Monday, June 14, 2010

A Mixed Bag

Last week was a mixed bag, what with my travels through the hot and humid south and suffering a more general fatigue from too much time spent on airplanes and hotel treadmills. Southern comfort food will also put the brakes on the best intentions. Nevertheless, what can one do but, as the Brits might say, “muddle through and do one’s bit”.

I dredged up some new-found energy at the gym today, increasing the incline on the treadmill and ripping off 60 pushups with little effort. I’ve been feeling like going back to the weights, but I’m leery about stressing the shoulder and finding myself out of action just as scuba season gets underway. The arms are useful when lifting tanks, weights and gear and not being able to reach behind one’s head when underwater has safety implications. I’ll try to take it slow. The Shelter Island 10k is coming up on Saturday.

M-5 TM
Tue-4(outside) 1 TM
Wed: 5 TM
Thu: 5 TM
Fri: 5 TM
Sat: 6 outside
Sun: 5 outside
Total: 36

Friday, June 11, 2010

Walking (or rather, Running), In Memphis

Here’s some advice. If you are going to go running in 100 degree heat for the first time of the season, it’s best not to do it in a city in a different time zone ,after five hours of sleep and while digesting a lunch of barbeque pork ribs consumed around an hour before. Oh, and going for that run at 3:00 in the afternoon when the humidity is about 97% is also a bad idea. Other than that episode of narrowly averted heatstroke, I found Memphis to be a charming southern city full of friendly people and decent food. The place was lived-in, no doubt, but there was plenty to look at while running through the streets and along the Mississippi River. Once I discovered that running before the sun comes up is the preferred time of day to exercise in the sweet sunny South, I actually enjoyed stomping around the streets and alleys.

Back to that initial run…..I was steaming along for about a mile before I realized I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew. I planned my post-landing jaunt as a five mile out-and-back along the river promenade, which would bring me though a battery of sprinklers which, I hoped, would cool me down on the way back just as they had on the way out. I had a bottle of water with me whose temperature changed from that of iced tea to that of steamed espresso over the next two miles. Rather than drinking it, I ended up pouring most of it over my head in a futile attempt to cool down. Along the run I observed old fashioned riverboats plying the Mississippi, two other runners lurching by in the opposite direction who looked like escapees from a mental asylum, and an amorous couple having sweaty sex along the “multi-use” path behind the retaining wall of a large apartment building.

As I hit the turn-around point I stopped to gather some energy for the way back. Big mistake. What little breeze I was generating by moving forward died away and I was left standing in a pool of my own (diminishing) sweat, roasting under the hot Tennessee sun. I started to feel dizzy, then nauseous, which I recognized as the classic symptoms of heat exhaustion. My choices at that moment were fairly limited. I was in a field, with no shade about three miles from my hotel. I had no money and had no idea how to get back other than by the way I came. I decided that I would take off my shirt, dump the rest of my water over my head and make a bee-line for the sprinklers about 1.5 miles back. With the shirt off and a bit of a headwind, I made it without dropping dead, but when I got there, the sprinklers had been turned off. I tossed in the towel and walked the rest of the way. It took about 15 minutes for my heart rate to come down to normal, despite the frigid AC and cold towels I scarfed from the hotel gym. Lesson learned.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Week in Review

A pretty good week of running came to an end with a brisk 6 mile jaunt yesterday. The weather was hot, hot, hot this past week, so my outside runs were nice and sweaty. I was dragging a little this week; don’t know if it was the heat or the fact I’ve been sleeping poorly. The last two days I’ve noticed a marked increase in energy levels-this may be due to the abundance of beer I drank on Friday night. I made it to the beach twice this week-end and got in a fair amount of swimming yesterday as I scoured the bottom for sea creatures to bring back to my kids waiting on the beach. I think I'll go diving next Sunday and see if I can find some real treasure.

Tomorrow morning I head out to Memphis to mediate a case. I passed through there way back in 1989 and recall stopping briefly at Graceland to visit the Elvis shrine. Hopefully I’ll have some time to wander around Beal Street and eat some barbeque, and get in a good run or two. I imagine it’s already fairly hot in Tennessee this time of year.

