Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Green Choices Wednesday- Vehicle Fuel Conservation

In 2007, I changed jobs and my new workplace was 60 miles away from my home.  As an environmentalist, I felt guilty about the extra commute, yet felt I had to make a job change for the sake of my sanity.  Of course, I still wanted to conserve fuel as much as possible, so the first thing I did was to park my truck.  Instead, I started driving an older small car we owned, a 1999 Oldsmobile Alero, that my daughter had been using.  She had returned the car to me when she started driving a newer vehicle.  I drove this car from September, 2007 until October, 2009, at which time I was able to move closer to my workplace (3.2 miles).  In addition to driving the smaller car, I learned a lot of ways to further conserve fuel.  I already knew about driving  a little slower, using cruise control, and accelerating gradually. The EPA mileage estimate for my car is 30 mpg for highway driving. Conventional wisdom indicates that the way most people drive, they get less than the EPA ratings.

After starting the longer commute, I heard a news item on the subject of "hypermilling."  There is a website that is devoted to it: I found that drivers were practicing a set of techniques that yielded incredible fuel mileage.  The drivers were mostly using these techniques with hybrids, but many could be used in any vehicle.  Some of the ideas sounded a little extreme to me, like coasting down long downhill sections with the car turned OFF.  However, most of the techniques seemed reasonable and safe, and I experimented with and adopted many of them.  I began charting my mileage in March, 2008, and continued charting through October, 2009.    During these 19 months, I had a series of increasing mpg records in this car. In 2009, I was able to average 36.3 mpg, and the highest I ever achieved was on a single tankful of fuel was 38.6 mpg.

Some of the techniques I applied:
  1. Keeping tires inflated to the sidewall rating (44 psi cold) instead of the 30 psi on the sticker inside the door. This isn't over-inflation, just maximum safe inflation. Higher pressure yields lower rolling resistance.
  2. SLOW acceleration-- I watched my tach more than my speedometer when I accelerated. I keep my foot light enough that the tach doesn't wind up in each gear; keeping my tach low and steady got me through the gears and up to speed, but took maybe an extra 30 seconds.
  3. My driving was mostly on the highway. I used the cruise control and rarely drove over 60 mph.
  4. Watching farther ahead-- if traffic seems to be slowing, I back off, allow a greater distance to open up between myself and the vehicle ahead of me. Then, when cars ahead are braking, I can usually let off the accelerator and coast, slowing down without braking. If I allow enough space, the vehicles ahead are starting to speed back up before I get close enough to brake. (Coasting is like free mpg; braking converts energy generated with fuel to heat on your brake pads!)
  5. The same technique in 4 above can be used in the city. Looking ahead as far as possible at the next traffic light(s), when seeing a light changing, by letting off the accelerator and coasting, the light may be green in the time it takes to coast to it, allowing resumed acceleration without braking.
  6. Any other opportunity to coast-- for example, approaching a stop sign, instead of accelerating until the point of braking, decelerate sooner and coast toward the stop. How soon I decelerate depends on whether it is clear behind me or there is traffic behind me.
  7. Driving behind trucks on the highway cuts wind resistance, but it is not safe to follow too close.

I also calculated the fuel savings over the 19 months based on the difference between actual mpg calculated at each fill-up and the gallons that would have been used at 28 mpg, my baseline.  The sum of the individual gas usage differences over the 19-months was 287.7 gallons.  Since each gallon of gasoline burned generates about 20 pounds of CO2, I calculate that fuel efficient driving kept an additional 5,754 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere!

This is proof that little things can add up to make a big difference!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it's all about."

PattiSue Plumer, U.S. Olympian

This was a Runner's World  Quote of the Day that I received by email last week.  It looks like a perfect quote for this marathon week!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Meatless Monday

Running Green supports Meatless Monday, an initiative associated with  the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.   The goal of Meatless Monday is to help reduce meat consumption in order to improve public health and the health of the planet.

These delicious-looking recipes are published by the Meatless Monday initiative, and may be found at

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Marathon Training Program: Week 17 - Taper Week 2 - One More Week!

(Graphic from my page at The mileage in the graphic includes both running and cycling miles.)

On my first taper week, I took advantage of the additional energy from reduced mileage to experiment with pace a little, and pushed it a little hard on a couple of runs, finding speed I'd never experienced before.  Taper is all about recovery for the race, so I approached the second taper week more cautiously.  I still ran a little over my anticipated race pace, but kept the pace at a comfortable level without pushing it.

