Saturday, July 31, 2010

Age Group Graduation

In running, as in life, there is rarely ever a good time to reflect and celebrate past personal accolades and accomplishments. Whether it'd be the next finish line, the next big goal, or perhaps even just the next mile, there's always something further along the road that dominates our focus, demands our time and keeps us perpetually moving forward in our race against time.

The calendar tells me that I'm passing another birthday this weekend - my 35th to be exact. Although I generally do not like to memorialize this personal anniversary with a public gesture seeing as it is often nothing more than a footnote and in the passage of time that is relevant only to me, I'm allowing myself some leniency this year to celebrate with friends and family because it is not only a birthday for me, but also an age group graduation. Yes, in my next race, I will no longer be running as a member of the young thirty-somethings. Instead, I'll be joining the more elder statesmen and stateswomen in the 35-39 age group, competing to hold on to our speed and dignity.

Now, some may think that this occasion is no big deal. After all, this graduation is not at all merit-based and is a mere consequence of the passage of time. However, if you consider the fact that my introduction to running occurred only within this decade (I'd never previously participated in organized sports at any level), this commencement exercise is pretty important to me because it is essentially a celebration of my running life.

Practically speaking, I am planning a few celebrations with friends, family, and Flyers this weekend as well as running a 35K to commemorate every year I've been living this privileged life. I'll be surrounded by many people who I've gotten to know only because of this wonderful sport. I'm so ever grateful for my friend Matt A who first got me to run in Central Park and embarrassed me when I couldn't even make it past mile 2. If it weren't for that friendly competition way back when, I would have never dared to run the full 6 mile loop by myself the next weekend, sign up for my first race a month later or attempted my first marathon that same fall. I can't even imagine my life now, just five years later, without running!

In the spirit of graduation, I submit to you a list of highlights from my running record in support of commencement. I am constantly astounded by how far I've already come in my brief running life. I sincerely thank those of you who've supported me so far in this journey and I hope you'll continue to run with me as I move forward onto bigger and better adventures (Sub-3 marathon? My first triathlon? My first ultra...maybe?) in my next age group.

Age Group (30-34) Resume'
Age 30 (2005 - 2006) - Ran 453 miles
- Ran first half marathon (Manhattan Half '05 - 1:41:26)
- Ran first marathon (NYCM '05 - 3:26:42)

Age 31 (2006 - 2007) - Ran 757 miles
- Ran 2nd marathon (Hartford '06 - 3:11:33)
- Broke 7 min/pace in half marathon (Fairfield Half '07 - 1:31:16)

Age 32 (2007 - 2008) - Ran 1355 miles
- Started this blog
- Became a member of NY Flyers
- Broke 1:30 in half marathon (Queens Half '07 - 1:28:06)
- Ran 3rd marathon (NYC '07 - 3:08:18) - 1st BQ
- Ran sub-40 for 10K (Healthy Kidney '08 - 39:44)

Age 33 (2008 - 2009) - Ran 1713 miles
- Ran 4th marathon (SFM '08 - 3:09:08) - on birthdate
- Ran 5th marathon (NYC '08 - 3:02:20) - current PR
- Set current 4M race PR (Race To Deliver '08 - 24:38)
- Ran 6th marathon (Las Vegas '08 - 3:15:09) - for fun
- Ran 1st ever 5K (Salsa, Blues & Shamrock '09 - 18:34)
- Ran 7th marathon (Boston '09 - 3:02:21) - 1st Boston
- Ran sub-39 and set current 10K race PR (Healthy Kidney '09 - 38:59)

Age 34 (2009 - 2010) - Ran 2282 miles
- Set current 5M race PR (Club Champs '09 - 30:13)
- Broke 1:25 in half marathon (Staten Island '09 - 1:24:25)
- Ran 8th marathon (NYC '09 - 3:04:20)
- Set current half marathon PR (Philly Half '09 - 1:24:15)
- Ran 9th marathon (Honolulu '09 - 3:18:46) - for vacation
- Became a Saucony sponsored athlete
- Joined Twitter and Daily Mile
- Ran as pacer for 1st time
- Set current 5K PR (Salsa, Blues & Shamrock '10 - 18:26)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Ongoing Running Shoe Controversy and What I Do

Over the past week there has been a flurry of provocative news regarding running form and shoe selection that has caused quite a stir on the running community. First was the talk, as covered by Amby Burfoot from Runner's World, during a conference call in which Dathan Ritzenhein announced his entry into the 2010 NYC Marathon that Ritzeinhein has been experimenting with a new running form. Under the tutelage of Coach Alberto Salazar, Ritzenhein has been using shoe inserts and custom orthotics to adjust his running stance to be more forefoot, in an effort to prevent injuries, which has plagued him for the past couple of years. This news was intriguing as this was really the first instance that an elite American distance runner has openly declared an intention to switch to the techniques of forefoot running. Then, came the report of a study conducted by the military (summarized here by Gretchen Reynolds, in the New York Times Well blog), that found no correlation at all between wearing proper shoes (based on foot/arch type) and injury prevention. According to the report, "Injury rates were high among all the runners, but they were highest among the soldiers who had received shoes designed specifically for their foot types. If anything, wearing the “right” shoes for their particular foot shape increased trainees’ chances of being hurt." This study was frightening as it provided the first evidence that our current method of selecting shoes based on foot type may be erroneous. Then later that same day, my fellow blogger and evolutionary biologist friend Peter Larson posted a great review (Thanks Peter) on a recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that involved a randomized control trial assigning women runners training for a half marathon to categories of shoes based on their observed degree of pronation. The authors found that 100% of runners in the highly pronated group assigned to motion control shoe (as would be normally done by convention) got injured! Not only so, but pronated runners suffered more pain from wearing stability shoes (that were assigned to them based on their foot type) than from wearing neutral shoes. There were other gross inconsistencies in the fitting of the right shoe to the right foot type, forcing the authors to conclude that "...our current approach of prescribing in-shoe pronation control systems on the basis of foot type is overly simplistic and potentially injurious." And if that weren't shocking enough, as Peter as astutely points out, one of the co-authors of this paper is Gordon Valiant, a biomechanist who works for Nike Sports Research Laboratory, and is the same guy who helped Dathan Ritzenhein, under the direction of Alberto Salazar to change his footstrike from heel to forefoot!

So what are we, the recreational athletes, the everyday warriors, who have been wearing shoes for years prescribed by a salesperson based on our foot types into this categorization of shoes that has now been proven not only ineffective but potentially injurious, supposed to take away from all of this? Are we supposed to take off our shoes immediately and run barefoot? Do we have to try every model of shoe out there, regardless of our foot type and decide based on "feel"?

