Hot mess

I often cite runner's brain as a source for silly mistakes made while running. Such as when you think it's a great idea to charge up an uphill two-miles into your 10-mile run and then wonder why you don't have energy in mile five. Or like when I ran MY FIRST MARATHON EVER and was clocking an 8:30 pace during the first quarter of the race, even though I was training to run at a nine-minute pace. Such moments of non-brilliance are scraped up to runner's brain.

Yesterday though I had so many instances of runner's brain that it reached a new level--runner's fever perhaps? I just don't even know. Let's discuss.

First, I miscalculated my goal time. I met up with the Laminator at the Super Runner's Shop (getting closer to free shoes!) for the Saturday group run--although we had plans to break off from the group because the Laminator had an 18-mile run and I had a 14-mile run scheduled for the day. During the first mile or so I calculate my goal time for the run to be 2:04 for an eight-minute pace. Now if you whip out your calculator, you'll easily find out that eight minutes times 14 miles equals 1:52. Where I got 2:04 from, I have no idea--I can't even replicate the math.

Next, as I mentioned before, the Laminator and I planned on breaking off from the group at one point to go exploring different parts of Manhattan, since no one wants to run high mileage in Central Park (those hills will destroy you). I mapped out a great 14-mile route from the group's starting point heading south and committed it to memory. Just in case, I quickly mapped back up route for if we headed north since the group likes to alternate between directions. Of course, we head out northward, so I have to use the back up route that I didn't remember so well.

We exit the Park and say goodbye to our group leader, letting him know we won't be returning to the store. I start leading the way through Morningside Park and Teacher's College. We get to Riverside Drive and it's basically a straight shot south from there. I love this stretch of Manhattan and it's pretty cool sharing it with another runner, pointing out all the landmarks and the different ways you can go through the park. We plug along through Riverside Park, then Death Valley, then Battery Park, and then the final stretch along the seaport leading up to my finish line at the Brooklyn Bridge.

I wish the Laminator good luck on his last four miles and I head toward the subway. I look at my watch. 1:51:30. Huh? If I was supposed to finish in 2:04 at an eight-minute pace then I must have been hauling some serious ass. That is suspicious, but I'm so happy to be done with the run that I don't even think twice about it.

I get home and start mapping the route I just ran. Turns out that I messed up the route. We were supposed to exit Central Park at an entirely different point to make sure we hit 14 miles by the Brooklyn Bridge. But we exited the park way too early, which cut an entire mile off the run. So my fantastic run, got a lot less fantastic. Then I entered my time and saw my pace instead of being sub-eight minutes, was actually 8:34--way off from the 8:15 pace I had for 10 miles two weeks ago. Around this time I also realize my time miscalculation from early in the run. Damn, damn, and damn.

But wait, there's more. This morning I go to check off yesterday's run from my training calendar. I open up the Excel sheet and find the 14-mile long run...under May 30. Yesterday was May 24. WHAT. THE. HELL. The running gods were obviously out helping someone else yesterday.

P.S. - The Laminator suggested I buy a Garmin yesterday citing that it has helped him tremendously with his running. I shrugged it off saying that Mapmyrun.com is all I need. This morning I have seriously reconsidered his suggestion and will be adding a Garmin to my birthday list (less than two weeks away!).

P.P.S. - And in what is clearly an early sign of a terminal bout with runner's brain, I realized TODAY that I misspelled gravy as gravvy every single time in my post from WEDNESDAY--even though I used spell check on the sucker. The extra "v" is for "vroom" you generate in your final kick, so there.


The pictures in my head

Do you ever get pictures in your head when you run? I realized during Tuesday's speedwork that every time I get a kick at the end of a run and really throw it into overdrive for those last few seconds I get an image in my head of pouring gravvy. Ok, ok, ok, that kinda sounds odd, maybe even a little weird, but I guess I liken that final kick to Thanksgiving.

Imagine that it's dinner on Thanksgiving. You've just loaded up your plate with fresh made mashed potatoes, oven roasted turkey, your aunt's made from scratch cranberry sauce, fluffy corn bread, delicious green bean cassarole. Really, the plate is enough food to feed a small country, but it's not quite there yet. The last thing you put on your plate, the thing that tips the scale from just another meal to an obscene feast, is grandma's homemade gravvy. As you pour it over your food you even nod your head a little and say "yyyyeeeeeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh."

