Rant and a picture

I have the apartment to myself tonight. My wife was invited to the Yankees/Red Sox game tonight. And I got invited to...the kitchen...to wash dishes...and then burn my finger while cooking dinner.

Lovely evening.

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.


Ran yesterday

It was supposed to be 17 miles, it became 11.

I'll consider it a lesson learned.


Magic Nighttime Run

I rarely run outside at night anymore. But tonight the dreadmill was not appealing, so I decided to enjoy the cool night breeze and go for a 3-mile run in the neighborhood.

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.


Let's talk inspiration

I suddenly found a few free minutes this evening. So I'll take a break from talking about runs and training. How about inspiration? What demented, insane little voice convinces me to wake up at 5:15 in the morning to run 10+ miles before a 10-hour work day and do the same thing the next day? When I'm exhausted and dehydrated and sleepy and realize I'm only halfway through the run, what keeps me going?

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.


Finally, a great run

I went for my long run yesterday morning. 16-miles strategically mapped out to stay in shaded areas as much as possible.

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: TNT?
Her: Yup
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!


A happy post

So looking back at the last few posts (and comments on them) I realized that I've been going through a negative spell. I guess it was just that point in the training where the mileage increases faster than your body wants to catch up. It has also been the peak of summer in the city--and it is hotter in the city thanks to all the asphalt.

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.



Did Not Finish. These three words have started to form in my head over the past two weeks.

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:
  1. 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)
  2. My training schedule may be too hard for a first time marathoner
  3. 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.


Quick update

Been busy for the past two weeks, so here are some quick bullet point updates:
  • 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!