Many runners and friends have asked for my opinion on this subject and I hesitate to give one because I do not believe there is yet enough conclusive evidence to know what is the "right" thing to do. Most of the science is empirical, theoretical and/or anecdotal which isn't the same as facts. So in the absence of facts, any discussion about the advantages/disadvantages of a particular style of running or a particular shoe disintegrates into a philosophical debate which doesn't really interest me.

Having said all that though, I do have some guiding principles about running and shoes that has served me well that I can share. (I'm doing this only because many people have asked.) Again, this my personal philosophy based on my knowledge of medical science. Don't take it as a general recommendation or authoritative dogma.

1. It's always better to run in less shoe than more shoe. As one sports medicine colleague advised me - Running in more shoe than you need is like running with a cast on your feet.
2. I believe strongly that the foot a dynamic structure. What that means is that the hundreds of muscles that make up the feet is always constantly changing and adapting to the environment and forces applied to it. Your foot will change from month to month, year to year. What works perfectly this training cycle will not be appropriate for your next training cycle. By extension, there's no sense in hoarding shoes for longer than six months to a year.
3. Rotate your shoes. Being in different models stressing different bones and muscles of the feet is beneficial to overall health of the lower extremity. It will also highlight and pinpoint areas of weakness and pain that you might not be aware of just running in one set of shoes all the time.
4. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new techniques and new shoes no matter what your preferences and biases are. Just be careful and listen and hear what your feet are telling you. (As a rule, runners are not good listeners...especially to their own bodies. Trust me on this.)
5. I train in Saucony Rides, do tempo runs and long races in Saucony Kinvaras and race short distances and intervals in Saucony Fasttwitches. Just sayin...

Monday, July 26, 2010

NYRR Queens Half Marathon Race Recap
aka The Run "On The Surface of the Sun"

I woke up bright and early Saturday morning with the usual mixture of dread, excitement, anxiety and restlessness that often accompany race morning. A thousand questions race through my mind as I prepared for the battle ahead.

Will I PR today...maybe go sub 1:24 for the first time on my hometown course?
Should I be conservative, aim for 1:25 and equal my best time this year on almost the same course?
Can I NOT embarrass myself in front of neighbors and friends and do worse than 1:27, please?

Before I could answer my own questions, I opened the patio door, stepped out onto balcony to preview race morning and almost fainted from the extreme humidity! Apparently, while I was asleep, Flushing had transformed overnight from a quiet suburban town into "the surface of the sun"! It was already insanely hot (84F) and humid (70%) at 5:45am - a full hour and fifteen minutes before the scheduled start! Needless to say, all my race goals and aspirations went out the door with me.

As I walked over to the start of this race with a Flyer teammate who had stayed with me the previous night, I was disappointed and slightly embarrassed that so many friends and Flyers were making the trek all the way from Manhattan just to run this race. Although I was enthused about having so many people visiting Flushing Meadow Park and experiencing this new half marathon course with me, I was equally nervous for the negative feedback from the runners on the park and the race due to the weather alone. As I arrived at the staging area amidst the throng of runners, walking, stretching, scurrying, and running (seriously?) in the extreme conditions, I wondered myself whether the race should be canceled in favor of a fun run.

I dropped my stuff in baggage, saw and greeted some friends and teammates I knew and headed to my starting corral. Amidst the constant barrage of heat advisories and reminders to "drink plenty" and "slow down" from the race directors and Mary Wittenberg at the podium, I thought about my previous misfortunes in races with hot weather and readjusted my goals for this race to the following: 1) No DNF; 2) No walking; 3) 1:30 finish If possible.

The Start and Mile 1
I had been drinking like a fish out of water ever since I got up this morning - downing a whole bottle of Gatorade just in the starting corral alone - so I was well hydrated for the long insufferable journey ahead. Still, as the command to start the race was finally given, and the horn sounded, I considered it strange that I never developed the urge to pee again after leaving home. Could it really be that hot and am I really sweating that much?

It was a balmy 86F with 66% humidity by the start of the race. There was a heavy cloud cover initially for the first half hour or so, shielding us from the devastation of the sun's unrelenting fury which we would all suffer through in the second half of the race. I started my journey through mile 1 running as conservative and fast as I thought my body can handle. Aside from a smattering of cheerful spectators consisting of friends and family, and the guys spray painting the Unisphere as we were running through, the park was eerily empty and still. (Mile 1 - 6:33)

Upon passing mile 1 and exiting the park, I looked at my mile split and realized instantly that even averaging marathon pace (6:51 min/mi for 1:30 finish) would not be possible today. I gave up trying to chase my only time goal I had remaining and vowed I'd take 2 cups of fluids at all the water station and run comfortably for the rest of the race.

Mile 2-5: The College Point Boulevard Miles
After taking some water and Gatorade at the first fluid station shortly after mile 1, I made the left turn onto College Point and dialed into my pace. On the out portion of this out-and-back stretch, I found a few hills I never knew existed despite living on the side of this boulevard for the past 12 months. That's because this is the second busiest thoroughfare street in all of Flushing and I avoid running here normally as much as possible. Running along it now with water stations instead of cars parked on the streets felt not only awkward to me, but to my astonished neighbors as well just walking by.

I ran at a conservative semi-tempo effort through these miles, keeping a similar pace as those of my neighbors. As I ran by the water stations at every mile, I jogged slowly, taking a cup of Gatorade then at least one full cup of water before picking back up the pace. I remember getting passed by a friend early in mile 3 who yelled out my name as he passed through. Otherwise, I was keeping speed with all of my neighbors, all of us wet and traveling together as if we're in the same school of fish swimming along a similar current.

After the turnaround point at mile 3.5, we headed back to the park the same way we came. The return trip was fun because we got to see friends and others we know coming up behind us. I got greeted by so many people, some I recognized, some I didn't that at times I couldn't even keep up. It was completely awesome though and I wished there were more NYRR races with long out and back portions where this could be a more common occurrence. As I ran, waved and cheered for those I could make out, the mile and a half quickly flew by. (Mile 2 - 6:38; Mile 3 - 6:44, Mile 4 - 6:49, Mile 5 - 6:45)

Mile 6-11: The Middle Park Miles and Meadow Lake
After the exhilaration of the return trip on College Point, the park now seemed so much lonelier now than when we had left it. Although we were running on Perimeter Road along the majestic Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center and the U.S.T.A. National Center, a path that I take almost daily, I could feel my enthusiasm and energy slowly fading away. The sun was fully shining now and mile by mile I was slowing down. By the time I reached Shea Road overlooking the back section of CitiField, it was all I could do to keep moving. To make matters worse, there was a spectator/volunteer at Mile 7 who kept yelling "Almost There...Almost There" at all the runners who were already struggling by this point. From the anger and vitriol I heard from fellow runners afterwards, I prayed for his livelihood after the race.