Last Week:
Monday: 7 in the woods
Tuesday: 5 TM
Wed: 5 TM
Thursday: 5TM
Friday: 5 Road
Saturday: 5 Road
Sunday: 6 Road
Total: 38

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Muddy and Covered in Weeds

A lazy Memorial Day week-end capped off a week of good running. Last week I got in 37 miles, mixed between trails and road running. I was dragging by the end of the week, so I took Sunday off and joined the throngs at Jones Beach for the air show. We spent a pleasant Sunday watching the planes do loops and other acrobatics while periodically jumping into the 50 degree surf to cool down. My favorite part of the show was the WWII era planes. There were some P-52 Mustangs, dive bombers, and my favorite, a B-17 that hovered right over the water while dropping simulated bombs (actually watermelons) into the ocean about 200 feet off the beach. Watching the huge bomber making its slow, wide turns gave me a newfound respect for the men who flew it in combat. They must have had balls of steel flying such a massive target in the face of German anti-aircraft guns and the nimble ME-109s. The kids preferred the parachutists, who made perfect pinpoint landings on the beach, one after another.

The mosquitoes are starting to get bothersome in the Preserve-yesterday I stopped for a few seconds to adjust my Garmin and was immediately attacked by what seemed like twenty of the aggressive little bastards. Also, many of the trails there are lightly used, which means that they become covered with heavy vegetation that conceals jutting tree roots. I took a few near stumbles that almost ended badly. Thankfully I was paying attention and was able to recover before doing a face-plant in a poison ivy patch. I try to stick to the better groomed trails, but I like to explore and prefer to come home muddy and covered in weeds.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Report

Another great week-end on Long Island. I took Saturday off to rest the legs and got my exercise working in the garden. I have a variety of vegetables slowly growing in the back yard; tomatoes, strawberries, beans, etc. I find that gardening leaves me considerably more tired than the running, probably because I’m not used to the bending and lifting. Still, it feels good to be out there digging in the ground.

Yesterday I set out for a six miler in the nature preserve, only to be thwarted by a locked fence. I was momentarily perturbed, until I realized that at 6:30am on a Sunday morning, the gates were unlikely to be open. I’m seemingly unable to sleep past 6am on the weekends; which is a little annoying, although I guess my body has finally adapted to the early to bed early to rise sleep cycle. It helps when the sun comes up around 5:45am. Despite being shut out from the wonders of the preserve, I still saw a healthy-looking red fox with a big bushy tail trotting across a suburban street about 10 feet in front of where I was running. Nature is adaptable, I guess. I finished the run on the road and felt pretty good. My knee was putting up a mild protest towards the end of the run, but it was nothing like the pain of a few weeks ago. Into the week we go.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Good Run, and A New Race

Yesterday I had a great seven mile romp through the Muttontown Preserve. The weather was perfect and the vegetation so lush from the rains we’ve been having it was almost like running in a rain forest. I don’t know about you, but clomping through the mud like a racehorse for a few miles is enough to eliminate all the stress from my overworked ass.

I signed up for the Shelter Island 10k, which is taking place on June 19. The race takes place on the aforementioned Shelter Island, a small Island in Long Island Sound a short ferry ride from the tip of the North Fork. It will be my first race since the marathon in November and my first 10k since the Bluemont Fair race last summer. I’m looking forward to both the race, and the opportunity to visit some of the tasting rooms of the numerous Long Island vineyards in the area. I’ll probably do that on the way back.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Back in Action

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. The care and feeding of a blog is a challenge when combined with a busy schedule. Plus, I was sidelined with a number of bizarre injuries I sustained over the last couple of months including a bout of reoccurring strep throat, a rotator cuff problem and a bruised knee. I’m happy to report that all of these ailments have more or less resolved (thank you cortisone)and I’m back on a fairly normal workout schedule, although the upper body workouts have dropped off in deference to my still-recovering left shoulder. Without a goal race to focus on, the training has started to feel a bit stale, although with the great weather we’ve been having I’ve been running more in the woods, which is a lot of fun.

