Rants and raves

RAVE: Yesterday was a beautiful day for a run. A little warm (high 70s) but I stayed in the shade most of the time so it felt cooler.

RANT: Where the hell is runner etiquette in New York? On the Brooklyn Bridge my running brethren forced into the biking lane several times. WTF? Protect your own NYC runners, protect your own.

RANT/RAVE: Yesterday was the last day of Summer Streets. I hope it comes back next summer.

RAVE: Finally found the water station set up for Summer Streets at 23rdish Street and Park Ave--I was really counting on it yesterday.

RAVE: I purposely made yesterday's run hilly to prepare for my next races--both of which will be very hilly, why do I always do the hilly races? I went over the Queensboro Bridge (130 foot climb), the Brooklyn Bridge (135 foot climb), and Harlem Hill (130ish foot climb). I ran through all of them and felt great except for my knees who weren't happy with all that climbing.

RANT: My knees, still in pain from the 400 feet of climing, coordinated with my stomach to stop the run. On the easiest part of the run--the pancake flat loop around the Central Park Resevior--I got a rumble in my stomach that went straight, um, south. It stopped me dead in my tracks, caused me to make a half-mile walk to the nearest bathroom, and generally f'd up my run. After the bathroom break I tried to get back on track to finish the run, but then I got hungry (huh? again?) and started to get stitches. Ended up doing 18.7 miles. Sheesh.

RAVE: Yesterday was the two week mark until the Maple Leaf Half-Marathon. What does that mean? At this point all my running neuroses heighten and I start my slow decent into obsession about the race. I check the race's website for updates everyday. I print out a small forest's worth of car reservations, race confirmations, and directions. I create my playlist (you know how long a process that is). Usually about a week before the race I separate out all my race day clothing to make sure I don't use them that week. As wifey can attest, by race morning I am a different person: I don't talk, I just eat and get out the door and expect anyone that's going to the starting line with me is following. It's the type of craziness that I thrive in.


It hurts

I've never wanted to cry as a result of watching sports until tonight. To paraphrase Lauryn Williams: someone out there has a voodoo doll of the whole US Track & Field team. What hurts most is that both blunders were not for lack of talent. Both teams had world champion runners and both teams were leading the heat when the dynamite went boom.

Now I'm watching the women's 10m platform diving, featuring Laura Wilkinson's slow crawl into retirement. It is not a good night for team USA. At least we're ahead in the medal count, well, depending on where you get your information.


Training check-in

I realize that I haven't really noted anything about training for Manchester and Newport since I started training back in June, but that is mostly because it's going so well that 1) I don't want to jinx it and 2) I don't feel a need to discuss it because it is going well. (If training was going bad, then I'd be bitching and complaining all over the place.)

So far I haven't had any major mishaps with training: I've finished all my runs and have only skipped one run (and that was only because I had a race the next day). Really, the only problems I've had on runs were weather and that darn erratic GI tract of mine. And even at that, I've been able to reign in my stomach enough to hold out until the nearest bathroom. (Actually as a byproduct of this, I have an eerily thorough knowledge of the public bathrooms in New York and which ones are cleanest.)

This is the second Marathon I'm training for, so I have to credit some of the ease to the fact that Marathon training is always easier the second time around. But still, my endurance has been going up and so has my speed. Last weekend's 18-miler wasn't brutal at all--and that was at a pace faster than my Half-Marathon PR by 20 seconds. Craziness. I know. Come race day(s) let's see how it all pans out.


Summer crusing

As I've mentioned before, I have a love-hate relationship with New York. The city oftentimes brings out the worst, basest, least human behavior in people. But there are other times, like yesterday, when the city, in an astonishing display of altruism, manages to do something so generous that it even makes an 18-mile run appear somewhat easy.

Yesterday was the third weekend of a new NYC program called Summer Streets where the city shuts down Park Avenue from 72nd street down to City Hall. That's about a four mile long corridor through typically congested streets from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge. For me, who has 1) already run everywhere in the city and 2) needed to run 20 miles--this was right up my alley.

