August 28, 2010

better than average 7 mile long run

Want to get thoughts on today's long run jotted down before I take a nap.

Since last weekend's attempt at a bicycle ride, several of my joints have been in pain. I am not used to this kind of pain in these locations, and during the week it definitely affected my exercise. I took the last couple days off, hoping that rest would help. So with this pain at the forefront of my mind, I went to bed early last night, with a plan of action for this morning.

Unfortunately, I didn't sleep well. My joints hurt even in bed. (Some of this may be due to the oral antibiotics I'm on right now; I don't know.) Regardless, the run must get done. About 4:30 a.m., I woke up raging thirsty and needing to pee, as I often did before I started insulin, but my blood glucose was fine. At that time, I took two 8-hour Tylenol and went back to bed, hoping to get a few hours of decent sleep before getting up. The pain lessened and I did sleep, but not well - until about 7. At which point, I slept hard. Woke up again at 9:30, which was the time I wanted to be getting out the door, as the weather forecast was for a nice day, but too warm for comfort.

Still, I wasn't going to rush my pre-run routine. My body needs time to wake up. Needs time for two poops (sorry, but let's be honest about these things). Needs time for a banana and some caffeine to take effect. Needs time for a pep talk. I used my magic tea today (Earl Grey white from Harney & Sons), just as I have before most long runs for several years now. I filled up an old Gatorade Perform bottle with Sustained Energy - my first use of SE in this training cycle! Now I knew I was firmly in training territory. :D (I know you're not supposed to reuse plastic bottles, but the Perform bottle has the best texture for gripping since the old Tiger bottles and I like the mouthpiece.)

Hydration: check. Running clothes pulled out of hamper because I forgot to do laundry yesterday: check. Newer pair of running shoes with newer orthotics: check. Charged iPhone loaded with most recent Covervilles: check. Vague plan to put in 7 miles and not a stride more: check.

Hey! Ho! Let's go!

I began this one by walking for a few minutes, which is quite rare for me. I should do it more. I got up to jogging speed and kept it intentionally at a comfortable level where I thought I could hold on for about half a mile, maybe, before walking. I tried to keep things at this effort level the whole run. I turned off the part of Runkeeper that tells you your time and left only the distance notifications on. This way, I could just relax, enjoy the day, concentrate on doing the run the right way. (As it turns out, this was faster than I'd expected.)

Mile 1 went amazingly well, even for me. The Tylenol were hard at work and my legs felt rested. My lungs weren't having a good time, but I knew after the first couple miles, most of the junk would be coughed out and I'd be breathing better. The humidity was way down and that always helps. Mile 2 was also unexpectedly good, as the shin splints I was expecting never appeared and I was able to tackle most of a mild incline that lately I've been completely walking. I thought that was pretty nice.

Mile 3 included tackling Owl's Head Park. The easy route down along the dog run is closed for renovation, so the route takes me on a meandering few paths up and over the park - which is a hell of a hill. I walked up it, wanting to conserve energy. You can break your neck coming down it and I could see how NYCBklynGirl could have a paintful time coming down Pike's Peak, what with the quads trying to keep you from falling and all.

I finished the third mile just as I headed onto the bay-side path. My intention was to go out to almost the fourth mile before turning around so that when I did finish seven, I'd be quite a ways from home and forced to walk as a cool down period; which is another thing I'm terrible at making myself do. This plan worked out nicely. You can see in the pace and elevation chart that while along the bay, I had nice, steady, long running segments. I was able to keep up with other slow joggers and really enjoyed myself, especially after I turned around at about 3.7 miles and caught the breeze in my face.

The fifth mile flew by as most of it was returning along the bay and I estimated I'd complete it just as I topped the hill of Owl's Head Park again - and sure enough, I was only about 20 yards short of the summit when Runkeeper piped up. Right on.

Another short, steep downhill while praying not to fall on my face and I was back on the streets. At this time, I was quite warm and stuck to whatever sidewalks offered the most shade. I started to get very tired in the last half of mile 6 and especially in mile 7. I reminded myself that this is what training is FOR.