My work took me to Portland Oregon a few weeks back. Portland is a great city for runners and bikers and I took full advantage of the amenities offered, which include dedicated running paths along the Willamette river and bike lanes on almost every street. My meetings ended a day early so I celebrated with a 44 mile bike ride along the “40 Mile Loop”, a trail that connects parks along the Columbia, Sandy, and Willamette Rivers and Johnson Creek. I did it as an out-and-back, hence the additional 4 miles. Fortunately, the hotel I was staying in offered free use of a high quality hybrid bike, so the day cost me nothing other than the price of a turkey avocado sandwich and a bottle of G2.

Hopefully I’ll be posting more frequently as the summer goes on. It keeps me off the streets, anyway.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Back from NOLA

I’m back from the Big Easy. New Orleans is unique among American cities. It has a distinct culture and has, for the most part, eluded the Big Box homogenization that has afflicted every other American metropolis from Albuquerque to Zuma. The City is still visibly struggling even five years post Katrina, but the indomitable spirit of the people who live there cannot be underestimated. On our first day in town we were lucky enough to stumble upon a second line Indian Parade, complete with brass bands and other festive music. Mardi Gras Indians are actually African-American Carnival revelers who dress up in elaborate and colorful suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel. Collectively, their organizations are called "tribes". Many of the tribes also parade on the Sunday nearest to Saint Joseph's Day, which is when we were lucky enough to encounter them.

Running in NOLA is an exercise requiring patience and careful footing. Our hotel was nowhere near either of the two large city parks, but we were close to the St. Charles Street trolley, whose tracks run from downtown near the French Quarter out to the suburbs on a grass median in the middle of a wide street. The first day in town,  I was running along the tracks on the sidewalks, when I tripped on a displaced sidewalk flag and took a pretty bad fall. I lost quite a bit of skin on my knee and right arm, so for the remainder of the week, I did as the locals did and ran right on the tracks, facing into oncoming trolley traffic and moving to the side when a streetcar needed to get by. It is actually much safer than it sounds (see pic), although I’d still leave the I-Pod at home lest you get waylaid by a trolley coming in the opposite direction. St. Charles Avenue passes through the beautiful garden district, so if pre-civil war era mansions and immaculately maintained gardens are your thing this is a good run for you. I thought the scenery was quite interesting.

On two mornings I changed routes and hoofed it through the French Quarter at dawn, which is perhaps the quietest time of the day for that neighborhood. The roads and sidewalks there are pretty bad too, but there is plenty to look at.
Overall a great trip. I ate some fantastic meals which I’ve been working off since I got back. I think I might have to skip the ½ marathon this Spring though. On Sunday I leave on a work trip to Charleston and I don’t know if I’ll get in any long runs during the week I’ll be away.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Who Dat?

Yesterday’s weather was spring-like, at least in the morning. To celebrate the fair conditions, I headed out for a seven mile trail run in the nature preserve. This was my longest run since the Philadelphia Marathon back in November and I’m happy to say the legs held up fine despite the fact that I did the whole thing in my minimalist Nike Free shoes. Many of the paths in the preserve are multi-use, the second use being horseback riding, so the run involved leaping over a not inconsiderable number of foreign objects on the trails, if you know what I mean.

I was going to skip my customary spring ½ marathon this year, but I felt so good yesterday that I’m reconsidering an invitation I got from some ex-coworkers to run the Long Branch ½ down on the Jersey Shore the first week-end in May. I think I can pull it off if I can squeeze in a couple of 10 milers between now and then.

Sunday the family and I leave for a trip to New Orleans so maybe I can get in a longish run in the Garden District in-between stuffing my face with beignets and gumbo. I’m a bit of a foodie, so I’m pretty excited to be going back to the City with the most original cuisine in the States. It’s hard to get a bad meal in that City. I printed up a lot of suggestions from the message boards on and I have a couple of local favorites I want to re-visit (e.g. Mr. Bs). Hopefully I can balance the eating with the running so I don’t gain too much weight, but hey, it’s vacation and shit happens.

