one Man of a Certain Age's journey to a healthier lifestyle

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Welcome to my fitness blog. I started running in early 2012, having set my sights on the Walt Disney World Half Marathon which I ran in January 2013. (You can read about that in my other blog). I intend to update this blog weekly with training progress and run reports. Please follow and join this blog (links below) for updates. If you want to share please feel free to, there are links to share via Facebook or Twitter below as well. You can also follow me on twitter. And please comment letting me know what you think!

My upcoming races: My recent races:
NYCRuns Central Park Half Marathon February 23, 2014 2013 Year in Review
Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon - DC March 15, 2014  

My Blogs Thompson Family Web (Travel, Disney and fun) The Runner of a Certain Age Blog

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A little test...

So I decided to try a little test this weekend. As I have written earlier, I ascribe to the running method espoused by Jeff Galloway - Run, Walk, Run. Well, after my successful run in the Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon my plan for this weekend was a short, 4 mile run. And it got me wondering... does it still make sense to use Run, Walk, Run for short runs now that I am in much better shape? Would my time be faster if I ran ("jogged", really) the entire distance? Would I even be able to make it? Next weekend I intend to do 10 miles but the weekend after is a local 5K I was thinking of running - should I use Run, Walk, Run for that?

So, I decided to check it out. For my 4 mile run this weekend I jogged the entire way and did not walk at all. Here are the results.

As you can see, not great. I will say this - I had no problem running the entire distance, in fact I am sure I could have gone a good deal farther. But these times are not great. Admittedly, had I been running a race I probably would have pushed it more and perhaps I would have had a better time. Perhaps. But consider this: the last time I did a 4 mile run using Run,Walk, Run my time was slightly better. Even more telling are the first 4 miles of my marathon last weekend:

As you can see, these times are a fair bit better. And I was pacing myself for a half marathon. And I was on a very hilly course.

So, my conclusion? At least for now I will continue using the Run, Walk, Run method. Not only can I go farther using this method while feeling better, it also appears that my times are faster.

Next week I go 10 miles and I've set myself a bit of a challenge for that. Then perhaps the 5K, and then my next half on the 21st. And I will also probably be signing up for another half in June.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Run Report: Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon

On Sarturday, March 23, I ran in the 3rd annual Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon held in the historic town of Sleepy Hollow, NY. The race is organized by RiverTown Runners, who also organize 2 other annual events - a 5K and a 10K - all of which take place in town.

I signed up for the race some time ago. After running my first half marathon during the Walt Disney World Half Marathon Weekend in January, I was looking for more races. There weren't any available that I could find in the dead of February in my neck of the world (just north of NYC) and the first race I spotted was the NYC Half Marathon. I looked into that but it was sold out. I could still do it as a charity run, but I would have needed to raise $1000. I thought this was do-able, but then i found out about the Sleepy Hollow race so I decided to do that instead.

As the date of the run approached I felt a bit of trepidation. First, I had heard from several folks (including my chiropractor, who is a runner and actually one of the sponsors of the race) that the course was very hilly and challenging. I also read that the race has a strict 3 1/2 hour time limit. I had completed the WDW race in 3:27. On the one hand that was my first race, it was very hot and I had to deal with huge crowds. On the other hand, the WDW course was flat. In the few days before the race I had some new worries to add to my list - we were hit with a sizable snow storm just a few days before the race. Much of the race takes place on trails and I was worried that there might still be snow or, even worse, ice. On top of all that my back had been bothering me (I had taken a few yoga classes a while back that did a real number on me.)

As you will read - all of these things were no problem.

First, with regard to the hilly course, I learned about this early enough so that I was able to do a lot of hill work in my training. Read earlier posts in this blog for more details. As to the condition of the course, with the exception of a few muddy spots it was fine. As to my time, I came in at 3:02. Yes, I was one of the last finishers but I got in well under the limit. Finally, as to my back problems, it was not an issue during the race. My back hurt like a son-of-a-gun after the race, but no issues during :-P. I also had been having some minor twinges in my knee during the couple of days leading up to the race, and while I did feel something a few times it was no problem and, unlike my back, my knee has not bothered my after. I'm not worried about my back, I can tell it's just muscle soreness, but it still hurts.

