Monday, December 28, 2009

Reflecting On 2009

Most of the blogs I read have already done a "reflecting on the past year" post... 'Tis the season, right?

I took a look back at last year's entry on Dec 31. I had just finished quite an amazing year with many feats in running - both in conquering the marathon distance for the first time along with setting some new PRs. But as amazing as 2008 was, 2009 really blew it out of the water:
  • I finally surpassed the 1,000 mile marker for the year. Last year I fell 30 miles short and couldn't make it up during December due to falling ill with bronchitis during the last two weeks.
  • Actually, 2009 was quite a healthy year for me. No real injuries (some hamstring pain after the NY Marathon, but I dealt with that much better this year). I had a few colds, but nothing longer than a week.
  • I ran my second marathon - the NY Marathon on November 1. I ran this as part of Team Run To Remember, in memory of my Nana. I raised close to $6,000 (there's still time to donate here so you can rack up those charitable donations and reduce your tax burden!!!) and met some really great people in the process.
  • For the first time, I started running with other people on a more regular basis. I started by going up to New York for a few of the team runs and then found a few running friends in the area to do some long runs with. Although 80-90% of my runs are still solo, I do enjoy running with others when we can schedule it.
  • I ran my first race with my wife Sherry - the Rockville Twilight 8K. Again, going with the running with other people theme, I hope to continue to run a few races with Sherry!
  • I set new PRs in the marathon, half marathon and 10K (alright...maybe 6 miles), and during the 10K I also ran a faster 5K and mile splits than my previous PRs in those distances.
  • In blogging, I have expanded my audience by linking my blog feed and my RunningAhead log to Facebook. I love having more people reading the blog and following my progress, however, sometimes it's a bit cumbersome to read comments in two places.
  • At work, I launched my largest project to date and started another project that will last at least 4 to 5 months. company filed for bankruptcy in January, my division was bought out in August and I am now working for a new company.
There may be other accomplishments in 2009 that I may not have mentioned...I guess I have a few more days to remember them and throw them in the blog :-)

I also need to start thinking about goals for 2010. There are two things that I'm pretty sure about: a) NO FULL MARATHON in 2010 and b) I will be running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler as I received a spot in their lottery.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Long-ish Run On The Treadmill

I again was a wimp and did not want to run outside this morning. The temps were a bit below freezing and with the rain and melting snow from Saturday there were going to be some icy patches - but truth be told I just didn't want to run in the cold today.

I got to the gym when it opened at 7am and after a little stretching got started on one of the TechnoGym treadmills.

Over the summer when I was in marathon training craziness, there were a few mid-week "longer" runs which I ran during my lunch break - and since it was summertime (and HOT) I ran them on the treadmill. However, most of the treadmills at my gym have a 60 minute limit programmed in. So I would have to stop after 60 minutes and then re-start the treadmill. I complained to the manager to see if he could "un-program" the treadmills and remove the 60 minute limit.

After a few weeks of asking he finally told me that they were able to remove the limit on the TechnoGym treadmills - but not the LifeFitness ones. Ironically, by this time it was already late September and I never ran a long session on the treadmill after they were changed.

Today - nearly 4 months later - was the first time I actually ran more than 60 minutes on the treadmill. As I neared 60 minutes I was watching the clock and the screen to see if the 'mill was going to stop me, but the clock kept on going past 60:01. Hooray!

I ended up going 7 miles in 77:17 - a nice, easy 11:03/mile pace. I kept the incline at 1% and the speed between 5.3 and 5.5 mph throughout the entire run.

At the beginning of the run I had thought that the heart rate monitor was giving me some high false readings. My heart rate was in the low 160s - and at this pace it is usually about 15 bpm lower. After the first mile - and the readings not changing - I figured it out...I had donated blood on Wednesday! It usually takes me a good 2 weeks to get my HR down to my "normal" training level after giving blood.

Later in the run, though, I realized that the HRM WAS giving me false readings. At around 4.5 miles, the HRM on the treadmill was showing in the low 140s / high 130s. Then it would jump to the 160s. Then it wouldn't show up at all for about 30 seconds.

I finally had enough of this nonsense and took the heart rate strap off. If I wasn't going to get an accurate reading, why should I wear the darn thing! To top off the nonsense - every 2 minutes or so, the treadmill's HRM would pick up a signal from the heart rate strap and display a really low HR (in the 100s or 90s) for about a minute.

Bottom line - I really need to get a new Polar heart rate strap to run with at the gym.

I normally would be bored to tears running a steady pace on the treadmill for over an hour and 15 minutes. However, this morning I ran to some new tunes. Yes, I have been a faithful viewer of Glee since the pilot over the summer (I was in my High School's chamber choir and the UofM Glee Club) and I finally broke down and bought the music (both albums) on iTunes. I knew I would need something to get me through this run!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Demoted To The Treadmill

With the 20" of snow that hit our area this past weekend, I have not been able to run outside. I guess I could run in the street - most of the sidewalks are still a mess - but since I normally run early in the morning (which is still dark nowadays) I don't want to be running in the street.

