I've haven't run again since 12/26 and don't plan to run again until next weekend. Instead, I've been hitting the weights and bike at the gym--which is turning out to be pretty fun. I always neglect crosstraining: I tend to skip those days on the training schedule (the justification being that I already did the important parts of the training week so I can skip the slightly less important crosstraining). Yesterday, though, I was flying away on the bike like Lance Armstrong and having a blast. And just like with the treadmill, when someone got on the machine next to me I got all competitive: "You think you can out bike me? Fool. I've run 26.2 miles, I can kick your ass at anything...probably. I'll spank your ass to next Tuesday."
I forgot, though, that you can get sore really easily from doing new exercises. So dismounting the bike was a tragedy. My ass hurt like you would not believe. Rather, more that I would believe it should hurt after 50 minutes.
I also realized how many calories running burns in comparison to biking. At the end of 50 minutes, I had burned 530 calories according to the machine (yes, I know that's just an estimate, but go with me here). If I had done 50 minutes on the treadmill I would have burned somewhere in the range of 800-900 calories. Sheesh, I almost feel like a slacker.
So I'm off running for a bit, even though Austin is looming over me like a dark cloud. The good news is that even if I can't run on race day, I get a bag of 3M goodies (Post-its, Scotch tape, etc.) with a estimated value of $55--$5 more than the race entry fee.
I consulted my doctor (read: runnersworld.com) and the diagnosis is that I have IT Band Syndrome. The bad part is that I have to cut down running in order to bring down the inflamation. The good part is that it happens to runners of all experience levels and is easily treated.
So right as I'm supposed to peak in training for the Austin Half-Marathon I have to cut back my mileage. With so much stuff going on with work and the holidays maybe it's good that I have to reduce my training. The funny thing is that the training for this race has been plagued with injuries from the start. First there was Footgate--which still hasn't healed 100%. Now this. Maybe I'll develop an allergy to Gatorade just to round off the difficulties.
So here's perhaps the coolest race concept ever: get a bunch of people who have never met, who live in different parts of the country, and who all have different running abilities, to run the same distance on one day and call it a race. Great idea, huh? Unfortunately, I can't take credit for it, this was all Nancy's idea.
It was a cloudly and cold 36 degrees when I went out for the race. This Florida boy still gets freaked out every winter when the thermostat drops below 40 in December. The only good thing about the race was that there was no breeze--unlike last weekend's run which featured a 20 mph headwind/endorphin killer.
I showed up to the starting line. Got some stretches in, sized up to competition (i.e., the little Asian lady selling pastel drawings of Al Pacino in Scarface), and look my place at the back corner of Grand Army Plaza in Central Park. The race course was designed to be a tour of Central Park, going for the big loop around the park, adding in a lap around the Resevior and a quick run by the castle, ending at the NY Marathon finish line.
Since there was no one to shoot the starting gun or give thanks to the 5,000 sponsors that make this race possible, I was kinda lost when it came to starting the race. However, there was one split second when I managed to obscure the fact that it was freezing and that my stomach felt horrible--in that split second I hit start on my watch and off I went, completely forgeting to turn on my iPod. About one minute later I turn them on.
It had been a while since I had run through Central Park. Last time there were still leaves on the trees and I was running shorts (cold, but in shorts nonetheless). Now, three weeks after that run, the trees were completely bare. All color had been washed away into the gray drab of winter. The barren trees looked like giant clusters of nerve endings, almost like brains without the gray matter.
When I hit the main roadway, I realized that this would be a lonely race. The cold weather filtered all the, um, "less intense runners," leaving me to fend with the die-hard, would-PR-during-a-snowstorm kind of runners. That also meant that I was chicked and even--gasp--geriatricked several times during the race. Ouch. Ouch and a half. But I kept going on.
Actually injected some walking breaks when my stomach felt particularly bad or when I noticed that I was going way too fast. I've grown to really hate walking breaks, but in training for Austin I've been trying to ease up on my long runs so that I don't burn out in the first half of a run--all in hopes of avoiding a repeat of Baltimore. I've seen the benefits of this method, but it is almost as hard to hold back as it is easy to burn out.
The race goes on without much note. No cheering crowds, just the occasional runner passing me and me getting a little pissed off. I noticed the severe lack of course support, but the fact that I was the only one on the course made up for it (a little).
I finished 10 miles in 1:27:20--so an 8:43 pace. Considering that I went for the extra two mile challenge, I'm pretty happy.
But anywho, onto running.
It has been soooo long since I've done a long run. Since MY FIRST MARATHON EVER! the most I've run in one shot is six miles. Yesterday I did nine and oh did I quickly remember how hard it is.
I almost did a gym run because it was 33 degrees/feels like 22 when I woke yesterday. But I told myself "self, you've gone out running during a blizzard before, this is nothing." Well, I was right being able to run outside in this weather, I was wrong about it being nothing. This was my first legit cold weather run: I had to bust out the skully, gloves, and (gasp) track pants for this one. And even then, one mile into the run, I made a left turn and started heading West--right into the 20 mph winds coming straight from Canada. (Damn Canucks!)
On top of the blustery conditions, I had to get used to breathing the cold air. I don't know about you, but my body does not like getting cold air inside of it when it's freezing. So I would catch myself taking swallow breaths and having to force myself to breathe deeply, even though it was icy dry air.
Needless-to-say, this run did not go over too well. When I got home I looked at my time: ten min/mile (my goal was 8:45). The only good news was that I had made a wrong turn during my run. When I recalculated my route it turns out I ran an extra .5 miles, which lowered my pace to 9:29. Better--not great, but better. God I've forgotten how hard it is to get back on this horse.
1. My boss pulls me aside and says that our client has signed a new contract for 2008. I already know where this is headed because our client has cut back about 50% of spending for 2008 compared to this year. Turns out that new contract does not include me or my direct report; we will both have to be taken off the team. This is effective immediately for my direct report. She is already on a new team and working on their stuff. For me it's different. There is no other open position at my level in the agency right now. Our client has agreed to pay for me for the rest of the year so that I can finish my projects, but come mid-January, if there is still no position open, I will have to look for a job.
2. I have a conference call with our client to present an advertising campaign for a new service that will launch in early 2008. Our client and I are presenting to the third party that is providing funding for this campaign (think co-op advertising), so that we have their blessing before preceding with the campaign. The entire conference call is a downward spiral. Everything we have planned is wrong--very wrong. Turns out we were not given enough information from the third party when we were briefed. Our "big idea" is shot down in seconds and the rest of the recommendation needs to be completely revamped.
Ouch. If the first one didn't get me, then the second one did.
I ran nice and hard today after work--I'm going to enjoy dinner, eat a fantastic dessert, and see what tomorrow brings.
I woke up at 5:40 and hauled my butt—and the wife’s—over the gym by 6:15. Although for some reason, without the wife it only takes 20 minutes to leave the house. Grrr. If there is one thing that bothers me most it’s when people mess with my routine, I only put up with this disruption because, well, it’s my wife and she puts up with all my crap (like waking up at 5:40 to go running).
When I get to the gym, I realize that I’ve put on the wrong glasses. I have regular glasses and exercise glasses. Why? Back in the day, the exercise glasses started life as regular glasses, but then I realized that they were getting green and gunky with all the sweat from running. In order to avoid this happening to future glasses I got a new pair of regular glasses but held on to the old pair and used them exclusively for running. Now it’s about four years later and I have the same exercise glasses—even though my prescription has changed. Lately, I’ve realized a second benefit to these glasses: the ends of the legs curve around my ears so the glasses don’t slide or move. This is unlike my regular glasses, which, if I tried to run with them, would fall off the second I started sweating.
(And why no contacts? 1) I can’t get the friggin’ things on and 2) do you know how much contacts go for people with an astigmatism?!)
So I have to run without my glasses. Not the first time I’ve had to do this. Basically, it’s the same as normal running except that I can’t read squat—making for an interesting run since I can’t see anything on the treadmill’s dashboard. I start off fine with the first 800m repeat @ an 8:20 pace. And then, when I’m about to start my second 800m, I start hitting buttons. Since I can’t see anything, I end up hitting the “pause” button instead of the “increase speed” button and suddenly the treadmill slows to a halt. In an effort to correct this I hit the “pause” button again, since I think that will undo the pause. Nope. Doing that actually turns off the machine. Damn you Precor! Why are all your buttons black?