This week, I concentrated on stride and rhythm, trying to maintain a smooth, efficient flow.  My approach to these runs was to start easy, run the middle miles nice and steady, and to finish a little quicker.  This week, I timed my splits to get a better feel for the flow of each run.

I continued to add some cycling miles for cross-training, but fewer miles than previous weeks. Weekly totals: 26 miles running, 13.2 miles cycling, 39.2 miles total, plus three weights workouts and two core workouts:
  • Monday: Rest.
  • Tuesday: 4 miles running.  Splits: 10:04, 9:36, 9:40, 9:37.   1 mile cycling.
  • Wednesday: 6 miles running.  Splits: 10:19, 9:50, 9:47, 9:33, 9:06, 8:41.  6.05 miles cycling.
  • Thursday: 5 miles running.  Splits:  9:57, 9:31, 9:29, 9:01. 6.15 miles cycling.
  • Friday: Rest.
  • Saturday: 4 miles running.  Splits: 10:04, 9:47, 9:24, 9:06.
  • Sunday: 8 miles running.  Splits: 9:46, 9:44, 9:20, 9:26, 9:36, 9:31, 9:17, 8:18.
This leaves one last week of taper.  I plan a couple of very short, easy runs, no leg activity in my weights workouts, and very little cross-training.  I'll increase carb intake all week, especially from midweek on, and hydrate well all week. 

17 weeks down, 1 week to go!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Food Rules Friday

Second installment of the weekly feature, "Food Rules Friday," featuring a rule from Michael Pollan's newest book, "Food Rules - An Eater's Manual." Michael Pollan is an acclaimed author and whole food/heathy eating advocate. He is the author of the best selling "In Defense of Food" and "The Omnivore's Dillemma."
Rule #2: "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

Pollan further describes the "thousands of foodish products in the supermarket."  You've seen them.  Overly processed , packaged in plastic, bearing ingredient labels that reveal them to be full of chemical additives, corn and soy derivatives, added salts and sugars, all designed to to get us to buy and eat way more of them than is healthy.   

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010: 40th Anniversary - April 22, 2010

I have mixed feelings on this 40th anniversary Earth Day.  I look back 40 years today.  I was a young college freshman participating in an Earth Day campus demonstration, one of many demonstrations organized on campuses all over the U.S. on that first Earth Day.  It was inspiring to witness the birth of an environmental movement that has steadily grown over the years.  Many considered environmentalism to be a fringe movement, a collection of "hippies and radicals."  Over the years, environmental concern has expanded, and the movement is becoming more mainstream.  Earth Day has become a worldwide phenomenon.  At the same time, "greenwashing" has become a phenomenon; many businesses are paying lip service to green ideals in order to cash in on the growing awareness.  It is also disturbing that maybe half of the population is either apathetic about the need to care for the environment, or in total denial that human activities are changing the Earth for the worse.

Progess has been made, but so much more is needed.  Fourty years ago we saw news reports of rivers on fire, lakes where no marine life lived, and cities where the smog was thick enough to obscure the sun.  Since then, many of the most polluted waterways have been cleaned up, some wildlife populations have rebounded, and vehicles and industrial facilities have emission controls limiting the most toxic pollutants.  Environmental laws have been enacted and an Environmental Protection Agency exists in the U.S. to enforce the requirements. However, we are facing the threat of worldwide climate change, a concept that was virtually unknown fourty years ago.  World leaders seem to lack the political courage to take meaningful decisive action.

We need a transformation to clean energy sources.  It will happen eventually anyway, because reserves of fossil fuels are limited, and as reserves are depleted, supplies will decrease and prices will soar.  Better to devote strong efforts to it now, rather than wait for the crisis of supply and demand.

We need a better infrastructure for collecting and recycling reusable resources.  Items that are made from recycled material require much less energy use and cause less pollution than items made from new resources. 

Ideally, production systems should be endless loops of production, use, recyling, re-production, and reuse.  Here's an example:  there are enough aluminum cans in circulation that if every can was recycled, cans would no longer have to be made from new ore!  This could be a closed loop system, resulting in great reductions of use of energy and resources, and the resulting pollution.  Yet we see discarded aluminum cans everywhere.  Instead of circular, production systems are linear:  Production, use, landfill.  What a waste! 