As for me, mile 7-8 were the toughest miles of the race. It was hot, it was humid, but above all that, I just lost interest in the race once I saw my pace creep over 6:50. I was tired, I was angry, and 5-6 miles left still seemed so far away to me. I wanted to walk so badly here, but as I struggled, I reminded myself that running would almost be impossible after walking. Walking was one step closer to a DNF. Would I consider walking and DNF'ing in my own hometown race? How embarrassing would that be? Once the option of walking was taken off the table, I told myself to slow down, acknowledged that this was a bad stretch, and kept running. Less than a mile later, I saw my Flyer friends LG, DL, and their little dog Grady on the sideline. They hollered and cheered and gave me the extra mental boost I needed to overcome my struggles.

We made a sharp right and started the loop around Meadow Lake at mile 9. Because this is my usual stomping grounds for speedwork and tempo runs, I'm familiar with running fast here on less than a full tank of gas. I took as much Gatorade and water as my stomach could handle at the water station at the start of this loop and powered through as if this just another speedwork day. I wanted to remain conservative but keep pace through the rest of this course. The sun was blazing, there was no shade, some runners were walking, but I just kept running. Even though my pace never picked up to anywhere near where it usually is when I'm running here, the effort remained extremely consistent which I was very proud of after the struggles I had in the miles before. (Mile 6 - 6:55, Mile 7 - 6:57, Mile 8 - 7:14, Mile 9 - 7:20, Mile 10 - 7:11, Mile 11 - 7:13)

Mile 12-13.1: The Zoo/Hall of Science Mile and The Finish
Once we were done with the lake, the last two miles of the race took us to the finish via a running path that ran alongside the Queens Zoo and the Hall of Science. Honestly though, most of us who made it this far along in the race were not too interested in the sideline scenery. We just wanted to see the finish and end the suffering. I ran through mile 12 with this same attitude in mind. However, at some point in the middle of it all, I checked my heart and noticed that it was still hovering in the 160s. Since my max HR is 198 and my interval HR is usually in 170s, I was very surprised to see my heart rate so low so late in this race. This signified to me that I really did have a lot left in the tank, so I threw caution to the wind and kicked it in the last mile. I opened up my legs and sprinted as if I was in a one-mile time trial. I surprised myself by dropping my pace by almost a whole min/mile. I passed by at least 6-8 runners on that last mile and finished the race with the MC announcing my name as I crossed the line. Torture fest OVER! (Mile 12 - 7:11, Mile 13 - 6:18, Last 0.1M - 0:33)

After the race, I drank ten cups of water, five cups of Gatorade and still felt as if I was still dehydrated. I met up with fellow Flyers and traded war stories on what we had just gone through. For many of us, this was perhaps the most extreme conditions we've ever experienced in a race. For me, this was by far the hottest and most humid race I've ever been involved in. (Yes, for those wondering, this was even worse than it was at the New Jersey Marathon where there was at least a cool ocean breeze for the start and finish on the boardwalk!) I'm glad everyone I knew made it through okay and we didn't have to pick anyone up at the medical tent. From the post-race chatter, it seemed that everyone took it easy and made it a fun run for them even if it was not officially one. As for the course, even though I know there will be many who will disagree with me, I think Flushing Meadows Park and College Point represented the neighborhood pretty well today. There were no issues with crowd control, the roads were for the most part smooth and unobstructed, and it was relatively convenient for people to get to from the city.

I am excited for the opportunity to race this course again next year. Only this time, maybe I'll hold a seance the night before to ask the weather gods to have pity on us and turn down the furnace for just one summer race!

Official Statistics
Finishing Time - 1:30:28
Average Pace - 6:55 min/mi
Overall Place - 70th out of 3668
Age Graded Pct - 65.7%
Age Group Place - 19th out of 473
NY Flyers Men - 1st

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Queens Half Marathon (2010)
Part I - The Preview

So do you know? Did you hear? The Queens Half Marathon is almost here! Yeah, it's this weekend, on Saturday. But if you're not running it or from the local area, then you probably don't know about it. Just FYI, it is one in a series of half marathons taking place in the city every year - one in every borough. For 2010, I've done Manhattan (in January) and Brooklyn (in May). It so happened that I had pacing responsibilities for each of those two previous races, but will be running on my own pretty much this time in Queens. Another tidbit that will make this race somewhat interesting is that they've changed the venue from McNeil Park in Whitestone (which was a logistical nightmare for all to get to) to Flushing Meadows Park and College Point Boulevard in Flushing. Unfortunately, to accommodate this change, the date for the race was shifted as well, from early fall (late September) to mid-summer (this weekend). As one of a dying breed of runners who live and run in Queens, I applaud the shift in venue (since it took me an hour to get to the start last year living less than 4 miles away!) although I wonder if NYRR really could have picked a more appropriate date for a half marathon than mid-July. Nevertheless, I'm so excited to be running this race! Not only does the course run right underneath my balcony, but it also highlights some of the best areas in Flushing Meadows Park, where I train and run every day. I'm so happy that a couple thousand of my NYC running friends will be coming out early on Saturday morning to run in MY hood and MY park with ME. It's all going to feel like one gigantic running group (or a big circus) with me as one of the ringleaders.

As for my own desires and aspirations for this race, I really don't know what kind of time I should expect myself to run! On the one hand, I know it's summer, it's likely to be hot, and given my propensity to blow up in the middle of halves in temps over 80 degrees, I should not be racing this race at all. On the other hand, I know I'm more acclimated to running in warmer temperatures now than I've ever been (thanks to throwing myself out there everyday for workouts in spite of the weather). My higher mileage marathon training has also been going well and I desperately want to use this race as a litmus test to assess my fitness. According to indications from workouts, I think I am due for an adjustment in training paces. However, I won't know if I decide to take it easy and not push myself in this race. Then there's the whole issue of running well here and "defending my own turf". This is MY house now so I really have no excuse for not bringing my 'A' game out to play. Given the seasonal heat wave, I probably will not come close to a PR on Saturday, but then again, I don't have to lay an egg out their either.

So if the weather is tolerable (close to 80F/70% humidity) on race day, here's what I'm thinking in terms of race goals:

C - Sub 1:27:00
B - Sub 1:26:30
B+ - Sub 1:26:00
A- - Sub 1:25:30
A - Sub 1:25:00
A+ - Sub 1:24:30
A++ - PR (Sub 1:24:15)
Dream - Sub 1:24:00

Feel free to predict my time. As a bit of background, I've already ran sub 1:25 three times in the past 12 months, including my PR of 1:24:15 in the Philly Half. I also did a 1:24:59 in my last half in NYC 13.1 after running off the course and losing about a minute of total time back n April. Therefore, I'm sure I'm capable of running sub-1:25 in ideal conditions. The only caveat of course is that Saturday will not be ideal conditions. Rumor has it that Saturday will be the hottest day of week (all lies, I say!) so running the same time as I did in April will likely not be possible. As a compromise, I think I'll just shoot for sub-1:25:30 as a conservative goal for race day. Victory will be mine at the finish line if I can get close to 1:25:30 and NOT end up in the medical tent in the middle or post race. That will be enough for me.

