Not dead

I'm still here. It's just with the constant run around associated with visiting my family in Miami I've haven't had a moment to sit down and blogicate. Heck, I've barely been able to get a run in these past two weeks (Saturday I did three miles, and before that I think I went for a three mile run the week prior). Can I really call myself a runner still?

One thing is for sure: when we get back to New York I'm diving headfirst into training.


Pop bits 1

Part of my work is to stay on top of consumer trends and be abreast of all things pop culture. While normally this involves broad ideas like knowing the percent of homes using DVRs and how to use Twitter as a marketing tool, there is are a thousand smaller bits of popular that I'm exposed to in the process. I'll come across a cool blog or interesting Google anomaly or funny picture and have a great laugh to myself--and then that's where it usually ends.

But that stops today.

I figure I have a lot of interesting stuff to share and this blog (while mostly running focused) does needs a little diversion. Well. It needs that much more than it needs another five part race report. So every now and then, probably weekly, I'll be sharing Pop bits that I think are interesting.

That's the whole plan I've got for now. Let's see where it goes.


  • Cake Wrecks - this is hands down one of my favorite sites on the interwebs. It's basically a site about baking gone wrong: horribly, horribly wrong. Admitedly the concept doesn't sound that funny, but there are some bad cakes out there and the commentary is f*ing unbelievable. I can no longer look at this blog at work because I get so many stares from the laughter. For example, scroll down to the 12/17 post on Santa cakes and look at the second cake. Hilarity will ensue.

  • Google confirms: one is the lonliest number. Here's a neat trick: go to Google and search for "the lonliest number." Look at the results. Specifically look at the very first result from Google Calculator.

  • More Google Fun--this time in French! Here's another Google trick: go to Google and search for "french military victories" and then hit "I'm Feeling Lucky." The result is brilliant.

  • No man could measure up. A church in New Zealand is causing a stir with this billboard.
  • Octopuses just got cooler. In addition to their color-changing abilities, shape-shifting bodies, suction cup covered legs, and all-around bad ass demeanor, octopuses have now learned how to defend themselves with coconut shells. The article is here, but you know you just want to see the video. For some reason, I feel like this is one of the bosses from Super Mario Galaxy:


Gym carnies: Yo Adrian!

Gym carnies is an irregular series about the curious characters and intriguing individuals that people my gym. After a summer away from the gym, I'm heading back, but this time to a gym by my new office with a whole new set of gym carnies to rant about.

I showed up at the new gym knowing that I'd have to put up with some kind of membership representative first. You know these people: they look jacked on the juice, are super-excited about everything, and have the cunning ability to back you into a corner to sign up for a two membership because they "like you so much, I'll give you my friends and family discount." I don't like these people. I know exactly what I want in a gym and I don't need you to force your gym down my throat thankyouverymuch.

When I presented my one-day pass at the front desk they immediately call up a membership representative. The guy who shows up could not have fit the profile any better. He wore a skin tight t-shirt and had pecs like balloons. He shook my hand right, flashed a coverboy smile, and instantly started dropping words like "bro" and "dude." For some reason Rocky Balboa saying "Yo Adrian!" flashed into my head, and it stuck. I was calling him "Yo Adrian!" in my head for the rest of the day.

He took me on a tour of the facility, which I have to admit was pretty nice. Although I always find the locker room portion so friggin awkward. Here we are, two fully dressed guys (me still in my jacket from outside), walking into a room full of bucknakedness. And me, charged with the role of attentive potential member, have to look around examining the place's details like the ample rows of lockers and the old men who walk around without a towel. Ew.

At the end of the tour we sat down at Yo Adrian!'s desk and he gave me the run down of what membership costs. I immediately thought: all you did was walk me around the place and you're already talking money. Jeez. Fortunately, a while back I discovered the trump card to get you essentially out of any uncomfortable situation, just say the words "I have to talk to my wife about this." Bam. It's over. No one can come back to that.

