Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey Trot Not

I love the idea of a Turkey Trot -- a short race on Thanksgiving weekend, ideally on the morning of or the morning after. 

In my imagination, it would offer so many benefits; a bit of vigorous exercise on the day of gorging, a possible family event (if there are other runners in the clan), and a spirited break from the general lethargy of the holiday. 

Sadly, I've never run one. They exist here in NY, but I'm usually out of town. When I visit the parents, it is in a town that folks leave for the holidays, so the races are at other times of the year. 

Still, running has really changed the holiday vibe for me. If I get up early, and get in a good run, it is much easier to relax and enjoy just hanging out and chatting with the family. I don't feel stuffed all the time, partly because I've exercised, and partly because at the end of dinner, I'm starting to think about the next day's run instead of whether to have whipped cream, or ice cream AND whipped cream on my mince, pumpkin and pecan pies. 

This past Tuesday started at home in NY with speed work with the 6AM group. We ran short (~100 meter) intervals. I've never run intervals this short (fast) before, and I found myself feeling sore toward the end. I actually jogged the last (10th) interval out of concern that I might be overdoing it. 

That afternoon, we loaded the family into the car and headed out to grandma and grandpa's. The next morning, I ran an easy 5 miler, but my quads and hamstrings were sore in both legs. Whenever I hit a hill, I had to shorten my stride to avoid freaking out the hamstrings. 

It was hard to believe that this level of soreness was set off by a few short sprints, but maybe it was a bigger deal than I realized. I immediately began to fantasize about destroying all my PRs by doing more short intervals. Clearly, my soreness was a sign that a could make huge improvements by doing more sort intervals. Or the soreness was a sign that I guy my age shouldn't be sprinting at all (nah, couldn't be that).

I took the next day off. Unfortunately, that was Thursday, the one day I wanted to make sure to get some exercise. I took it easy in the feast though, and did an 11 mile run on Friday afternoon. I still felt some traces of soreness, so I skipped Saturday. Thankfully, I felt great on the Sunday morning 9 mile run. 

Then we piled back in the car and headed home. There was no Turkey Trot, but I did log 25 miles while I was at grandma's house, and I got over the soreness from Tuesday (what soreness?), so all in all, I can't complain.

Next Sunday is the Joe Kleinerman 10K, which I have declared as my next target race. The goal is to beat my current PR  of 7:01/mile pace. I'm pretty confident that I should be able to make it, depending of course, on what abuse I suffer this Tuesday during speed work...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Spy Belt

At the NYC Marathon expo this year, my friend Tim found a great new product called the Spibelt (pronouced "Spy Belt"). It is a small pouch on an elastic belt that serves as a race belt and a pocket to store some Small Personal Items (the SPI in SPIbelt).  

For some time, I've been running with just an apartment key and a $20 bill. I have a Road ID on my shoe, so my minimum needs are covered.

Still, I would prefer to have a cell phone with me, but I hate to have it bouncing around while I run.  The Spibelt somehow holds my cell without any bouncing or chaffing.  I wore it in the marathon and literally forgot it was there. 

The Spibelt also serves as a "race belt" with clips to hold a race bib. Last weekend I found myself at a race about to suffer with two common cold weather problems; my fingers were too cold to manipulate the safety pins, and I wasn't sure whether to pin the bib to my outer or inner shirt. 

My problems were solved when I realized that I was wearing my Spibelt, which
 comes equipped with clips for a race bib. I slipped the bib onto the belt with ease, and left the decision about which shirt to wear for later.  Good times...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Baby Steps

On Tuesday mornings, I meet a group of Flyers at 6AM to do speed work. Normally, the group alternates between running intervals one week, and hill repeats the next. We do different hills and different sets of intervals in various locations to keep things fresh. 

This week, we tried something new. Some new folks in the group suggested that running on stairs would be a good workout, so we headed for Bethesda Terrace in Central Park to give it a try. 

My day started out with the close to 2 mile run to the meet point, followed by another mile plus to the stairs.