If you're running this race, take it easy and good luck! I'll be running in my red Saucony race gear and Kinvaras so look for me and say hi! Otherwise, come back Saturday afternoon/night and read my race report. I'm sure it will be riveting (unless you think I'm as pathetic and narcistic as these guys do...).

P.S. I'm thinking of sending out a courtesy memo to all my neighbors with this song on a postcard. I'm sure they'll all be so enthused.

You better watch out,
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
The Half-Marathon is coming to town!

Monday, July 19, 2010

My (Chicago Marathon) Training Update

So enough about lil'l bro (even if he did a fine job for his first race in Central Park...), let's talk about me and MY running! Not to be outdone by my old fresh and blood (yet), I actually had a very productive week on the roads last week. Those who follow me on DailyMile may already know this, but I did a total of 7 workouts with 3 "quality" sessions and one rest day for a total of 67.0 miles - my highest weekly mileage total EVER! If you are wondering about details, it went a little something like this.

Monday - 9.2 miles with 4x1200m at interval pace(5:53 min/mi)
Tuesday - 8.7 miles at general aerobic pace (7:12 min/mi)
Wednesday - 8.1 miles at recovery pace (7:50 min/mi)
Thursday (AM) - 8.9 miles with 6 miles at tempo (6:32 min/mi)
Thursday (PM) - 6.1 miles at slow pace (8:53 min/mi) with friend
Friday - 5.7 miles at recovery pace (7:52 min/mi)
Saturday - Off

So this brings us to Sunday, which by far, was the most interesting yet toughest run of the week in so many ways. As summarized on DailyMile:

Sunday Mega Run (Part I – The Tempo Miles - 10.21 Miles)
The assignment (courtesy of Daniel's Phase II) is 2 miles easy, 5 x Mile at tempo (6:24 min/mi) with 1min rests, and 1 hour easy. Because this workout translated to roughly 15-16 miles of running, I wanted to add a few extra miles at the end and do this quality workout as my weekend 20 miler

I decided to do the first portion of workout at my local park, so I got up early, had some breakfast and headed out. Because this was essentially a speed workout, I opted to wear my Kinvaras today over my usual long run trainers. The weather was already started to get warm and humid but there was a cool breeze so I thought I'd be okay. I started by running my warmup real easy, just planning out my route around the park, when suddenly, I tripped on a bump in the uneven pavement and fell! I wasn't running very fast so luckily the scrapes were minimal. But my kneecap was bleeding a little and it took me a few minutes to dust myself off and reorient myself. I took some water, shook myself off, finished my warmup and started my tempo mile intervals.

As usual, it took about a couple of these to get my pacing just right. I kept running too hard at the start and then readjusting by slowing down a tad in the middle of the mile. The pace was quite challenging to maintain and by the 3 and 4th one, I kept feeling I had to run faster than tempo effort just to make my time. I also thought the 1:00 rests between the miles came and went so quickly that I kept thinking I wasn't recovered enough to start the next set! I had done 4 of these and was about to start the 5th one when I tripped and fell again on the uneven gravel. This one shook me up. Although I hadn't started the tempo mile yet, I was getting ready to which meant the force of the fall was a little greater than the first. Now my knee was bleeding pretty bad and I scraped a bit of my left shoulder as well. I sat on the ground for 10-15 seconds trying to figure out how I could have been such a klutz to fall twice!

After using some of the water from my water bottle, I irrigated the wounds and walked around a little to make sure I didn't sustain any muscular or skeletal injury (which thank god, I didn't). Then I debated calling off my last tempo mile having blown off a few minutes of recovery since the last mile. But I knew I'd feel terrible about it after anyway, so despite my bleeding knee, I ran my last tempo mile (probably a little too fast) before jogging over to the next water fountain to clean myself off some more and collect my thoughts.

I was so traumatized by my falls and exhausted by these tempo miles that I didn't know whether I'd have the energy to do the next half of the run. Besides, it was getting sunnier and hotter now, so another ten or so miles wasn't going to be pretty. But I also promised some friends I'd spectate the NYC Triathlon in Central park and I seriously did not want to miss that. I decided to just jog home, tape up my knee, refill my water bottle and reassess whether I had it in me to run another ten miles.

Part I Statistics
Warmup - 2.0 miles in 15:31 (7:46 pace); Avg HR - 134
Tempo Miles (5) - 6:22; 6:22; 6:22; 6:22; 6:20; Avg HR - 163
Cooldown - 2.72 miles in 22:29 (8:15 pace); Avg HR - 150

Maybe I should have stopped after that. Maybe that would have been the smart thing to do. Battered by the ground, punished by gravel, my confidence shaken to the core, I seriously thought about quitting at the point – for the day, for the week, and maybe forever. I was bleeding, upset and not sure whether I could handle any more miles at that time. But luckily, I didn’t let myself think. I was too smart for that too. I just went…

Sunday Mega Run (Part II – Run to Central Park for NYC Tri - 10.17 Miles)
On my way home, a constant cool breeze magically appeared which made it seem as if the weather wouldn't be all that bad for running the 10 miles into the city. So after my own "transition" of sorts at home - change into new clothes and long run shoes, grabbing new water bottle and GU, and taping up my nasty scrapes - I decided I needed to just go out and attempt this, even if I'm exhausted and tired, and rattled from my 2 falls. After all, I have friends who are just now getting onto their bikes for the NYC Triathlon, expecting me to be there for the run!

So I willed myself and got out the door, not knowing if I had enough energy to run all the way into the city. "Try the best you can and run as far as your body can handle." I had told my brother the day before, so how can I not heed those words now.

The trip was hard for me, harder than I could remember for a long time. I had to stop two times for more water and GU at mile 6. At a few traffic light stops (I was running in bike lane on a wide avenue) at mile 5 and 7, I asked myself if I had gone far enough and should just stop. Each time, I would beg for just one more mile and then stopping, and each time, I'd convince myself to just run on. While I was running, I kept trying to figure out why I was having such difficulty on this long run. Maybe my tempo miles were too fast? Maybe I did too many? Was my high mileage week finally catching up to me? Maybe I was overtraining? I don’t know. All I wanted was to be done! Finally I saw the gigantic Queensboro Bridge separating me from my friends (at mile 8) and once I decided to take the plunge to scale this huge monstrosity, I knew I'd make it after all.

