Thursday, August 27, 2015

What My Watch Says I Can Do

Just before doing the NYC Tri I bought a new Garmin Tri-watch.  As I mentioned before, it has a bunch of nifty features that are new to me, like a cadence monitor and a vertical displacement monitor.  These two measures, turnover and bounce have turned out to be useful to watch while I run.  My natural cadence seems to be about 170 footfalls per minute (85 steps).  But, if I can take it up to 180, my bounce goes down, and everything gets a lot smoother.  It also usually means I speed up, but I've also tried going slowly at a quick cadence and this turns out to be a pretty good drill.  My better runs in the last few weeks have had me averaging 175 footfalls per minute. The difference is not in pace.  I'm averaging about the same speed, but I feel less beat up at the end of the run.  Perhaps because I'm "galumphing" a bit less.

More recently, I've discovered a couple of other toys buried in the new watch's programming.  An estimated VO2 Max and a race predictor.  My first instinct was to consider both of these features to be sort of BS.  How can you measure VO2 max without, well, equipment.  But here's the interesting thing.  A few years ago -- the last time I was running well -- I went on line and looked at a few race predictors and an algorithm that estimated VO2 max based on race times and body weight.

Anyway, I remember that at the time, the race predictors pretty accurately matched my 5K time to my  10K time to my 1/2 marathon time.  They also predicted a marathon of just under 3:30 (which is a white elephant of mine).  As I recall, these same measurements generated an estimated VO2 max of 45ish.  That's nothing to write home about.  World class athletes measure up in the high 80s and low 90s.

Well, when I found the measurements, the watch had decided I was at 45 for my VO2 max, and was predicting times just a hair slower than what I used to be able to do.  Hmm. that was encouraging.

A few long runs and a few days of speed work, and suddenly it is telling me that I've bumped up to 48, with predicted race times in line with my former PRs.

I will admit that I'm feeling better than I have in a couple of years, but these times still seem quite ambitious.  On the other hand, I'll take any encouragement my watch chooses to offer me.

I guess my next measurement point is a club 10K in two weeks.  I'll report back.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back to Back -- Long

I'm getting a bit excited -- knock on wood . . .  Each of the last three weekends, I've managed to do a long workout both Saturday and Sunday.  It's making a difference.  First I ran 15 and rode 50.  Then I ran 14 and 17.  This weekend I ran 20 and then biked 40.  Suddenly it feels like I've turned a corner, from my long struggling comeback to actually feeling pretty fit.  Today I hit the track, and it was sort of fun.  I've never actually said that before.  I hate track work. It hurts . . .  But today I went with a moderate aspiration, to do 400, 3x800 and 400.  I wanted to get my 400s down to 90 seconds, which I haven't been able to do for a while, and then I wanted to run the 800s at Yasso pace of 3:40.  The good news was that I made my times on the 400s and actually went too fast on the 800s, hitting between 3:17 and 3:23, and getting my heart rate into a zone I haven't seen in a while . . .  Maybe I will actually be able to run a sub-4 hour marathon in 7 weeks . . .  

Monday, August 3, 2015


This Spring and Summer I've been doing many of my runs with the SBRC which has been great.  I enjoy the company and the challenge.  Most of the running gets done at a pace between 8:30 and 9:15 per mile.  This is a light jog for many, but for me, right now, it's closer to a tempo run.

I'm beginning to get nervous about the approach of the Hudson-Mohawk Marathon in mid-October.  I'm used to aiming at an early November Marathon, so I'm already feeling a bit behind schedule.  In particular, I'm feeling pressure to start logging those 15 mile + long runs.   That said, the club runs are leaving me feeling pretty beat up after 10-12 miles.

So, I decided to revert to my old approach of long, very slow, long runs -- chugging along at a 10 minute plus pace.  I had plans to run with M on Sunday, but no plans for Saturday.   The end result was that I set a one-weekend distance record, running 14 miles on Saturday and 17 miles on Sunday.  It was  a pleasure. On Saturday, my legs twinged a bit after 9 miles, but then were okay. Sunday was just a pleasant easy run 11 with M, and 6 on my own.

We'll see how the recovery goes . . .

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Garmin, New Data

In another post I will explore my annoyance with my old (but not that old) Garmin 910 and why I just replaced it with the newer Garmin 920.  Short version, GPS died and it stopped pairing with the heart rate strap.  I should ask them for  a free new one, but before the NYC Tri I broke down and threw money at the problem.  

I will say, I like the new model a lot better.  It moves more easily between functions.  The Triathlon setting worked smoothly during the race.  It uploads to my phone using bluetooth without me having to do anything.  All pretty cool.

