This fail is all on me

Post-fail elapsed time

Today’s run (street): 4.5 miles

Once again, I encountered a problem timing my run and this time it was self sabotage. Without a working watch to help me keep track of time, I took my stopwatch that I sometimes use for intervals. That simple tool would give me everything I’d need to calculate my performance on today’s run. I’ve had so much bad luck with the devices I use to capture my running metrics that I decided going low tech was the right path. What I didn’t count on was how easily I could screw that up.

The weather was perfect when I went out this morning. There was no sign of humidity and the strong breezes cooled without biting. I love fall running and easily settled into a steady rhythm while I mentally mapped out my route. I’ve been taking advantage of the new sidewalks along SOB Road that provide a nice straight section that goes on for a while. As I neared the end of that road, I stopped for a moment to check my time. I put my hand in my pocket to pull out my stopwatch and my finger brushed the reset button. Before I looked, I knew I had wiped out my time.

Gmap’d route

I stood in front of the town library and thought about what to do. I had only a hazy idea about when I started my run so that wouldn’t help me calculate my overall time. The one thing I knew was where I was when I checked (and screwed up my time) so I could use that as a starting point for timing the rest of my run.

Now where did I put that cheap trinket?

I restarted the stopwatch and continued along through my last miles, pushing harder than I had before my timing failure. The cool weather helped a lot and I probably would have gone further if I was able to track my actual distance. Now that I know how easy it is to accidentally reset the stopwatch, I’ll be a lot more careful. A few years ago Runners World sent me a “running watch” as a subscription premium (see above) that was laughably cheap looking. I put it away somewhere. At the time I dismissed it as junk, but who’s laughing now?

You need to run 600 yards to run a mile

1,800 feet of hell

As far back as elementary school, I’ve struggled with running fast paces over long distances. I really did try. In fifth grade, I ran the 50 yard dash for the track team and even placed first in my town for the standing broad jump (still the apex of my athletic career). These events were part of the Presidential Physical Fitness test that every kid had to take to pass gym class. Running 150 feet and jumping six feet was relatively easy. It was the 600-yard timed run around the field that haunted me all the way through high school.

I wasn’t alone. We all dreaded the “Six Hundred”, a seemingly endless distance. Now that I have some perspective, I realize that 600 yards is a mere third of a mile. One and a half quarter repeats! I actually remember my high school time (2:12, the temperature of boiling water : ) that put me right in the middle of the pack. What was regarded then as a mediocre time actually calculates to a 6:27 pace. If only I had more perspective back in those days. At the time, all I could think about was the painful burning in my throat and the relief that it was finally over.

A recent suggestion by my running and blogging buddy She Is Out Running brought back memories of the Six Hundred. SIOR proposed that she, TPP and I do a timed mile run. I thought that was a great idea. I’ve come to terms with my race times slipping over the past few years, but I’m still achieving credible times when I do repeats. A mile distance is a great way to see how far I can push my anaerobic capabilities.

Intervals (for most of us) are a combination of short but intense bursts of speed, followed by a similarly short jog or rest. The biggest challenge of running a flat-out mile will be to sustain that intensity for a much longer period. I can go full speed for 200 meters and maintain a 180 SPM cadence through a full quarter. After that I begin to fade. Maybe that was why running the 600 as a sprint was always so difficult.

The fastest mile I can remember running was a 7:51 at Long Beach that led to my 10K PR. I’d started at the front with all the hollow-eyed ectomorphs who took off at the gun like whippets. I was passed by a lot of people and thought I was having an off day. When I saw the Mile 1 timing clock, I realized those speedsters were running six and seven minute miles. So that’s why people use pacers!

Maybe speedsters SIOR or TPP can do a pace lap for me when I do my timed mile. I’d return the favor, but I fear my 6:27 days are far behind me.

Numb Runner

Distance lost

Today’s run (street): 5.4 miles

Instead of heading out this morning with my running buddies, I was at the dentist having a broken filling repaired. I like to get out as early as possible on my weekend runs, so I can cover longer distances and still have my day. If I scheduled the dentist any later in the morning, the inevitable backups would have taken too much time. That’s why I’d asked for the first appointment of the day.

It’s been years since I’ve needed to get a local anesthetic at the dentist, so that was lots of fun (not). My dentist talked to me about Cow Harbor. She lives in Northport and has run the race a couple of times. I told her I’d run it this year if she does. I’m pretty sure I will participate either way, so I can run it with SIOR and TPP. I’m still on the fence about Dirty Sock though.

Since I have so few opportunities to run these days, I knew I had to get out today. The weather was ideal, mostly overcast, with temperatures in the low 70’s. One side of my mouth was still unpleasantly numb when I set off from my driveway. Almost immediately after starting, I was flagged down by a man on a bicycle who asked me a question about the neighborhood. I stopped my Garmin while I chatted with him, and thought I’d restarted it once I resumed running.

I had covered about 1.5 miles when it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard the one-mile chirp from the Garmin. I looked at my watch and realized that it wasn’t recording time or distance. I restarted the timer, figuring I could determine my mileage when I got home by mapping my route with Milemeter. Since I had started off with the Garmin recording my start time, I was able to back into my pace by subtracting the “chat” time from total run duration.

Surprisingly enough, my mouth was still a little numb by the time I got home and that prevented me from having my usual post-run refueling. I did drink about 24 ounces of water to re-hydrate. Within an hour, the numbness had thankfully worn off. Between the dentist and the run, I was fairly wiped out, so that came at a perfect time for lunch. I was glad to get in some decent mileage today. I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow, because the family has early morning plans. Maybe a 6:00 AM run is in order. That might help prepare me for even earlier workouts on weekdays.

