Monthly Archives: February 2016

Random Distance; Random Route. 

When I set out today for my long slow run I had no real plan for distance or route other than doing more than fifteen miles. I like days like these as it is good to not feel beholden to any particular plan. 

The temps were just below freezing at 29F and the sun was low in the Eastern sky as I topped the first hill and emerged into the orange hue of the morning light. 

I started along one my my regular routes out towards Skippack and eventually stumbled upon a new trail: Zacharia’s Trail. I’ve run parts of this out the other direction but I guess they must have extended it (or I just hadn’t noticed it before). 

The trail skirts a creek which looked beautiful in the early morning light. 

Eventually I came to a car park and saw that the trail continued across the road, so I kept heading in that direction… And half a mile later the trail just petered out with a six foot turning circle. Boo. I was enjoying that. 

 After backtracking to the car park I turned and headed up towards Skippack. 

I took a bathroom break at a Wa-wa and then decided to head off down a road I hadn’t been on before.  I was suitably far out that I had to resort to following route numbers to go back in the right general direction. 

A few miles down this road I came to a pedestrian crossing that I recognised from another trail run I do, so I took this and started heading back to civilisation. 

As I came through Evansburg State Park there were a couple of other runners in front of me (for a short time) as they were doing interval training. 

Then I caught sight of another with only three miles to home so I accelerated to try and race him a little. I know it is unfair to race someone when they don’t even know you are doing it, but I figured the 15 miles already under my belt were probably more than they had run that morning. 

I eventually caught and passed him. 

As I came into the last mile I chose to run the extra hilly route back just to finish off with a bit of a burn. 

All in all a nice nineteen mile run that was suitably random. I managed a clean negative split with an average pace of 7:49 overall at the end. 

Not bad seeing as I ran with only a special-k breakfast plus a clif mint choc bar and four shot blocks. 

As a bonus, this run actually pushed me over the final threshold of my company’s health care rewards plan (Virgin Pulse) earning me forty bucks (on top of the $60 I have already earned this year). What to spend the rewards on… Cake? Shoes? Both? 🙂

  

My musical entertainment today was a compilation of my own tracks from yesteryear; a blast from the past. Some mellow and some rock. A fun trip down memory lane. The picture above is of me and my best friend and co-writer/performer at the top of the Empire State Building, taken on a disposable film camera; those were the days. 

Live Critter

After a weekend away in NYC with my wife and kids with no exercise on the agenda (other than walks around the city), it has been time to try and catch up those missing miles. 

On Monday I ran with my friend and saw my first ever live wild skunk! He just sort of wandered across the trail in front of us as nonchalant as that terrible stereotype/rapist Pepe Le Pew. He didn’t seem to care that we were there which was a good thing as he was probably only 10 feet away. 

It makes a nice change to see one alive rather than smelling them through the vents of my car as I pass roadkill. 

Tuesday I had a bad case of what I can only imagine is what depression feels like. Being a perennially cheery person to feel like I wanted to curl up and cry was rather an alien sensation. 

I’m not sure if it was due to a touch of illness or that I simply hadn’t been out running enough, but I felt very isolated and disconnected. 

My daughter was a champion though and came over and gave me some sweet hugs and let me have some space. I believe she is more emotionally tuned in at five than I am at forty five. 

The last two mornings I’ve been up early to get some runs in and feel a whole lot better now emotionally and physically. I’ve slept a lot and feel back in sync with the world. 

Today was a ten miler and I forgot to start my tracking app as I headed out the door. I only realised when I hit the halfway point. I’d been so engrossed in my podcasts (Infinite Monkey Cage and WTF! w/ Sacha Baron Cohen) that I hadn’t even noticed there were no distance announcements. 

I think I need to get another race/run on my calendar to give me a training target…

Frozen Chips

Today when I set out for my morning run it was 4F actual with a feel of -10F. 

Pretty. Bloody. Cold. 

The last post had my list of winter running clothes but this kind of temperature deserves extra. So what did I change?

  1. swapped out socks to snowboarding socks. These are great because they grip your feet well and don’t slide down your calves as you run. 
  2. Swapped out running tights (lightweight) for winter weight versions. 
  3. Added a winter weigh cycling jersey. This may seem like an odd idea but there’s a great reason. Cycling jerseys have an extra long back with pockets. These essentially give you a couple of extra layers of warmth across your butt as well as helping to keep you much warmer. 

So how cold was it? I barely noticed the difference to be honest. However, when I took my phone out to snap a beautiful landscape at dawn… My phone froze within a couple of seconds, shut down and wouldn’t come back. I was 6.5 miles into my run when this happened and was about to head off into ‘unknown’ territory. 

Suffice to say I changed my plans and headed back to more familiar trails. 

I tried to restart the phone a little while later but the chips were still frozen. Oh well. 

Thankfully my Apple Watch kept going so I still got credited for the distance but all my gps apps died. Once home and in the warm my phone soon started up again. I just should not have taken it out in those cold temperatures. This has happened before with earlier models. 

My neck gator had icicles. My eyes had them, too, but it was good out there. 

There are very few cars out at six am on a Sunday and even fewer when the temps are sub-zero. 🙂 

<insert a picture here of my shadow illuminated by a golden rising sun that cast my shadow across a golden bush in front of a long valley filled with trees and power pylons; then titled “Man casts a long shadow across a beautiful landscape”. Deep man, and lost forever>

Have a great Valentine’s Day. 