I have made it to the gym though. Monday morning I ran 4.5 easy miles and this morning I did some speedwork on the treadmill - 5 x 1/2 mile intervals with 1/4 mile recoveries.

I'm glad I got the running in this morning, since I decided to give blood during my lunch break. It had been a while since I donated, so I'm glad I had a chance to go today.

With some freezing rain coming on Christmas Eve, it looks like I'll be running on the treadmill for at least another few days. UGH!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Four Days In A Row!

A few years ago when I started running, I made it a habit to always take a day off after a run. I felt my body needed a rest and that I didn't want to over train. (I was already almost 35 years old when I took up this habit) I was running three days a week - twice during the week and once on the weekend.

I remember that last year when I started training for my first marathon and my training plan dictated four runs per week, one of my biggest concerns was whether my body would be able to adjust to the times where I ran on consecutive days. After about two weeks of the four-day-a-week regimen, my body was fine. No injuries. I didn't get sick from overdoing it. Consecutive days - no problem!

I still only run four days a week on average. Some weeks I'll throw an extra run in to make it five days. However, I still have two or three rest days each week. So far, so good - no injuries and I still do not get sick very often.

This week has been quite an anomaly though. I have run on four consecutive days! (and the wheels aren't falling off!).

Tuesday morning I got out of the house early enough for a morning run. I ran one of my 3 mile neighborhood loops. I started out a bit fast and didn't want to slow down, so I threw in a few fartleks and made it a speedwork run.

Wednesday afternoon I was able to get to the gym on my lunch break and hit the treadmill for a recovery run. 3.5 miles at a treacherously slow pace to keep my heart rate in the low 140s.

On Thursday, I had a bunch of afternoon meetings cancel on me - so I went for another run at the gym. This time I did more speedwork. Pyramid intervals of 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 1 mile with 1/4 mile recoveries.

I was set with my weekday runs and planning to go long on Saturday or Sunday. Except that I started looking at the weather report. They are calling for 7-15 inches of snow starting Friday night and not ending until Sunday morning. Did I mention that the Washington, DC area freaks out at 7-15 millimeters of snow!

So I realized that I was not going to run this weekend. Karma came through and my 11:30am conference call got cancelled and my next call was at 2pm. Just enough time for a run, a shower and to shovel down something for lunch at my desk :-) I got dressed in my cold weather gear and went for a 4.5 mile run in 32 degree overcast afternoon.

After my last post complaining that I have not been running much lately, it was great to get four consecutive days of running in!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Not Much Running = Not Much Blogging

Partially due to hectic scheduling and partially due to the fact that I've been really tired lately - I have not run much over the past week. I managed to get to the gym for a 4 mile easy run on the treadmill on Saturday morning and I got my behind out of the house this morning for a 3+ mile tempo/fartlek run.

7 miles in 7 days? That's all????

Of course, this is the WORST time of year to reduce my mileage. Between holiday cookies, donuts and latkes I'm afraid to even approach the scale.

I'm not sure what the whole fatigue factor is either. Perhaps it's poor diet? (see above paragraph...) Perhaps I really am fighting off some kind of bug? Or maybe the lack of sleep has accumulated and finally caught up to me. I won't have an opportunity to catch up on sleep over the next few days either due to Israeli Dance responsibilities which will keep me out later than usual. Perhaps I can hit the sack early on Thursday??? (and then an early morning run on Friday!!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Running :-(

I'm feeling a bit run down and I know I need more sleep so this doesn't become a full-out cold. Unfortunately, I was not able to get to bed early the past two nights so my body compensated with sleeping in.

I was planning to run this morning. I got my gym bag together last night (the overnight forecast called for strong winds...not great weather to run in outside), but when I finally woke up this morning my clock said 7:15! Yikes! Time for the morning scramble...on overdrive this time!!!

Anyhow, there's no way I'll get a run in during the day today since my schedule is packed. I'll try to get to sleep earlier tonight and go for a run tomorrow morning. Overnight lows are supposed to be 19 degrees...I'll likely try the gym in the morning rather than brave the elements.

Monday, December 7, 2009

1,000 Miles! I DID IT!!!!

I finally hit 1,000 miles for the year during today's run! Hooray!!!

I actually intended to hit the milestone on Saturday morning. The forecast was calling for snow that morning and I was thinking I would go out for a little over a 7 mile run (I was at 992.7 miles for the year before that run). I was looking forward to a winter wonderland run - powdery snow lightly falling down with the Nutcracker Suite playing on my iPod.

When I woke up, it was not snowing yet - just cold rain...yuck! I switched the tunes on my iPod from the Nutcracker to some mellow classic rock before heading out into the gray, rainy morning. I threw on my microfiber pullover also, to protect me from the rain and wind.

Somewhere in the first mile of my run, the rain started turning to snow. Not a light, powdery snow, though. It was a wet snow with huge flakes. And at times during my run, it was snowing pretty heavily.

