Bethpage run: Making friends along the trail

I really want that chocolate bunny

Today’s run (Bethpage trail): 9.5 miles

Today is Easter and I hope it’s a good one for those of you who celebrate this holiday. I don’t, but I’m certainly celebrating the great weather we’re having this weekend. Sunday is when I do my longest run and the distance gets extended each week as I build up to half marathon distance. Last Sunday I ran eight miles and today’s plan was for 9. Depending on the training schedule, today could have been a ten miler, but I was reluctant to jump 20% from week to week. Though it was an accident, I ended up with a good compromise distance.

My Runsketeer friends are both in Boston for the marathon that’s being held tomorrow. SIOR will be running it and we are really excited for her. She trains really hard while taking great care of her family (4 kids!) and she has the athleticism to make it a memorable performance on Monday. No pressure, just qualifying for Boston is a victory. TPP is there to support her sister T, who is also running tomorrow. T is another high performer. That, of course, is a prerequisite for getting entry into Boston.

As a native Bostonian, I would have loved to be there to watch them run through my old home town of Natick, but I’ll be here on Long Island tracking their progress through the baa.org site. In the meantime, I have my own race training to do with the Brooklyn Half coming up mid-May and the Marcie Mazzola 5K next weekend. I’m very curious to see how I do in terms of speed in the 5K and whether all these hills I’ve been running will provide a performance payoff.

Today’s run was split into two experiences, one being a pleasant but uneventful solo effort for about five miles and the other a highly enjoyable almost-five with an other runner on the path. I parked near Haypath Rd. again and got right on the bike trail going north. I followed the trail up to Washington Ave and turned around once I reached the underpass of the LIE.

I maintained the easy pace that I need to cover long mileage while I rebuild my endurance. I got to the five mile point and had stopped at Haypath to watch for cars when I saw another runner to my left. We exchanged hellos and crossed the road. I suspected that he was faster than me and was surprised that he hadn’t taken off and passed me at that point. Instead, he (I’ll call him J) pulled alongside me and asked how many miles I was doing. He was planning to do about the same, we’re both training for different long races and his will be in Vermont.

Today’s elevation profile

J turned out to be a very good and interesting guy who also works in the media technology space, but not in publishing like me. He set a slightly faster pace than I was running and I was very surprised that I was able to hold up my end of the conversation. J is a tall athletic guy and I’m somewhat older than him. He could have easily run two or three minutes a mile faster than the pace we held and I was grateful that he didn’t. He really pulled me along, especially on the hills.

The time spent with J went by much faster than the previous five miles. Just like when I have group runs with SIOR and TPP. Good company is a runner’s gift. I left J to finish on his own once we returned to Haypath and I felt remarkably good after covering almost ten miles today. All this focused training is making a difference and it demonstrates that there is no substitute for putting in the work. When the work is made easier with friends, it’s simple to understand why we do this.

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.

Winter running in mid April

Thick frost on the lawn this morning

Today’s run (street): 6.25 miles

Yesterday’s schedule was rough and it involved an early morning drive to a client north of the city. This meeting and other obligations disrupted my training schedule and they caused me to miss my weekly speed work. I considered doing those repeats today and moving my long run to Thursday, but I didn’t want to space my base training runs too close together.

I was surprised to see that the temperature was only 32° when I got up. At least yesterday’s driving rains were gone, so it was just a matter of bundling up. I’ve gotten used to running in 40 degree weather so I was concerned about a possible recurrence of cold-related breathing issues, but they didn’t materialize. I dressed for the frigid temperature and set out to cover 6 miles or so.

Complex route

Longer runs in my contained neighborhood are hard to do unless you don’t mind covering the same streets multiple times. I mentally mapped out a route that would minimize these redundancies and took off running at an easy pace. I knew that it would be cold, but I didn’t count on the stiff breezes that accompanied it. According to my Garmin data, the winds were at 14 MPH, making it feel like 24° outside. Nothing like pushing your way up a long sloping road with freezing wind buffeting you the entire way.