I utter an “oh shit” and start the machine again. At least I hadn’t started the repeat yet.
The rest of the run was uneventful, except for my stomach protesting the early morning run. Another grrr. A not-too-difficult five 800m repeats under my belt, hooray. I can put a big ol’ check in the box next to Day One. Now I just have to keep this up for another 10 weeks and I’ll be cruising through Austin at a superstar 8:00 pace. Or so says Ryan Hall, my personal Half-Marathon training coach.
- How to ask for directions
- Not to play with fire
- How the stock market works
- Where oats, green beans, and barley grow
Now you can add "Don't mix Johnnie Walker and running" to that list.
Friday night was a going away party for one of the people in my office. Who picks a Friday for a work party? I have no clue. But when I give the bartender my credit card to open up my tab, she says there is a $25 minimum. No problem with meeting that minimum since, like any good NYC bar, a (half-empty) glass of Black Label here is $9. And there's no real problem with having three glasses of whiskey because we stopped for pizza before hitting the bar. The problem here is that I'm planning a six mile run the next morning.
So over the course of the next hour and change I throw back the three glasses of whiskey. Then, as I'm about to head out to meet my wife, my coworker pulls me over and says to have a shot with him since he has yet to meet his $25 minimum. So I down a kamikaze with him and get out of there before any more alcohol gets in my body.
The second I get home I pass out. No water, no food, just go straight to bed--well, couch, then the bed. Rock starness personified.
The next morning I wake up with a mild stomachache, but it comes and goes and is more annoying than painful. I drink my weight in water, take a shot of GU and then head out for what I keep telling myself is going to be a nice six miles.
One mile into the run I realize the whole thing was a bad idea and just want to crawl over to a bench, curl up, and take a nap. But even if I convinced myself to do that, I couldn't. It is 39 degrees and windy--and of course I am wearing shorts. So stupid. Who wakes up hung over, puts on shorts, goes running in freezing weather, and does a hilly six mile run? Well, I do. This reeks of the bee sting fiasco at the Baltimore Marathon, except this pain is self inflicted.
I take walking breaks after miles two, three, and four. Although by mile five I must have sweated out all the badness because I started hauling some serious ass at that point. I finished with an average pace of 8:40--not exactly the 8:00 I was hoping for. But I finished, which was enough of a battle to make up for those extra 240 seconds.
I'll consider this a lesson, although I can't say I've learned anything: I am simultaneously starting my training for the Austin Half-Mary and starting the holiday party season. Johnnie is one tough SOB when he teams up with his friend Tryptophan.
You only have to watch the first minute or two. It's so incredibly, unbelievably, and thoroughly bad. "Do you like this dress? It's very dramatic." I do think it's dramatic, and I also think it's giving me a migraine. I love it.
But then my boss showed me the parody of the video (note: this is not appropriate for work, children, or anyone with reasonably high moral standards):
Holy Hanna. I almost peed my pants the first time I watched this...and the second through fifth times. It's just so hilarious on its own that I don't even need to comment.
On the running front: I went running this morning. My first attempt after Footgate 2008. It was patchy through the first mile, but managed to work the kinks out. The rest of the run (4 miles in total) went pretty well with a 7:55 pace for the last mile and an average pace of 8:37. The only thing is that it's been forever since I've been to the gym before work. So I have to train myself to like it again.
She started poking at my foot with her finger and at first it felt fine--I thought I was on the high road to self recovery after the two hour soaking in Epsom salt on Friday night. And then she started scratching at the thing and OOOOOOOO she found it. So she whips out a needle and says she's going to numb the area and start prodding around in there to see if she can get it out. I thought: Great! This is exactly what I wanted, she numbs it, she clean the hell out of it, and it'll be smooth sailing.
But then I discovered that numbing medicine BURNS LIKE A BIATCH. She said: "You're going to feel this needle, but it's just gonna be a baby needle." Yes, the prick of the needle was tiny, but when she started pushing in whatever was in that syringe--sweet. mother. of. JESUS. When I felt that burning in my foot my other leg spasmed--perhaps in an act of sympathy for my right foot. Man that burned. And since the first shot didn't seem to numb the area all the way she had to do it a second time. OUCH OUCH OUCH.
(As you can tell I am a big baby when it comes to needles and doctory stuff. When doctors need to draw blood I always tell them I have to lay down--because I've come very close to fainting on various occasions. The sad part about it is that none of these reactions are voluntary. It's just that any time I'm around a needle all the blood leaves my head (no idea where it goes). You should see how grossed out I get when watching ER or even nip/tuck. It's pathetic.)
And then the ball of my foot went numb. She started probing at the area with I don't know what--I didn't want to look. Then she switched tools and started probing some more. About five minutes later she cleaned up the area and put a bandage on it. She said she cleaned it out and left the wound open so that if anything was left in there it could come out. She said to soak it some more in salt water and to call the podiatrist if it didn't heal in the next couple of days.
So I got home, soaked the foot for another two hours in salt water and then headed out to Target with the wife. After that insanity we came back home and tried this fish restaurant around the corner from our apartment (very good eats there). Then we came home, I soaked the foot some more. And then we watch 5 hours of movies and random programming on TV. (BTW, there is nothing good on Saturday nights.)
It's now 8am and the foot feels fine and dandy. There is just a little bit of tenderness since it's still healing, but otherwise I should be good to go to Dim Sum (yum!), do groceries (boo!), and go to the gym (finally!).
My left leg has recovered after I overexerted my left hamstring/calf muscles during Sunday's urban rebounding class. It seems like it was just a strained muscle. By Tuesday everything felt normal in that leg.
The story with my right foot is not so rosy. Since Sunday it has not made any sign of healing. Actually, after days of trying to walk on it, I realized on Thursday night that the foot was swelling up. Right now, the ball of my foot and my toes are all significantly swollen. On top of that, I picked at the cut with tweezers and some clear goo came out. Wonderful. Swelling + goo = infection.
I'm going to the doctor in about an hour to get this checked out. I'm really hoping that its nothing. That my foot is reacting normally and that this isn't some major infection. I'm also hoping that she tells me there is nothing in my foot. I don't know what I stepped on, but it was tiny--I think it was a little rock that just got stuck to my shoes and dragged into the apartment. The hole it made is only about 1/8 of an inch long and I can't imagine that something is lodged in there.
For now, I will continue to hobble and be pissed as hell that I can't run.
It was pretty fun (except for the complex coordination part, which I failed at) and I got into it. By the end though, the muscles behind my left knee had had enough. Everytime I would bend that knee I'd get a sharp pain on inside of the leg. So much for assuming I was in peak physical condition.
But other than this soreness/strained muscle-ness, I finished the class unscathed.
Fast forward to that evening.
I'm walking around the apartment barefoot putting away groceries/putting away laundry/cursing my 1,000 year old computer, when I step on something small and sharp. OUCH! I turn over my right foot and see a tiny puncture right smack-dab in the middle of the ball of my foot.
Great, so now I can't bend my left leg because its sore and I can't use my right foot because it has a wound. So much for coming back strong this week.
We made it to November 1--I didn't think my wife and I were going to make it. For the next three weeks we won't have a single anniversary, marathon, hotel reservation, 13-hour work days, surprise guest, rental car, birthday party, road trip, pumpkin carving party, delayed flight, or holiday to worry about.
So we will be recovering this weekend and doing absolutely nothing, which may even include not running. The NYC Marathon is this weekend and I won't have a damned place to run because of the Olympic Men's Marathon trials on Saturday and the race on Sunday. We'll, I'll just jump off that bridge when I get to it...tomorrow night...when I'm trying to decide what route to take the next morning.