After finishing up on East 72nd St at exactly 10 miles, I rested by the side of the road and spectated the final run portion of the NYC Tri for an hour and a half. It was so awesome to see all these amazing athletes all running strong with smiles on their faces pouring it on towards the finish. All their friends and families were so very proud of them. Reflecting on my klutziness and tough 20 miles to get there made me realize just how unathletic I really am.

I was really happy and proud for all of those who swam, biked, and ran today. Those are the real athletes. Those are the people I aspire to be. Until then, I will just have to stick with what I can be. I have to stick with what I know.

Part II: Distance - 10.17 Miles; Time - 1:18:46; Pace - 7:45)

67 total Miles. Chicago Marathon Training Week 4 complete. My highest mileage training week ever. All done.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Little Bro’s Race Report
From the Run for Central Park 4 Mile Race

Yesterday, on a relatively hot and humid Saturday morning, my little brother ran his first race in Central Park! To mark this momentous occasion, he decided to write a race report for me to share with the rest of you. Nice job, little bro. Nice job!

Hey all. My brother tells me that some people are interested in my running story, though I can't imagine why. You guys are all such good runners that showing you what I think would probably either a) make you a worse runner, or b) make you laugh at what a noob I am at running or c) all the above. But I am flattered nonetheless. Anyway, here goes nothing.

So upon getting to central park, I started getting nervous. I can't remember the last time that I was around so many healthy people, most of whom were my physical superiors. I pride myself in lifting/swimming/running (or 2 of the 3) everyday so I am not easily impressed by physiques, but there were a LOT of people that I was impressed with and intimidated by. Crap, I thought, there are so many people here totally ready to see me embarrass myself. The fact that there were more attractive girls there than I have seen in one place in many months did not help either. Thankfully, my brother was there to banter with and take my mind off of my impending ownage. When my brother brought to my attention that I was going to be in the “yellow” corral, explaining that it was only the third from the front. Crap, I thought again, now there are even more people than I thought behind me to see me get embarrassed. I couldn’t help but wonder whether, if I even made it to my goal of an 8 minute pace, if I belonged in the front 3 corrals. I’m just hoping I finish in the top half! Why did they put me here?? I asked myself. My bib number was in the 2300’s, and there were several thousand expected to be running. Could I finish in the top 2300? Thoughts ran to and from my head in every which direction as the butterflies were in full effect.

As I said goodbye to my brother and headed toward my corral, perhaps to seek some sort of validation, I felt compelled to stop a worker and ask if my bib really is yellow, or whether it was just a tinted gold. “You’re in the right place,” she said with a smile. “Heh, I hope so,” was my nervous reply. To add to my nervousness, I saw my friend from college. She was known as a hardcore runner (exemplified by the fact that she just moved in yesterday and already found a run today that starts at 9 am in the morning). I asked her if this was her first run in Central Park. She said: “Naw, I ran a 10k here last week. Don’t know why I am in the yellow corral this time. I was in the blue a week ago.” On that lovely note, I said a quick goodbye and headed toward the back of the yellow corral, lest she see my slow pace and think that I am handicapped. As I was facing the wrong direction, the race started. Way to start the race on the right foot.

Mile 1
So my bro suggested a game plan that I thought sounded good enough. The first mile started the race off with a large hill (Cat Hill is apparently what it’s called). Mile three also had a couple of small hills as well so I figured, let’s take it slower on mile one and three and floor it on mile two and four. As we started the race, I tried not to get carried away with adrenaline and run too fast. And so, I felt like a rock in the middle of a flood of people. People were passing me in every which direction for the first two thirds of the mile. I started making mental notes of those passing me around the 4 minute mark, muttering I'll be passing you in a couple miles. Interestingly enough, the big hill I was so scared of was not too noticeable. In fact, one of my excuses for running below what I expected for this mile is that I did not know when the hill ended. By the time the 8 minute mark rolled around, I realized that I was probably done with it and should kick it into gear. It was then that people stopped passing me and I found people that I would be keeping pace with for a little while. I was expecting to run a 8:20 or so because of the hill, but it was only at 8:30 did I even see the end of the first mile. C’mon man, you’ve been slacking off, I told myself as I contemplated how the hell I let myself be so damn far behind my pace after just one mile.
Time – 8:46.

Mile 2
I tried to step it up a notch to make up the time. I was hoping that I would be able to run a 7:50 to make up for some of the time, and by stepping up a notch, I started passing those who I was keeping pace with. I was just hoping that this little push wouldn’t leave me dead when mile 4 rolled around. I quickly realized that the problem with the strategy of having inconsistent split times was that I would be weaving in and out of traffic. I heard more than my fair share of curses as I tried to squeeze between runners. I tried to convince myself that it was okay if they hated me; if I had my way, they’ll eat my dust and I’ll never see these people again. I smiled to myself as I saw a couple of the people that I had passed me earlier turned out to be the first walkers that I saw, only 12 minutes into the run. I couldn’t let myself feel too good though, I was supposed to be pushing it. As I neared the 2 mile marker, I realized that despite all my efforts and will power, I hadn’t even been running my goal pace for the entire race, let alone the make-up pace that I was hoping for.
Time – 8:05.

Mile 3
My pre-race game plan was to run this at about the same time as mile 1, but since I could not afford that, I told myself to keep try to run a 8:00 and we’ll hope for the best with mile 4. Again, I didn’t really even notice the hills my brother was talking about. That just upset me all the more because I felt like I was letting myself slack off for nothing. The lone noteworthy thing about mile 3 was that around 23 minutes, I approached what I thought was the clock that was above a sign signaling the end of mile 3. I was estatic, because I would probably reach the sign in about another minute, putting me back on pace. As I was contemplating how I made up a full minute without killing myself, I realized that it was just a yellow sign that said that one of the park’s exits was closed. It was then that I saw the real clock above the “Mile 3” sign, and took in the fact that it would take about another minute to reach the real sign. I sighed and decided to burn the last mile. I don’t care if I have to walk across the finish line, I am going to start running at my normal one mile pace, and we’ll see how long I can last, I told myself. At that moment, I reminded myself of the P90x motto – “Do your best, forget the rest,” and put my head down and surged forward.
Time – 8:46.