The run itself was fairly easy. I have no doubt that the Brooklyn Half training is contributing to my endurance. I picked up the pace on the last mile and ran it almost a minute faster than the previous 5. That told me two things: I can run faster when I need to do it and I can find speed at the end of a middle-long distance run. Speed is a relative term of course. My “fast” pace today did not match race target. But it is progress and I’m all for that.

8 miles at Bethpage, but parking was the toughest part

X marks the parking spot (map and picture)

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 8 miles

Today was my longest run of the week and I knew I’d be doing it somewhere on the Bethpage bike trail. I just didn’t know when or where I’d start. GLIRC had a clubhouse run scheduled for this morning and I considered joining them for that. Those runs start at 8:00 AM sharp in the parking lot of the GLIRC office in Plainview. I wasn’t in the mood for running with a big group, so I decided to skip that event and do my long run solo.

TPP was also doing her long run at Bethpage today and I’d hoped to cross paths with her at some point. We did end up finding each other on the trail (she was easy to spot in her vivid pink running gear) and we ran together a bit. TPP was having a tough time this morning and decided to head back to her starting point. Despite that, she ended up covering almost 8 miles.

The Hal Higdon plan called for 8 miles today, although my ER plan had me down for 9. Since I ran 7 miles last Sunday, I decided that eight was enough today. I recall from my last half marathon training cycle that the challenge of going from 5-6 miles to 8-10+ took some acclimation. I was concerned that I’d hit the wall after 45 minutes or so, but I never felt depleted. I stayed around 80% of max HR throughout the run, largely due to maintaining an easy, but steady, pace.

Before I took my first step on the Bethpage bike trail, I had a frustrating experience trying to find a place to park my car. I’m planning to get a 2014 Empire Passport so I didn’t want to pay the Bethpage parking fee today. I was hoping that they weren’t charging for entrance this morning, but when I arrived I saw that the toll house was open for business. I thought about other options and turned around. I then drove to the small lot that is located off E. Bethpage Rd near Old Country Rd.

When I arrived at this lot, every one of its ten or so spots was filled. So much for that. I was 30 minutes past my planned start time and still had no place to park my car. I was going to park along Haypath Rd. but I wasn’t sure that was okay. I then noticed some cars with people who looked like runners parking along Colonial Rd and found a spot near them. I took care to see any signs restricting parking along the street. Seeing none, I parked and crossed the road to the bike trail.

It was only a few minutes after that when I saw TPP. Despite her claim that she was struggling, she looked strong as I watched her coming south in my direction. I wanted to follow the trail north all the way to Sunnyside Blvd. After a few minutes of running in that direction, TPP decided to head back to the lot where she’d parked. She’s really cut down on simple carbs and sugar and has been having trouble maintaining her targeted performance levels. I’m confident that will soon change.

I wasn’t thrilled about covering the section of trail north of Washington Ave because it has a series of long hills. It was no picnic, but I did better than expected. I’m sure last weekend’s hilly workout helped prepare me for today’s. The only difficult times were when I was coming up steep hills against 12 MPH winds. I maintained the best pace I could, shortened my stride and got through those situations fairly well.

Today’s route, with out-and-backs at both ends

It takes a while to cover eight miles and I ended up needing to go south of my starting point to pick up miles 7 and 8. That took me close to the start of the north trail. I kept waiting for my energy level to drop but it never wavered, except when I was a couple of tenths away from my finish point. That was obviously a psychological response to almost being done.

This training program has been nudging my weekly mileage beyond my average of 18. The past couple of weeks were 21 miles and this week I covered 23. That was with two rest days instead of my usual one, meaning my average run length has increased measurably since I’ve started training for Brooklyn.

Low mo leads to slow go

GPS margin of error

Today’s run (street): 3.5 miles

Usually, after a rest day, I’m more than ready to get back outside for a run. Today was one of those near perfect running days with plenty of sun. The temperature was warm enough for shorts yet cool and dry enough to keep sweating to a minimum. Despite all these positive conditions, I found myself unmotivated. My half marathon training schedule only required a 3 mile race-pace run today, yet I was mentally unready to do it.