Workout pending…

Today started early and was spent in the city. Last night I’d considered pulling out my headlamp and reflective vest and doing a 4:00 AM run, just like old times. But reality prevailed when I got up and I decided to forgo my workout. While nostalgia has its place, so does sleep.

By the time I got home, it was a sunny 86 degrees (according to my car’s display). That discouraged me from going outside for an afternoon run. I’m still considering a climate controlled workout on the treadmill later, but then again, it may be better to wait and resume tomorrow. With my friend Chris coming by for a Stillwell run tomorrow, I’m going to need to conserve some energy. His idea of an easy run differs greatly from mine.

The marathon story is no longer about the race

Correlation or coincidence?

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I’ve been catching up on my Runner’s World and Running Times issues going back to January and I’m saddened to see so many items and stories that reference the Boston Marathon. Who could have anticipated what happened at 4:09:43 in the race? I’ve wondered about the time the cowards picked to set off the bombs. Was it a coincidence that the highest number of people typically cross the line around the 4 hour point? My anger continues.

Today’s schedule has me on the phone much of the day, and my window to run this morning coincided with some rainy weather outside. I ended up doing a typical treadmill run while I watched the news on TV. It was mostly a repeat of the Boston story. How many ways can you talk about something like that when there’s no new information to share? Apparently, there are many.

The London Marathon happens this Sunday and, of course, there’s a heightened concern for safety after Monday’s bombings. The good news is that the London Olympics went off without any terror attacks last summer and they will probably use those same tactics to keep the crowds safe this weekend. The bad news is that the safety concerns for the race are now a bigger story than the race itself.

Timing is everything with the Fitbit

Little bit, lots of Fit

Today’s run (street): 4.3 miles

In life, timing can make a big difference. The big news that I’m leaving my company after 20 years was followed two weeks later by the yet to be confirmed news that my company is in talks to be sold. I’m unbelievably glad to be leaving before that happens. At the other side of the good timing scale, my company is (once again) offering staffers the opportunity to purchase Fitbit trackers at a sizable discount (80%). If I’d left a few weeks earlier, I wouldn’t have scored that discount.

The first time they’ve offered this, I bought a device and gave it to my wife. The Fitbit One is simple to use and it captures a copious amount of performance data. Among the metrics are steps taken, staircase climbs, calories burned and it can even track your sleep patterns. My wife uses it daily to track both her workouts and her daily steps. It provides fun feedback and motivation on its little display.

I decided to try using it because I’ll no longer be in an office where I am constantly moving from place to place. My wife pointed out that, even though I’m good about doing my morning workouts, I risk falling into a sedentary lifestyle the rest of the day. I’ve learned in business that tracking indicators (of things you can control) helps to optimize desirable outcomes. So there you go. I hope to see my new device some time next week.

This morning I went outside for a run for the first time in two weeks. I couldn’t believe that was the case until I checked my Garmin Connect logs and saw all the treadmill (and a couple of elliptical) workouts dating back to February 2nd. After checking the weather, I dressed for the cold and made my way outside. I had a slight concern about the residual snow that covered my main escape route, the sidewalks. I figured that if I felt any concern for safety, I’d do a dive into a nearby snowbank.

It turned out to be a very safe run with very few cars. The cars that were on the road maintained a respectful distance and drove slowly. Still I was hyper-vigilant because I don’t trust drivers under even the best conditions. I wore a bright orange outer layer on top to maximize my visibility to drivers. I probably could have done with one less layer underneath, but I was fine overall.

My run went well and, despite 14 MPH winds, I managed to beat my average training pace by about 10 seconds per mile. If not for the winds, I may have improved that by another five percent or so. As I ran, I thought about next Saturday when I’ll be racing in Long Beach. Last year the temperature was slightly above freezing and there was a mix of sleet and snow falling. I wore my ultra-minimal Hattoris and my toes went numb. But I still ran my fastest 4 mile race that day.

Seven seconds separates two runs

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

This morning’s run was almost exactly like yesterdays. In fact, the only difference was that today’s run took me seven seconds longer than on Tuesday. Same route, same weather conditions, same start time. I think my seven second difference happened in the first few minutes when I got off to a slightly slower start. My standard practice has been to start at a moderate pace and gradually increase my speed so that I attain negative splits on every mile. I try to throw in some anaerobic sprinting at the end of my last mile which, at the end, tells me a lot about my state of conditioning.

Although Sunday’s 6+ mile run would have been a typical weekend distance for me a few months ago, it was a noticeable jump in length compared to my recent runs. I was glad not to have suffered any ill affects from going 30% longer than usual. No second day hamstring or calf aches like I’d get following a 10K race or a 10 mile recreational run. I’m thinking about upping my distance even further this weekend and targeting 8 miles of LSD. I think if I reestablish my long run base to the level I maintained in winter I’ll do okay at the Dirty Sock 10K later this month.

Following a different route

Today’s run (street) 2.35 miles

I’ve gotten into the habit of running the same route every weekday morning so I decided to break free of that today and follow some different streets. My normal course is a measured distance of 2.52 miles and it allows me to manage my time and compare known distances to the Garmin readout as I run. The problem with changing my route is that I lose all my benchmarks when I follow other roads. That’s fine almost any other time but at 4:00 AM I only have 25 minutes or less to run my route. Taking the wrong street can put me way behind.

Today’s run took me along some streets I rarely run so it was a nice change of scenery, not that you can see much with just a headlamp. I ended up hitting the one mile mark close to where I normally reach that benchmark but, instead of following the standard route for the remainder of the run, I followed a different direction. My ad hoc route brought me home sooner than usual so my distance fell short of normal. I ran the last mile fairly quickly, at around an 8:40 pace. One more training run to go before the race.