Now when I'm in the final stretch of a race and I'm dying with every step and all that stands in front of me is that tiny little bit of road leading to the finish line I don't want to just run that last stretch, I want to anilhilate it. I want to make it a run to remember. I want to take the great run I've had and tip it from great to phenonmenal. And suddenly something opens up deep inside, and my legs move faster, and I'm spanking that pavement, and I run as if the flames of hell are licking my heels. In short, that moment is what changes the run from just another training run into a race.

Since the little moment of pouring gravvy on your Thanksgiving dinner and pouring on the extra heat in the race have very similar emotions tied to them I guess one just triggers the other. At least that's how it works in my head.


The stitch is back

I'll keep it brief today, given the this weekend's century post. (Which, might I add, took me three sittings to write. It is not something I recommend to any of you.)

I went out for some speed work this morning. Just like last time, I went to the track and started dropping my times like no one's business. My 8:20 pace became an 8:00 pace, my 7:50 pace became a 7:30 pace, and my 7:40 pace became a 6:40 pace.

But there was a problem today. The menace is back: the stitch. You may remember the stitch from such great posts as "MY FIRST MARATHON EVER" or "The Best 13 Miles Ever...well, almost." Well, it's coming back for a three-peat!

Typically, when I get stitches, it's later in the training cycle, usually the week or two before the race. But it seems the stitch is busting out early this time. It really hurt during the middle of the speed work, but went away toward the end. Hopefully, that's a sign that the stitch is just a fluke and is never, ever coming back again...ever.