Speaking of running, last weekend's run was AWESOME. Not only were there perfect conditions for a nice little six-mile run, but I held an 8:25 pace!! Ok, yes, that's only a little bit on the fast side for me--not exactly new territory--but the strange thing was that I wasn't running fast! I was slowing myself down most of the time! Every time I would feel myself going too fast I would slow myself down. I didn't force a single step until the sprint at the end. I've had runs where I'm pushing the hell out of myself throughout the entire run to get an 8:25 pace.
If that doesn't teach me the lesson of pacing, nothing will.
Also saw one of my running fears come to life in front of me: a head-on runner-on-runner collision. I was passing this one woman who appeared extremely concentrated on her running. As I was passing her on her right, I saw a couple running against traffic coming straight at this woman. Since this woman only had a foot or so of street between her left side and the curb I sped up so that she could slip in behind me and go around the couple coming at her. But said woman did not move; she kept going straight. The oncoming couple didn't separate or fall in line either, they too were in the mood to play chicken. Meanwhile, I'm just watching them get closer and closer until BAM!!
The woman I was passing and the woman from the couple slammed into each other. And I'm not talking just a brushing of the shoulder. This was a full-on, face-in-face, tangled arms crash. Assuming each was going at about 5 mph, that's a collision speed of 10 mph--ouch! But in true New York style they just kept on running, not checking if the other one was ok or pausing to see if they themselves were ok. It seemed as normal to them as wiping sweat from your face. Amazing.
That's about it for running...haven't been able to get on a set schedule because of the general craziness of things. But will pick things up this weekend and next week.
For those of you curious about that pumpkin carving party mentioned above, here is my finished product:
And why is this the threshold?
- It's difficult to tell people you're a marathoner when you haven't run a thing in past 1.5 weeks. One week is fine--you have emergencies, you work late, life happens. But 1.5 is excessive.
- It's harder to sleep at night. For the past few days I've noticed that I don't sleep as well as I did during training (not that I got a lot of sleep during training, but it was higher quality sleep).
- It gets harder to breathe (yes, a tip to Maroon 5 for that one). My nose has been getting stuffier and I've been finding it more difficult, overall, to breathe.
- You read all these running blogs and start to lose your solidarity with them.
- You can't find your peanut butter because it has retreated to back of the pantry--rather it has been pushed there by all the other food you've been eating while you haven't had to whip it out before a run.
- You have to start passing up desserts. Anyone who knows me knows that I have never met dessert/baked good/sugar encrusted concoction that I didn't like. But since I'm not burning 3000+ calories a week any more, I'm feeling really bad about that scoop of ice cream after dinner.
But I'm getting back on the wagon TODAY. It is an absolutely perfect day:
- It'll be in the high 50s for the whole run
- There is beautifully sunny
- The only race in Central park today will be over by the time I start running
- I don't have to run at a specific pace
- I didn't have to wake up at 7am this morning to run
Its going to be a great day.
Morning of the race, sporting the cool kids' sticker (yeah, it flew off about Mile 16)
In the words of my wife: "no wonder you got stitches, your arms were always in the air." Apparently do I not only get cocky during races, but I also get vertical arm disease.
The money shot.
Now from behind--in the orange on the left.
So those are the pictures. Looking back at them I feel proud about what I've accomplished, even if it wasn't how I wanted to accomplish it--almost like it was a starter marathon.
But fortunately, this race has only made me want to run more: I can't wait to finally run Central Park this weekend. I haven't looked forward to a run this much in a long time. There is no set distance or pace for me to worry about. That's probably the most taxing part of marathon training: the fact that no matter how hard or long the run is this week, next week's will be even worse. But not now--and not for a long time. It'll just be good times out there on Sunday. I'm really excited about it.
That kinda brings me to my next point. Or rather, everyone else's next point: what race am I going to run next? What has slipped past everyone is that I picked my next race a long time ago and it's been posted over there on the left for about five months now: the 3M Austin Half-Marathon. It only says tentative because I haven't booked the flight yet. Yup, going down to the Lone Star state and run a little race, hear a little indie music, and meet up with a little friend. OK, our friend is actually normal size but I had to finish the triad. I'm really excited about this race because it's a Half-Mary (woo hoo!) and mostly downhill (double woo hoo!).
I've also told myself that since I'll be bringing down the running intensity (yea!) that I will focus on my overall fitness while prepping for this race. That means actually doing cross-training and always doing pre- and post- work-out stretches and watching what I eat. My goal for this race is to become healthier (and a little bit faster) by the time I cross the finish line--I won't be running just to run, but running to become healthier.
That said, I've also had San Francisco up for the past five months as the marathon I'll be tackling next year. But after Baltimore I'm rethinking that decision. San Francisco is a much, MUCH hillier course than Baltimore--so I'm thinking that it might be better as my third or fourth marathon. In that case I have to change my plans around for the rest of 2008. Thoughts?
Also--and this is for you, Marcy--my feet are still handsome devils. They came out of that race without a single blister, black nail, or callus between them. Fortunately I wear sneakers all the time, otherwise the ladies would be all over my feet--and wife will have none of that.
I did it. I went up against the juggernaut and I won.
It was not the run I had hoped for, not by a long shot. There were things I should have been prepared for that I wasn't, and things that I was prepared for, but never encountered. But here I am a week later--fully convinced I have achieved something super human--having run MY FIRST MARATHON EVER.
Ah, it feels so good to refer to it in the past tense.
I don't know where to begin with a race recap. I guess the beginning is the best place to start. I got to the starting corrals two minutes before the gun (poor planning on my part), so I had 120 seconds to find the 4-hour group and untangle my headphones before 2500 runners started pushing me forward. I didn't have a second to gauge my surroundings or get into the mood or give myself the pre-race pep talk. You know, that time when you go over the course in your head 1000 times, try to feebly develop a game plan, and stand there, like a horse at the gate, pumping your legs and feeding off the other people's energy. None of that, the second I plugged in my headphones I was crossing the starting line.
The course started on an incline, but I didn't even notice. The first seven miles I was on air. According to my splits I was doing an 8:34 pace for the first quarter of the race--that's my tempo pace. Yeah, I really should have taken that as a sign to slow down. We were passing by lakes and parks and quaint neighborhoods, and I taking in as much as I could, not realizing that I was setting myself up for a fall.
Then I got the stitch. Mile eight was the mile of damnation. It hit me like a screwdriver lodged in my right side. I slowed down, I concentrated on my breathing, but this stitch was coming on strong. Two miles later, after perhaps the most painful run anyone has ever done around Ft. McHenry, the stitch weakened. Unfortunately, the stitch would hang around for the rest of the race.
Although I was feeling good stomach-wise I decided to made a potty break at mile 12. I figured it would be better to do this now then have to scramble for a bathroom later. It was a two-minute break, but it probably prevented a longer break down the road. Gold star for me for running smart.
Despite the stitch from hell, I was still going strong through the half way point. I past the 13.1 mile marker at just under 2 hours (gun time). There were big crowds at this point because the half-marathon started here, relay exchange #2 was here, and the marathon passed through the point twice. The crowds gave me a big swell of energy going through mile 13. But then I turned the corner and they were gone. And then came something that I was not prepared for: the loneliness.
With only 2,500 marathoners, by mile 13 the pack had thinned out significantly. This was the point where I could only see maybe 20 runners in the block ahead of me. And I thought, holy crap, I have only done half of this race and I feel like I am the only one out here. This was the part I wasn't prepared for. In NYC it's impossible to be by yourself while you're running--there is always someone else out there. But at this point in the race I felt isolated and weak. This compounded with the eternal stitch in my side was not good for morale until...
At mile 16, a geyser of half-marathoners joined with the marathon course and the field quadrupled in size. It was like two rivers mixing. Fortunately, the fine people at the Baltimore Marathon fenced off the marathon route through this section. Otherwise, this would have been a messy area.
Mile 16 also began a six-mile incline section. Yes, six miles. When were they going to tell us about that? I've done plenty of hills in training...but they were Central Park hills, they go up and down, not up and up. With the stitch going off and on I pretty much gave up goal #1 for the race (finish in 3:55 or less), but chugged along.
Then I got stung by a bee.