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Trouble Down Under

Ok, I guess the type of danger one confronts while running depends on where you live. New York, it's traffic. Alaska, it's wolves. Australia? Apparently kangaroos.

I always wondered whether Australia’s  "Boxing Kangaroo" mascot was for real or whether it was a bit of hyperbolic anthropomorphism. At least one unlucky runner from down under, 25 year-old David Striegl (pic at left), found out first-hand. Striegl was out running when he was attacked by a rogue kangaroo last Thursday. During his run he was knocked cold after the 'roo sucker-punched him in the face. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he remembers little about the unprovoked attack.

Striegl, who works in a corporate real estate office, was found by a passing motorist who took the dazed and bloody victim to a hospital.  His only injury seemed to be some cuts and bruises, a black eye and a wounded ego. The latter no doubt due to his colleagues at work making fun of his misfortune by giving him a new nickname – “Skippy”. Those crazy Aussies!

Skippy said he wouldn’t have thrown a punch back even if he had the chance because of the ‘roo’s status as a national symbol, and he has no hard feelings against kangaroos. Aww.

Like the Alaska wolf attack,  it appears that the act of running set off the animal. Australian vet Michael Archinald says that is not surprising:

"They get very territorial at certain times of the year as well, they're protecting their flock," he said. "They get very antsy and of course this guy would have been running and that's quite a threatening thing to a roo and the roo is like, fight or flight, so in it goes."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring in my Step

Ah, springtime. Yesterday I hit the trails in the nature preserve near my house and had a wonderful time romping through muddy bogs and leaping over twisted tree roots. I’ve been waiting to do that run since the fall, but yesterday was the first time the weather cooperated. Running on trails with no marked distances is no trouble if you have a wrist-mounted GPS, as I do. My Garmin 305 faithfully marked off the miles as I picked trails at random and ran through fields of blooming Crocus. Of all the technology I’ve purchased over the years that little Garmin has given me the most bang for the buck. I take it every time I have to travel for work, which is to say, quite often. It takes all the guesswork out of measuring the distance of a run and has allowed me to explore new cities without worrying about staying glued to a marked trail. If only they’d make one a little more stylish.

The weather is supposed to stay warm and dry through the week-end and I’m looking forward to a few more trail miles. Happy Spring everyone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Tales From the WTF Files

Currently on my short-list of places not to go running without a large caliber handgun is the seemingly peaceful town of Chignik Lake Alaska, population 105. While getting hit in the back of the head by a silent airplane is a crappy and completely unexpected way to be killed while running, it cannot compare with the horror of being torn apart by wild animals, a fate that met poor Candice Berner this past Monday. Berner went out for a run on a footpath near her home in Chignik on Monday, and was apparently attacked and partially eaten by wolves. 

Berner, a remedial teacher who had moved to Alaska from Pennsylvania last August, (I wonder if she ever ran the Philadelphia Marathon…), was killed as she was running on a deserted road near town. An autopsy confirmed that she had been stalked and taken down by a pack of wolves, which dragged her off the road. Her partially eaten body was discovered by snowmobilers who followed a trail of blood in the snow.

“The damage to the throat was severe,” said Colonel Audie Holloway of the Alaska state troopers. “Wolves, just like big cats, usually attack the windpipe area and try to control the victim that way.”

Unfortunately, it seems that it was running itself which actually triggered the attack. “The whole running thing is something that can elicit a predatory attack,” said Mark McNay, a retired wildlife biologist. “It suggests vulnerability.”

For those of you doing the “running thing” in remote areas known to be frequented by hungry wildlife, please be careful. I remember trail running in California a few years back, in an area known for Mountain Lion activity, and the entire time I was out there I had a terrible feeling that I was being watched. In fact, I was so nervous that when a grey squirrel burst out of the bushes and ran onto the trail in front of me I almost crapped in my shorts.