Mile 4
The day before the race, I put a bunch of songs into my ipod shuffle from a playlist entitled “Work out songs.” Most of the songs are fairly heavy rock, and they usually get me pretty amped up during runs and in the gym. The song I put on to get me into the hardcore-ready-for-some-intense-pain mood was “I Hate Everything About You” by Three Days Grace. Instantly, thoughts of my ex-girlfriend came up, I proceeded to get annoyed and upset and ran harder. Thus began my “beast mode.” Again, I started passing everyone around me. I felt bad because everyone was settled into their nice little niche, and I’m sure that after the initial mile or so they thought that the craziness of people passing and getting passed was done with, and here I am shattering their miserable little dreams. I squeezed and dodged and weaved between runners. I predicted that I passed at least 5 to 10 people for every minute or so, as I tried to kick in the afterburners. I wondered several times whether people would make a mental note of me as I have of them, and I wondered whether they will get the opportunity to pass me in several minutes. Every time these thoughts of negativity and uncertainty came to mind I did my best to shut them out as I glanced at my watch every 45 seconds. 5 minutes left? Can you take 5 minutes of pain? These people can run 7 or 8 minute miles for 26.2 miles and you can’t run an 8 minute pace for 4 measly miles? And you call yourself a healthy individual. There are 60 year olds running this race who are ahead of you. Let’s go! Let’s GO! I would like to say these conversations were all in my head, but I doubt they were as I willed myself forward. Interestingly enough, during this last mile, I decided to employ a new strategy that my brother had mentioned to me once before. I estimate that I ran alternating 7:00 minute pace for a minute, and then 8:00 minute pace for about 30 seconds as I sped to the end. No more than 3 more minutes of pain. Take it like a man. You can want to embarrass yourself in front of a couple thousand people? Keep moving. Pain is weakness leaving the body. Let’s go, let’s go, lets GO! The noise got progressively louder as the minutes ticked by. I knew because I could hear it through my music. I was positive I must be nearing the end. My thoughts were confirmed when I heard someone say “LAST TURN EVERYONE!” And I floored it. I mean I didn’t know I had it in me. I have absolutely no doubt that I ran nearly as fast as I ran for a bus I was late for two days ago. As my headphones flew off, I heard spectators near me go “wow, look at him.” Even the announcer dude at the end said “THERE’S one guy who wants it!” Did I use my kicker too soon? Did I have enough to last me the entire 200 m? I was proud of myself for passing at least 10 people since my kicker started but I was tiring. No letting up now. Take a mental picture of the finish line that is just 50 meters away. Close your eyes. When you open them, you’ll be done. NOW GIVE ME ALL YOU GOT!!! I let out a barbarian’s roar as I crossed the finish line, and everyone around me must have thought I was the biggest noob on the planet, but I finished and, for the last mile at least, I kicked butt in a way I didn’t know I could. Lesson learned – Don’t underestimate myself again. Time - 7:18.

Total Time – 32:24; Overall Place – 1364/5056; AG% – 52%


...and After!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Decision and Friday Survey #2

After meticulous calculation and careful analysis of all the votes, the results from Survey #1 are IN. Thanks to everyone who participated and played along. Yes runners, we too have made our DECISION.

But before we announce where WE’RE HEADED with this, let me take a minute to explain the PROCESS by we came to our decision. There were three possible candidates – the nod, the wave, and the verbal communication. There were a total of 25 ballots casted. For those voters who declared a distinct preference, one full point was given in favor of the candidate. For those who declared no preference between two options, a half point was given to each. For those who stated they would perform two actions simultaneously, (a wave and a “Hi” for example) I gave a full point to each candidate. Finally, for those who couldn’t decide between any of the three choices, I gave a third of a point to all three camps and called it a day.

So if my math is correct, the final tally looks like this:

The Head Nod – 8.5 points
The Hand/Finger Wave – 14.5 points
The Hi/Good Morning – 6 points

The DECISION then is that the Hand/Finger Wave is runner approved as the most appropriate gesture to use when approaching a fellow runner! How fascinating! In fact, it is preferred as much as the other options combined. In hindsight, this seems to make sense because verbal cues requires more energy expenditure and the head nod is at times too subtle to be noticed. Besides, we can use either hand to direct our waves to either side,which in a certain way seems friendlier than a random bobbing of the head or a general verbal greeting. Very cool. See, we all learned something!

While we’re on the subject of hands gestures while running, do any of you ever find yourself doing something peculiar in the middle of a run in private that would be totally inappropriate/funny to a general audience or even to yourself when you’re not running? For me, when I’m having feeling particularly good on a tempo run or rocking out a set of fast intervals like no one’s business, I’d take a quick glance to make sure no one’s looking, run over to the nearest tree with a branch that’s just slightly just above my head and reach up and slap the leaves as a high-five celebration to myself. The feeling is awesome and exhilarating! I’m just not sure if someone else were to see me, especially a non runner, would I be seen as delusional for interacting with a tree! Haha!

So for this week’s survey question, I want to hear what peculiar things you guys do while running in private that you would never do if you were running or just hanging out in public. Beyond the usual peeing/pooping in odd places, what have you done out on the run that you thought was perfectly appropriate at the time only to think about or find out later that it would be better if left undiscovered?

Think about it and get back to me. Meanwhile this weekend is going to be quite awesome in the Lam household because my little brother is going to be running a four mile race around Central Park – his first NYRR race ever! Not only so, but he’s going to write a race report detailing his impression and experiences for the blog as well. Woohoo! Both of us are very excited. He’ll be running while I’ll be cheering!

Hope all of you who’s running/racing this weekend have a blast too! It’s time for all to celebrate this summer of fun. Get out there and enjoy my friends!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Running in San Diego: Hills and Coasts

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to San Diego for a week to attend a medical conference. Although the meeting itself for the most part was educational and intellectually stimulating, the highlight of the trip for me occurred mostly outside the seminar rooms and lecture halls. That's because out of the 6 days that I was in town, I got in 5 runs for a total of 50.5 miles! To say I ran all over town, everywhere I could would be somewhat of an understatement. So in order to help out those of you whose travels might land you in town for a day or two, just like a fellow friend did for me when I needed similar help (Thanks Greg), I will recap a few of my running adventures for you and share a slideshow of some of the sights you may find if you happen to be running in San Diego.

Run #1 - A Loop Through Balboa Park (7.37 miles)

If you're a runner passing by SD and in town for just one day, I'd argue that this run should be at the top of your to-do list. Not only does Balboa Park contain natural trails through luscious forests and offers some of the most breathtaking views of the San Diego Valley that you will ever see, it is also home to many of the city's most popular historical and cultural landmarks, including the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Art Institute, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the San Diego Zoo. I was so enchanted and enlightened just running through the central plaza that connects all of these fine institutions that I had to come back for a second run through these parts later that same week!

The best way to approach Balboa Park (if you're staying downtown) is northward via 6th Ave and entering the park via El Prado. There is a bridge here overlooking the valley down below that is both awe-inspiring and fear-inducing (at least for those like me who get a little whimsical with heights). After touring the museums, you can take a side path to visit the San Diego Zoo, which has a cute entrance flanked by a couple of plant elephants. After this, you can either run back the same way you came or take Park Blvd back into town. (I wouldn't recommend taking the "scenic route" through Upas Street and running south via Pershing Drive. Most of the streets here are short, narrow, and steep. It wasn't until I was too far along did I realize that no one was else was running here except me!)