Yes, a honey-making, stinger-yielding, yellow and black bumble bee stung my leg while I was running the marathon. Who gets stung by a bee while they're running a marathon? I do...apparently. I still can't believe it. The fellow runner who saw this happen also could not believe it. At first it felt like someone had stuck a needle in my thigh. I slapped my leg and something fall out of my shorts. It was small and yellow and bug like. I just didn't know what to do--I've never been stung by a bee before, what if I was allergic? That would be spectacular:
Person: "How was your marathon?!"
sRod: "I didn't finish."
Person: "What happened? Did you tear a ligament? Did you collapse from fatigue? Were you attacked by a pack of wild boars?"
sRod: "No, I was stung by a bee"
sRod: "No, really, I got stung by a bee and had to stop"
Yeah, that story wouldn't do. So I just kept on running, stopping every now and then to make sure there wasn't any massive swelling or other allergic reaction.
As the six-mile hill continued I caved into the stitch and started inserting walking breaks. I tried to only walk through the water stations, but that wasn't cutting it. Every time I would start running after a walking break the stitch would flare up within a few minutes. Damn it. With every walking break I got a little more disappointed with myself. I had the energy to keep going, my feet felt fine, I was well hydrated, my stomach was cooperating--but I had just run too hard in the first third of the race, and now I was paying for it.
Miles 20-25 are a bit hazy: at this point I had just plain lost track of where I was on the course. Then I came upon one of the little pockets of Baltimorians that went all out in support of the marathon. There were small pockets of people throughout the course, many of them had gummy bears (yum) or tootsie rolls (yuck), some had posters (one of which read: "how do stickers stick to non-stick pans?"), and some dressed up (there were two pirates, two women dressed in neon robes and boas, and one guy in a foam muscle suit)--all of them were great.
However, at this point in the race (mile 22.5?), the entire block, mostly John Hopkins students, had come out in full force. They were on a hill and knew that it was a difficult hill to climb. They were handing out all sorts of candy and water. They were also blasting music from somewhere. It was so loud that it overpowered the music in my earphones. They started to play "Cha Cha Slide" and someone came on the speakers and said "Good morning runners! We're gonna help you get over this hill!" So, seeing that I had nothing to lose and that these people were here supporting us, I started to dance along to the song while I was running up hill. I felt my calves cramp a little while I was trying to criss-cross--which, by the way, is a very difficult move when you're running, never mind running up a hill--but I made it through the hill and had a nice little burst of energy.
The last stretch of race was supposed to be all downhill, but let me tell you, there was nothing downhill about it. At this point I was trying to get my second (well, probably more like my 15th) wind, but once I would gather up momentum we'd run into a bridge or a tunnel. But I knew the end was near, so I would try to distract myself by looking at the scenery (of which there was none at this point) or talking to other runners. I came across someone else who was stuffing from a stitch--her hand in the tell-tale position against her left side--and offered her some encouragement.
During mile 25 I saw my #2 goal (finish under four hours) slip away. I looked down at my watch as we entered the downtown area that preceded the finish line. I saw the watch tick from 3:59:59 to 4:00:00. Instead of hurting, it inspired me to keep going. I knew I only had one goal left (finish in 4:12 or less) and that was fully within my reach.
We hit the baseball museum and I knew it was the final half mile. There were lots of crowds here and lots of energy. I reached down to my iPod and forwarded onto the last song: "Move Along" by the All-American Rejects. Something about that song always gets me. Maybe its the opening drums, maybe it's the uber-positive message, but when I hear this song I just want to run forever. And being so, I've permanently assigned it the last song position.
The song starts and suddenly, as if music was loaded with caffeine, I get an tremendous surge of energy and break out into sprint. As we turn the corner I see a runner that is walking, and for me, there is no such thing as walking during the final stretch of the race. If my hazy memory serves me correctly, I shouted something like "come on, you're almost there" and gave him a slight tap on the shoulder. Of course, I had runner's brain and didn't realize that he might be injured, but I turned around and saw him running behind me. So I think that was encouragement well spent.
At this point the course goes through Camden Yards (not the field, but the concession area next to it) and suddenly all the crowds disappear for about .1 miles since no one except the runners is allowed in the stadium. On the other side of the fence, however, I could see thick crowds.
I came out of Camden Yards flying into crowds that were probably three or four people deep (or maybe one person deep, damn runner's brain). I started singing and yelling...only .3 miles to go. I could see the finish line...only .2 miles to go. Since I had been running for four hours any change in movement--including sprinting--came as a relief...only .1 miles to go. I tried looking for my wife and mom in crowd, knowing that I've never had luck finding them...100 feet to go. Then, through the music, I heard my name called crystal clear through crowd. Twenty feet from the finish line I turned my head around mid-stride and in the one spot I can focus on I see my wife's blue hoodie and my mom's beige blazer.
I crossed the finish line in 4:09:39.
I grabbed a Mylar blanket and wrapped myself up and let out a few sobs of happiness. Then I realized that now I had to fight through a mess of very sweaty runners to get water, Gatorade, and food. This was probably the worst part of the race: the whole finish line area was squished into a parking lot no larger than your standard Macaroni Grill parking lot. I'm usually fine in tight spaces, but this was really uncomfortable, since I figured at any minute someone could barf on me. And since I wasn't moving anywhere I started to feel queasy and just needed a place to sit--although with so many people, clear space was rare real estate.
I made it out of the runner's area and couldn't find the family meet-up area (although apparently it was right next to me--remember, severe runner's brain). And tried to make it to the back-up location: the gigantic fiberglass cow in the staging area. I couldn't even make it to this spot without having to sit-down and take the weight off my feet for a minute. I got up again, plowed through the crowd to the cow, set my Mylar on the ground and finally got to lay down. Eventually my wife and mom found me by the cow udder. They were all happy for me and I was just all smiles (except for the bee sting).
And that's pretty much it. We went back to the hotel, washed up, and had lunch at P.F. Chang's. I ate my plate plus the left overs of everyone else's. We walked around the downtown area a bit before going back to the hotel and spent the rest of the evening in the hotel room. Around 8pm I got hungry again--OK, well, I was hungry all day--and we did a Chipotle run to get delicious Mexican food (not the healthiest but I figured I could eat whatever I wanted).
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the BP across the street to get water. As we were paying for the water a guy comes up to us and asks: "Are you guys the POlice?" My wife and I laugh it off and tell him we're not. Then a second later he asks: "Have you ever tried ecstasy?" My wife and I get an even bigger laugh from that and then bolted out of there and hopped in the car. We drove across the street back to the hotel and parked in the gated parking lot--sans drugs.So that was my experience in Baltimore. I got the marathon under my belt and can now call myself a marathoner (vs. a half-marathoner). The funny thing is that I'm not more excited about it. Maybe it's because it's been lost among the hours of work and tons of other things going on this month. Or maybe its because I didn't run the race I wanted to and my previous race (NJ) was such a great run. I am happy I did it, even though it wasn't the race I had hoped and dreamed for, but then again, they rarely are.
I've been pulling 12 hour days in the office this week and planning the wife's birthday party. But I am alive and well, and I am working on a post-race recap.
For now, here are some teasers:
- I almost missed the start!
- I was stung by a bee!
- I was offered ecstacy!
All that and more in the post-race recap.
There were lots of surprises for her (lots of stress for me getting this done behind her back). I'm at work right now, so I don't have time to go into major detail, but some highlights were:
- On Saturday night, a bottle of wine we bought on our honeymoon "magically appeared" at dinner. We met the winemaker and toured his facility on our honeymoon, when we bought this wine he told us that the wine would be good no matter when we opened it, but that it would be absolutely prefect if we waited until October 2007. Wife forgot about this bottle...I did not. She knew it was this bottle of wine because you can't get this wine any where in the states (the winemaker only makes a few 100 bottles a year).
- On Sunday night (anniversary night), we had dinner at the same place that catered our wedding. I was able to arrange for the chef to recreate part of the custom menu from our wedding. She was super surprised with that, but was floored when the waitress came out carrying the top tier of our wedding cake (something wife had also forgotten about).
There was also a run with a Segway and horse poop, but that's another story for another time.