Once there, the rules were explained.
- Single steps only. No taking 2 steps at a time.
- Focus on leg speed. Think of running on hot coals. 
- Run fast (duh!)

We ran 5 x 5 sets up and down the stairs. The Bethesda Terrace stairs have two "sides" separated by a bridge of sorts. Between sets, we wouldn't stop, but rather jog over to the opposite side. You can see the two sets of steps in the picture below, but it was a very different scene at 6AM in November. As you might imagine, we had the steps to ourselves.
The effect was much different than I had imagined. I expected a hard core quad workout, but it turned out to be more cardio. Trying to run fast without taking two steps at a time meant moving the feet REALLY quickly. I almost felt like running in place. 

I think this was an excellent workout. For one thing, it was very different from the usual speed work we do, and it's always good to mix it up. Also, it was great way to work on leg speed -- something that I could definitely benefit from. 

Finally, it was FUN. We had a good group of folks, and although there were a range of paces, we never got far apart -- there was nowhere to go. At the start, some folks were singing the theme to Rocky, invoking the image of the boxer training on steps in Phili. Later in the workout, when the going got tough, someone yelled "where's the singing now?!"  Sure enough, the singing returned.  You can't keep a Flyer down. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Race to Deliver

This morning was the Race to Deliver, a 4 miler in Central Park.

I've targeted the Joe Kleinerman 10K coming up in a few weeks, and this was a chance to check my progress. My target for today was to run at a solidly sub 7 minute pace, but I did not plan to shoot for my PR 6:38 pace. 

The race started on the 72nd street transverse in the park, which meant that we were more cramped than usual for the first 100 yards or so. I was fortunate, but I heard reports from many friends about collisions at the start. Once we made the turn onto East Drive, it was all clear. 

I ran an aggressive pace, but not too crazy. It would have been easy to go out too fast, especially since Cat Hill was right near the start. When I checked my watch at the first mile marker, I didn't really know what to expect. The time -- 6:36.  

Realizing that I was two seconds faster than PR pace, I went into PR pursuit mode. My strategy was clear: 
 - Maintain effort level for mile 2, and hope for a faster mile since it is downhill. 
 - Tough out the West Side Hills in mile 3, but expect to lose some time.
 - Pick it up to make the last mile my fastest and secure the PR.

Here's how it went:
6:36 Mile 1
6:32 Mile 2
6:48 Mile 3
6:27 Mile 4

26:22 (0:13 PR)

per Mile
Overall Place/
Gender Place/
Age Place/
in Age Grp.
26:22 6:35 224 / 5981 210 / 2742 21 / 246 23:37 71.3%

Toward the end of mile three, I saw AW, one of the Flyers I run with regularly in the mornings. He just finished the NYC Marathon 40 minutes faster than I did, so I was very happy to be anywhere near him. Of course, he was probably just taking it easy after the marathon, but still... 

At the end of the race, I was exhilarated. In fact I still am. I love beating my previous best times. I love running a hard fast race. It just feels good.

After the race, I saw AW and DW, another morning Flyer, and my friend PL. It seemed like everyone had a good race. It was especially great to see DW all fired up. He's back in training for his next marathon. I guess that means that the pace of the morning runs is going to pick up over the coming weeks. I'll just have to do my best to hang.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Company Run

This spring, I joined a young company as employee number four. We now have a few more folks on board, but we are still very small.

The "home office" is in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, so I occasionally go up there for face to face time.  I started a 
"tradition" with one of my coworkers that lives in Portsmouth of going for early morning runs when I'm in town. Portsmouth is a great place to run, with beautiful coastal sunrises to en

On my last trip (last week), a couple of the other folks got tired of hearing about how nice our runs were, and they decided to join us. They are both in great shape (a swimmer and a biker), but they don't usually run. 

And so I found myself at 5:3
0 AM on Wednesday, out on a 6 mile run with employees 1-4 of our company. 

The run was a great success, and as far as I could tell, fun was had by all. That night, we had a company dinner, with spouses and kids. I couldn't help but notice several more runners in the group. 