The race started at the very civilized time of 9:30. On race day the weather was sunny but cold and windy. I had been doing training runs in much worse weather, so I was used to it and not at all concerned about the weather. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect so I arrived early - about 8:00. I had already picked up my race packet a few days earlier so I didn't need to check in. The packet included your bib and an RFID chip you put on your shoe as well at a long sleeve t-shirt. It also included a bunch of info and freebies from race sponsors. Upon arriving I went to a local deli to get a breakfast sandwich and then I hung around the gathering area and walked around a bit trying (mostly in vain) to stay warm (and trying to keep my toes from getting numb.) Finally the race time arrived and we gathered by the starting gate.

Course map
Course elevations
The Course. The race started in the village and after running up hill on some village streets we entered a park and started running on trails. The trails meandered though some really lovely wooded park setting with several small bridges over bubbling brooks swollen from the melting snow. Just past mile 2 we went over a bridge above Rt. 117 where we would be running later. We then got to the northernmost section of the course where we were treated to spectacular views of the Hudson River. Mile 3 was mostly downhill as we made our way down to the level of the river. We then ran along the river for a while and at about 4 1/4 miles were treated to an extremely steep hill which took us back to the upper level of the park. We left the park just past mile 5 and made our way through a parking lot before coming out onto Rt. 117 at about mile 6. We then ran up Rt. 117 for about 1 1/2 miles and back. And I do mean up. This was, by far, the worst part of the course. A big, open, boring highway with traffic on the other side that went at a steady uphill grade for about a mile and a half. Absolute torture. When I finally got to the turnaround at about 7 1/2 miles and would be able to run downhill, the wind picked up making the trip down equally miserable. At about mile 9 we entered a parking lot for a medical center. On the plus side we ran downhill again and were able to run along the river again (although this section was very windy), but on the negative side we had to climb another steep hill out of the parking lot. We then meandered through town neighborhoods which was a blast because there were folks standing in their lawns and driveways to cheer us on. There was even a local rock band serenading us from their driveway. I had the feeling that, had the weather been nicer, there would have been more. Just past mile 11 we ran along the river a bit more, then out to a lighthouse point and back for mile 12. The last mile was again through neighborhoods with a final, nasty hill just before the finish.

Obviously this is a very challenging course. The first 5 miles through the parks was very nice as was running along the river and through the neighborhoods. I could have done without the highway and parking lots - but I understand why those elements were necessary. Overall I would give the course a very high rating - especially if you are looking for a challenge.

Organization. I must confess I don't really think I can make a fair comparison here because the only other race I've done is the WDW half which had about 25,000 runners vs. about 1,000 at Sleepy Hollow. (Interestingly, my chiropractor told me they were expecting about 1,400, but only 877 finished. I can't imagine that many started and didn't finish so I have to imagine that either their estimates were way off or a lot of folks signed up but didn't run. That's possible - I did see bib numbers well into the 1,000's and I suppose some folks may have bailed due to the weather.)

That said, I think RiverTown Runners did an outstanding job. There were lots of volunteers making sure you knew where to go. There were plenty of water stations - not nearly as many as at WDW but honestly, not so many were needed. I never felt a lack of hydration. There was a lack of porta potties. There were some at the start and there was supposed to be some at mile 9 but I didn't see them. But then I didn't need them and wasn't looking for them. Overall high marks for organization although I might have felt different had I needed facilities.

Tchotchkes. Bling. Goodies. Extras. You get the drift. As I mentioned earlier we got a goodie bag with some freebies from sponsors - the usual stuff. A pen, hand sanitizer, sports drink sample, lots of brochures, that sort of stuff. The 2 biggies, of course, are the shirt and the medal. The shirt is a cotton long sleeve T. On the one hand I would have preferred a tech shirt, but on the other hand it is a thick, high quality T. The medal looked to me to be a non-custom medal with the race logo on it. Not the fanciest, but then when you are running a smaller race like this one obviously you can't afford a fancy custom medal. I'm just happy to get anything - it's a symbol of the accomplishment. Considering this is a pretty small race I give them good marks for extras. They definitely have the right idea.