It's been a busy week in the world of running. On almost the same day the Chicago Marathon melts down and Marion Jones admits using steroids to get her Olympic medals. My heart goes out to all the Chicago runners out there. So much careful preparation, so many weeks of diligent and persistent training and then a heavy handed reminder that you're still human. My friend was hoping to qualify for Boston and ended up adding 2 minutes to his time. I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him yet, but I know he feels slapped in the face.
I've done my rounds and it seems like Tom, Nitmos, and Jess are alright--and I'm so glad to hear that. Hot runs are hard...I can't finish them. Hot races...well...I'm sure it's like running straight into Hell. Recover well guys.
I've been working like nuts this week, so I might not get to post pre-race. If you don't hear from me by Friday night, then wish me luck for MY FIRST MARATHON EVER!
- This weekend: escaping to North Carolina for the anniversary
- Next weekend: MY FIRST MARATHON EVER
- Weekend after that: wife's birthday
- Last weekend of the month: Halloween festivities
- During this month at work: two MAJOR projects due before the end of the month
No idea how I ever expected to get through this month.
But alas, Super Month is not the purpose of this post. I'm writing tonight to let everyone out there who is running Chicago this weekend that while I have my last long run this Sunday morning, I will be rooting for all of you...and hoping that you watch your step at the finish line. Good luck guys! You're all Kenyans this weekend.
It was 13-miles through the hills of Central Park: more classic you can't get. I told myself I was going to run those 13 miles in 1:50 or less, so as to set a PR for the Half-Marathon distance (ok, I would have been .1 miles off).
Weather was in my favor--which I've learned is about 50% of the battle during long runs--clear skies, a breeze, mid-60s. I set off running and wouldn't you know that the NY Road Runners are having a marathon tune-up run in the park. Excellent! I get a race atmosphere and race amenities (i.e., water stations and Gatorade) without having to sign up for the race. **A note on etiqutte: yes, it is wrong to take water and gatorade from those who pay for it, but have you seen the mountains of cups left on the table at the end of a race? No one goes thristy on a race course. I used to feel bad, but now I don't.** So I'm crusing, doing fantastic time, until mile 10.
At mile 10 I got a massive stitch. My first thought was that I got a sudden kidney infection and my right kidney was turning brown a shriviling up. I had to walk. I had tons of energy, I was making great time, I didn't even need the gazillion packs of GU I had--but I could not take the pain while I was running.
So I walk-ran the last 3 miles. I hated every step I took walking. And when I did run, I couldn't muster speed without flaring up the 2x4 in my side. There went my PR.
Sigh. No glory for me this weekend. I guess God is saving it for October 13.
The excitement is practically dripping off every word I say these days. I don't even have the patience to go through runs these days knowing that I'll be going head-to-head with the juggernaut in just two weeks.
To add to the excitement, my mom, who is coming up for support on race weekend, sent me a care package. On Thursday, my mom calls me at work and says "did you get my package yet?" So I go downstairs to check the mail room. There is a big box (6 in. x 2 ft. x 1.5 ft.) and my mom has fashioned a strap out of cardboard and tape so that I can easily carry the package on the train--this is why I love my mom. Thanks to FedEx, I can see what's inside the box because of a gigantic tear on the side: it's a foot bath, two bags of Epsom salt, bandages, and foot cream. A runner's dream come true. My beauty feet can now stay as pretty as ever...which is becoming more difficult with the high mileage.
One other thing: those Fountains of Running Positivity and Ambassadors of Hope through Hardship, Tom and Amy over at The Runner's Lounge, have taken their blog to the next level. The Runner's Lounge is now a fully outfitted social website for runners and to my best knowledge, the first of its kind. I'm signed up and you should sign up too. However, I'm convinced that only Marcy and Nancy read my blog, and they were probably the first two to sign up.
But tonight I sleep and tomorrow I run. Baltimore is 15 days away and I must taper properly (more like properlyish).
I did get some inspiration before going to bed: watched the premiere of The Office tonight, which included a "5K fun run/walk race for the cure." Hilarious. Go watch it. Watch it now.
I started running, serious running, in the summer of 2004. Back then I had one goal: lose weight. Since then, I've quickly developed new goals, but weight loss is always in the back of my head.
For the past three years I've been bouncing between 200 lbs. and 185 lbs.. What I find amazing is how when I trained for my first half-marathon I lost a ton of weight (not sure how much, but probably went from 200 to 185). But for my last race I barely shed a pound, even though I was much faster.
I guess with a new distance my body has a renewed desired to lose weight because I've eaten like crazy for the past three months and have managed to lose about .75 pounds a week. I started training at 193 and this Monday I weighed in at 179--and I've still got more training to go.
I'm happy about the weight loss, but not for the same reasons I would have been in the past. In the past I worried about weight for health and appearance reasons. While those are still important, now weight loss means a faster speed, longer endurance, and being able to purchase clearance items at running stores (why is "small" always the only size on the clearance rank?).
So that's it. I'm going to crawl back into bed and sleep a bit more with the wife, happy that I don't have to run today at the gym (aka, "the fart factory," more on that later).
And just to keep you posted: we are exactly three weeks from MY FIRST MARATHON EVER! All you folks doing Chicago (and it seems like everyone is doing Chicago) I'll be just six days behind you.
Sunday I ran 19 miles. Wooo! That is now officially the longest I've ever run. And not only was it my longest run ever, but it was also a great run. Here are the highlights/interesting thoughts:
- Weather was key to this run. We got a cold snap over the weekend so it was a beautiful 55ish degrees on Sunday morning with a nice little head wind. There was no cloud coverage, but it was so cool that it didn't matter much (until the last four miles...but more on that later). It was such a relief just to run in this weather that four miles (and one Queensboro Bridge) into the run I felt like I was still warming up.
- The new route was also key to this run. Instead of taking the subway to a starting point I started right here in Astoria. I only run in the neighborhood on Wednesday mornings and it is always the same route. But I started this Sunday's run with a tour of Astoria before hiking over the Queensboro Bridge. I forget how refreshing it is to do a new route. I also realize that I am running out of new places to run.
- I'm finally enjoying my music. One of the tell-tale signs that I'm deep into training (this week is peak week) is that I start dancing. Yes, dance. Ok, not dancing dance, but running dance. I listen to music on every run, but I hardly update my music, so the music loses its edge but becomes comfortable (kinda like a baby blanket). However, there is a point during training when even the song I've heard 1,000 times becomes brand new and I start singing along and kind of run-dancing. I know I'm in good condition when that starts happening.
- I love my new clothes. I admit it: I have a coordinated running outfit. I bought it two weeks ago with MY FIRST MARATHON EVER in mind. This is the second run I do with the outfit and both the shirt and the shorts are awesome. They stay practically bone dry through out the entire run and don't chafe anything (so far). The outfit is from New Balance but I have no idea what the model is; the shirt has a cool waffle texture and the shorts look like mesh but feel like cotton. Since I've gone on two successful run with this outfit I'll be using it on race day (which is only 25 days away!).
- Why do men have nipples? I experimented with bandages on Sunday. They protected the nipples alright, but I screamed like a Catholic school girl when I had to take them off. Perhaps I should have trimmed before putting on the bandages. Anyone have experience with nipguards? They may be the next step because there are times when I feel this will be me on race day.
- Was that a turkey, in Harlem? Why, yes it was. As I was rounding the Northeast corner of Morningside Park a turkey joined me for 20 feet of my run. I don't know how a turkey gets into Manhattan, but this one did...and it was running...maybe training to escape the impending ax.
- Was that a llama, donkey, and emu? Why, yes it was. Maybe it was a mini-petting zoo, but there happened to be a llama, donkey, and emu in a pen near the basketball courts on the Hudson River Park. What is probably more remarkable was that I was able to recognize all three animals from the split second I saw them.