So, by mid-run my pullover was soaked from the initial rain plus the temperatures were starting to drop with the snow. I decided to cut the run short and I'd have to hit 1,000 another day.

That day was today. I hit the gym at lunch for an easy run on the treadmill. It was nothing too exciting - except seeing those numbers after posting the workout in my training log.

2009: 1,001.9 miles

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Week Of Contrasts

As I got off the plane last night in BWI Airport, it was quiet. Deserted. What a contrast from when I left on Sunday afternoon - the hustle, bustle of Thanksgiving weekend travel (really...what was I thinking agreeing to go on a business trip the weekend after Thanksgiving???).

However, it was not the only contrast that I had observed this past week.

First of all, the contrast of being alone in a hotel room versus being at home. In some ways, it was nice not having household responsibilities to worry about. My time was my own - I didn't have to juggle my time between the schedules of my wife and kids. In some ways it was very nice, but on the other hand gets lonely quick. Whenever I'm on a business trip I try to spend the least amount of time that I can in the actual hotel room.

Most of the time I'm out of town, I try to go to an Israeli Dance group - and this week was no exception! I met up with a few people that I knew - and met some other dancers as well. Israeli Dancing in a different city is always a great experience - the familiar music, everyone moving together as one large group and the social aspect of meeting people with a similar interest definitely makes me feel more at home while on the road. On my hour-drive back from dancing in LA to my hotel in Irvine, I reflected on the contrasts between my two current hobbies - Israeli dancing and running. Israeli dance groups are almost always at night (and many groups go until midnight or later) while I usually run early in the mornings (it's hard to dance one night and run the next morning...). Israeli dancing is an activity that involves interacting with lots of people while I'm usually running alone or with one other person. Apart from the fact that both are physical activities (dancing is more anaerobic - normally there's a good 30 second break between the time one dance ends and the next one starts - where running is continuous aerobic exercise for a long period of time), these two hobbies seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum from one another.

There is also a big contrast between the project I'll be working on in SoCal vs the one I recently completed in the DC area. My current project is all dealing with live equipment - so all activities must be done at night (I'm hoping I won't need to be working at night with our crews most of the time!). Also, since it is established equipment in our customer's network, they already have their way of doing things. I felt my role this week was more to find out what the current processes are so I don't step on too many toes while starting out. My last project was a completely new build. Work was done during the day and I could create the way of doing things with my team. This new project will be different, but I'm up for the challenge!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finding My Way Through Irvine

I'm in Irvine, CA for business. I'm kicking off a new project with one of our largest customers. It's a great opportunity for me, even if I am only "on loan" to this other group for the time being.

I have mixed feelings about business trips - I don't mind the travel and I love being in new places. However, I also like having my routine...and business trips really messes that up.

I finally arrived at my hotel on Sunday night at 11:30pm Pacific (that's 2:30am in my home Eastern time zone). My cellphone rang at 2am Pacific with issues at one of the maintenance window activities I was managing. By the time I "woke up" in the morning, I was really tired and in no mood for a run.

After the workday, I decided to head out for dinner and watch Monday Night Football - which starts at 6pm out here. Wow! I walked over to an awesome place called the Yard House and had some very good food (seared tuna and hot spinach and cheese dip) and excellent beer (Young's Chocolate Stout and Maredsous 8). On the way back from the restaurant, I found that there was a bike path behind my hotel - and I had seen the path on my walk to the restaurant - so I knew what I was going to do for my run the next morning!

One of the benefits to running with a Garmin Forerunner (305), is that I no longer need to meticulously map out my runs beforehand to see where I'm going to go and how long it is going to take. I can just get up and go - RedG maps everything out and tells me how far I have gone. As long as I remember where I'm going - so I can get back to point A - I don't have to think too much about my route anymore.

I ended up waking up a little before 5am (this Pacific time zone stuff is killing me!). It was still dark outside so I waited about an hour until the sun started coming up. It was a crisp 50 degrees, and although there was a chill in the air it felt great running in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt again. I guess 50 degrees is cold for California since everyone else who was out on the bike path that morning was bundled up!

The path ran against a wide creek bed that was completely dry. I suppose that when it rains here, this probably flows like a river - there were lots of signs warning about flooding conditions. The trail was very nice - a wide asphalt path that went under the major streets. No worrying about stopping for traffic or watching for cars - awesome!

I ran for about a mile and a quarter, and then the path stopped at a street that it did not go under. When I got up to the road, there was no crosswalk and there was a median in the middle of the road. I guess it was time to turn back towards the hotel and then continue on past the hotel. After passing the hotel, I was able to go another mile before the path ended in that direction. So my out-and-back one way and out-and-back the other way route was a bit over 4.5 miles. I had run nice and easy at a 10:15/mile average pace.

Later today, I took a look at Google maps to figure out if this path goes further than that street where I stopped on my way out. It ends up that if I go up to the street, turn right and go about a tenth of a mile, I'll be able to pick up the path to go under the road and continue on. And there's a long network of paths after that. looks like I'll be good for a longer run tomorrow and/or on Thursday. Woo hoo!