Where It All Started

smallwood2013Two years ago I ran a neighborhood 5K with no training or real race preparation. I had just started running for health reasons and wanted to test my abilities in a relatively low pressure situation. The race bug bite me that day, I haven’t looked back since. However, that remained the only 5K I ever ran and my time has stood (as a rather poor) personal record. That is until the other day.

Jess and I were spending a few days with her family at their summer retreat in the Hudson Valley area and as is tradition, we gathered up a group to run the local fire company fundraiser 5k. Two years ago the conditions were not favorable, with rain showers throughout the run and a lot of standing water on the ground. This year we had the opposite, the sun was beating down by the time the race started at 9:30AM, melting everyone and everything around it. Combined with the high humidity and absence of any noticable breeze, everyone was suffering.

The course itself is pretty challenging, with a few short sharp hills mixed in with some lakeside flat sections. The last mile or so is mostly downhill, making for a quick finish to the race. The pack was small, so I started out near the front and set a solid pace up the first hill. By the time I reached the summit at the one mile mark in eight and a half minutes, my knee was already hurting and my legs felt like they were on fire. I guess six weeks away really set me back in terms of my levels of strength and stamina.

Admittedly, I had to stop and walk for 30 seconds to catch my breathe and give my legs a break. Following that brief respite I kicked off again and covered the next mile in a little under nine minutes. I took another walking break along the way, again to cool down and catch my breathe because of the heat. As I passed the two mile marker, I committed to finishing the race with no more breaks and ran through some labored breathing and heavy legs to finish in just under 27 minutes. For a first run in six weeks, an 8:40 per mile pace was not too bad. In fact, it was good enough for fifth place in my age group.

I definitely experienced some conflicting emotions during and after the run. At times I regretted my decision to participate, longing instead for my warm comfy bed or the pedal power of my bicycle while jogging up the sharp hills around the lake. At other times it felt good to be back running again after a month and a half. I guess what this run taught me is that I need to work on the mental side a little more, in addition to building strength in my leg and stretching more. I need to arm myself with some tools to fight the twin desires to walk or quit whenever they rear their ugly heads.

By the way, I have to give an honorable mention to Jess who also ran the race and finished third in her age group. Way to go Jess!


Vacation Time Again


fireisland_001This summer it seems like I have been away a lot more than I have been home. Don’t get me wrong, this is not me complaining – simply remarking on the regularity with which I find myself planning my training runs outside of my home base. Having recently visited Spring Lake, NJ and Virgina Beach, VA, this week see’s Jess and I ensconced on Fire Island for five days. We’re sharing a house with some friends and plan on doing as little as possible for the duration of our stay. With that said, I can’t skip out on my training runs and have mapped out some path’s that will hopefully see me stick to my plan as closely as possible. I don’t like running on sand, so I have worked the routes around the paths between Ocean Bay Park and Ocean Beach. On either side of those towns the paths turn sandy, so there’s probably going to be a lot of repetition as I run back and forth across the mile and a half stretch of paved pathway.

Jess is bringing her running gear too, so we might get out for a leisurely run together at some point. I’m going to try to focus on morning runs as much as possible. The last time I was on Fire Island with this crowd it was something of a party house, but these days everyone’s grown up and baby bottles are replacing liquor bottles on the kitchen counters. Again, not complaining as it means there’s less chance I’ll bail on a run because of a dodgy head. I can’t vouch for my diet over the next few days though. Beach living tends to revolve around burgers, dogs, and beers (which I thoroughly enjoy), so the morning runs will certainly help avoid trying to exercise on a belly full of malted hops and meat.

Finally, I have to be wary of the sun and protect my fair skin. I have a habit of underestimating my skin’s burn time and ending up a shade somewhere between a beet and a lobster. From above, my body has been mistaken for a localized forest fire on occasion. Obviously I would prefer to avoid having to bathe in aloe, so a factor 50 sunscreen on the face and neck while out for a run is mandatory.

How Technology Helps Me Train on Vacation

tech_001According to Jess (who knows me pretty well), I can be pretty regimented at times. In particular, when following through on plans or directions. She’s not wrong either – I can be inflexible, diligently adhering to the plan without really taking the time to pause and assess whether my actions are for the best. Stubborn is a word that has been used once or twice around our place. It’s something that came up in the past and caused a bit of tension between us. It is also one of the reasons I ended up with an over-training injury earlier in the year. Not surprisingly, flexibility of schedule was the subject of a recent tweet by one of the individuals I most respect in the running community:

When real life interferes, sometimes you can juggle schedules and maintain momentum; other times you need to sigh and skip the workout.
– @higdonmarathon

As we approached summer, many questions circulated my brain relating to maintaining my training while enjoying weekends and vacations at the beach and lake. I would like to think that I have learned my lesson, and am not blindly prioritizing training activities ahead of all else. But the unfamiliar was definitely causing me some stress as discussions about various trips loomed. This summer has given me lots of opportunities to test out my adaptability, and put into practice some of the promises I made to Jess last year. Whereas in the past I might have been hesitant to take days and weekends away from my home base, potentially disrupting my ever so well crafted training plan, these days I can be more flexible thanks to technology and a little forward planning.

Ever since I started running over a year and a half ago, I have been using an app called Runkeeper to track my activities and view historical reports. I like it because it’s easy to use both on the web and phone. Recently, I started to make use of the routes function. Initially, I used this to map my routes for the various training runs in my plan. However, I quickly realized that it also gave me the ability to pre-plan routes for those times when I’m away from home. So far this summer I have been able to create routes near our upstate weekend retreat and along the Jersey shore where we recently spent some time with friends. We’re planning further trips through the end of August, and to maintain my plan I have mapped out appropriate routes in and around Virginia Beach and Fire Island, NY.

Using the tools and technology at my disposal, I am able to travel and take advantage of the summer while holding myself to my training plan. The biggest issue is then simply a case of finding the right time to head out for a run. As I’m an early riser, I am able to take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the morning and complete my run before anyone else is awake and moving about.