After that I quickly changed into my running clothes and hopped on a treadmill. During the whole run I felt like I was cheating. It felt so artificial and cheap, as if I was used to eating Kobe steaks and then suddenly someone slipped me a hamburger. I didn't like it, but I knew that it was pretty much my only option for winter running.

Afterwards I took a shower and headed back to work. The whole ordeal lasted 90 minutes (including Yo Adrian!'s spiel), which I could probably get down to 60 minutes and fit conveniently within my lunch time. Ha, after all these years of thinking it was impossible, here I am seriously figuring out how to get my runs in during lunch.

That evening I go home and actually do talk about it with my wife. Turns out her office has a killer deal with another gym--one that has locations close to my office AND her office AND our apartment. So we opted for that one instead, which meant I had to let down Yo Adrian!--not easy.

Yo Adrian! started calling me the next day. First he called during a lunch with clients, then he called a second time while I was in a meeting--how he managed to call me twice when I wasn't available is beyond statistical probability. I tried calling him back, but he had left for the day and this gym didn't have a voicemail system. So I wrote him a Dear John (Dear Yo Adrian!?) email telling him that another gym worked out better for me and Wifey; it wasn't his fault, it was our's. He was great and the time we had together was really special. It's just that we like this other place better, and yes it's cheaper, but we hoped someday he would be able to forgive us for our weakness and price conscientious.


A whole lot of nothing

Basically, I have been sitting on my ass for the past three weeks.

I was doing pretty well after the NYCM: I took one week off and then started running again and noticed some marked improvement (I always see the most improvement after a race). I was going out for runs twice during the week and then a long run on Sundays. But then the week of Thanksgiving I took off because of all the traveling. And then last week it finally got too cold to go out in the mornings (hello pre-dawn freezing temps!).

The decision last summer to cancel my gym membership has come back to haunt me. It made sense when it was 70 degrees and sunny when I woke up for a run, but now it's dark and below 30 degrees at 6am--and homey don't play that. Now I have to join a gym, but I can't go back to my old gym. I told them I "moved" so that I could cancel my membership without a penalty--and it would be mighty suspicious to unmove.

I could always find a gym near my office (there are a few), but Wifey and I are thinking of moving come January--and there is a 50/50 chance we'll end up moving into a building with a gym in it. I really don't want to enroll in a gym to only have to cancel in a couple of months.

And so I perpetuate this cycle of gym or no gym, all the while I just end up running less and less (and lose the fitness I gained from training). At least I still manage to get out on the weekends and muster up a very respectable 8:00 pace on 6-8 mile runs without too much huffing and puffing.

Meanwhile I'm still trying to figure out the 2010 race calendar. I really want to round out New England in 2010 and finally get Maine off my list, so I'm forgoing big races like Chicago and Marine Corp in order to do one of the Maine Marathons in October. Also, the Delaware Marathon is pretty well timed right at the start of spring in mid-May. The good news is that both of these races are within driving distance, so they'll be affordable AND easy to schedule into work. Besides those races I'm eyeing the National Half-Marathon in March and the Virginia Beach Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon in September.

If all goes according to plan I'll get three states and one District of Columbia off my list. The bad news is that after that I'll basically have to fly to get any other state off my list. Anyone have extra airlines miles they can throw my way?


Paparazzi, evacuate; the empire state is on fire!

After being out of town and on the road for just over a week, I'm finally settled back into the swing of things.

The weekend before Thanksgiving Wifey and I visited some friends in Boston. I didn't realize it had been over three years since I had been to Boston. Gosh do I miss Boston. It is still my favorite city--and if it wasn't for the crazy winters I would probably be living there now.

I also forgot how many runners there are in Boston. I don't think there was a single moment that we were outside that there wasn't a runner somewhere within view. I forget how strong an impact this city had on creating my love of this sport.

