Archive for the ‘Just Thinking’ Category

Guilt

I was so excited when I got up this morning and remembered that today was going to be a rest day for me with nothing actually planned. I was thinking that maybe at some point today I’d buy a tub of ice cream and catch up on my Netflix queue – and that would be about as productive as I’d get. But after about an hour of enjoying my morning coffee, checking emails and watching the morning news, I noticed the cover of the latest issue of Runner’s World, still untouched, sitting on my desk.

REST RIGHT
Make the Most
Of Your Days Off

I flipped to Alyssa Shaffer’s article on page 47 and read it over a bowl of Lucky Charms. Along with eating properly and getting enough sleep, the article advises the exact opposite of what I wanted to do today. Instead of having a lazy day with a bag of chips, it is recommended that you take in some light exercise. Guilt got to me and I could no longer justify sitting around watching TV all day. I have the time to get out there, after all. So I ended up taking a trip to the pool (which just reopened after being closed for two weeks) for an easy half-mile swim. And as a bonus, I was rewarded with a fairly empty lane, which is one of the benefits of swimming mid-day. I’m glad I went in the end, but out of guilt? I’ll call my mother if I want a healthy dose of that.

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Out with the Old

This morning I took a look at you, Old Shoes, and with a rush of nostalgia remembered all the good miles we had together, the storms we weathered and the hills we climbed. But you are flat, falling apart and, frankly, you don’t fit that well anymore.

So I tossed them.

And went out and got myself a new pair.

Men's Nike Zoom Vomero+ 4The shoes I tossed were a pair of ASICS that I had for almost two years that I would occasionally take out for a shorter run, but I finally got rid of them to make space for something new. The new pair is actually the second pair of Nike Zoom Vomero+ 4 that I bought this summer. I still have the first pair, in blue, which I bought in June  – but they are rapidly reaching the 300 mile mark and will probably only last another month. I am pretty sure that this is the fastest I’ve ever gone through one pair of running shoes. So it looks like the new red pair might be what takes me through the marathon in November. I already took them out for a few miles this afternoon just to give us a chance to get to know each other and I think we are going to make a good match.

It may be sad to toss an old pair, but there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with it – those shoes represent hundreds of miles that I ran on my own two feet. And the new pair represents hundreds more that I will run in the coming months.

One great thing about running is that it’s a fairly inexpensive sport – but the cost of shoes can be painful in these tough economic times, especially if you are putting on some serious mileage. Do you have any advice on how to be a Running Recessionista? Any tips on recycling old shoes? Feel free to comment.

Second Month Roundup

September is here and that means that we are staring Fall right in the face. There are only a few days left to wear white acceptably and even the weather in New York is quickly shifting from summer humidity to cool autumn air. And I noticed on my run this evening just how much shorter the days have already become while I watched the sun set over the Central Park Reservoir as early as 7:30 p.m.

It also means that Month 2 of my RUNemployment has come to a close. I look back on a summer with strange weather that made fun outings difficult and an economy that made those same plans nearly impossible. The job search is still going on for me and at least there are a couple of prospects, but I am very eager to see this job market start to repair itself. For my sake and for anyone else who might be in the same position.

Hey – where’s that silver lining? Oh, yes, my training. Focus on my training remained very strong during August and I finished the month logging a total of 170.4 miles. I’m in a place where I already feel prepared for the NYC Marathon and I still have a few more weeks of training to get me in an even better position. Two months to go and I’m very ready.

But if I learned anything in August, there’s this one light-bulb moment I had. So usually I prefer to run alone because it gives you time to think, reflect and work through some ideas. You can also run when and where you want at whatever pace you want. But this one realization I had from last month is that running with friends is unbeatable quality time. Obvious, right? But it’s recession friendly, too: in this expensive city where socializing often means drinks and dinners, a long run with a friend is a cheap and healthy way to catch up. Example: I just finished a great 19 miler with my friend and teammate Kevin early on Monday morning. It gave us time to talk about what we did over the weekend, about what’s happening next week and how much we both like this new grape flavored Gatorade. (I’m also admitting publicly here that he is faster than me, and that pushed me to run at a speedier pace than I might have done solo. So, thanks, Kev.) We had social time that was better than a day of exchanging emails and, as a bonus, it cost far less than an evening of multiple glasses of bourbon and ginger ale.

And that’s what I take away from Month 2. Running and racing can be a great way to challenge yourself, but in this age of impersonal socializing through Facebook and Twitter, running with a friend is a terrific way to really connect with others.

Don’t Forget the SPF

More than a few times over the past few weeks I’ve had friends say to me “Wow, you look so tan! Did you go anywhere fun?” No, definitely not. I mean, Brooklyn’s fun and all but I’m hardly going to spend my summer on a tropical beach vacation without a regular paycheck. I do have to admit that I’ve spent a few nice days laying out in the park with a good book and maybe I took off on a day trip to Long Beach while the rest of you were at work, but that wasn’t nearly enough to look like I just spent a week in the Caribbean.