- I successfully ran the last four miles of the run through Manhattan's version of Death Valley. I like to refer the stretch of Hudson River Park from 57 street to Chambers Street as "Death Valley." This long stretch of urban park land is a runner's nightmare: a very straight four-miles of uncovered asphalt that is baked in the sun all day and runs alongside an eight-lane highway so that any breeze the Hudson River might cough up is choked by car exhaust. Many of my runs have fizzled into fatigue on this Death Valley; and of course I planned the last for miles of my run for this strip of land. But I did it, making only one stop to refill my water bottle.
So, for real this time: this is my 40th post!!! ::insert fanfare here::
For those of you who use a Mac, you know the wonders of the dashboard. At work I have a Mac and when I discovered the dashboard I was fully converted to an Apple junkie. If you don't know what the dashboard is, basically it's like a second desktop on your computer where you have mini-programs (e.g., calculator, stock ticker, gmail reader, weather, etc.) that are always running. Hands down the handiest thing on a Mac. (I swear, this will eventually relate to running.)
On my dashboard I have setup a count down clock to the Baltimore Marathon. My dashboard is pretty cluttered, so I pay attention to the clock about once or twice a week. However, this week, the construction on our floor FINALLY ended and we moved out of conference rooms and over to real desks. ("Real desk" is used loosely: at my agency our desks are actually made of scaffolding...I'm not kidding.) This involved a two day moving process and between that and my regular workload I didn't even notice that the countdown slipped under the one-month mark.
My realization yesterday afternoon: holy crap, I have less than one-month until MY FIRST MARATHON EVER! Over dinner last night I commented to the wife: by this time next month I'll have my first marathon under my belt and be dreading going back to work. Wow, it's so close. Less than one month is really, really close.
Naturally, the wife responds with, "do you think you're ready?" She's not the first to ask this question, and I always have a little trouble with this question. I have five half-marathons up on the wall already, and after the last one I felt great and could have honestly done another 13ish miles. So during my training for Baltimore I haven't really been too concerned about completeing the race: I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to cross the finish line, in some matter...in some amount of time.
Where my concern lies is how I'll cross the finish. Yes, I know this is my first marathon. Yes, I know that the full marathon is a new and different beast. And yes, I know I should take it as easy as possible. But when you get down to it, I'm still a 20-something competitive male that is too stubborn to act better when he knows better.
Unlike Nitmos, I set my goals out early in my training under the philosophy of "reach for the moon because if you miss, you'll still land among the stars." Poetic, I know; naive, you bet. So I started training for MY FIRST MARATHON EVER with the idea of maintaining an 8:30 pace. Mind you, my half-marathon PR is in the 8:40 range. It was doable the first few weeks, but once the intense summer sun hit, I adjusted my expectations a bit. Since then, I've been training with a goal pace of a 9:00 min/mile, but usually running at a faster pace.
Over the course of training, though, I have developed three different goal levels:
Goal #1 "Best Case Scenario" - Anything under 3:55:48. If I can do less than a 9:00 min/mile I'll be so happy I'll wet my pants...although they'll be soaked by the end of the race no matter what, so that's pretty much a moot expression. Given my performance on my good runs, this could be an attainable goal. This is a "nice to have" goal.
Goal #2 "I Can Do This" - Four hours. This is the goal I should be able to attain--pending no disasters on race day.
Goal #3 "If Nothing Else, Do This" - Less than 4:12:00. Yeah, this is an awkward number, but there is rationale behind it. Unfortunately, I can't share the rationale here. Sorry guys.
I realize that these are packed pretty close together and there is a chance I won't make any of them. But like I said before, I'm a stubborn 20-something guy that seems to have something to prove to the world.
That's it for now--hopefully I'll have a post-19-mile run write-up tomorrow.
Ok, maybe not as monunental as posts 100 or 1000 (or 69), but it is a cause for celebration. Lots of topics to cover today, so let's get to it in a big four oh kinda way.
Ugh. Weather.com is now on my shit list. It takes the no. 2 spot right behind the hills in Prospect Park. The hour-by-hour forecast for this morning was partially cloudy, turning into mostly cloudy. Great, I thought, it'll be a little warm (80ish) but the cloud coverage will take off the edge. So I map out my route, put my play list together, gather all my gear and head out at 8am on the dot.
Funny, no clouds. Ok, maybe they aren't here in Astoria, maybe the clouds are just in Manhattan.
I get out of the subway at Central Park. Funny, still no clouds. So nice and warm, humid weather for 18 miles. If I had known that I would headed out earlier!
As I approach my starting line I hit play on Liam and hear "Proud Mary" by Tina Turner. Great song, I always start my races with it. Problem is, it's the same playlist I've had in there all week--and it only has 60 minutes of music on it. So now I have warm weather and the wrong playlist. Fantastic.
Then at about the five mile mark (still in Central Park) I see a flood of pink runners pouring into the park. Oh snap. Today is the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure (for breast cancer). I'm all in support of the race...but if I had known it was happening today I would have not have planned to run three miles AGAINST the runners. Sheesh. If you're keeping track, we've got hot weather (yes, upgraded from warm), the wrong playlist, and 1000s of runners going against me.
At the one-hour mark I start injecting walking breaks. I've given in to walking breaks on hot runs: better to finish slow than not finish at all. These carry me on until mile 13ish comes around, and then it hits me: hunger. I take GU on my runs and have a pack about once an hour. But this wasn't "I'm tired and need energy" hunger this was full on "serve me a steak dinner" hunger--the type of hunger you have when you get home from work. Yeah, that doesn't work well when I have to run another five miles, and there's already heat, tired music, and 1000s of runners going against me.
So lots of things aginst me. But I finished all 17 miles. Woo hoo. I did not let it beat me! I finished in 2:54. Certainly not my goal of 2:42 (9 min pace), but all things considered, I don't think I did too bad.
Marcy's challenge is too good to resist. So here are the feet in all their post shower splendor (and before mystery liquid from the trash bag spilled all over them):
My wife agrees that they're pretty--and in a husband's world, that's as good as Gospel.
Went to the green market a few weeks back and went camera crazy, here are my faves:
Enter the marathon.
Since this is MY FIRST MARATHON EVER, my beauty feet are doing things they've never done before. This week they'll be pushing 30 miles of running. This is uncharted torture for them.
At first I got the usual drying out of the feet. No biggie there. Everytime I've trained for a race the bottom of my feet dry out and peel. The only difference now is that it's happening on an almost weekly basis.
But in the past two weeks, now that the weekly mileage is getting higher, I've noticed the development of hard patches on the bottom of my feet...wait...those look like...CALLUSES! What the hell? Where did those come from?! I've never had calluses before: should I be worried? Will it impact my running? Do I have to get new shoes? (Yes, I too feel like this is wussy and whiney, but gosh darn these feet are pretty and I want to keep them that way.)
After some brief research I found that I should not be freaked out because 1) calluses are common for marathoners, 2) I only have the beginnings of calluses, and 3) I can easily treat them with moisturizer. Whew. So now my morning routine involves slathering on some heavy-duty moisterizer on my feet right before I put on my socks. I also take as many opportunities as possible to wear sneakers and have basically given up wearing sandals.
So far, the treatment has been a success: the calluses have gone away and my feet are back to pristine condition. Let's see what happens to them after tomorrow's 18 mile run.
About a month ago, when I first broke the 13.1 mile mark, I sat on my iPod Nano. Yes, sat on it. I mean Winston (the name of that iPod) has been through a lot: he's been dropped on asphalt, drenched in sweat, and thrown across a room. But apparently, when you squeeze him between a 185-pound man and a hard plastic subway seat, there is no chance he'll come out alive.
So Winston died after almost two years of abuse. He will be missed. Here is the postmortem picture:
Since then I've had to use Winston's older brother: Isaac. Isaac is my three year old iPod mini who had been retired when I won Winston in a raffle. Isaac is heavy and bulky compared to Winston, but he still plays music. Although I found out on one run that he only has about 1:45 worth of battery life in him. So I've been running these past few weeks pausing my music during the easy parts and playing it during the hard parts.
During this month that I've taken Isaac back from the pasture I've been debating on what new iPod to get. There are the new Nanos: ultra-thin, cool colors, 8GB of memory, and they connect to my Nike+. The draw back is the $250 price for something that I'm going to beat up and sweat all over and most likely have to replace in a year or two (runners are a frugal bunch). But then there is the Shuffle: unbelievably small and compact, with a built in super-strong clip; it only has 1GB of memory, but comes with an equally small price of $79.