I mapped out a course with 1.25 loops around Central Park, exiting the park at 90th street, crossing over to Park Ave, then going all the way down to City Hall and then back up to 72nd. Of course, for some reason when I mapped this out I forgot that this run was supposed to be 20 miles and actually mapped out 18--but I didn't realize this until after the run.

When I got on the subway to head over to Central Park I could already feel myself getting hungry--which is not the best way to start off your run. I downed a GU and hoped that it was just my stomach acting funny and not actual hunger. As it would turn out later in the run, it was actual hunger, I guess and PB&J don't cut it anymore for a pre-race meal. I tore open a GU every 45ish minutes, not because I felt the need, but because I was feeling hunger pains.

I started at my usual spot near the 6th Ave entrance to the park. I take off and I instantly notice that I'm going out fast and spend the first couple of miles trying to reign in my speed, but when I pass a mile marker for a running race and notice that the elite runners will be passing me in a few minutes, I can't really concentrate on slowing down--it's just not acceptable. Also, I realize that this might be the race that The Laminator is running, so I try to keep an eye out for his bandanna.

After about three miles the runners break off from my route and I'm alone on the hilly northern quadrant of the park. However, I am feeling really good--unbelievably good. Even the 100ft+ climb at Harlem Hill doesn't slow me down. I'm actually at the point where I'm whistling (sometimes singing) along with the music. This, I know, is good.

I round out the park and exit at the runner's gate. After snaking through some 20 blocks I make it to Park Ave and 72nd street, where I can start running on the street. At this northern end of the closed streets the crowds are pretty thin. I hear a mom with her son riding in a seat attached to her bike say "The street is closed? All the way down? Isn't that fantastic?" And in my head I agree with her.

As I run down the street toward the Met Life building I think "why doesn't the marathon go there here?" The view is stunning and the high buildings provide ample shade. My immediate answer is that if the route went through Park Ave, there is no way to re-route the course to keep it going through all five boroughs of the city. My second response, which my knees alert me to a few minutes later, is that Park Ave is heavily banked, with the center of the avenue raised higher so that rain water will drain off to the sides. It made for a painful 1.5 miles before the Met Life Building.

On the other side of the Met Life Building, the streets were flat and much more populated. I was enjoying this down hill portion of Park Ave and was waving hi/thank you to all the volunteers along the route who were carrying big-ass "Caution: stop ahead" signs before each live cross street.

The run was going great partly because I was in shade the whole time and partly because I was getting to see the city from a new perspective. However, there were two problems I anticipated having along the way. First, once I left Central Park I knew water would be scarce. Park Ave, oddly enough, does not pass by any parks (technically it becomes 4th Ave at Union Square, but even then I would not brave the Saturday morning farmer's market to look for a water fountain). So I filled up my water bottle as I left the park and crossed my fingers that there would be a water-fountain at the turn around point near City Hall. When I got to the turn there there was indeed a water fountain--but it wasn't working!! So I resorted to my backup plan: Starbucks. I dashed in, ask for some water, and dashed out.

Starbucks was also the solution for the second problem I foresaw: lack of bathrooms. The bathrooms at mile 7 were my gastrointestinal "point of no return." After that point there would be no more bathrooms along the run unless I start a Starbucks along the way. Fortunately--and uncharacteristically--my bowels stayed in tact for the whole run. No need for the bathroom at all during the run.

I get to the end of the run, counting the blocks until I can finally stop. At 69th street there's a bit of a hill that I trudge over and use the downhill to break into a sprint before I stop at 72nd street. I look at my watch. 2:30:00. My first thought is that I must have done something really right today because 20 miles should have taken me three hours. I celebrate uneasily while I walk to a convenience store. As I walk, I try to do the math in my head and realize to do what I just did would require a sub-eight minute pace. Actually it would require a pace faster than my 10K pace and probably faster than my 5K pace. And then I remember mapping out the route only to 18 miles. Damn it.

I was upset--but not at my performance. I was upset that even though I told several people I was running 20 miles this weekend that I still managed to map out an 18-mile route. That was just a dumb mistake. I am, however, very proud of my run--and being able to separate performance from planning is a significant step for me. First, I ran at an unbelievable pace of 8:20 (which makes me second guess my tempo pace and what my goal pace should be for these next two races). Second, I was able to keep in my bowels in check the whole time (yea!). Third, if I had run all 20 miles I still would have come in about 12 minutes faster than my projected finish. Go me!