Who knows, we may have a regular running group. We'll see.  It certainly looks like my job is not going to interfere with my running addiction, and that is a very good thing in my book.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Running on a Track

Although I live in an ideal location for running, one thing that I've been missing is the chance to run on a real track. I've done speed work at various locations in Central Park, including the reservoir, and the cinder track at the top of the Great Hill, but these spots fall short of a real track.

Folks who run with me know that I'm not a fan of uneven surfaces. The result is that I prefer to run on the road rather than on dirt, which most people think is a bad choice.

I suspect, however, that I may not be the only one who feels a little funny about doing speed work on uneven surfaces. If I run a 440 intervals on the reservoir, for example, it feels like every 5th stride or so is a slight misstep, and at that effort level it seems risky.

I've known for some time that there is a track at Riverbank State Park, and this morning I finally got up there. It turns out that it's just a 20 minute run from my apartment, which works out perfectly. 20 minutes warm-up, some intervals at the track and 20 minutes cool down, and I'm home in a reasonable time. I could even fit in a speed workout on a weekday morning before work. 

The track itself is really nice. An eight lane, 400 meter track made of that nice soft red surface they use these days. It's the ideal for me - softer than dirt and smoother than the road. It felt really comfortable, even running hard.

This morning, I had a relatively light workout: 4x400 and 2x200. Next time, I'll do more. Here are the times:
4x400 meters:


The park is open 7 days a week from 6AM, so I imagine that I'll be up there again soon. PRs, watch out!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Back at it

After two days off, I was back out running this morning. TH and I did a four mile loop at an easy pace, and I was very happy to find that I had no marathon soreness at all. 

Aside from my wingman duties, my main goal this year was to finish without feeling beat up, and it seems that I succeeded. This makes me very happy. I now have hope that if I train and run smart, I can include marathons as part of my long term running life. Woo hoo!

So what's the next goal? (Yes, yes, must have goal must have goal must have goal must have goal).

Goal: Run a 10K at sub 7 pace. My current PR is at 7:01 (this won't do, no no no).

When? I'll give it a try at the NYRR Joe Kleinerman 10K  on December 7. As good a time as any.

Before that, I'll see what I can do in the 4 mile Race to Deliver  I don't think I'm ready to PR there yet, but it will be a good prep run for the 10K.

One more thing.... I've been slacking off on the blogging lately, but I'm feeling more motivated now. So for those few who read these pages, I promise to do better.

See you out there!

Monday, November 3, 2008


Yesterday, I ran my second marathon, and it was an entirely different experience from the first. I went as companion, pacer, wingman, whatever you want to call it, to my good friend Peter, who was running his first.

Peter's goal was the official goal of all first time marathoners -- to finish the race. Of course, as with most first timers, he also had a "secret" time goal. In his case, it was to finish under 4 hours. 

Since my first and only marathon was barely under 4 hours, I was hardly qualified to be a pacer, but I planned to stick with him and offer what support I could.

At the start, we met up with our mutual friend TH. The three of us actually stuck together for the first 18 miles, which was quite a feat in the crowded marathon field. It was truly a blast. The first 18 of the NYC Marathon is a giant party, and it was great to share it with my friends. 

Heading up the Queensboro Bridge at mile 15, I saw a runner with a pair of odd looking sandal-like things stuck in his belt. I recognized the footwear, and I when I caught up to him, I recognized the runner. We had run together in the Flyers "Bridges and Arches" run in Central Park earlier this year. During that run he had actually been wearing the unusual footwear, which he explained were Vibram FiveFingers. They were VERY thin, and I was amazed at how tough he was to run in them. At the marathon, however, they were tucked in his belt -- so what was he wearing? NOTHING. That's right, he ran the NYC Marathon barefoot. I seriously can not even imagine. Did he finish? Yes he did. Absolutely stunning.

Last year, I finished in an OK time, but I felt really beaten up (even though I wasn't barefoot). It took quite a while to feel fully recovered. This time, I was able to finish feeling strong, which is a huge win for me. 

So how did we do? Peter and I finished side by side in 3:58:54. This morning Peter called to talk about training for the next marathon.