I didn’t sleep well last night, and that probably explained the lack of drive I was feeling this morning. I didn’t consider skipping today’s workout, but time kept slipping by. We had people coming over in the early afternoon and I needed to get my run completed in time to shower and finish lunch. I decided to dial back the intensity and just do my mileage at whatever speed I could sustain. That got me out the door.

I set a pace that felt sustainable and changed up my route to keep it interesting. While I consciously avoided focusing on speed, I did successfully keep my cadence within my targeted range. I ended up running three minutes longer than I would have if I’d followed the race-pace plan. Although the skies were clear and sunny, my Garmin did a poor job of tracking my progress today (see comparison above). Further, I had no way to gauge my actual performance while I was running, because the readout was based on flawed data.

Tomorrow I’m due to run 8 or nine miles. I may participate in the GLIRC Clubhouse run in the morning if I feel up to it. Otherwise I’ll probably head to Bethpage a little later and do it on my own.

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.

Runsketeer Sunday on the mountains of Westbury

The concrete roller coaster

Today’s run (SUNY Old Westbury): 7 miles

What goes up must come down. That is an apt description of the loop I ran today at the campus of SUNY Old Westbury. SIOR, who discovered this beautifully torturous running venue, described the course as “hilly.” She certainly wasn’t kidding. With the exception of the short drive that connects the campus to Cedar Swamp Road, I don’t think there was a level section on our route today.

SIOR was unable to join us this morning, so it was left to TPP and I to conquer this undulating beast. She wanted to run 11 miles today and I had had 7 scheduled. Our timing was almost perfect. I arrived a couple of minutes before our designated meet time and I could see TPP heading in my direction. She was probably half a mile away, but her neon yellow running jacket made her easy to spot. TPP had already run 30% of her planned distance and would cover the balance while I did my seven miles.

We headed west toward the loop running against traffic. There were a lot of cars on the route because the college was having an Open House. Fortunately there was plenty of room for the many other runners and cyclists we saw today. I followed TPP who is a very focused runner. I had to constantly occasionally remind her to get over to the left when cars were heading in our direction. Apparently her friends from the Selden Hills running club are frequently called on to do this for her during their group runs.

Elevation chart from today’s run

We encountered the first of many hills soon after we’d started. We were running easy and took it on without much trouble. Every hill was followed by an equivalent drop, making it the least fun roller coaster ever. But the run was fun, because our pace allowed us to carry on a conversation most of the time. I’ve never been able to speak when running at my regular training pace, but I did okay today.

I had been concerned about being able to cover seven miles over what turned out to be 600 feet of elevation. We decided to walk parts of some hills, but I stopped my Garmin during those times because I wanted to make sure I recorded 7 full miles of running.

I’m looking at today’s run from a couple of different perspectives. On the positive side, I had a great time running with a friend, made my targeted distance and ran a lot of hills. On the not so positive side, I probably fell short on effort, as evidenced by my heart rate that averaged only 75% of max. I think this is a signal for me to start pushing my speed a little more on my long runs. SIOR suggested running a couple of miles at targeted half marathon pace on training runs and I plan to do that during next Wednesday’s run.

Raising HR should raise performance

I want to get my heart rate up to at least least 80% of max on long runs and average at least 85% on more speed-focused runs. This is a tough change for me because the harder I push, the less I enjoy the run. But I always feel great afterward.

What female runners like to blog about

Image courtesy of MilesToBlog

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles

In addition to my normal publishing channels and RSS, I post on a private Facebook group page called “Miles to Blog.” This is a group of active bloggers who write about their training, motivation and races. The writing is uniformly good and some of these people are very funny. I’ve found it interesting to read what’s important to this group of predominantly female runner/bloggers. Please don’t take this as sexist, but I’m amused by the one subject that seems to dominate. Is this a runner thing or a gender thing? Can you guess the subject?