After this great run I went home, took a cold shower and went out for power breakfast with wifey and The Laminator (who is in good spirits post-Marathon). After shopping a bit with wifey we went home and spent the rest of the day glued to the TV watching an amazing night in marathoning (WTF Deana and Paula?), men's 100m (WTF 9.69?), and swimming (WTF greatest athlete ever?).


A rare 1983 vintage

I went for a 70-minute run this morning. I don't know if it was the hill work or ceiling fans that weren't on, but I was sweating like a fat man in a cake shop. I mean this was a ridiculous amount of sweat. The pooled up sweat from my shorts was splashing onto my calves and the rivers of sweat coming off my elbows were showering the treadmill. I actually started to wonder if I was splashing the people around me.

But then I got a whiff of something. It was subtle at first, but over the course of the run it grew stronger and more fragrant. Now, I know where your mind is going with all the fart and poo talk that I like to throw around, but this wasn't FOM or a sign for me to visit Miguel. I smelled, of all things, wine--white wine to be exact, perhaps a chardonnay.

I looked around at the handul of other runners, they were too far for me to smell them, so it had to be me. I smelled like chardonnay? No, correction: my sweat smelled like chardonnay? What dark magic was this?

I went through the rest of my run convinced I was sweating wine--although I've haven't drank the stuff in a week. When I got home I eagerly woke up wifey and told her to smell me. She gave me one of those "I am waking up just now and you're asking me to do what?" kind of stares that she has perfected over the past few years. I explained to her that my sweat smells like chardonnay. She continues her half-eyed look of death, but braves a sniff. She confirms that I indeed smell: it is funky and rank and I need to shower that stink off.

Huh? But when I was on the treadmill I swore I was an oak barrel and there were several gallons of fermenting grape juice inside of me. What the hell? I take a whiff and sure enough, I now stink. I guess the wine smell is only when I'm actually running. Good thing I'm not an alcoholic because this would have posed a really big issue otherwise.


8 on the 8th--Extra Challenge Division

Many thanks to Nancy for organizing yet another virtual race--although I still have the same complaints that there are far too few aid stations and mile markers are not clearly marked (or marked at all for that matter). As usual I registered for the Extra Challenge Division and did ten more miles than the required eight. That's right, 18 miles--Manchester is 27 days away and Newport is just 42 days after that. Here's how it went down.

After many and many weeks of saying "we're going to Philly to visit family" wifey and I actually went to Philly to visit family on Friday--which meant that I had to draw up and memorize an 18-mile route on Friday morning. I've run around Philly a couple times already, so I'm pretty familiar with the major running paths (and their lack of bathrooms and water fountains) and quickly put together a route going through some of my favorite places.

I woke up at 6:30am on Saturday and started getting ready for the half-mile walk to the subway from my grandfather-in-law's house. I was not looking forward to it. Then, just before I headed downstairs at 7am my very excitable and energetic uncle-in-law knocks on the door to the room saying that he'll drive me to center city so that I don't have to take the subway. Yes!!!! It's like looking at your training schedule and realizing that you only have to run 10 miles instead of the 14 you thought you had to run.

While eating toast with jelly I had to keep on defending my choice of running routes to my uncle-in-law. He keeps on trying to tell me that I shouldn't be running in center city, that there are runner-friendly parks around the city. And what I keep on trying to explain to him is that I will be running through the runner-friendly parks (i.e., Fairmount Park) but that I will still have to snake through downtown Philly to reach 18-miles. On top of that I've already mapped out 18-miles from Center City, so if I run elsewhere, I would have no idea what I've run. Of course, the whole time I'm trying to be exceedingly nice because he means well and he is offering to drive me at this crazy early hour on a Saturday. Eventually, though, he does give in and drives me to Market and 2nd Street.

It was a beautiful day, high 60s, bit of a breeze, the only thing I could ask for was some cloud coverage--but I'll still take the cool temps and be hapy. I started out on an incline in an effort to regulate my pace from the beginning--which works perfectly since I felt myself going too fast by the top of the incline. Immediately after that I faced a small detour from my originally planned route since it was so early and the gates to Penn's Landing weren't open yet.