So, will I do it again? Very likely. Probably not next year, but some day. I'd like to do it in a much better time. This is not the sort of race that folks will travel a great distance to run, but if you live in the area you should check it out. Please let me know if you have questions or feedback.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Trial Run

As I have been writing, I am running in the Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon next weekend (March 23). I have also written about how I heard that it is a very hilly, challenging course. What I haven't written is that I have been feeling a little concern over whether I will be able to finish the race. It has nothing to do with any concerns I have about running the 13.1 mile distance - I've done that a couple of times and continue to get stronger. What it comes down to is this:

  1. The race is, as I have written, very challenging.
  2. The race has a strict time limit of 3 1/2 hours
  3. The time is measured from the gun (e.g no matter how long it takes to get through the gate)
  4. My time on the Walt Disney World Half Marathon was 3:27
On the other hand, the last time I ran the distance about a month ago, I did it in 3:06. And I have been practicing by running the roads around my neighborhood which are also very hilly. So I am approaching it like this: First, I am going to try to pace myself to be able to finish in 3:15. I have found that my pace seems to stay pretty constant through 8 miles, then drops a bit for mile 9 and 10, and drops even more for the last 3 miles. So, I figure if i can do the first 8 miles in 1:50 and get through 10 by 2:25 I should be fine. The last time I ran 8 miles in my neighborhood it took my 2:00 - not really good enough. But one thing I did not know - how do the hills in my neighborhood compare to the course I will be running for the race? So, I decided to find out by running at least a part of the course.

So I went out and ran 4 miles on the course. Technically I only ran 2 miles of the course because I went out and back, but still I think I got a good sense of the course. And yes, it is hilly. And narrow. And not paved (the part I did at least). I gotta say, however, that the hills in my neighborhood are worse. Here is the elevation of my neighborhood:

As you can see, there is an elevation change of about 250 feet over about 2/3 mile. And here is the elevation of today's run:

As you can see, not nearly as much elevation change. Granted, this was only one small section of the course but I really suspect (hope?) that the rest of the course won't be much hillier and definitely not as hilly as my practice runs. In fact there was one stretch of the course of about 3 miles that I could see from a bridge I went over that was fairly flat. And... I ran the 4 miles in 49 minutes - well within the range of what I feel good about. So, at this point I am feeling very confident and even a little excited! Next week's entry will be a race report.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Not much going on this week.

I tried out a new video that focuses on your core and gluts, and it further exacerbated the issues I've been having with my back. So, I decided to take it easy this week in order to give my back a rest. I did nothing on Monday and Tuesday, just did some walking on the treadmill on Wednesday, just some weight work on Thursday, my usual 30 minute treadmill session on Friday and weights again on Saturday. I usually do my long run on Saturday, but I did it on Sunday this week because a) we got hit with a major snowstorm on Friday and I wanted to give it another day for the streets to dry and b) I did my treadmill work on Friday and I don't like running two days in a row.

On the weight loss side I lost 2.6 pounds, putting me on pace to reach my mini goal in time for the Sleepy Hollow Half marathon (4.2 pounds to go):

Weight loss this week: 2.6 pounds
Total weight loss so far: 8.6 pounds
Loss to goal: app. 15-25 pounds

I feel inclined to write something about my weight loss program. I'll write more later but I think it's important to point out one thing - the purpose of this blog is to discuss fitness. My goal is to become more fit. At this point I feel that the extra 20 or so pounds I am carrying is a detriment to that goal. Beyond that - I'm not really worried about it. The goal is not to lose weight - it is to be healthier. This is why I don't mention my weight here - I don't think it's relevant  I firmly believe that thin does not mean healthy, and heavy does not mean unhealthy. Everyone is different, and you should do what is best for you. I am not writing this to be politically correct - it is something I firmly believe.

My big news for the week was buying new shoes (exciting, eh?). I have been running in New Balance 1080 V2s since I started training for the Disney Half Marathon. I saw a podiatrist a few months back because I was having a lot of trouble with foot pain - specifically in my instep. He suggested getting New Balance orthotics, and he also suggested that the next time I get shoes I look for a pair with more stiffness in the instep. I got the orthotics a few weeks back and they have made all the difference in the world. This week I decided it was time to replace my shoes, and I asked the guy at the New Balance Store to find a pair similar to the 1080 V2s but with a stiffer instep.  I tried on several pairs and ended up with the 1260 V2s. Interestingly they looked like they had the least amount of support in the instep but the NB guy said they actually have the most. And, of course, at $159 they were the most expensive (*sigh*). Well, as any runner knows, you can't cheap out on your shoes.