My deepest condolences to Berner's family and friends. Here in the congested metropolitan area we have to deal with many inconveniences while running, but at least we can be reasonable sure that an animal attack isn’t one of them. Anyway, I hope this is the last entry from the WTF files for a while.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From the WTF Files

Running can be a dangerous sport. Runners generally do their work-outs faithfully, in all kinds of weather, on the roads and trails, in the pitch black of night and in the subdued light of dusk and dawn. Traffic is our worst enemy, with most drivers so intent on texting and talking on the phone that they never even notice the poor little runner toiling away in the breakdown lane until he ends up as roadkill, stuck to the rear wheel of their Cadillac Escalades.

I don’t know about you, but when I go on vacation to somewhere warm, one of my favorite activities is to head to the beach and run on the hard, packed sand right near the water’s edge. With the sound of the ocean and the light sea breezes I feel like I can run forever. Sometimes when I feel like a little music, I’ll plug in my ipod and head out for an hour or two. I can let my mind wander, because, after all, there isn’t any traffic on the beach. The worst thing that could happen by not paying attention is getting my Saucony’s drenched by a rogue wave, right? Apparently wrong.

I came across this on the AP wire today: “A 38-year-old father of two was jogging and listening to his iPod when he was hit from behind and killed by a small plane making an emergency landing on the beach, officials said Tuesday.

Robert Gary Jones of Woodstock, Ga., died instantly Monday evening when he was hit by the single-engine plane, which had lost its propeller, said Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen. The pilot's vision was blocked by oil on the windshield.

Jones apparently did not see or hear the plane, which was "basically gliding," the coroner said.”
Runners beware. Rogue planes are the latest in a long list of challenges we have to confront when engaging in our sport. I really don’t know what to say about this. What incredibly bad luck.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Update II

Man, I’ve been down and out lately. Last week-end I was struck by a stomach flu that had me off the roads for a few days. Moreover, due to a nagging shoulder injury I’ve been compelled to cut out the weight lifting. This past week I finally feel back on my game and have been getting in some good runs on the treadmill and even a few outside in the slush. Despite the fact that the recent storm left Long Island with over a foot of fresh snow, I can tell that Spring is in the air. My walk to the train station in the morning is now much safer, owing to the benefit of ever increasing natural light, and I even hear some very confused birds chirping away in their igloo nests high in the fir pines. I’m hoping to get the seeds planted this week-end. I think once the snow melts, which it hasn’t since December, the reality of warmer weather’s incremental approach will start to sink in.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I haven’t posted lately because I’m in a bit of a holding pattern. I’m running to keep my fitness up and lifting a bit at the gym, but I think I’m suffering a serious case of cabin fever. There has been over a foot of snow on the ground since the middle of January and it doesn’t seem to be departing any time soon. Spring may well eventually arrive, but I haven’t articulated any clear-cut fitness goals for the upcoming race season and so I’m feeling a bit out of sorts. I don’t lack motivation, merely direction, but it is hard to pick a course through the woods when the trails are covered with ice and snow.

It looks like we are going to be moving again in the fall. I like the house we’re renting, but it won’t be big enough to hold our expanding family and it’s a little too far from work. I don’t mind moving so soon, so long as the place we’re moving to is one where I can settle in for a while. We’re thinking of heading back to the Port Washington area, assuming something affordable pops up in the MLS listings. I like that part of the Island; there are a lot of parks and plenty of places to run, and the town is near the water. I’ve been meaning to get into kayaking, but haven’t had the space to store a kayak. Well, back in a bit.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I’ve been reading a lot of Buddhism recently. For years I’ve found running to be a perfect form of moving meditation; there’s nothing like a good run to get those alpha waves going. I used to have a regular Zen meditation practice, but I’ve found it hard to keep up with it. The kids demand constant attention and by the time I get them to bed I’m half asleep myself. Zen practice is all about mindfulness anyway, so instead of sitting on a cushion paying attention to my breathing, I put one foot in front of the other and concentrate on my running. Running is ideal for meditation because it is a repetitive physical activity that requires a measure of focus while not demanding too much in the way of technique. In a way it’s like sitting in zazen, although I find sitting still and not moving to be much harder than running. A Zen master once likened the mind during mediation to a man sitting on a chair in an empty room with all of the windows open. You just sit there in the room and see what wanders in. When you’re running you’re confronted with a lot more in the way of physical stimuli than when you’re sitting still-cars are a biggie-so you really do have to be present in the moment and use those incoming sense impressions as training aids.