After that, the plan goes according to schedule. I make a preemptive stop at Starbucks before Mile 5--since I know of no Miguel in Philadelphia--and then a water stop at Mile 8.5ish, another water stop at Mile 14 (also meant to be a bathroom break, but no need for it, bowels were rock solid after Starbucks!), and then a 30-second walking break at Mile 14.5 to stop a stitch from tearing apart my abdomen.

I did make one other stop along the way and that was to tie my shoes. I noticed early in the run that my right shoe was a little loose. I figured if it was really loose, then the bow would untie itself and I'd have to retie, otherwise it would be fine as is. Turns out I was wrong. The shoe was really loose, so much so that I developed a good sized blister by Mile 11. At Mile 12 I retied my shoe so that it was snugger, but the damage was done. When I looked at my foot after the run I had a blister half the size of a penny. It was annoying, but if I get a blister like that once every three years (yup, three years without major blisters), I think I'll be just fine.

As I rounded the corner at the end of Rittenhouse Square I looked at my watch and realized I was going to finish a few minutes under my goal pace of a 9:00. Sweet! I tried to pick up the pace, but really, I was just happy to be having such a good run without any major problems (not so for the last time I ran in Philly). Also traffic was picking up so I found myself stopping at every intersection thinking that I'd never make it to Independence Hall.

I made my final lap around Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell (how's that for an inspirational finish?). I stopped my watch at 2:38:13 for an 8:48 pace. The best part of it was that I felt like I could run another eight more miles--and that's the most important part, isn't it? It was a great run, which only makes me feel better about the Manchester/Newport combo that is so close.


Interesting to note: last week's New Yorker and September's Runner's World have the same cover story. Both are covering Ryan Hall as he gets ready for the marathon in Beijing. I just finished reading the RW story on the train back from Philly and will probably get through the NYer story tomorrow during my commute. I'm interested to see what approach the NYer takes, since the RW story surprised me but was otherwise poorly written.



I have over 50 unread entries on my blogroll. That is depressing. It's 8pm on Wednesday and I'm still reading about stuff from Friday. I think this is a clear sign that I've been really busy lately. Half-Marathon/Marathon training is starting to ramp up so I'm exhausted when I get home at night. I've been busier at work, so I don't have time to read during my down time. On the weekends I barely have time to sit, let alone write.

So life is busy--which I enjoy. But that also means that I can barely keep up with everyone I read--which sucks. So if you've noticed that I'm not leaving comments as regularly as I used to, don't take offense. I am still reading. I just don't have time to think of witty comments.

My goal tonight is to get done to 30 unread entires...which may get me through the weekend.


I did it anyways

The rain held out for the first 13 miles of yesterday's run, but then there was a sudden and intense string of showers. I ducked into the nearest subway just as the rain died down. Turns out the whole day would be on and off storms. I ended my run at 13 miles, but felt really good--I completed all the hills by this point and had a pace just under my goal of 9:00.

What I'm really happy about is that I'm not beating myself up about the short run. Normally I'd be upset the whole day for not finishing a long run, but I'm trying to be a better runner and understand that you don't have to complete a trianing plan to the letter to be prepared for a race. I was extremely tired on Saturday, so the fact that I even went out was a big accomplishment.

Off to enjoy the big new sofa. It's soooo comfy. I've fallen asleep on it every night since we got it.


I don't feel like running

Bit of a predicament today: it's supposed to start thunder-storming at 10, which doesn't give me much time to get my 16 miles in (since it's 6:50 right now). Also, I'm tired: it's been just one of those weeks where I can't sleep and end up being awake before the alarm goes off. On top of that, I had taken Thursday morning off so I had to do my hour-long hill work session Friday morning (I hate running on Friday mornings).

But, I'm supposed to go to the beach tomorrow, which is an all day affair and wouldn't leave room for any kind of running in the morning. And tomorrow looks like a perfect beach day. And I would definitely enjoy just resting on the beach for four hours tomorrow after running this morning.

Just felt like bitching. I know I'm gonna put on my sneakers in a few minutes.