On Saturday morning we had a culinary revelation at Zaftigs. Apparently I lived within two miles of this restaurant for three years and never knew it existed. How I managed to do that despite the mob outside forming a 45 minute wait we will never know. But this place was unbelievable. I had the banana French toast and it changed my world. I tried Wifey's eggs Benedict--which were served on a cheddar biscuit instead of an English muffin--and my mouth just about exploded. If you are in the Boston area--or anywhere else on the Eastern Seaboard--go to this restaurant, your stomach will thank me.

I was pretty much in a food coma for the rest of the Boston visit. When I came to I had the distinct taste of Wagamama's in my mouth and a box of Mike's cannolis in my hand.

Then we drove the 14+ hours (over two days) south to western North Carolina to see Wifey's family and spent a rather long Thanksgiving Week with them, helping out at their bakery, and making way too much food for Thanksgiving dinner--which I didn't think was possible with the appetite her brothers have.

Finally, last Saturday we headed back to New York in one marathon 15 hour driving session (including fuel stops and one scenic detour). We spent our last day with the car buying way too much at Target, doing tons of groceries at Super Stop & Shop, and picking up a Christmas tree from The Home Depot.

I guess my body had enough from all that driving because Sunday night I came down with a nasty stomach bug. I spent all of Monday parked on the couch...dying...slowly...until 8pm when I magically started to feel better. And after one day back at the office where I found my computer sans mouse (who steals a mouse?) here I am.

(Oh, and the post title? It's a mash up of the four songs that were played about 40 times each during the 30+ hours of driving I spent last week.)


Wrapping up the NYCM

We’re still not done with the NYCM! I never got to post my playlist prior to the race and immediately afterward I was too consumed with my five-part race report to write up the ol’ list of play. [Side note: FIVE part? Geez, I wouldn’t think that was necessary unless I wrote it. Screw self-editing, right?]

I slapped together my playlist at the last minute—literally. In the last hour before I went to sleep on Saturday night I took out all my race day stuff and added two hours worth of music to my last Half-Marathon playlist (i.e., Grete’s Great Gallop). I’m not proud of it, but it was the only time I had.

Funny thing is that the music worked out really well during the race. I only listed to about two-thirds of the thing (accounting for pauses to check my pace), but I was really happy every time a song started. Perhaps I have been over-hinking my music selection—Marcy haunts me from beyond the blog-grave!!
  • Proud Mary; Tina Turner
  • Brandy Alexander; Feist
  • Bennie and the Jets; Elton John
  • Ulysses; Franz Ferdinand
  • Boston; Augustana
  • Chocolate; Snow Patrol
  • Under Control; Parachute
  • Lucid Dreams; Franz Ferdinand
  • Bulletproof; La Roux
  • Tears Dry On Their Own; Amy Winehouse
  • Heavy Cross; Gossip
  • Losing Touch; The Killers
  • PYT; Michael Jackson
  • Spaceman; The Killers
  • Always Where I Need to Be; The Kooks
  • Lisztomania; Phoenix
  • No You Girls; Franz Ferdinand
  • Tick of Time; The Kooks
  • Dog Problems; The Format
  • Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground); The Jacksons
  • Heads Will Roll; Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Jump In The Pool; Friendly Fires
  • Resistance; Muse
  • Can You Feel It; Michael Jackson
  • HAPPY Radio; Edwin Starr
  • Paris; Friendly Fires
  • Blinded By the Light; Manfred Mann's Earth Band
  • Barracuda; Heart
  • Canned Heat; Jamiroquai
  • I Saw It on Your Keyboard; Hellogoodbye
  • Human; The Killers
  • My Moon My Man; Feist
  • Read Between the Lines; KSM
  • Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough; Michael Jackson
  • Uprising; Muse
  • The Love You Save; Jackson 5
  • I’m Bad; The Last Vegas
  • Zero; Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • I Kissed a Girl; Katy Perry
  • Beat It; Fall Out Boy
  • American Boy; Estelle
  • I Don't Feel Like Dancin'; Scissor Sisters
  • I Want You Back; Jackson 5
  • This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race; Fall Out Boy
  • Reptilia; The Strokes
  • Times Like These; Foo Fighters
  • Shockwave; Black Tide
  • Let's Dance to Joy Division; The Wombats
  • The Pretender; Foo Fighters