I finished up the last mile as I came alongside Costco, about six blocks from my house. Perfect! I even stopped in at Dunkin' Donuts on the walk home to get a blueberry muffin. Having just done my longest run in ... well, I think a year; I felt I deserved the muffin. I was very surprised to find out I'd done these seven miles at an overall 12:08 pace. Wow! I had thought I was jogging at a 12-minute pace, but that with walk breaks I'd be down to 12:45 miles or so.

So...good run. I'm pleased with how it all went. I've done the ice bath, the food, the Recoverite, the blog post...and now: the nap.

August 24, 2010

bad bicycle ride

This wasn't how this was supposed to go, ending at 5 miles. I had intended 13.

Aside from dealing with traffic, the ride started off fine. However, at mile 3, where the long, flat, fast part was supposed to start, my blood sugar plummeted. My mistakes were numerous: I had overcorrected for a blood sugar high about an hour before (takes a while for that to bring you low); I failed to bring anything to eat, much less something sugary, like power gel; I'd failed to bring a sports drink with sugar in it, like HEED; failed to bring MONEY with which to buy a candy bar, even. And, of course, didn't have the emergency glycogen shot thing with me. Stupid, stupid stupid.

So there I was, 3 miles from home, dealing with hypoglycemia, and getting worse as the minutes ticked past and the only transportation to get me home would be my own two legs, either on the bike or not. This, my friends, is what constitutes the beginnings of an emergency.

I had to trust that with a little rest, I could continue on and get to the subway. I slowly biked the next two miles and caught the subway at 95th street and 4th ave. Getting the bike down the steps was harder than it should have been. My bike is heavy and I was getting weak. I rested on the subway car and eventually, it deposited me at 36th street. By this time, my perception of things around me was beginning to warp a little. It took me a second to realize I was walking my bike too close to the edge of the subway platform, for instance. I struggled to get the bike up the steps and out of the subway. I slowly pedaled the last five blocks home, then left it outside while I went in to find something sugary. Even though I have small cans of ginger ale and individual servings of OJ specifically for blood sugar lows like this, I couldn't remember. I ransacked my cabinets and refrigerator for anything VISIBLE that would get my sugars up. I ended up sucking down a big swallow of old Hammer gel, then some straight agave nectar (yuck). Sat and munched on some figs. Felt better after awhile.

I did take my blood sugar reading after getting in the door. 41. Way, way too low.

I hope tomorrow goes better.

August 16, 2010

Good gym workout; more photos

Having done a long run - "long" run - on Friday of 5 miles, my legs were pretty blasted on Saturday, which would have been a great day to run. I am definitely training up, though, as I now have the jimmy legs at night again. Sunday, I got super busy with taking race photos in the morning and meeting playwright David Hansen of Cleveland, OH, for lunch. We found a nifty joint in Chelsea that didn't cost too much for brunch. Of course I had a mimosa; why?

So today's workout needed to be a good one, since it had been three days since my last. I also wanted to get some good lung clearance going. The humidity has been high the last couple days and as a result, I'm coughing up a lot of junk. Not fun.

Considering the benefits many runners have experienced on Jeff Galloway's run-walk training plans, I may finally take it to heart. If I time the run and walk segments I'm doing anyway, it will lend structure and perhaps even help me get faster, as the walk segments end a little before I'd naturally start running again, and the run segments somewhat longer than I can sometimes sustain. I'm guessing that doesn't make much sense. What I'm hoping is this: if I time the run and walk portions, I can s-l-o-w-l-y increase the amount of time I'm running and decrease the amount of time I'm walking.

Now, if I do this on a treadmill, I can easily keep an eye on the timer, as well as have the treadmill set a consistent pace. So today's workout was a two-fer: half an hour on the stationary bike and half an hour on the treadmill.

The 30 minutes on the bike went quickly, though I didn't get into it as hard as I would have if the workout were bike alone. Going from the bike to running on the treadmill took about four minutes. The transition is quite rough on the legs, and I was really tight in the calves. At least they didn't cramp up immediately this time. But I took my first walk break after just three minutes. After that, I extended the run periods by 30 seconds each time, until the final segment was six minutes long. Much to my surprise, the pain in my calves faded after the third walk break and the running became easier. Much easier. I had set the treadmill at 5 mph and found I could increase that bit by bit without needing to walk, until I was doing 5.5 mph. I ended the run strong and confident and feeling good, in a way I haven't in a long time. Maybe I should warm up on the bike more often!