And I realized:

I’m tan from running so much. No, more specifically, I’m tan from running so much in the middle of the day. And let’s take it another step: I’m tan from running so much in the middle of the day without wearing sunscreen. Yes, there’s a lot that’s wrong here.

My schedule has completely changed. Up until a couple of months ago I usually ran in the evenings or [occasionally] early in the morning before work. I didn’t see a need to protect my skin because the sun wasn’t strong enough to do any real damage at the times I usually went out for a run. Now, though, mid-day seems to be the most convenient time for me and so I run out the door when the sun is at its most intense, thinking I’ll be able to outrun those damaging rays. But I’ve finally learned my lesson. It took a few bad sunburns that resulted in goofy tan lines – you can clearly see the outline of my singlet and I have this white band on my left wrist that is exactly the width of my Garmin – but I learned my lesson. Now I don’t leave the house without putting on plenty of my Coppertone Sport 50 SPF sunscreen, which is “Ultra Sweatproof” and “won’t run into eyes and sting.” I’m not sure I can speak to those claims but it seems to do the trick.

And yes, this brings me to another issue: the dangers of running in mid-day heat, especially in the height of summer. So be sensible about when you run and don’t overdo it. If it’s too hot, alter your schedule to run during cooler times of the day. And be sure to keep yourself hydrated before, during and after exercise. If you aren’t certain about where any water fountains might be along your route, bring something to drink with you. For more tips on beating the heat, there are a few good articles in the Running in Cold or Heat section of RunnersWorld.com.

And I’ll try to do a better job of following my own advice.

Maaaybe getting a little faster

I feel really great about my finish at this morning’s NYC Half Marathon. Despite the heat it turned out to be the strongest race I’ve had in months. I’d like to think that increased focus on my training the past couple of months has really started to pay off.

Now if you’ve read some of my other posts, you know how interested I am in increased levels of speed and fitness in the unemployed runner. But before I get carried away here, today was no PR. In fact, today’s race was more than three minutes slower than the PR I set at Grete’s Great Gallop in Central Park last year. I am happy to say, though, that today’s race was nearly 10 minutes faster than my most recent half marathon (I have some painful memories from this year’s Brooklyn Half). Just when I was starting to get frustrated with increasingly slower times and increasingly sluggish performances, I’m finally starting to see some positive results. So if there’s one thing I’m happy to be getting out of all of this intense focus on my training, it’s that I’m starting to regain some real confidence in my running. Oh, and my legs are starting to look pretty damn good in shorts, too.

First Month Roundup

We’re already a few days into August, which means July is now over and so is my first month of unemployment. While I’ve kept myself busy with plenty of projects (RUNemployed being one of them), I make sure to keep running near the top of my list of priorities. And I know I’m not the only one (look back at my post from a couple weeks ago, Unemployment + More Training = Superhero?).

So I’ve spent the past month running five days a week – being on a training plan for the NYC Marathon helps keep me focused – and I feel great about it. Last year at this time I was just getting started with marathon training, but this year I have a really solid month of preparation already on these legs. The other two days should probably be rest days but I’ve started to do some light swimming, which I just picked up again after a 2-year hiatus from the pool.

(Oh, and here’s a little unemployment/recession-friendly tip: check out your local city parks recreation center to see if they have a pool or a gym. I paid something like $75 for an entire year’s membership. So, okay, you don’t get the fancy stuff that comes with private gyms – no towel service, no saunas, no sun deck – and I deal with a crowded pool no matter what time I go, but I think it’s worth the price. For those in New York City, click here for information on local Recreation Centers and membership details. )

So here’s the really crazy part – my total mileage for June 2009 was 51 miles. In July 2009 I ran 115 miles. If my math is right, that’s a 125% increase. I know that this is a fast jump but I feel good about the quality of my runs and I am staying injury free.

There we have it: a full month has passed. The luster of “funemployment” might have faded a bit, revealing a brand new set of stresses in life, but I still cherish the fact that I can truly take advantage of the time I have to get out there and explore my city, all while keeping fit.

Unemployment + More Training = Superhero?

When I told a running buddy of mine that I got laid off, his response was “wow, how trendy of you.” Yes, it’s an unfortunate trend these days, but many are looking at the positive side. There has been a lot of buzz lately about unemployment and increased levels of fitness. Take this recent article from The Wall Street Journal and this response to it from Runner’s World. Unemployed runners are picking up the pace and, as some studies argue, are making races more competitive.

I can certainly relate. My new focus on my training has made me a stronger runner, but I have yet to see a significant improvement in my race times. If I manage to qualify for Boston this year, I will report it here first.

I will also let you know if I turn into Superman or the Flash anytime soon.