   I hate disposable products. They are everywhere. Most disposable products can easily be replaced by reusable products. Food and yard waste can be composted. I envision a future where everything we use is recyled. Paper, plastics glass and metal can be recycled now. Unfortunately, the infrastructure for collection is not available everywhere, making it inconvenient for many people. And many are apathetic and can't be bothered to make an additonal effort for the Earth.

Here's how I look at disposable products or throwing away recyclable material.  How hard is it to wash an extra plate or cup instead of using paper, or even worse, foam?  How hard is it to filter tap water and put it in a refillable bottle, instead of contributing to massive plastic bottle waste?  All products are made of resources.  In that sense, every product is a piece of the Earth.  So every time we throw something away, we have turned a piece of the Earth into a piece of garbage.  The Earth's resources are finite.  So, as we continue to turn pieces of the Earth into pieces of garbage, over enough time, the entire Earth is turned into a giant heap of garbage!

Think about it. 

Happy Earth Day, and please try to make every day Earth Day!

Training Tip Thursday

"As you get into the final weeks of your marathon preparation, the most important thing you can do is rest, rest and rest. The hard work is over. You need to do some training, but not too much. My approach has always been to cut mileage, but maintain intensity. Continue to run somewhat fast on the "hard" days, but not so far. For inspiration, rent a video of the classic English movie, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner."

From Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide, Intermediate 2 Program, Week 17.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"The distance race is a struggle that results in self-discovery. It is an adventure involving the limits of the self."

Paul Weiss

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Marathon Training Program: Week 16 - Taper Continues!

(Graphic from my page at The mileage in the graphic includes both running and cycling miles.)

This was an incredible running week.  After a breakthrough 21-mile run to finish the previous week, everything seemed to get easier this week.  Running paces that felt normal in the past suddenly felt slow.  Most of my Tuesday runs, following back-to-back long runs Saturday and Sunday and a rest day Monday, have been slow and sluggish, elevenish on pace.  This Tuesday's 5-miler felt comfortable at 9:01 minutes/mile.  Wednesday's 8-miler felt easy at 9:21 pace.  I pushed myself a bit on Thursday's 5-miler and logged it at 8:18 pace, tantalizingly close to an 8-minute barrier I never thought I'd cross.  After a rest day Friday, I couldn't help testing the the possibility of breaking 8 minutes.  Saturday, I pushed pretty hard and posted my scheduled 4-miler at 7:43 minutes/mile!  I probably pushed too hard for a taper week, and had really tired legs Sunday morning.  Fortunately, Sunday's schedule only called for 12, and I logged this one at an easier 10:18.  With two more weeks to taper before the marathon, I will not test pace further, and will run the rest of my training schedule "nice and easy."

I've also continued to add more cycling miles to my cross-training.  It really helps my legs feel better after the heavy running miles.  Weekly totals: 34 miles running, 28.35 miles cycling, 62.35 miles total, plus three weights workouts and two core workouts:
  • Monday: Rest.
  • Tuesday: 5 miles running, 7.85 miles cycling.
  • Wednesday: 8 miles running, 6.5 miles cycling.
  • Thursday: 5 miles running, 1 mile cycling.
  • Friday: Rest.
  • Saturday: 4 miles running, 11 miles cycling.
  • Sunday: 12 miles running, 2 miles cycling.
16 weeks down, 2 weeks to go!



Friday, April 16, 2010

Food Rules Friday

Today begins a new weekly feature, "Food Rules Friday," each featuring a rule from Michael Pollan's newest book, "Food Rules - An Eater's Manual." Michael Pollan is an acclaimed author and whole food/heathy eating advocate.  He is the author of the best selling "In Defense of Food" and "The Omnivore's Dillemma."

Rule #1: "Eat Food."

On first glance, one may think this is ridiculously obvious.  What else would anyone eat, but food?  But with this simple statement, Pollan introduces a basic concept contained in his books.  Much of what is eaten in the modern diet is overly-processed and factory-produced and contains an incredible array of added chemicals and unhealthy ingredients. Many ingredients are chemically altered.  Two ingredients that I avoid at all costs are hydrogenated or trans-fats, and high-fructose corn syrup.  More on these in future posts. 

We just eat too many pre-packaged "convenience foods" and "fast food," instead of preparing fresh food from fresh natural ingredients.  In addition to chemical additives, factory-produced processed foods contain added fats and sugars, and replace whole grains with refined grains. Is it a coincidence that obesity, heart disease, and diabetes have trended upward at the same time as the prolifieration of processed foods?