I took pics Sunday at the Bronx Half Marathon. This time, I was challenged twice as to my credentials. The first was from NYRR staffer Theresa, who was doing the last-minute registration table. (I know her, she doesn't really know me.) She just didn't want me taking pics of the money handling. OK, I understand that. Later, at the finish line area, an angry black man who had been told to get behind the ropes challenged me. He had a point - namely that if I don't have press credentials, I should be behind the ropes, too. However, a regular volunteer (possibly staff, I can't remember) told me I could stay where I was if I wanted. There are advantage to having good equipment and knowing what you're doing. However, there weren't any good angles to be had by anybody, so I didn't push it.

The best of the photos can be found here.

I brought along a reflector this time in an attempt to broaden and soften my flash. In many photos, it worked nicely - but timing is critical, as the area affected when outdoors is very small - it will work better at night or on very cloudy days.

Direct flash is more obvious (and can be seen in a couple of the Picasa posted photos), but is almost too much. On the other hand, using the flash from about 30 degrees off the centerline (to the subject) results in good overall modeling and pulling the subject off the background by virtue of a contrast in color temperature. The runner looks slightly warmer than the runners in the background, without being obnoxious about it. (I do color my flash.) He's also a a few degrees brighter. This provides focus. In other situations, I had it at about 135 degrees off centerline - kind of an angled backlight. This is truly epic and you can see the effects of this on a runner and a bicyclist in the album.

One of the things I can do in Lightroom that is difficult even in Photoshop is widely manipulate greyscale. I can command the greyscale conversion to affect ranges of color to a lesser or greater degree. I can set where the highlights and shadows are divided and how contrasty those are.

In these two photos, I have manipulated how the primaries and secondaries of the first image get mapped to greyscale ranges. Yellows and greens were set to be as light in greyscale as possible, along with purples/magentas. Reds/oranges were left alone, but blues and aquas were pulled way, way down, to almost black. This gave me great contrast in the bib number and brought out some texture in the sky that can't be seen in the original greyscale conversion. On top of that, in Preview of all programs, I added a light sepia tone and some text. I could have done the sepia in Lightroom, but it's actually easier in Preview.

And in these two photos, with similar manipulation of greyscale first, I brought magentas, reds, and oranges (the building tones) to full, completely supressed yellow tones, left green alone and suppressed aquas, blues, and purples. Contrast was bumped a bit, as were blacks, resulting in a nicely dramatic sky and depth of building detail that, again, isn't present to the eye in the original image. In Photoshop, I did a little bit of distort and warp to bring verticals back to vertical (countering perspective) and used a Warming filter to add the warm tone. I don't think I like it as much as the sepia I used in Preview on the runner. But... still, I ended up with a very dramatic view of a couple of frankly boring and ugly buildings - pretty much encapsulating my view of the Bronx as a whole.

August 13, 2010

Difficult 5 miler Prospect Park

It's interesting how the route is traced in red, like the blood I feel I've left behind.

This one didn't go well. I thought that with the lower heat, I'd do OK despite the humidity. Such was not the case. I had difficulty breathing well for most of the run, but especially the first mile. The new shoes are far from broken in and felt like lead weights. It was a pleasant day, with a good breeze and that was my saving grace I think. The second and third miles were pretty rough and I just knew I didn't have enough in the tank to do the full five miles, but by the time I'd finished the third, the shortest route home was to finish the five.

I fueled well the night before and had a decent breakfast, so I don't think that was the problem. But I only brought water and that WAS a problem. The last long run (4 miles), I'd brought HEED, but that sat in my stomach like a lump and caused problems, so this time I thought I'd try water. Not helpful at all. It may be that I'd mixed the HEED too weak to be easily absorbed (i.e. incorrect osmolarity). I'll keep working on it.

I may also have to start in on the pre-run and during-run gels, since this measly five miles took me over an hour and I was definitely hurting for energy by the end. I mean, within sight of where I'd end my run I had to drop to a walk for a bit. I also got a bit loopy, starting to comment on people how I liked their dog, or their shirt, or their identically-dressed kids that all looked like ducklings following their mother. A man should keep his mouth shut about such things.