When I’m running I try to integrate my awareness of my surroundings with an awareness of my body moving through space, breathing in and out. I don’t discriminate between good and bad thoughts and try to remain in the moment. The practice is pretty effective at clearing the mind and allowing solutions to problems to well up from the subconscious. Give it a try some time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More on Feet

There have been some interesting scientific studies released in the past week. One dealt with the hot topic of the moment-barefoot running-the other takes a look at whether distance running can stave off the effects of cellular aging (I’ll look at that one tomorrow).

Anthropologist Daniel Lieberman's article in Nature magazine discussed the results of a study where he compared the pressure patterns of Kenyan runners when running barefoot and when wearing shoes. He determined that runners who wear shoes hit the ground a lot harder on their heels than barefoot runners. He concluded that barefoot running "may protect the feet and lower limbs from some of the impact-related injuries now experienced by a high percentage of runners." The shoe industry spokespeople (sorry, I mean editors), over at were quick to point out that other studies have shown that impact force is irrelevant to the development of musculoskeletal injuries. My own feeling? I think the burden should be on the shoe companies to show us that their products are beneficial. It is noteworthy that there has never been a peer reviewed study that has shown running shoes do anything to prevent injuries. Of course, while our predecessors ran barefoot and may have been forefoot strikers, we have no way of knowing what their injury rate was. I guess the shod/unshod battle will be fought for some time to come.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter Blues

It’s been pretty cold in the Northeast this past week. I caught some sort of flu-like bug this past Thursday which curtailed my running somewhat. It took a couple of days to start feeling normal again; I had that all-over body ache which makes the thought of any serious exercise untenable. Yesterday I finally got back to the gym and back on the treadmill, and I started lifting again. My diet has been atrocious lately-a combination of lack of time to cook and easy access to bad food. Jack’s birthday was last week and I’ve been whittling away at the remains of the ice cream cake ever since. I get like this in the winter. By the time February rolls around, I’m tired of the cold and the darkness and I’m ready for spring. Unfortunately, Spring is a little ways off. So, I go to the gym and try to keep the kids entertained while stuffing my face with pizza, ice cream and Chinese food. Fortunately, the weight lifting has jacked up my metabolism, so the effect of my gluttony has yet to appear in cold numbers on the bathroom scale. A few more weeks of this and I won’t be so lucky.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Explanation

I want to apologize to the readers for disappearing for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, my Mom passed away unexpectedly from a stroke two weeks ago, and I had to go down to Florida for a week to help my Dad make arrangements. This was followed almost immediately by a work trip to San Diego and then by several days of digging out from under a mountain of work.

While my Mother was not athletic (she abhorred exercise), she was very proud of my running and blogging. I came across a number of pages that were printed from my blog when I was going through some books in her room. Although she never commented on a posting, it was nice to know she was reading. As usual, it was running that kept me sane during that difficult week. I wrote her eulogy in my head during runs on the Dunedin causeway in the early mornings while feeling the sun rising at my back and contemplating the waters of the bay on either side of the trail. The causeway trail runs from Dunedin to Honeymoon Island, an area not as developed as other parts of the West Coast. It was the perfect atmosphere for contemplation and remembering my mother’s life. She will be greatly missed by her family. Back with more in a little while.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cold Feet

Winter’s icy grip hasn’t loosened this past week. I’m still running inside, except for a 6 mile outing yesterday that felt surprisingly challenging. I say “surprisingly” because it wasn’t any different from the route I usually take but it felt like I was running through molasses. I thought I might have been experiencing the effects of overtraining, but today I got on the treadmill and flew through four miles while barely breaking a sweat. I was probably just tired. Erin and I bought a latex mattress about a year ago that totally collapsed in the center, so every night it’s a battle to find a comfortable position. Sleep has been elusive, both due to the bed situation and the kids coming in during the wee hours. I bought a new bed the other day and it arrives on Saturday. Hopefully that will alleviate some on the sleepiness.