Lessons learned while blogging

  1. If you write about your running addiction long enough and you'll get to 100 posts
  2. You'll then get a crazy idea to write a list of 100 things to celebrate it
  3. I've learned that maintaining a blog is more involved than I originally thought
  4. I've also learned that it's more of a social experience than I originally thought
  5. I never thought there was a large running blog community
  6. I never thought that through blogging I'd become involved in other people's lives
  7. I never thought I would make friends just by blogging
  8. I never thought I would run anything shorter than a Half-Marathon
  9. The Laminator can convince even me to run a 10K two days before the race
  10. It turns out I can actually run a 7:57 pace for a 10K on the hilliest course NYC can offer
  11. I have also learned 10Ks are an entirely different kind of race than Half-Marathons or Marathon
  12. The Laminator has a not-so-secret agenda to make me faster
  13. The Laminator's plan seems to be working
  14. I would have never met The Laminator if it wasn't for this blog...
  15. ...and a free pair of shoes
  16. I also wouldn't have met an entire world of runners
  17. Including Jess, who can drink and write me under the table
  18. And Jon, who can write an intriguing story, but doesn't seem to know how to end it
  19. And Nitmos, who has been reading Don Quixote since Cervantes published it back in 1605
  20. And Vanilla, who is as close to a running blog celebrity as we have
  21. And Marcy, who is as close to a running blog groupie as we have
  22. And J, who's house I am increasingly jealous of
  23. And Moon, who has a genuinely amazing story
  24. And Nancy, who is the world's first virtual race director
  25. And Amanda, who had the most memorable wedding--ever
  26. And Amy and Tom, who have done so much to build a community of runners
  27. And Steve, who could run circles around me, even with a bum Achilles tendon
  28. And Ted, who's borrowed my URL format
  29. And Dean, who was a kid in a candy shop last month
  30. And the dozens of others who have stopped by for a bit
  31. Ta da!
  32. Wait, I'm only at 32? Jesus Christ, 100 items, what was I thinking?
  33. This is turning out to be one marathon of a post
  34. Get it, marathon, because I run marathons? Get it??
  35. I've learned that I'm much funnier in my head than I am on paper
  36. Or in type
  37. I derive entirely too much humor from this clip
  38. But I can't help watching it again
  39. "Look at the good I do." Priceless.
  40. I've learn that I can run with glass in my foot for up to three months
  41. Actually, I just realized that I never wrote about that: turns out that I stepped on a chard of glass back in November and that's what was causing my foot pain and swelling. Of course I didn't know about the chard of glass until three months after the fact when I pulled it out with a pair of tweezers. I can't believe I was running with a piece of glass lodged in my foot!
  42. I've learned that I can run a marathon, even if I didn't run it the way I wanted to
  43. I've accepted that it was MY FIRST MARATHON EVER and that I ran it like a Half-Marathon, which was a big mistake
  44. I've learned that bees can sting you even when you're running a marathon
  45. I've learned that scratching a bee sting will leave a scar
  46. And that now that scar is officially referred to as my "marathon scar"
  47. And who doesn't want a marathon scar? It just sounds sexy.
  48. I've also learned that group runs are greatly beneficial (yeah, like I'm the first one to think that) not only in the social aspect, but also in improving speed
  49. And getting free shoes
  50. By the way, I'm half-way to getting a free pair of shoes
  51. Just like you're half-way through this post
  52. Group runs have also taught me that I can run without music
  53. Although I still bring Liam along for races and non-group runs
  54. And I bought some new music before yesterday's 10K so I was rocking out during the race
  55. New Yorkers are stoic runners and are easily freaked out when someone passes them with arms pumping to some kick-ass song and digging deep for that final kick (apologies to the woman I spooked yesterday before the finish line)
  56. I've also learned that I'm not your typical NYC runner in that I run in a diverse set of places and I'm not afraid to take the subway to start a run outside of my neighborhood
  57. Taking this approach has really enabled me to explore the city, finding amazing places along the way that most runners miss
  58. I have also learned that I'm the only person that uses the word "magical" to describe a run. It's not magical in the wizard way, it's magical in the "this feels a little surreal" kind of way.
  59. I also appear to be the only person that says running makes them feel superhuman. Once again, it's not superhuman in the way that Superman is superhuman--it's superhuman in that .00001% of humans run for long distances.
  60. You know what else makes me feel superhuman? This post. It's pretty long already and I've still got 40 more lines to write. Crikey.
  61. I've learned that I can talk about people like Ryan Hall and Paula Radcliffe and people will understand me here
  62. I've learned that the same does not hold true during conversations with non-runners
  63. I've learned that I'm not a tech-savvy as I ought to be: I just set up Google Reader two months ago--geez I'm slow
  64. You know what else is slow? Collecting all 50 states.
  65. I've learned that I'm not crazy for wanting to run a Half-Marathon or Marathon in each state
  66. And I have learned that there are crazies that have beat me to this goal eight times already
  67. I've learned to plan ahead, way ahead (yes, I have my races planned out for the next 12 months) in order to maximize travel
  68. But I've also learned that plans are just plans and do change, as with Fairfield and this weekend's 10K
  69. I've also learned to stretch
  70. Sweet God Almighty have I learned to stretch
  71. Just as an update: I have been free of IT Band pain ever since PT, turns out that all I had was a tight muscle that needed some loving
  72. I now make it a point to stretch out everything before and after a run
  73. Not that I don't get the occasional funny feeling in my knee or shin or calf--but once I do get that funny feeling, I know to stretch out that area really well and not ignore it in hopes of it magically healing on it's own
  74. I've also learned to not mix Johnny Walker and running
  75. I've learned that most people already know this lesson and that I was a late bloomer in this respect
  76. I've learned that my bowels are wimps on training runs
  77. I've learned that my bowels are iron-clad on runs
  78. I've learned that my experience at Disney was a classic example of how not to prepare for a Half-Marathon
  79. I've learned with every subsequent race how to properly train and prepare
  80. And I've PR'd at every race since Disney (Marathon and 10K are by default)
  81. God is this almost over? Who's idea was this anyway?
  82. I believe it was your idea
  83. Stupid me for getting ideas
  84. Although you're still reading at this point, so why the heck are you still reading?
  85. Well, I assumed you were building toward some poetic conclusion that elegantly weaves life and running into a harmonious universal truth about man, you know, providing a unique insight into the human condition, how through running--in the metaphoric sense of an unwavering focus on a distant goal--you can triumph over any obstacle. THAT is what I'm expecting.
  86. Well. Then. That's awfully grand of you.
  87. Thanks, I like to think about the big picture
  88. Well, you're just going to get more rambling for the remaining points
  89. WHAT? No big pay out for reading all of these kernals of wisdom?
  90. Well, you already did the whole universal truth bit, what's left for me to say? Plus that's just not my style
  91. Well, then what is your style?
  92. I guess that's another thing I've learned while blogging: I don't have seem to have a writing style
  93. I've learned that I'm a fan of writing lists
  94. But I've also grown to appreciate the long-format race recap
  95. I've also learned that I really like picking off people
  96. I've learned that people enjoy picking off me
  97. Like that guy who got cut me off at the six mile mark at yesterday's 10K
  98. And that old guy that passed me on a long run a few months back
  99. I've learn that it's not cool to be chicked
  100. Unless it's wifey, in which cases she can always chick me


Gym carnies: FOM

This is the first installment of (what I hope will become) an irregular series about the curious characters and intriguing individuals that people my local gym.

I am sure you know what I mean by gym carnies: those people who lurk around your gym as if they were stuck there and can't escape, but at the same time don't seem to really want to be anywhere else. These are the people who are pumping iron when you get there, and plugging away at the stairmaster when you leave. You assume they must have lives outside of the gym, but on the other hand, you've never seen them outside of the gym. They are usually on a first name basis with each other and the gym staff, and carry themselves with an air of "gymier-than-thou."