1080 V2 on the left and 1260 V2 on the right.
You can see how the instep part of the sole is wider
You can easily see the added support in the instep

As I mentioned I did my long run on Sunday instead of Saturday. I ran 8 miles around the hilly course in my neighborhood. I didn't wear my new shoes - I don't think an 8 mile run is a great idea in a pair of shoes you haven't broken in yet. I'll use them for my mid-week runs and, if they feel good, my long run next weekend. And hopefully the Half Marathon.

Here are the stats - not real happy about my time although I think it's OK for the upcoming half. Those hills really slowed me down!

Distance: 8.10
Duration: 2:00:25
Average Pace: 14:51

That's it for this week!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Blog by any other name

For the 3 or 4 people out there who have read my blog so far, you will note that I decided to change the name of the blog. The reason is that I don't want this to really be just about running. I want it to be about my journey toward being more fit. I thought of calling it "Getting Fit in my Fifties", but honestly (and I may be giving myself too much credit here) I like to think I was already pretty fit. At least for a guy in his fifties. What this is really about for me is getting more fit. Getting fitter. So, I landed on "Fitter in My Fifties Blog". That name will last five years at any rate.

That said, I don't intend to change the focus of this blog. The main method I am using and intend to continue using in my quest toward a fitter me is running. Both using running as a way of getting fitter as well as (more importantly for me, I think) using running races as a motivator.

OK, so the thing I have been dealing with this week is a soreness in my back that seems to have started when I started a yoga class. It started out as a general soreness but has evolved into a soreness in a specific area of my lower right back. It bothers me more when I'm doing things like walking up stairs. Now, I don't mind the pain, but just with less than 4 weeks to my next half marathon (the Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon), the last thing I want to do is injure myself. And on top of that I have a long (12-13 mile) run planned for this weekend. My intention had been to run the hilly course near my house, but I was growing afraid that the hills would make my back worse. Also, as I mentioned, the pain in my back had changed and become more focused on one spot - leading me to think it had gone from "general soreness" to a specific, albeit very mild, injury.

My week was pretty typical. I did Yoga on Sunday followed by weights, a short 30-minute trot on my treadmill followed by stretching on Monday, and core work and weights on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday I went to another yoga class at my gym (which is at my office), followed by 45 minutes on the treadmill. That was a workout! Friday I hadn't planned to do anything but I changed my mind and did a 30 minute walk on my treadmill.

On the weight front I was unchanged.

I also saw my chiropractor this week (who is also a runner) and he basically told me that I've been doing plenty of running on hills, so I should give my back a rest and do my run on a flat surface. So, I decided to go to a very long walking/running/biking trail about 20 minutes from my house. I set out on Saturday and drove to the trail. As I mentioned earlier, my back pain had become more focused. As I started the run I could really feel it. About 2 miles in I was really wondering if I was going to be able to continue. But as I kept going the pain went away and by about mile 3 I couldn't feel it at all, so I pressed on.

I decided I wanted to do 13 miles - actually, 13.1, the distance of a half marathon. And I also set a goal of a 14 minute mile average. This would get me at 13.1 at about 3:03:30 (OK, 3:03:24 to be exact). As a point of reference I did the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in 3:27 - but that was a very crowded course with a lot of distractions. One bit of advice I've gotten that makes sense is to try to never be too far away from your car. So, I ran in one direction on the trail from the car for about 3 1/2 miles, turned around and ran back to the car and went in the other direction about 3 miles and back.

So here are the overall stats from the run, as shown on my iRunner ap:

As you can see I didn't quite meet my goal but I was close. Here are my splits:

The longer time at mile 7 was due to my stopping at my car for a few minutes. As you can see the first 2 miles were a bit slower due to my back  pain. But then I was able to kick it in. Interesting, when I looked at the elevations I also discovered that those first 3 1/2 miles were much more uphill than I thought:

A final note - sort of a product critique. When I was running shorter distances I bought a water bottle for runs. Instead of having a cap that you needed to open and close it has a sort of nipple that is supposed to be spill proof unless you suck on if. Well, it never worked very well and always spilled water. On this run a swear it spilled more than I drank. I also have a water belt with two bottles, but I lost one of the bottles and I haven't had a chance to get a replacement yet. I ordered replacement bottles so I decided to throw the other one away. It's useless. if you ever see one of these don't get it.

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