I had an email exchange with Amby Burfoot from Runner’s World the other day. His most recent blog posting took a look at the questionable science (and motives) of some recent studies that concluded that running shoes might contribute to running injuries rather than prevent them. Anyone who has been following the recent trends in the running community have no doubt encountered an article or two by proponents of barefoot or minimalist shoe running.

The book Born to Run by author Chris McDougal has ignited considerable controversy on the issue of whether running shoes do more harm than good. I read Born to Run when my running and training were at a particularly low ebb. The idea that man was evolutionarily developed for distance running resonated so strongly with me that I changed my running stride and shoe selection and really started enjoying running again. While many of my lower mileage training runs for the Philadelphia Marathon were in Nike Frees (a so-called minimalist running shoe), my distance runs were all in my trustworthy Sauconys. Man may have been Born to Run, but he wasn't born to run on pavement. The barefoot proponants may have a point, (my intermittant knee and back problems disappeared once I changed my form and started using minimalist shoes) but their unecessarily strident tone can be off-putting. However, I think the editor of a magazine who’s principal revenue source comes from shoe companies advertisements should exercise a little more care when questioning the motives of a particular study’s author: “Richards has a stake in a minimalist shoe company. I'm not calling Kerrigan and Richards liars. Far from it, I agree with Richards's conclusion. But we should understand the motivation behind their writing and their research projects.” Yes, of course, but publishing your own article without a similar disclaimer about Runner’s World’s own pecuniary interests is at least as disingenuous. Amby responded to my comment in a personal email and argued that RW stands to earn even more advertising dollars that it would lose: “a decrease in running injuries, if this occurred through barefootin (sic), could possibly increase RW circulation, profits, etc. Since fewer injuries would presumably mean more runners and RW readers.” Well, I don’t buy it, but I appreciate the fact that he responded. I think the science on shoes could go either way at this point. Time will tell.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cool Running

The Northeastern United States has been experiencing some severe weather this winter. After an early blizzard the week-end before Christmas, we’ve been treated to freezing cold temperatures accompanied by blasts of arctic winds. The combination of icy roads and sub-zero wind chills have kept me off the roads and on the hamster wheel at the gym for the past couple of weeks. I’ve made a deliberate effort to run outside as much as possible, but once the mercury drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, I throw in the towel. In my younger years I simply layered in more clothing and braved the elements, but then again, in my younger years I couldn’t afford a NYSC membership so I really didn’t have any other options.

All this cold weather got me thinking about the body’s response to exercising at low temperatures. I always thought that you burned more calories when working out outside in the cold, figuring that the body had to burn more calories to maintain core temperature than it does in the summertime. Surprisingly, it turns out that the reverse is true. When the ambient air temperature is hotter, your heart has to do extra work to prevent you from overheating. More than 70 percent of the energy produced by your muscles during exercise is lost as heat. The harder you exercise, the hotter your muscles become. In hot weather, not only must your heart pump extra blood to bring oxygen to your muscles, it must also pump hot blood from your heated muscles to your skin where heat can be dissipated.

On the other hand, in cold weather, your heart only has to pump blood to your muscles and very little extra blood to your skin. Your muscles produce so much heat during exercise that your body does not need to produce any additional heat to keep you warm. Curiously, this may help to explain why people find the pounds creeping on in the wintertime, even when they stay active. (Of course, it couldn’t have anything to do with elevated consumption of Christmas cookies and egg nog)

I guess running on the treadmill at the gym, (which is mercifully kept at a temperature much higher than freezing), actually helps you maintain your weight during the winter better then running outside. If only it wasn’t so terribly boring.