There is a particular gym carnie that seems to have taken a liking to me. Perhaps it's because he sees me run a lot and from the 1989 Long Island Marathon t-shirt he wears every other day I assume he used to be a runner--or ate a runner that was passing over his bridge and kept the t-shirt. I don't know this gym carnie's name, but let's call him FOM, or Farting Old Man for long.

FOM is a creature of habit. He is on the elliptical in the middle of the first row of machines every Tuesday and Thursday before 6am. After about 45 minutes of ellipting (ellipticizing? ellipticating? faux-running?) FOM then moves on to the treadmill, and much like with the elliptical, he has his favorite. The first treadmill in the second row of treadmills is his favorite. You know how babies love pacifiers? Such is the love FOM has for this particular treadmill. Every Tuesday and Thursday he places his towel on the right handle bar of the machine. He then plugs in his white headphones and tunes into the TV (always FOX News Channel). FOM then cranks the incline up to 15--so high that he must death-grip the TV in order to keep him from falling off--and proceeds to walk for what I assume is the rest of the day.

FOM is very intense while on the treadmill and nothing will interrupt his work out. If a song pops into his head while on the treadmill, he'll hum it. If his treadmill is making a funny sound, he won't change machines. And above all else, if--nay, when--when he has gas, he cannot leave the treadmill: gas must be passed on the treadmill. The more people are around FOM, the more this holds true. We're not talking loud, butt-trumpet farts. FOM's forte is the classic SBD (silent but deadly)--the type that sneak up on you and make you look around for the dead animal that just crawled into the room. These farts aren't just rank, they are offensive.

The other morning I arrived at the gym to find that most of the treadmills where taken except for the one next to FOM's favorite. Even though I knew FOM was a creature of habit I figured he would at least respect the universally accepted one-machine rule of separation. Anyways, FOM was still on the elliptical, so there would be plenty of time for the other treadmills to clear out.

Thirty minutes later FOM gets off the elliptical, which is fine because most of the three rows of treadmills have cleared out so he has his choice of machines, all of which he can watch FOX News on and incline to vertical.

But wait, he's passing the first row of treadmills. No.

He's turning down my empty aisle of treadmills, passing EIGHT perfectly usable machines. No way.

He steps onto the machine next to me. What the hell???

Yup, there were about 20 other treadmills that he could have used, all of them providing more than one-machine of separation, but FOM has to go with his regular machine right next to me. Aye Dios, porque? I hunker down, hoping for the best but anticipating the worst. And true to habit, about 15 minutes later he starts letting them rip. Sweet Jesus, what does this man eat? I start looking around wildly with a look of disgust, to show to anyone within smelling distance that I am not the perpetrator but I am looking for him/her. (Quick note: why do we always try to find who farted? What purpose does that serve?) I power through the rest of the run half-suffering from the noxious fumes, half-laughing because I knew it was coming.

I get off the treadmill and haul my ass over to the stretching area, which mercifully happens to be located on the opposite side of the gym. I go through all my stretches and go to walk out. Out of the corner of my eye I see FOM still plugging away at the treadmill, still at a 90 degree angle, but now he's talking to another gym carnie, COM (Cardio Old Man)...but he is another story, for another time.


Super Caveman Challenge race report

The hardest working cavewoman in the running business put on yet another race this weekend: the 10K on the 10th. Per usual, I had to go for the Super Caveman Challenge and do 10 miles instead of 10 Ks--not that this masochism was an official division of the race, but I had a 10-mile run schedule for today anyway.

As is becoming my typical Saturday routine, I went to the Super Runner's Shop (halfway to a free pair of shoes!) and met up with the gang there. Right before we left, The Laminator, fresh off his PR at the Long Branch Half-Marathon, showed up and we got to talking about his fantastic race (and the weird weather over the weekend).

We jog on over to the Runner's Gate at Central Park, where the group separates into the different distances. The Laminator, a Brazilian guy, and myself form the 10-mile group, lead by pacesetter Julio. We map out our route as one big loop of six-miles and one inner loop of four-miles. When Julio asks what our pace is I ambitiously say "about 8:30" knowing full-well that group runs tend to move faster than the projected pace. The Laminator agrees to this pace, even though I know he can crank out sub-7-minute miles like no one's business, and the Brazilian guy, well, I don't think he responded. So Julio, who is incredibly fit and (I find out later) about 40 years my senior, says "well, I'm not as fast as you guys, but let's do the first six-miles at about a nine minute pace and then the last four we'll speed it up." Sounds like a plan to me because my stomach wasn't feeling 100%.