But thanks to my credit card, the decision became very easy. I have a bunch of reward points from my credit card and found out that I could use those points a get a free Shuffle. A free Shuffle or a $250 Nano? Um. I didn't have to do much thinking there.
I placed the order last weekend and the Shuffle arrived on Friday. I've named him Liam Grau. The rationale behind the name? I always give my iPods a full name: the first name is a very intellectual sounding name, because iPods are smart products; the last name is always related to their color. Isaac Verde (verde = green in Spanish), Winston Ecru (ecru is actually off-white, but sounded better than other options), Liam Grau (grau = gray in German).
I went for my first run with him yesterday and it was great (never mind that I didn't have to pause the music to conserve battery life). He was light and clipped right onto my shorts, which meant I didn't have to reach across my chest to fiddle with an upside-down iPod on an armband:
Welcome to the family Liam.
I'm at the point in training where I tend to mistake endurance for speed. I start off my runs feeling like a superstar because I've built up endurance. But since I'm feeling so great, I start to pick up the pace. The first mile is a gone in a blink. Miles two and three: I'm cruising, damn-near flying. Even miles four and five are easier than usual. But then mile six comes along and I start to get a feeling in my stomach that is somewhere between "where is the nearest bathroom" and "I told you so." During mile seven the feeling becomes compounded with "shit, I WAS going too fast" with a side of "why are my quads so tight" for good measure. Mile eight is torture. By mile nine I'm debating how to exit this run early with my head up. Mile ten is a slow, degrading decline into a walk while runners are whizzing pass me on all sides.
As you can guess, this isn't a morale booster.
To get my morale back up to where it belongs--since I am running MY FIRST MARATHON EVER! in less than 45 days--I've spent the evening on blogs/nursing my now-blistering finger. It gives me hope that there are other people out there in the same condition struggling through the longer runs trying to keep those feel going in front of one another.
I also revisited the Disney Half-Marathon I ran back in 2005, thanks to the disposable camera I decided to take along for the race. Note to all you Disney runners in January: take a camera! The disposable ones are cheap and light. You will see incredible things no other marathon can offer...such as Sleeping Beauty's castle:
Wow. That actually is an awful picture. Was I even smiling? And those people in the background...are they walking? How are people supposed to know this was taken during a marathon?
Oh well. That's my Disney picture. Hopefully yours will come out magicallier.
I followed the route of my standard Astoria Park route, which I've always run at 6 in the morning, when the air is hazy and a bit misty--it's very quiet. The turbulent waters of Hell Gate are normally still at that hour, and the tide recedes to show all the boulders that line the shore. There are rarely people around. Across the East River, you can almost feel the city waking up to the fact that the sun has risen, again, and that it must start the day. Even as I run under the Triboro Bridge the echo of traffic has a muted quality to it, as if the bridge is too groggy from the night to allow the full noise. Hushed--that is how I would describe the morning run on this route.
The same route, 14 hours later. It is surreal. It is dark, and the golden yellow street lights float and dart behind trees, almost like glowing fairies. There are people all along the route. But since it is so dark, they are faceless. During the whole 3 miles I cannot make out a single face. The waters of the river have swollen, hiding the river rocks and causing currents that go in so many directions that I'm surprised the water could ever find its way out of there. The city glows, literally: the concentrated bright lights of Manhattan reflect off the low-hanging clouds of the humind night. The skyline is razor sharp, each building with its own pattern of lights up its facade. The view is crowned by the necklace lights of the Triboro Bridge.
As I pull into the track for the final quarter-mile, I see backlit figures dashing around the track--it's dark enough though that they don't even necessarily look human, more like legs moving quickly without bodies. The dense tree population in the park makes it feel like I'm in a forest clearing, since any surrounding buildings are blackened out. As I finish the run and start my 100 meter repeats, the night fills me with a new energy and I float through the repeats. I hammer out the 100s, passing every indistinguishable face on the track and blurring the barely-lit world.
I exit the park and pass under the Triboro Bridge again. It is awake now--fully awake. The evening traffic does not ease as it tears down the ramp onto the expressway. And it seems louder now than it could possibly be--louder than car traffic should be. Underneath the bridge it sounds as if a herd of giant horses has been set free from Manhattan and is now stampeding over the bridge into Queens.
And that was my night.
Well, to be honest, there are a lot of factors. But about a year ago I heard a quote--as did everybody who watched Akeelah and the Bee--and this quote got stuck in my head. And when I got home I looked it up and printed out the whole paragraph:
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine,
we consciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
So, to be honest, I think this is the most amazing insight into the human mind...ever...period. I mean, think about it: naturally you think there are limits to what you can do. You know that if you touch fire you'll get burned, if you drive too fast you'll get a ticket, if you cheat on a test the teacher will find out, etc. You think there are limits because you've tested them and found them. You live knowing the limits of what you can do...you get used to them and accept them as the way the universe works.
But what Ms. Williamson is saying here is that this is not how the universe works. You can, since you are human, do anything: there is no limit as to what you can achieve. The limits you have are self-imposed--you can be, and have the faculty to be "powerful beyond measure."
Let that sink in for a minute.
It still blows my mind.
And how does this apply to running? Well, quite simply when I'm tired, and sore, and aching, and ready to stop running, I remember that I too am "powerful beyond measure." There's really no major difference between me and the Kenyans, or Lance Armstrong, or Deena Kastor. It stirs something deep inside of me. It keeps me going and makes me strong.
I woke up at 6:45 am--so painful on a Saturday morning. By 8:30ish I was at Central Park, stretching at my usual starting point. The day was beautiful: it was in mid-60's, there was a steady breeze, and there was a brilliant sunshine that looked magical peeking through trees and around buildings. While not absolutely ideal conditions, it's the best you can get this time of year.
So I start my run. There was a 5-mile race going on in the park...and this time of year, I have learned, there is always some race going on in the park. But it's the tail end of the race, these are all the slower runners--so I get a great ego boost picking them off. The trade off is that I probably did the first two miles a lot faster than I normally would have--which worried me.
Per usual, I took a bathroom break at the one-mile mark. I always do a potty break at the end of the first mile of a long run, otherwise I would have to hold it in or hang around my apartment another 30-minutes just waiting for it to come out (and in the summer, that would mean more time in the heat). Also, this potty break tends to prevent any other biological movement later on in the run, but I'll get to that later. Onward with the run.
I run with the racers until their finish line--which is my 2.5-mile mark--and continue my loop around the park. When I start coming down the west side of the park, the women's race begins. As I approach, I see the cops clearing the way and the elite runners blasting off, faster than I could ever run. So I figured I will use this to my advantage: one of the coolest things about racing is how you feed off the speed of the people around you. You end up matching their pace and can end up moving faster without even feeling it. So I got close to the lane that the racers were using and just kept running alongside. I could feel myself going faster than I normally would have, but I figured it was better than thinking about how much longer I would have to go (another 12-miles).
For the first 2-miles the runners kept zooming past me, but it did help me keep going strong. I decided to turn off my iPod and just listen to the feet and the cheers of "great job ladies," which were awkwardly supportive to me. By the time we got to the southern bend of the park, I had fallen next to a group of ladies in my pace. I wouldn't know the benefits of this until much later.
I took a break from the asphalt by doing a loop around the reservoir. I broke out a pack of GU during this loop and stopped to refill my water bottle. When I came back to the road, most of the racers had already past. I did catch this one girl with a Team in Training shirt on, and, for the first time ever, I managed to talk to a stranger while running in New York:
Me: What are you training for?
Her: Actually, I just finished my race, I did San Francisco three weeks ago.
Me: San Francisco? That's my goal for next year!
Her: It's a great race.
Me: It looks like a great race, but I'm just worried about all the hills.
Her: Yeah, it does have a lot of hills, it's a tough one.
Me: (grimacing) Oh well. Good luck with your run.
Her: Good luck to you too!