Onto lessons I learned from the NYCM, now that I’ve had time to decipher them:

  1. I really did try to have faith in all the training I had done—and while it might not have produced a 3:40 finish time, I still finished very strong and repeated my PR. So the strategy worked! I will be keeping this in mind for future races.
  2. My hamstrings were mysteriously NOT fatigued. I thought it was just a post-race fluke, but then the week of recovery they were never sore. I’m not sure why this happened. I need to investigate this. I’m wondering if I didn’t use them enough during the race.
  3. I really liked my training schedule. It worked well with my work/life schedule yet managed to incorporate an extra day of running. The only thing is that I stepped up the mileage without setting my alarm clock earlier—so toward the end I had to cut runs short since I was running late.
  4. I used to like Tempo runs, but now that I’ve gone through a training cycle having to do Tempo runs outside I no longer like them. In addition to having to run these outside, I lowered the pace for Tempo runs A LOT. I may have been too ambitious this time around, but should be OK using these paces for the next training cycle.
  5. I knew my stomach was sensitive in the morning, but I never realized just how sensitive it was until I moved out of the gym, far away from any bathroom. I may have to start drinking coffee first thing in the morning just to get the constitutional out of the way before I start running.
  6. The NYCM forces you to get to the starting line early. Ridiculously early. I’m normally a “just in time” type of runner, getting to the starting corral within minutes of the gun. So sitting in Ft. Wadsworth for over an hour was very different. But all that time let me prepare correctly, both mentally and physically.
  7. Focus! I doubt there is any runner who can’t stand to focus a bit more, but I felt I had an incredibly hard time on the course focusing on my race. I suspect this was mostly due to the huge crowds. However, I think I could stand to devise some kind of mental process to stay focused during a race.
  8. I can’t forget to stretch. My IT bands got really tight toward the end of the training cycle—and that is purely because I wasn’t taking enough care of them. Now that I’ve had time to rest I’ve been able to stretch more before and after runs and use heating pads to help loosen the muscles—I need to carry this through to the next training cycle.
  9. It was strange, but I was very sore after this race. After Newport and the Pig I just kinda sprang back to life the next day, but I was tapped out by the NYCM. I didn’t get back to 100% until the following Thursday. Not sure what lesson to take out of this, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Last, but not least, my time. I still don't have a resolution on that. I've sent pictures to the NYRR and long emails explaining what I think happened, but they're still trying to figure out what to do. There will be a final update on that, one day.


Turns out we were right

We all know that running not only makes you healthy, but also makes you happier. Apparently there is now scientific proof that there is a physical component. Researchers at Princeton found that when rats were given a running regimen they were neurologically less stressed than rats who were not. It's a pretty cool story that you can read here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/phys-ed-why-exercise-makes-you-less-anxious/.


The Race of Races, Part V of V

Exit Strategy

I couldn’t control it. I found a barricade not 20 feet after the finish line, hunched over, and started sobbing. “I did it” ran through my head. IdiditIdiditIdiditIdiditIdiditIdiditIdidit.

I had just run the New York City Marathon AND I had come back to good terms with the Marathon distance (I consider The Flying Pig a misfire in Marathon execution). I never let myself enjoy this bliss immediately following the finish line, but damn it, I was going to do it this time: tears of joy mingling with drops of sweat. It was awesome.

I gathered myself up and starting moving up West Drive. There was still a long journey through the finishing chute before getting out of Central Park.

The first station was the medal. I went to the back of the group of medal volunteers and pointed to one young woman who was happy to put up with my stink and sweat and place a medal around my neck. It was heavier than I thought it would be.

Then came the finisher photo station. I understood that you have to take the picture before you load up with food and water, but the only thing I could think was “WTF, why is this here?” I took another minute to collect myself—the medal triggered another wave of emotion, that, and I couldn’t bear the thought of having to stand still for a photographer.