Cold Weather Running

When I headed out the door today it was 12F. Pretty darned cold by anyone’s measures. This weekend it is going to drop to -1/-2F. 

Why do I mention this? Because if you wear the right things you can still be warm. It isn’t an excuse not to run. 

I was actually slightly too warm with my clothes today and would have been comfortable down to around 5F, I believe. 

So what did I wear?

  • Baseball hat (thick material, not lightweight running version)
  • 180s sports ear warmers
  • Patagonia neck gator (fleece)
  • Under armour cold gear long sleeved compression top
  • Summer weight long sleeved running top
  • Running jacket (wind breaker) as extra layer. Ensure that neck gator tucks inside the outer jacket. Make sure it is nice and bright so you will be seen!
  • Running shorts, as these have two light layers. Standard summer versions thoug. 
  • Running tights, not winter weight. I find my legs don’t get cold (thanks hairy pegs!). These combined with the shorts stop you butt freezing. 
  • Winter weight running socks
  • Standard running shoes. 
  • Running mittens. These actually make my hands sweat! Having all your fingers in the same space make as ‘yuge’ difference to how warm these items are. 

I pull the neck gater up over my chin and the back so that it overlaps the band of the hat. This keeps it all nice in place. 

This is quite a lot of gear and if you run daily (like I generally do) you will need plenty of clothes unless you want to be doing laundry every couple of days. 

Dress well and you can run right through the PA winters. 

Stay warm my friends!

And I’ve just been informed that it is ‘Galentine’s day’ today, so enjoy that ladies. They certainly seem to be celebrating in my local Starbucks…

Get Back Out There

Today was the first run for a few weeks with my friend. He had taken a couple of weeks off because of the snow and moving house, but today we were back on the trail. 

His new apartment is right by the trail so we actually met up in front of the building rather than half a mile away in the parking lot.

There was still some ice patches on the trail but it has mostly melted now. 

Two weeks off had taken its toll on his running stamina though and he was struggling by the four mile point. On one interval we started walking slightly early to give him a chance to recover. 

The important thing to remember here is that it is okay to drop back in performance but that you must be gentle as you start back; don’t expect to instantly perform at your previous level. That will likely result in injury. 

Expect to have to rebuild strength for a couple of weeks as you get back out there. Yes, it is surprising how quickly your strength can fall back but it will recover. You just have to plan around that. 

Getting back out for our regular Monday run was good as it’s always nice to have a chance to catch up with a friend. 

Another Reason to Run

For the second time this week I’ve managed to find another reason to run other than ‘for the sake of running’. I like to think of these as illustrations as to how running can fit into your life to help get things done. Perhaps they will serve as a case to help persuade others that it isn’t all about running around in circles.

On Friday I got to ‘first foot’ as some light snow was coming down. This is always a nice thing and it was a lovely morning. The snow was quite wet but it was light and didn’t cause me too much difficulty with running.  

footsteps on the sidewalk

 On Saturday night my wife and I hired a babysitter and we had the chance to go out for Indian food with some friends and then had (many) beers at their house. We planned to use Uber to get us home and I would go and get the car the next day. 

Our friends live nine miles away and this isn’t really quite long enough for my long Sunday morning run, so I added a few extra miles and explored some new parts of the Schuylkill River Trial in and around Phoenixville, PA. 

The trail was recently extended to run right through the Center of town along the edge of French Creek, over an old railway bridge, and then out of town (via a steep hill). The run is really nice.  You have to cross a couple of roads but at that time on a Sunday morning they were quiet. The trail stays out of the main town areas and along the back of the Main Street shops. It passes the old foundry building which has been turned into a museum of the areas history. 

Once through the town the trail turns very rural very quickly gang through areas that are clearly old train yards and foundry works. It also heads up quite a steep hill for well over a mile. Fun.  

I ran the trail until I hit a point were I had been before, then turned off and head toward my car. Some of the roads weren’t ideal and weren’t familiar to me either, which always feels a little more risky to me. I tried to make myself as obvious as possible.

Three and a half miles later I was back at my car with 15.5 miles under my belt. My times weren’t great because of the hills, the late night and, probably, the beers too. I did enjoy the run and it felt good to run some new trails. The air was a cold 23F but the sun was shining and the world felt good.

Run for a Reason: Car Service

I occasionally like to share an idea to help you find actual real life reasons to run. It’s all very well running around in circles at a track, or doing out and back routes through your neighbourhood, but sometimes it helps to have a purpose for your run.

Today my purpose was to get my (wife’s) car serviced. 

The garage we use is about three miles from my office so it is a comfortable running distance between them. My plans were somewhat screwed when I found that part of the short running route was inaccessible due to floods from the recent rain and snow-melt combo. This meant that I had to resort to taking roads (during rush hour is not ideal) and going an extra mile or so.

Of course, doing this also means that you have to run back to the garage in the evening to get the car. I’ve never really enjoyed evening running and top-and-tailing the day.

Eventually I got back out on the road after waiting for rush hour to pass. This meant it was dark but I had the foresight to bring my blinky lights. The run was hard work on tired legs and after a trying day in the office. 

Running for a reason is good, but hard on a work day.