Pollan makes a statement that "Most of these items don't deserve to be called food-- I call them edible foodlike substances."  Hence, the Number 1 rule is simply "Eat Food!"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Training Tip Thursday

"Research suggests that runners often catch a cold or the flu the final week before the marathon, or the week after the marathon. That's because in building to a mileage peak, they often overdo it and temporarily suppress their immune systems. Marathoners thus are more vulnerable to any viruses they might encounter. To avoid colds, try to avoid people who have them. And get plenty of rest."

From Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide, Intermediate 2 Program, Week 16.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Green Choices Wednesday

Idling Vehicles

According to the U.S. Department of Energy:
"Idling vehicles use up to several billion gallons of fuel and emit large quantities of air pollution and greenhouse gases each year."

Yes, that's BILLIONS, with a B!  Most of it is wasted unnecessarily.  Think about the effect that needless demand for a billion extra gallons of fuel has on the cost of fuel for everyone!  Also consider that a burning a gallon of gasoline produces 19 pounds of greenhouse gases!

Idling Facts:
  • A vehicle does not need to warm up for minutes before driving.  30 seconds is adequate to establish good circulation of oil and coolant.  Many parts do not begin to warm up until the vehicle is driven.
  • More frequent restarting has little effect on battery and starter life, but idling decreases the life of major engine components.
  • More fuel is used in 10 seconds of idling than in restarting a vehicle.
  • An idling vehicle is getting 0 miles per gallon.  Pure waste!
  • Breathing vehicle exhaust is hazardous to health.
 Idling Suggestions:
  • Limit warm-up idling to 30 seconds.
  • Go inside instead of waiting in drive-through pick-up lanes. 
  • Except in traffic, turn the vehicle off if you have to wait.
  • In cold weather, wear a coat and gloves.  A vehicle doesn't have to be warm inside before driving!
These guidelines will save you money, fuel, needless wear on your vehicle, and reduce air pollution!

Think Green and Live Green!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quote of the Week Tuesday

"every time you run
you create the quality
of your own experience."

Fred Rohe, The Zen of Running.

This text is avaiable as an e-book for free download at:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Marathon Training Program: Week 15 - Taper Time!

(Graphic from my page at The mileage in the graphic includes both running and cycling miles.)

I'm going into taper with an amazing, breakthrough 21-mile run. Hal called for 20 miles at about 45 seconds/mile slower than race pace. I've been using 10:15 to 10:30 minutes/mile for my estimated race pace, so I set out to hold this one at 11:00 pace. I also wanted to use this run as a marathon "dry run" for all of the variables I could think of, including nutrition and hydration.

I set out to run 10 2-mile loops that took me past a water fountain at Rogers Park on the odd miles, and past my home on the even miles.  I left water bottles on my front porch; this let me grab a drink every mile, just like it will be with aid stations at the race.  I ate a Kashi energy bar and tanked up on Gatorade before I left, and stuffed a couple of Clif Shots and a package of Shot Bloks in my pockets.  I also wore the same shorts, singlet, socks and shoes that I plan to race in. 

I started out feeling great, and had to hold myself back to avoid exceeding the 11:00 pace through the mid teens.  I chewed on the Shot Bloks from around 5 miles through about 15. In the mid-teens, I got tired of holding myself back, and let myself speed up a little.  I kept waiting for it to get more difficult, but it never did! I don't mean difficult like all runs start to get in the teens. I mean legs screaming, feet throbbing, I-want-to-quit difficult. 16 came and went. I used one of my Clif Shots at 16, and never needed the second one. 18 came and went. On to 20, still didn't get any more difficult, and my 20 mile time was 13 minutes better than two weeks prior.  I still felt strong, so I decided to add an extra mile and see what I had left.  

I let loose on mile 21, and ran it in 8:23.  This was a total surprise, to be able to run an additional mile at record pace, after already running 20; my 5K PR pace is 8:37!  Overall 21 mile pace was 10:33.  It felt great to finish the core of the training schedule with a strong, confidence-building run like this. I finished with a 1-mile loop on my bicycle; it makes my legs feel so much better after running to add a brief cycling cooldown.  I have gradually added more cycling miles to my routine; it's a great form of cross-training for a runner.