The thing I wanted to mention was that it also comes with a bunch of new running data that may or may not be useful.  I'm just figuring out what they are, and I thought I'd share.  The main thing is that they seem to have taken the instrument that measures swim strokes and laps in the pool by measuring momentum and adapted it to running by putting the same sensor into the heart rate strap.  So it now takes the jiggles and wobbles along your run and tells you about them.  Here are the new features:

1) Cadence -- This is proving to be quite helpful.  Just as in bicycling, there is a lot to be said for maintaining a quick smooth cadence.  On the bike I try to keep my pedal strokes between 80 and 90 RPM.  The Garmin now measures footfall.  The common wisdom seems to be that you want to aim for 180 footfalls per minute.  My natural cadence turns out to be around 170 but bringing it up does seem to help.

2) Vertical Displacement -- This is how much you bounce up and down while running  Less is better.  I seem to be at the low end of the range -- sometimes as low as 6.5, but generally averaging 7.2-7.5.

3) Ground Contact Time -- This is how long your foot is on the ground each step.  Less is better.  As far as I can tell this doesn't tell you anything more than cadence.

4) VO2 Max -- It seems to create an estimate while running, based on weight, speed, heartrate, etc.  Who knows.

Anyway, after running with no data but time and distance for several months, my old data obsessive tendencies are coming back fast.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Race Report -- NYC Tri

Sunday was the NYC Tri.  The gist of the report is that I had fun, and it feels good to be back!!  It was not my fastest.  In fact, of the four I've done it was the third fastest.  That said, I didn't go into it with great expectations.  I've been much more trained each of the other times I've done it.  Even 2013, I was fitter.  I just couldn't run worth a damn because of tendonitis.  Also, it was super hot.  But enough with the excuses.  The overarching story of the day was that I felt good and stayed steady the whole way, and finished comfortably in the top 1/4 of my age group.

Race Prep -- Getting ready for a tri is always soooo much more complicated than a run.  Even dealing with the layering and delayering of the NYC Marathon is nothing compared to the OCD inducing mania of making sure that you have your swim stuff, your bike stuff, and your run stuff, and your food.  They give you three separate plastic bags:  one for bike check-in; one for race day check-in; and one for swim start bag-drop.  What goes where, and most importantly, how are you going to get it all home with your bike on the subway?   Here's everything but the bike, the towel, the wetsuit, and the Maratona Di Roma backpack that I used to transport everything.

Bikes have to be racked the night before, so part of the pre race taper involved an easy ride up the West Side to transition.  

With the bike racked, subway home and a quick date night with Vicki for pizza, beer, and and ice cream cone.  I love carbo loading!!

The Swim -- The swim is always sketchy for me.  I'm not fast, and I get nervous swimming in open water in a bunch.  Just to give you some idea, sitting on the lawn, waiting for the start, my heart rate was elevated (up 20 beats).  If I thought about it, I felt shortness of breath just sitting around.  This is nonsense, obviously, but frustrating.  Before putting on my wetsuit, I took a number of quick strides on a cinder track near the baggage trucks.  It helped to get my heart rate up legitimately, and opened up my chest.  When I lined up, my running friend Illya was stationed in our corral as a "swim spotter."  While I waited, we chatted.  Distraction was most welcome.   It helped me to ignore the dead fish floating near where we were standing . . .  The swim was fine.  I took it nice and easy.  My entire goal was to stay calm and steady.  It worked. I got a bit nervous/out of breath a couple of times, and then eased back and was fine.  Towards the end of the swim, things got  rather bottled up.  I did get kicked in the goggle once.  That was annoying.  For a second I couldn't see out of the eye because the goggle was holding the lid closed.  I flipped onto my back, popped off the goggle, put it back on, and continued on my merry way to the swim exit which was a mob scene.  You pretty much had to breast stroke until you got to the front of the crowd, to be pulled out of the water by a pair of friendly volunteers.   I am always so happy when I get out of the water and the swim has gone relatively smoothly.  This time I was so jazzed that I forgot to stop my watch, and ran about 250 yards before hitting the lap button.   I wanted to sprint to transition, but they had us lined up single file on the way back to transition, so, again, things got a bit backed up.  T1 went smoothly.  There were actually bikes and people still at the racks when I got there.  That is always a plus.