Also, a man would not complain about how hard the run was. Fail, fail, fail.

In other insanity, I've officially signed up for the Staten Island Half and will shortly be entering December's Las Vegas Half, which I will run somewhat behind my sister and her friend. I'd love to be able to run with Rachel again like the Houston Half, but the stars aren't going to align like that again. My training would have to go phenomenally well from this point on and Rachel would - frankly - have to be injured or untrained. I don't want that.

August 9, 2010

micro-brick workout

The triathletes have a name for a workout where you go from swimming to biking or (more specifically) bike to run: the brick. So-named, apparently, for how your legs feel at the transition.

I'm having a hard time getting motivated to train, even though the clock is ticking. I look at the numbers on the thermometer and all my will to exercise drains away. It's OK if it's not humid, but...

So today, I went up to the gym for some stationary bike work. If I'm not going to run 4 or 5 miles, I should at least get my heart rate up for a while. I jogged a bit on the way up there, just by way of warming up so I wouldn't feel dead on the bike. Once in the gym, the 42 minutes of stationary bike went well, with an average heart rate of 141, and the equivalent of more than 14 miles traveled. This is getting me thinking that I need to air up my tires and get out on the roads for some real bike rides. I have a nagging fear of traffic, though... not fear, really...annoyance. I just don't want to DEAL with it. Well, anyway, I should start working more bike rides in - great cardio and I handle it well.

Back when I took pictures of the sandpainter in Union Square I ran into a man who'd just the previous weekend finished the NYC Tri. He and I talked quite a while (much to his wife's annoyance) and he was convinced I should train for a tri. He recommended following bike workouts with some running - "even just five minutes" - to get used to the heavy, dead-legs sensation. So that's what I did. Oddly, I found it easier to run a 10 minute per mile pace on the treadmill (1 degree incline) than I would have before the biking. I guess with a fully warmed up system, only the legs object.

And boy did they! Within seconds, my calves were cramping. I had to walk for a minute or two, then returned to running. Next time I do the bike, I'll bring the post-workout treadmill portion to 10 minutes. And keep trying to progress this pattern. It may turnout to be some of my more quality workouts! This is not to say that I'm interested in triathlons. But I am interested in finding some more variations in my workouts and more success in the running portions, especially.

I also took time stretching and foam rolling, something I seem to be more disciplined about at the gym than at home, which is stupid. But there it is.

Finally, I'm fixing to transition to a different gym. Blink Fitness is opening three locations shortly, one in the old Tower Building. And memberships are $20/month. Much more reasonable than most other places. And by putting in your email now, on their website, you get signed up not only for notice of advance sign-ups (when they start those), but also enter the contest for a three-year membership. That'd be nice!

August 8, 2010

What a RAW file can do for you.

Had a couple of real turkeys in my shots from yesterday. But because I shoot in RAW format, which retains all possible image information, and because I use good software, I can save shots that, in the past, would have been unequivocally unusable. For instance, the overexposed shot on below is the original, while the one below that is the "saved" version.

Those are YMCA team members, BTW.

A professional application's tools go a long way toward enabling this resurrection, especially using built-in macros like Lightroom's Auto-Tone preset. That won't do the job 100% (and can sometimes make the image worse), but will do a lot of the work here. Color temperature and fine adjustments to color curves are still needed. Often the software will boost the contrast too much and lose detail in the blacks and whites. This can be recovered, though usually at the expense of a slightly "greyer" look. In over- and under-exposure cases, though, some areas simply can't be recovered, as those pixels have been recorded at a full 16-bit black or white.

Here, the process is used to bring up a hopelessly underexposed image to something of at least documentation value:


Had it not been for the ability to extract fine gradations of "black" from the RAW file, this photo would have been dead and buried. The only reason I didn't automatically delete it was because I could see just enough that I knew I liked the composition. Not all pictures can be resuscitated this well. And were I shooting in JPEG format - where the camera is set to save only high-res JPEG copies rather than the RAW file - I wouldn't be able to do this at all.

August 3, 2010

Another break-in run

These new shoes are not working out as well as previous new pairs of shoes have.

Going to keep trying.