That was nice...let's see how long it takes until I break another stoic New York runner.
So I continued past the race's finish line...again...and then got to enjoy the .5-mile decline that came immediately after. I got out of Central Park and moved over to Morningside Park...which I think is one of the most beautiful parks in the city. And once I hit the perimeter of the park I got a fantastic feeling that nothing can stop me from running--which is a great feeling to have 3/4 of the way into this run.
And then I hit the climbing portion of the run. Not that Central Park isn't loading with hills, but those do not compare with the mountains of upper Manhattan. But since I'm in a such a good mood, these mountains don't really effect me. The only thing that's bothering me is that my iPod freaked out and stopped playing, so I had to reset it and start my playlist over.
On the other side of the mountains is Riverside Drive and the last three-miles of my run. As I was thinking "this run is going faster than I thought, did I miss a turn?" my stomach starts to bubble. Yes, bubble, like a friggin stew. It's been playing nice for the past hour and 45-minutes, and it wants attention--right now. Of course, this is the section of the run where I don't know where the bathrooms are. So I concentrate on breathing hard in and out, which helps calm down my stomach and buy some time...but I know I need a bathroom. I really hate my stomach/intestines/entire digestive track right now.
In my desperation to find a bathroom, I make a wrong turn at 98th street, thinking it's 95th street. About 200 feet into it I realize the mistake and just stop in my tracks--I need a bathroom now...and it turns out there's one right behind me. The wrong turn had taken me to a playground that happened to have surprisingly clean bathrooms. So I had my bathroom break...thank Jesus.
After that I hit the road again, knowing that I only had about two miles to go and I pretty much coasted through them, stopping once again for a quick water bottle refill. The most difficult part was the last few blocks because I was in the sun with no coverage whatsoever. But I hit my finishing line and stopped my watch. Two hours and 15-minutes.
Funny, that seems...um...fast, really fast. So I get home, I log my run at Map My Run and find out that my pace was 7.1 mph and 8.4 min/mile. This is VERY suspicious. I mean, its not that I haven't done this speed before, it's just seems a little unrealistic that I sustained it for 16 miles. So I double check my route. Yup, that all checks out, I didn't make any major deviations and I don't think I made any mistakes timing the run.
Right now, I'm having a hard time believing this, but it seems I have no reason to not believe it. Maybe it was the shady route and good weather. Maybe it was the racers in Central Park helping boost my speed. Maybe it was the downhill/flat miles I saved for the end. But I am quite certain I just ran a fantastic 16-mile run, a run that was at a better pace then my Half-Marathon PR. If I have this pace on race day I'll finish the race in about 3:41. Whoa.
I'll take this as a best case scenario. And what a best case it would be for MY FIRST MARATHON EVER!
But the good news is that I think I'm out of that negative spell for now. Tuesday I had a great 10-mile run (it was supposed to be 11-miles, but I made up for it in difficulty) and yesterday and today I had nice short runs. So I'm feeling really good today and looking forward to 16-miles this weekend.
Also, just discovered this today: http://www.thegreatestrace.com/. Sounds awesome...I would just need three friends crazy enough to do it with.
Last weekend, while running in Philly in 95-degree heat, I had to start walking half way through my run. I had used all my energy trying to get through the hot parts of the city, so I couldn't make it through the shady park areas I has left for the end. Instead of a 15-mile run, it turned out to be an 11-mile run and a 4-mile walk. The heat competely got to me...and there are NO water fountains in Philly (I ran past a total of three). On top of that I had forgotten to charge my iPod the night before, so I only had 40 minutes of battery to use--which I saved for the end...maybe not the smartest move.
Yesterday, I ran 16 miles back here in New York. It was much better than the run in Philly. The weather yesterday was beautiful: cool and breezy, more like an early autumn day than the balmy mid-summer days we've been having.
I was going great through Central Park, then Morningside Park, and even through the hills of Riverside Drive--I was cruising. It didn't get hard until I hit the West Side Highway. I hate running along that path. It is the worst 4-mile stretch of Manhattan possible: it's long and straight, and there is absolutely no coverage from the sun. And by this point, the sun was high in sky, and the temps were probably in the 80s. I made it through all four miles running, but I was in bad shape by the end of it.
I only had four miles left, but in my mental map I might as well have been running to Canada. So I started walking for 1-minute and running for four. It was the one of the old tricks I used to use on myself in order to build up mileage back when I first started running. Back then, 5-miles was a long run, so I hadn't successfully used this technique in years. But it worked. It worked pretty well. I finished only about eight minutes over my target time.
But back to the DNF. So in the past two weeks I've had one bad long run, one kinda successfully long run, and the runs in-between those have been just OK. So my main thoughts now are:
- Marathon training indeed is a different beast than half-marathon training (yes, I knew this going in, but now I really know it since I'm in the thick of it)
- My training schedule may be too hard for a first time marathoner
- What are the 1,000 ways DNF can appear next to my name in Baltimore?
The last thought is scaring the bejesus out of me and, right now, I feel powerless to do anything about it. This is new territory for me. I wasn't even this scared for my first Half-Marathon. And the worst part is that the fear is completely unfounded. Yesterday I did 16 miles in 2:27. If I did that on race day and walked/jogged the rest of the way, I would still finish it in about 5 hours. Which isn't too bad for a first timer.
Ugh. I don't like this part one bit.
- Last weekend I was drop-dead tired and couldn't finish what was supposed to be a 10-mile run
- I blame the hot weather for the difficultly running outside: not only the heat, but I have to wake early even to run on the weekends...no sleep=no energy
- During some track work last week there was a guy in a white shirt that was just buzzing by everyone, and during a walking break he blasted past me. So I decided to catch up during my next interval. After what turned into the fastest 1200 meters I've ever run, I realized that I was using him as a rabbit AND he was wearing a white shirt. I thought this was hilarious, in a runner's humor kind of way.
- I'm off to Philly this weekend to visit in-laws and run 15-miles--Fairmount Park here I come!
After the inital wave of tiredness and exhaustation, I felt really proud. Despite taking one or two walking breaks and encountering some nasty hills, I kept my pace under my goal pace of 9:00--even if only by two seconds.
What is even better/more thrilling is comparing my run today to my first Half-Marathon. I was destroyed after that race: I could barely walk, I had multiple blisters, I was absolutely tapped dry of energy (I even took a two-hour nap...a TWO-HOUR nap, I never do that). I told my wife (at that time, my girlfriend) that I would never run again, ever. But after today's run I stretched, bought some Powerade, and hopped on a subway home. That's it. There was no agony, no torturous walk on quarter-sized blisters, no cursing of the running gods--and I think that's great. I'm really proud of how far I have come. I mean, in the vast hierarchy of runnners I'm no great success story and certainly no speed demon, but with tons of determination and a dash of stubborness I've improved a lot over time.
On a side note: as a result of today's run the hills in Prospect Park are on my shit list. I hate them. I hate them so much.
A half-mile into the run I realized that the rain was only getting stronger. Thankfully, I had decided to leave my iPod at home. I turned up the speed, finished the 3 mile run, and got my stride work done all in about 40 minutes. Just as the rain became monsoon-like.
I know there is a school of runners out there that enjoys running in the rain--people who find it exciting and refreshing. I am not one of those runners. As I had always assumed, the rain just made me want to stop and go home. You get wet everywhere (a different kind of "wet everywhere" than sweat induces). You get depressed by the crappy weather. And all the puddles get your shoes soaked. Not my idea of fun.
Moral of the story: I will continue being a fair-weather runner.
And now a word about Harry Potter.... Spent last night hopping from event to event for the first night of sales for the book. We reserved our book at the Barnes & Noble at Union Square since that is the closest one to my office. What a bad idea. What a MAJORLY bad idea. Everyone and their mother was there...literally, all the kids had their moms. The line was a disorganized mess. It was chaotic and haphazard and kinda reminded me of the starting line corrals at a race. Its not something that I would do again--but that was the idea: this was something we could never do again.
So my wife is currently 87 pages into the book...which, quite frankly, is not far enough for this increasingly-impatient patient runner.