In general, this was a very peaceful, scenic, and fun place to run, particularly in the early morning before the tourists arrive. One thing to beware though is that this is lots of steep hills and sharp inclines. On my first run there, I remembered thinking that I must have landed in San Francisco instead of San Diego with the steep hill I had to climb just to get into the park! Other than that, Balboa Park was the perfect place to visit for my inaugural run in San Diego.

Run # 2 - Mission Bay, Sea World, and the North Harbor (18.2 miles)

The next day, after witnessing the splendor of Balboa Park the day prior, I went for a long run in search of the esteemed Mission Bay Park that I had heard so much about. Apparently, Mission Bay Park is the runners' haven for all of the local runners in much the same way that Central Park is the mecca for all things running for us New Yorkers. So although the park was a bit far to get to from where I was staying in downtown San Diego, I thought it was worth the visit to see what the hoopla was all about.

Unfortunately, I did not choose an ideal running route on my way to this esteemed place. I ran northward along the Pacific Highway (which had me running on the shoulder of a five lane highway literally), through the entire length of Midway Drive, and across the San Diego River, to get into close proximity of the park. By this time, I had already run about 6 miles, it was close to getting dark, and the destination was still about a mile or two away. So I decided to cut my loses and run a bit around Sea World instead. (Did you know this was the original Sea World and the one in Florida came a bit after? Yeah see, I didn't know that, and was taken to town by my friends over not knowing a day later!) There is an actual running trail around Sea World that was quite scenic and I encountered a few locals who were running there as well.

After a couple miles here, I made my way back downtown by crossing over to Ocean Beach, down Nimitz Blvd and along North Harbor Drive. The return trip home had way more to see and was way more fun than the first half of the trip. It was way hillier too which for some reason didn't bother me much (maybe the mountains of Balboa Park trained me well?). I got lost a little bit in the middle, which is always fun when dusk is settling and you've still got four miles to go, but once I hit the airport and North Harbor Drive, I knew that downtown wasn't too much further away. I enjoyed this part of the run the most because I got to see the night skyline unfold before my eyes. There were planes taking off and landing on my left and sailboats and ships on my right. I dare say I hit a state of nirvana never previously experienced in the later miles of a long run running through the promenade. Only the occasional night runner and stray homeless guy kept me awake from my dreamlike trance.

If you're planning to run here, I'd definitely recommend running along North Harbor Drive and even taking a swing by Harbor Island if you have time. There's a running and bike path that runs along the entirety of the promenade and every section of the harbor is distinctive and unique. You'll see a lot of runners here if you come in the morning and because it's all flat by the water, it's a nice place to hit for a sunrise run.

Run #3 - San Diego Bay Promenade, Embarcadero Marina Park (6.38 miles)

For someone who's never been to a city, hitting the touristy spots is a must. If this applies to you when you're visiting San Diego, than this run along the boardwalk is surely not to be missed. There's the USS Midway, the Bob Hope statue, the statue of the Sailor and his Lady, and lots of sailboats, restaurants and markets to keep you fascinated and entertained on your run. Just don't expect to run very fast when you're around here, especially during the daylight hours, because the crowds are thick and there's often little room to walk, much less run, so be prepared to stop often.

One of the highlights I'd like to point out though is Embarcadero Marina Park which lies at the southwestern tip of the peninsula. It's not very large, but it has a good perimeter running trail that offers a good unobstructed view of the bay and of Coronado Island on the opposite side. If you're so inclined, you can also run inland and visit the Gaslamp District and the accompanying Petco Park, Just again be mindful of the crowds depending on what time of day you're running here.

I hope you enjoyed this running tour through the hills and coasts of San Diego. These runs were definitely some of the most memorable and most fun I've had away from NYC. Especially now with all the hot and sticky weather we've had in the Northeast, (did I mention the weather was sunny and perfect the whole time I was there!) I'm searching long and hard for an excuse to go back!

For now, until my pipe dream becomes a reality, here's a slideshow of some of the places and things (as mentioned above) I found while running through the hills and coast of San Diego: [Make sure you click the white box - second button on left lower border - to see the captions]

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Survey #1 - A Hi, A Nod, or A Wave?

Wow, thanks for the feedback on the results of my summer running survey! It was indeed fun to hear such varying viewpoints on how/when we run in extreme hotness! I apologize to those of you who missed out. I had no idea so many of you wanted in on that. Not to worry though because I have a new survey question to ask all of you. Before I do, let me announce that since so many of us expressed interest in participating in these, I'm going to make it a regular feature every Friday on my blog! Every week, I'll have a new survey question for you all to think about, mull over (perhaps on a long run) and comment on throughout the weekend. Then, by the middle of next week, I'll tabulate the results, generate a scientific analysis and post my conclusions based on my findings. I think that would be cool, interesting, informative, and fun...for you and for me!

So here's my survey question for the week. It is actually based on something I experienced today while out on a morning run. Allow me to paint the picture for you.

It's Friday morning, 5AM. I enter the park just as the first rays of dawn hits the earth. There's a cool breeze in the air which is refreshing, a stark contrast to the dry and still heat we have had for the past week. I'm running at my recovery speed, enjoying the scenery and the fresh air. I feel generally happy because it's Friday and I've got cool plans coming up this weekend. In the near distance, I see a guy my size and height running towards me all serious and business-like. I give a slight wave with my right hand. He blows by me without acknowledgment. Okay, maybe he couldn't see me through this reflective sunglasses. I move on. A half mile later, I see an older woman running and approaching from that same side. I waited until she was within earshot of me. "Hi. Good morning!" I said succinctly. It startles her. She falls over a step onto the grass before apologetically mumbling "Oh Hi!" and running away. Oh, that was maybe too strong. The third runners comes through about a quarter of a mile later. It's a teenager this time. A lanky high school runner. Probably on the track team. I decide a nod was probably appropriate here, so I flick my head when he's within my visual field. He runs by, staring straight ahead, oblivious to my existence. By now I'm agitated, irritated, and hating life because I just can't seem to get this right. Never mind the next several runners I passed did say Hi back or wave or in general acknowledged my existence in some way. But by then the damage had already been done. I basically had an anxiety complex trying to decide how best to greet the next approaching runner everytime I saw one. I was traumatized for the rest of my run and through the entire day.