Weekly totals: 51 miles running, 22.75 miles cycling, 73.75 miles total, plus three weights workouts and two core workouts:
  • Monday: Rest/cross-training: 6.75 miles cycling.
  • Tuesday: 5 miles running.
  • Wednesday: 10 miles running, 8 miles cycling.
  • Thursday: 5 miles running.
  • Friday: Rest: 6 miles easy cycling.
  • Saturday: 10 miles running, 1 mile cycling.
  • Sunday: 21 miles running, 1 mile cycling.
 15 weeks down, 3 taper weeks to go!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Training Tip Thursday

"What you do in any one workout doesn't matter. The most important point of any training program is the totality of that program, and the results it brings. A flash speed workout with quick splits may look good in your training diary, but it could bring you to the edge of overtraining. The same with running the long runs too hard. Your time in the final 20-miler won't count three weeks later. Your success will be measured by, 1) finishing the marathon, if you're a beginner, or 2) finishing it in a time that reflects your current capabilities, if you're an experienced runner. What you did while getting there doesn't count."

From Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide, Intermediate 2 Program, Week 15.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Green Choices Wednesday

Meatless Monday

(These recipes are available at

For a change of pace, this is a Wednesday feature about a Monday event.  There is a growing "Meatless Monday" movement that originated from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, to encourage Americans to eat healthier.  As the movement evolved, it has also gained the support of environmentalists.

The Meatless Monday goal is to "help reduce meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet."

Health Benefits:
  • REDUCE RISK OF HEART DISEASE. Beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds contain little to no saturated fats. Reducing your intake of saturated fats can help keep your cholesterol low and reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • MAINTAIN HEALTHY WEIGHT. A plant-based diet is a great source of fiber, which is absent in animal products. Foods rich in fiber make you feel full with fewer calories, resulting in lower calorie intake and less overeating. On average, Americans get less than half the recommended daily quantity of fiber.  
  • IMPROVE OVERALL QUALITY OF DIET. Consuming dry beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat. 
Environmental Benefits:
  • REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.  
  • MINIMIZE WATER USAGE. The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound. 
  • HELP REDUCE FOSSIL FUEL DEPENDENCE. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.

Links to Meatless Mondays Around the World:
Canada (Quebec)

Think Green - Consider the impact on the environment of everyday lifestyle choices!
Many people have switched to vegetarian diets for the health and environmental reasons listed above, in addition to concern for animal treatment in factory farms and slaughterhouses. However, doing without meat one (or more) days a week is a way for concerned citizens who are not interested in full vegetarianism to make a positive impact on the environment and their own personal health!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quote of the Week

"don’t overdo it .
underdo it .
you aren’t running because
you’re in a hurry to get somewhere."

Fred Rohe, The Zen of Running.

This is one of many statements, seemingly obvious on the surface, but upon deeper reflection, profound on many levels.  This text is avaiable as an e-book for free download at:  It is a concise text, quick to read, elegant in its simplicity.  I recommend it to all runners who are interested in running as an aid to self-awareness in addition to the physical benefits.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Marathon Training Program: Week 14

(Graphic from my page at The mileage in the graphic is a little higher than below, because it includes 16.6 crosstraining miles on bicycle on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.)

This was my last "step-back" week, a week of reduced mileage to recover from the previous high-mileage week, and to prepare for the next high-mileage week.  This was a relatively easy week, 34 miles total:
  •  Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 5 miles
  • Wednesday: 6 miles
  • Thursday: 5 miles
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 6 miles
  • Sunday: 12 miles
This was a fairly uneventful week, although I had more weekend fatigue than normal for reduced mileage, as a result of working on home improvement projects most of the weekend after running.  I also developed a little sensitive twinge in my left foot and ankle.  A little tendonitis?  We'll see how it feels after a day's rest.

The coming week brings the last of three 50-mile weeks with 10 and 20 milers back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday.  If I survive this last big week, I've got it made!  The following three weeks are for tapering mileage to recover for the marathon race!

14 weeks down, 4 to go!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Training Tip Thursday

"Too much racing can compromise your marathon training. In the marathon training class in Chicago, we used to recommend that students race no more than three out of the 18 weekends at distances between 10-K and 25-K. Now we don't recommend any racing out of fear of injury. Races, nevertheless, can help you determine your fitness level and help select your predicted marathon pace. Here's a handy formula for predicting marathon time. Multiply your 10-K time by 4.66. (For instance, 40:00 for 10-K predicts 3:06:40 for the marathon.) First-timers, however, should take a more conservative approach and multiply 10-K time by a factor of 5. (For instance, 50:00 for 10-K predicts 4:10 for the marathon.) By choosing the more conservative formula, and starting more slowly, you're less likely to hit the wall."

From Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide, Intermediate 2 Program, Week 14.