to go into the repeats with a harder than usual effort to prime myself for speed. Once I got going, I considered the tempo idea. I then thought about SIOR’s suggestion that I introduce some sustained speed into one of my weekday workouts for a couple of miles. I decided to continue with this half marathon pace for the duration of the run.

Except for intervals, I have not done many runs lately at sub-10 paces. This is because I’ve focused on endurance and distance rather than speed. I was surprised to find myself comfortably running at a mid-9:00 pace this morning. I wondered if I could keep this pace the entire way through and it turned out that I could. All this distance and hill running are clearly helping my stamina.

It’s scary to think that I only have four more training weeks before my taper week. The longest run I’ve done so far this year is eight miles, but I did fairly well with that. I’m hoping that I’ll continue to progress as I move into double digits. My average HR finally exceeded 85% of max today. If I can push a little harder and sustain it, I should start seeing my speed improve as well.

Treadmill repeats, a little faster and a little better

Check this box  if you are tired of seeing my HR charts 

Today’s run (treadmill repeats): 2.5 miles – 6 x 400 plus 1 mile warm up / cool down

My Runsketeer buddy TPP has been focusing on cutting back on her sugar and carbs. Reducing your sugar intake is a good idea (provided there are no underlying issues related to hypoglycemia). Moderating simple carbs is always smart. Most of the time we don’t need that sugar, but our cave-person genetics force us to crave it. The one exception is when you are 40 minutes into a 10K and you need energy right now.

I used to use GU gels frequently on my runs, even when I ran relatively short distances. Now I rarely use energy boosters, or anything like it. I’ve now reached the point in my half marathon training program where I’m approaching double digit base runs. That means I’m running for 80 minutes or more at a time, long enough to (supposedly) deplete my glycogen stores. So far I’ve avoided using supplements during this training. I took a GU gel along on Sunday, but never felt like I needed it. Then again, despite all the hills, I really didn’t push myself that hard.

I’m not Brooklyn race ready yet, but I’ve definitely moved the needle in terms of endurance. Running seven easy miles, as I did over the weekend, would have been a struggle four weeks ago. But I felt great on Sunday. This morning I ran another set of 6 x 400 repeats, this time on the treadmill. I prefer to do this workout on the track or at least on pavement, but it was raining fairly hard outside this morning.

Considering the challenge I had running 220’s a couple of weeks ago on the treadmill (at a slightly slower pace), I can see progress. Today’s quarters were run at 7.2 MPH, book-ended with half mile warm up and and cool down runs. I was very pleased to see my HR reaching 85% of max by the final seconds of each interval. I plan to take the speed up to 7.3 MPH next time I do treadmill repeats.

Tomorrow is my mid-week base run, which by my formula (80% of Sunday’s long run) should total 5.6 miles. I’ll try to run at least two of those miles at Half Marathon target pace, per the advice of SIOR. This will be the first “bridge” workout where I partially combine a speed and distance run. I’ll be interested to see if I’ve restored my fitness well enough by now to manage through it.