Our tax dollars at work

Had a lovely run early this morning along the new extension to the paved path along the Bronx River Parkway. Some of the charm may have to do with its being a totally new area to see (whereas I’ve been running the same paths in Eastchester for 7+ years). But it’s also just very well done: a winding path along the river with plenty of well-placed benches and bridges.

The path runs from Scarsdale at Harney Road for a bit more than a mile and a half, then dead ends at Pipeline Road, a totally deserted two-laner. Pipeline runs just above the Metro North Harlem Line tracks straight up the Hartsdale train station.

At Hartsdale there are toilets, thanks to the Starbucks there (and, if you’re suffering from total glycogen depletion, snacks and coffee). It’s just shy of 10 miles round trip from the bottom of our road to Hartsdale station and back. And if I cross over the tracks, I can continue all the way up to Valhalla. This will make a nice 20 miler when I’m up to that long run distance again — with a perfectly located rest stop coming and going. I guess you could say I’m easily pleased.

I am on vacation, which means I still have to run 12 milers, but I am relaxed enough to stop and sit on a bench and enjoy the ducks rather than rushing home. This afternoon included lying on the couch reading, a leisurely stroll into Tuckahoe to pick up fruit at the Sunday farmers market, then more lying around. Going back into town this evening for a martini and Thai dinner at Garlic and Pepper.

"Unless you run marathons…"

“…you probably won’t get much protection from common colds by taking a daily supplemental dose of vitamin C, according to an updated review of 30 studies,” so says this article.

Taking vitamin C did nothing for most people except “…they found that people exposed to periods of high stress — such as marathon runners, skiers and soldiers on sub-arctic exercises — were 50 percent less likely to catch a cold if they took a daily dose of vitamin C.”

If you’re a marathon runner, you could read this one of two ways: you’re lucky that you can do something to prevent colds besides washing your hands and being a hermit — or — you’re putting your immune system under a ridiculous amount of stress in pursuit of your sport.

Either way, I’m going to keep popping those C’s.

Fifty is nifty

I ran 50 miles this past week, capped with a 12 miler yesterday during which I felt very good and was actually sorry that I wasn’t scheduled to run farther.

This number is of note because it’s the most I’ve ever run in a single week. Aside from a twinge in my left achilles (which I’ve traced to a particular shoe), I’m having no problems (knock wood) with the increased mileage. I’m also getting faster at the same heart rate. Six weeks ago I was clocking 10:30 miles at 70% of maximum heart rate. Now I’m running 9:30 using the same number of heartbeats. I attribute at least some of that jump in cardio fitness to time on the exercise bike.

I’m backing off a little this week, since it was a fairly quick ramp up from ~35 to 50 miles. But I feel very good about my base building progress so far. Now I just need to settle on a training program for the fall and winter.

The Sept issue of Running Times (not yet online) has a good article by Greg McMillan on how not to fade in the final miles of the marathon. One of his secrets is to do longer “long” runs before even starting the actual marathon training phase. I’d previously planned on doing 14 miles as my longest run during this base building phase. But now I’m thinking of throwing in some 18-20 milers. In any case, the article was good food for thought.

I’ve also been working on leg turnover, which has proven to be difficult. I average around 180 steps per minute. I should be doing 190 steps per minute (if I want to run like the champs anyway). Recalibrating my brain to take slightly smaller, more frequent steps isn’t so easy. But I work on it every run now.

Running seems like such a simple thing: put one foot in front of the other; repeat. But it’s not simple and there’s always so much more to learn.

Oh my, it’s hot

We’re havin’ a heat wave…

Tropical heat wave…

But that has not stopped me from running. I ran 44.5 miles last week, just 1.5 miles shy of my goal. That included a 12 miler on Friday evening, 5 on Saturday afternoon, and 8 in the extreme heat of Sunday. Today was hot AND humid, and I managed to do 7 miles.

So I guess I’m getting acclimated. I no longer get the horrible headaches I used to get when I’d run in the heat. The heart rate training is a joke, though. I’m supposed to be at between 68-72% max heart rate for my base building. I’m lucky if I can keep it below 75% in this heat. So I go by pace, since I’d have to be crawling in this weather to keep it at 68%.

I do miss the winter, though. I love to run in the cold. I’m trying to change my attitude about hot weather running — by making a cold shower my reward. But it’s still pretty awful out there.

I’ve been running every day and this has, paradoxically, helped my legs. There seems to be a lot less soreness between runs. Either the shorter run days are serving as recovery days, or my legs are getting stronger. At any rate, they’re getting thinner. I can see actual muscles under the blubber at last. I knew they were in there somewhere.

Photo Finishers

In my previous post I reviewed a few running publications. One that was not included in that review is Ultrarunning magazine. With each new issue, I realize that I am not Ultrarunning’s ideal subscriber. This is because the more I read it, the more I become convinced that I never want to do an ultra event. On the other hand, a half marathon used to seem insurmountable.

When I read Ultrarunning, I get a glimpse into a subculture of which I’m not a member. One article’s subject is likely to appear as a byline on another article. This is a small community – maybe numbering in the thousands in this country. Ultrarunning is truly by, for and about ultrarunners. Printed on the kind of paper stock used in high school yearbooks, held together with staples, it’s charmingly amateurish — a labor of love for its publisher, perhaps.

The point of this post is that, if you look carefully, you can often find art in the unlikeliest of places. There is one regular feature of the magazine that I do look forward to every issue and that’s the “finisher photos” by photographer Larry Gassan. He snaps photos of people who have just completed events like the Western States 100, a grueling race up and down California’s Sierra Nevada mountains in summer.

These portraits are wonderful. They capture the exhaustion, elation and – most of all – the pride of the finishers. Here’s one of my favorites, from another race (the Angeles Crest 100), of Ashley Idema, first woman across the finish line. Sure, she looks like she’s been run over by a train, and more than a little relieved. But she also looks radiant and strong, ready to take on the world. Which she already has, in a way.

A good portrait photographer captures the personality of his or her subjects, but also leaves some mystery there to keep you guessing. That’s happening in many of these photos. And that’s what maks them art.

Reading: Peak Running Performance and Marathon & Beyond

You know you’re a runner when…

…you have more running magazines than news magazines coming into your home.

I recently got an offer to subscribe to Peak Running Performance for a buck. I love a bargain, so I signed on. For a mere dollar, I get a PDF version of the magazine dumped into my email in box every two months.

The magazine is on the short side, but the articles are of fairly good quality and offer a variety of topics. And they have titles that make me laugh, reflecting subject matter that appeals to, shall we say, a “narrow audience”? How about this months’ feature, entitled “Say Goodbye to Your Gastrointestinal Discomfort!”

It’s a bit like a miniature version of Marathon & Beyond (yet another one I subscribe to). That publication is like a little book. It has subject matter similar to PRP, but with the addition of race reports, historical pieces, personal essays and human interest stories. PRP’s content tends to be more limited to the nuts and bolts of training, nutrition, racing strategy, and injury prevention and recovery.

Anyway, both rags make for good post-run bath reading.