So, I ask you, my fellow runner friends, for my survey question of the week - What is the most socially acceptable way to acknowledge a fellow runner approaching from the opposite side? What is the social etiquette? Is it a quick wave, a nod or a verbal greeting of some sort? Do you do a combo of things hoping to ensure that you'll catch their attention? Do you vary your tactics based on age, race, sex, location, religion, political affiliation, or how you happen to be feeling that day? I really would like to now. [For the purposes of the survey, please declare a preference and then state your reasoning. Thanks.] I'm surely going to think about this on my seventeen mile long run tomorrow.

I thank you in advance for leaving a comment and participating in this survey. Have a fun, safe, and hopefully cool weekend!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Survey Results and My Early Morning Running Experiment

The results are in! Thanks to all who participated in my extreme summer weather running survey. Before I announce the findings of my impromptu survey, let me just say that I tried to make this exercise as scientific as possible, by giving a full point to the option that was exclusively preferred by a voter and a half point to the options that weren't exclusively preferred. I think that's only fair. So without any further ado, here's what you all recommend to do when faced with the prospect of having to run during the current heat wave:

Run Early Morning - 10 votes
Run Late/Night - 1 vote
Treadmill It - 5 votes

Interesting, huh? My unrandomized uncontrolled scientific study shows that the overwhelming majority of you would rather wake up at some god-forsaken hour (like 4 or 5am), before even when all the nocturnal animals have turned in yet, to go run than suffer the ignominy of running in place on the treadmill despite the comforts of air-conditioning and cable television. But even that option seemed way better than running outdoors late at night, which I imagined is impractical and inconvenient for most runners. Also, no one picked the option of not running, which, although not explicitly stated as an option, is probably what the rest of the non-running world would have unanimously picked. As a whole, I find the results of this study rather fascinating because it highlights how much we are willing to put up with and how dedicated we are to the sport of running...and how much we hate running on the treadmill!

So as recommended, I got up on successive days (yesterday and today) at 5AM for my first early morning runs of 2010. Now let me confess right here that I've never been much of a morning person. Yes, I am usually up early for work on most days, and generally have no problem waking up early for the occasional weekend race but getting up in the dead of night (which I consider anytime before sunrise) for training runs is not really my cup of tea. For one thing, I find that I have to rearrange my entire eating and sleeping schedule to accommodate pre-daylight running. Not only so, but I find that I'm not up and rearing to go run in the early morning like I am when I run after work in the late afternoon. Maybe it's a matter of personal preference. Maybe it's a matter of establishing a habit. I figured I could try for a week or so and see what evolves.

My Tuesday morning tempo run (11 total miles with 6 at 6:37 min/mi) went well despite it being 87F with 50% humidity at 5AM). I struggled during the latter half of the tempo miles more due to the heat than to the effort, but otherwise surprised myself that I was able to get this one done on a day that hit triple digits on the thermometer. This morning, I took it easy and ran a recovery run of 6 miles at a slow 7:31 min/mi pace. The temperature was essentially the same except that the humidity was about 20% less than yesterday, which made conditions much more favorable for running. I ended the workout with some easy 6 x 100m strides which my legs liked after all the slow stuff. The only complaint I have about both of these runs was that it took me more than one-and-half miles of warmup before my body got moving and my pace felt comfortable. My legs felt like they were entirely asleep for the whole first half of the run! What's up with that? Eventually, everyone got with the program and we were running well again, but geez, this early morning running is no joke!

I'll wait to see how the legs respond tomorrow (rest day) and the next day before making a further assessment of my early morning running experiment. Anybody out there have any pointers on this transitioning process? Any pitfalls to avoid? Stories to share? Or maybe I'm just a wimp...(No, don't answer that last question and no, this is not another survey!)

Hope everyone in blogland is staying cool during these hot summer days and running well despite the heat by whatever method you employ. I'll check in with you all this weekend after my scheduled long run of 17+ miles. Yikes! I pray it'll be cooler by then.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hot (and Humid) Weather Running

After getting a little carried away with speed the past week, with a 5 mile race on Sunday, a fast 6x800 workout on Tuesday and an impromptu 5:30 mile in front of some high schoolers on Wednesday, I was in desperate need of some slow double digit mileage runs over the weekend to get my aerobic base back to where it needed to be. As appealing as races, tempo runs, and track work seem to be to my body right now, I am training for a marathon here, not a 5K sprint, so the speed must take a back seat to endurance and stamina.

So I did as the great minds of Pfitzinger and Daniels have suggested, and got in a fifteen mile run around three city parks on Saturday, followed by an Independence Day eleven (7+4=11, get it?) mile run in and through a former US Army installation in Whitestone Queens on Sunday morning. Although I ran slow (both at about a minute slower than marathon pace), and had great scenery to accompany each of my runs, I didn’t feel great on either of them. I was honestly questioning my sanity and whether I was cut out to be a distance runner after each run. Maybe I should just stick to the track and the short road races. Maybe it’s a sign.

Or maybe it’s the sweating heat and the suffocating humidity that’s been cooking the Northeast like it’s a flank steak over a summer barbecue. I was stupid to start my run at high noon on Saturday (had no choice really because I was at work all morning) but was smart to get up at 7:30am for my Sunday run. It made no difference however. The average temperature was still the same at 87F! I couldn’t believe it. All through my miles, all I could see were people sunbathing on a beach, skinny dipping by a pool or barbecuing by the ocean and making fun of me as I try to fight a drawn out losing battle against the sun. What an idiot, they must be thinking as they see me passing by soaking wet with dripping sweat and a look of sheer agony on my face. The worst part was, with the horrid conditions I was running under, I really couldn’t blame them for making fun of me.

That got me thinking: Is it time to think about the treadmill again? Yes, I know it sounds blasphemous, and I abhor the thought of running for miles and miles staring at inanimate objects or figures moving across a TV screen during the summer, but when not running is not an option and to save my pedestrian friends the embarrassment of watching me suffer in this oppressive heat, is that not enough justification enough to take the run indoors. Besides, if you can run better and train faster on a treadmill, isn’t that more beneficial than running hot and slow outdoors, especially if you’re training for a long distance race in cooler and milder conditions? Acclimating to weather is one thing, but constantly being forced to run slow because of unfavorable weather conditions is quite another. Maybe for speed development, it would be more advantageous to train indoor than out simply because you wouldn’t be able to attain the same training intensity in inclement weather. I don’t know. But I’m definitely having second thoughts about the treadmill. Maybe it’s time for the hamster wheel and I to get reacquainted. Maybe the previous vilification was unjustified. I may have to apologize.

But first I’d like to survey the crowd on how best to deal with running and training in extreme heat. Run in early morning (when it tends to be insanely humid)? Run in late afternoon/early evening (when it tends to still be hot)? Or succumb to the comforts of air conditioning and run indoors? What do you think? What do you do? I'm open to suggestions.
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