Moving to a different subject,  I got out today for my Hal Higdon prescribed 3 miles + strength run. The strength stuff is still pending. Does carrying the clean laundry upstairs for my wife count? I’m in the fourth week of Hal’s intermediate Half Marathon training program, the first formal training program I’ve ever followed. I’ve been wondering if it’s working and had an interesting experience today that answered that question.

My two challenges for the Brooklyn Half are: 1. Getting my endurance back to the level where I can cover the 13.1 mile distance and 2. Developing the stamina to sustain targeted race pace. The Higdon method involves increasingly long base runs, timed tempos, track intervals and shorter runs. Plus strength training which I’ll get to at some point. The idea is to bring the base and speed training together over the 12 week schedule so that the runner is at his or her peak on race day.

I was curious to know whether, in the fourth week of this training, I had gained any speed as a result of this long/slow and short/fast run combination. I was in the second mile of today’s run when I broke my rule about checking pace on my watch. My Garmin showed an abysmal pace that was disheartening because I felt like I was running much faster. I took up the effort a little, but a few more checks of the Garmin showed that I was still over 30 secs per mile slower than my target. When I checked my time and distance after the run, I saw that, overall, I’d exactly met my targeted pace.

One thing I learned was that I shouldn’t assume that the Garmin is providing accurate real-time pace information. The other thing I learned was that this training is helping (although it took that scare to get me to pick up the pace). Nothing motivates like progress. I just hope it continues.

Half training is coming together but I’m running out of road

Today’s run (street): 5.8 miles

Busy route

I had hoped that yesterday’s speed workout would spill over to today’s base run, but that didn’t happen. Right now I’m experiencing a gap between speed and distance. I can do one or the other, but not both. I’m trusting that it will eventually all come together. Today I focused on getting in my miles and had another good run. Good, but not fast.

Now that I’m getting beyond my usual training distances it’s becoming harder to plan longer routes in my neighborhood.  I got around those limitations on Sunday by running the same loop multiple times. I couldn’t face doing that again, so I played it by ear and hit almost every road, some of them two or three times.

It wasn’t a particularly stimulating route but I did see lots of Town of Oyster Bay workers fixing roads. I guess it really is spring. I also ran by a woman sitting in her car brushing her teeth and spent the rest of my run wondering what that was all about. I ended up running longer than planned, but not by much. Tomorrow’s workout is 3 miles plus strength training. I may not be hitting my ideal pace on long runs yet, but I’m feeling good about my training right now.

Fast times on the asphalt track

Cadence drops throughout the run 

Today’s run (intervals): 1.6 miles – 6 x 420m

I was extremely unmotivated this morning and decided that this whole running thing has finally played out. I’ve decided to quit and take up golf instead. April Fools! Fear not, I have no plans to stop, but if racing as we know it turns into this, I will reconsider it. Running through tree pollen is tough, but it’s something we deal with. Running through clouds of rainbow colored corn starch is another thing altogether.

Happily, there was no rainbow dust in sight this morning when I went outside for my Tuesday speed session. Due to the weather, I have been doing repeats on the treadmill. Today’s weather was so perfect I wanted to go outside. I’d picked out a stretch of somewhat straight road and adopted it as my track. Due to a lack of USATF measurement resources, I had to rely on Gmaps to define my start and finish points. This lack of precision resulted in a little extra distance per run, but really, what’s a tenth of mile across six repeats?

My “track” has one property that is different from our local high school track: elevation change. It’s not a big height difference overall, but I calculated the second half to be a 3.8% grade. Not exactly what one wants at the end of an all-out run. That’s why tracks are supposed to be flat. On the other hand, the grade worked in my favor when going in the other direction.

I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the speed I would maintain on these intervals. Hal Higdon instructs you to run at 5K or 10K pace for this series, but I ended up running a little faster, averaging 7:56 for the set. I found that sustaining a fast pace felt easier as I moved through the repeats, although a look at the numbers showed that I slowed down a little on the last two. Cadence was highest in the first third of each repeat.

Tomorrow I’m scheduled for my 5.x miles that I will do easy. I’m pleased with today’s faster workout and I’m growing optimistic that the combination of performance running and base runs will prepare me well for Brooklyn.