So we set out north on east side of the park. The Laminator and I quickly realize that Julio either sandbagged us or needs a new watch, because these were not nine-minute miles. These are more like 8:30 miles, and Julio seems to be pounding out eight-minute miles on the uphill.

Most of the race was hard for me because we were pushing such an aggressive speed. I felt bad for The Laminator, because here he is, holding back for me at his recovery pace, and I can't even talk because I'm afraid that starting up a conversation will stop me dead in my tracks.

We get to the six-mile mark and Julio is there (he had pulled out way ahead of us) and shouts out our time at 50:20. At this point I can't do the math in my head--runner's brain has impaired me from doing anything more than counting the miles to go. If I take this as my time for the race that puts me at a pace of 8:23, which is good (it would actually be a PR since I've never done a 10K), but I'm not doing 10K, I'm doing 10M. So onward we go.

About 10 seconds later, a trio of gaunt runners whiz by and the only piece of their conversation that I catch is "I just clocked that mile at 6:09."


Here I am dying with every step and then come these three guys at breakneck speed talking as if this were easy. So I did what any self-respecting runner who has been put in their place would do: I let out a few four-letter words and threaten to throw my water bottle at them (that'll slow them down for sure). Fortunately they have run out of earshot.

The rest of the race goes on much of the same: left foot, right foot, repeat. Finally at mile seven I get a bit of a runner's high and it keeps me going for the rest of the race--which I desperately needed because there are some nasty-ass hills in Central Park.

I gave a little sprint at the finish--nothing spectacular, but I did cross the finish line a little faster. I look at my watch, which reads 1:23:47. I shook hands with The Laminator and wished him luck on the six-miles he had to go to get in his 16.

When I'm at home I map out the route. Turns out it was a run of 10.15-miles, meaning my pace was 8:15 min/mile. Wait a second. 8:15 pace for 10-miles? That's crazy! I've never gone that fast for so far. And I got some negative splits action going on there. Impressive considering the Central Park hills. Looks like The Laminator was right: he is sending me speed vibes and that an eight-minute pace at Fairfield is becoming more and more of a reality.


I hate spring

I love running in this weather: not too hot, not too cold, the sun is up early, and there are lots of fair weather runners that I get to pick off because they haven't trained through the winter. But most importantly, running in the spring lets me get rid of all the junk that builds up in my system thanks to allergies.

I never had allergies before moving to the Northeast. The first 19 years of my life were spent in allergen-free splendor in South Florida. Then I spent my first year in college in Boston and I soon learned that October and May were not my friends.

And I don't get one or two symptoms--no, no, I get the whole package. Itchy eyes, itchy throat, stuffy nose, sneezing, and a more phlegm than most would think a human could produce. I end up spending the day in haze, tired because I couldn't sleep...and now extra tired because I went running after the no sleep. I don't complain about much, but allergies drive me up a wall because it feel like I'm giving myself a sucker punch.

The good thing is that running--in addition to its familiar laundry list of benefits--helps clear out my system. So even though this morning I went running outside, my eyes did not itch, there was no sneezing, and most thankfully all the build-up in my throat came out. Ahhhhh, relief.

All the decongesting really helped my running today too. I did speed work and really kicked some booty. I was supposed to do 2 miles at an 8:20 pace (turned into 8:00), 2 x 1 mile at a 7:50 pace (turned into 7:40), and 2 x 800m at a 7:40 pace (turned into 6:50). I swear, I have no idea where this speed is coming from.


Quick note

This week and weekend have been crazy because wifey is taking a professional development class and her group's final presentation is tomorrow and I have been recruited to help work on the project. So yesterday after my run I met up with wifey at her office and helped her wrap up her presentation. Today they're having rehearsals and I get to be a guest judge--woo hoo!

Great news is that after tomorrow I will have my wife back, which is fantastic because she cooks waaaaay better than I do.

Just three quick notes from yesterday's run:
  • Guy who passed me on the Queensboro Bridge: sorry, you looked about 20 years my senior, my pride wouldn't let you take the lead for too long
  • The two five-year old boys who tried to race me eight miles into my 10-mile run: you've got some nice speed on you...even if you only lasted for about 50 feet
  • The chick who tried to chick me nine miles into my 10-mile run: hell no were you going to pass me half a mile from the end of my run--although you came close...thank God that I'm good on the downhills