The Bike -- I love the bike course.   It quickly kicks up out of Riverside park.  Then you ride up the West Side/Henry Hudson Highway into the Bronx.  It has a few rolling hills and a decent climb at the turnaround, but basically, you can just settle in and ride.  This year there was a special  treat:  fresh pavement.  For the first few miles the asphalt was super smooth.  That said, there was a lot of traffic, so mostly I was passing the whole time.  A few miles in a  Brooklyn Tri-club guy went by me, and I decided to chase.  I kept him in sight through the turnaround and the motivation really helped.  I never got back to him, though (until drinks in the evening).  Anyway, I rode hard without killing myself, drank all the Gatorade on my bike, and averaged a respectable 20.1 mph.  Someday, I'd like to break 21 mph for 40k, but yesterday wasn't the day.  I just stayed comfortable and motored along.

The Run -- A bit of conservatism on the bike paid off on the run.  The run begins with that same nasty climb out of Riverside Park (from T1).  I expected to really feel it.  I didn't.  Much to my surprise, T2 did not hurt that much, and I felt good as soon as I hit 72nd Street.  My state of mind was captured by running buddy Bari, as I give a master class in: (1) mugging for the camera;


(2) what heel strike looks like; and 

(3) settling back into form.

What can I say, I was happy!  Not forever, though, because it was hot, hot, hot.  I was very lucky to have my Garmin back up and running. I just locked in my heart rate, and  settled in.  I was hoping for 8:30s, and held them for a bit, but finished with an average pace of 9 minute miles.  No complaints there. Again, I was passing people the whole way.  The only folks who passed me were tall 30 somethings with hollow bones.  Anyway, I felt fine the whole way, maintained steady form and cadence.  I kept trying to lift my heart rate a bit, because I seemed to have a few beats to spare, but my legs and the heat wouldn't seem to allow it.  The worst moment was at the last water stop, I poured the water over my head and it was tepid.  Then I drank my second cup, and it was tepid too.  Yuck!!  But, if that's the worst that happens . . .   At the end, I still had a bit left for a kick. 

All in all, a good day, and a great return to Triathlon!!  

Congrats to Cassandra (center) for a great first NYC Tri, and thanks to Richard (left) for company, conversation and encouragement on the way home (the hardest part).  Special thanks to Illya (next to Cassandra) for the swim start encouragement, and Bari (right) for the photos.  The training was made much more fun by the folks at SBRC (running, swimming and coffee) and BTC (bike, brick and beer (I get the next one Scott)). 


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What I've Been Up to ... Runningwise

Well it's been almost 4 months since I've run more than a few minutes at a stretch.   Lots of biking, my first spin classes, walking on treadmills on healthy inclines etc.  But so I don't bury the lead, I have been cleared to resume a 7 week walk/run program as long as I remain pain free.

To recap, I have very little cartilage remaining on the inside of my left knee.  Plus more or less I have doing everything wrong form and stride wise for the last forever putting too much weight and uneven pressure on that side of the joint causing the problem.  And gee, I thought I was having a tracking problem!

I have been in a clunky knee brace since mid-winter when I am awake and not exercising so relieve the left knee from bearing weight.  And I have been working with an exercise physiologist on redoing everything about my walking and running gait as well as a series of funky exercise to strengthen and equalize various muscle groups.  Not exactly sure how this differs from PT but includes lots of micro muscle adjustments.

My new stride is more upright more glute and quad driven and hopefully more efficient and less pounding.  Aiming for mid foot strike, shorter stride, more straight so knees, hips, core better aligned.  Fairly similar to chi running from what I can tell but a little less tilted forward. There are about 7 different things I have to keep track with I can handle but having difficulty do everything and breathing normally. 

Aiming to get back up to regular 3-5 mile runs 3-4 times a week by the end of August and shoot for a 10K in the late fall.  After that who knows but hoping everything holds in the meantime.

So to celebrate I went me the Saucony Zealot ISO which is the true heir to the Kinvara, with the company having crapped up the Kinvara 6.  Light, flexible, and cushy.  Can't wait to starting breaking it in tomorrow for a couple of minutes every mile I'm out there. Zapato Saucony Correr Zealot Iso Mujer

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I had a great nine days in Italy, with very little running.  The running I did was spectacular, however, along the Naples Waterfront (the castle is also where our conference was held!!),
 and the Arno in Florence

 Then we got to retrace our steps from the Rome Marathon in 2013, with cocktails on the Piazza Navona, and
Dinner at La Campana, the site of some excellent carb loading that we blogged about back in 2013 -- this time with Vicki and Emma.  Happy Father's day to me!!

I even got to correct my ordering mistake and tried the black truffle linguini!!  Then to top off a perfect week, who should show up in New York, just in time to cure jet lag with a fantastic, hot, humid run through Central Park, but Philip!

Summer is off to an excellent start!!