That’s when I got the first tap on my shoulder. A medical volunteer asked if I was ok. She had good reason to ask, I had just crossed the finish line of a Marathon and was hunched over and shaking. She insisted that I go to the medical tents. I had to stand up to show her I was in full control of myself and tell her that I was just having an emotional moment. “It’s been a hard four months,” I told her, but I really did appreciate the concern.

I waded to the back of the photographers and got on official finisher’s snapshot:

Stayin' classy.

Someone handed me a heat blanket and someone else put a sticker on my chest to keep the blanket in place. I wasn’t cold yet, but I imagined that it would set in pretty soon.

I continued to wade through the crowd. I grabbed a recovery bag and immediately busted into the water bottle in it. My stomach cringed at the thought of ingesting anythign solid.

Then I saw the first UPS truck. It was for runners with bibs numbered 60,000-59,000. Then the next truck was for runners with numbers 58,999-58,000. My bib was in the 27,000s, halfway through the menacing mob of runners before me. For the next 33 UPS trucks I shuffled with the mob for 50 feet and then rested, walked and rested, walked and rested. Each time I hunched over to rest a volunteer tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I was OK. Each time I said “thanks, I’m fine; it’s just a long walk.”

Eventually I came up on the 27,000 truck and got my bag. I was surprisingly agile and able to lower myself to the ground and change into my Crocs and pants easily—oh Jesus were my feet happy. I put on a dry t-shirt and jacket and put my heat blanket on over that (the chill was starting to get to me). The couple that was changing next to me mentioned that they had run London and Berlin and Paris and none had the ridiculous commute to the start or the long procession after the finish, but they quickly followed that by saying that hands down the New York spectators are the absolute best—and really, isn’t that what counts?

I followed the mob out of the park onto 81st Street and Central Park West (mind you the finish line was at 67th Street). The flow of runners coming down Central Park West was powerful, like the tide rushing out to the sea. I had to slowly break through the masses to continue on 81st Street to look for Wifey, Mom, and MBF in front of the Hayden Planetarium.

Sure enough, after breaking through the mob I spotted Wifey walking just 30 feet in front of me off to left. I called her name. No response. I called louder. No luck. Finally, as she sped off (or I just gave up hope on chasing her) I yelled out her full name. That got her attention (her full name is pretty unique). I gave her a big, big hug and kiss. She flooded me with everything that happened that day. She called over Mom and MBF, and they all hugged me and started texting friends and family that I had finished safely and snapped a couple pictures, including my favorite:


The Race of Races, Part IV of V

Manhattan/the Bronx/Manhattan

Mile 15: 8:26
Mile 16: 8:34
Mile 17: 8:47
Mile 18: 8:41
Mile 19: 8:36
Mile 20: 9:02
Mile 21: 9:00
Mile 22&23: 17:28 (8:38 pace)
Mile 24: 9:30
Mile 25: 9:36
Mile 26: 9:04
Mile .2: 1:42 (7:45 pace)

The Queensboro Bridge was not that bad. Actually, after running on mostly flat land in Brooklyn and Queens, the long climb was a welcomed change. Also, I was extremely confident going in because—as I told someone else while going up the bridge—this was my bridge. I did long runs on this bridge. I did hill repeats on this bridge. If there was anything I was ready to handle, it was this bridge.

Unfortunately, the stitches kicked in again and I had to hold back my pace. So while I was passing people left and right, I knew I wasn’t going at my best speed.

Then I heard it: the wall of sound. You hear about it in Marathon lore: the silence of the Queensboro Bridge (no spectators allowed) is followed by the Marathon’s first pass at Manhattan. It started as a distant hum until I came into the hairpin turn off the bridge where I met it face on. The crowds greeting me out of the bridge were easily six people deep. I turned again, this time onto First Avenue, and the noise filled up everything.

While the crowds were loud and fierce I realized this was the first time since Mile 1 that I felt breathing room on the course—so the crowds were a sharp contrast to the relief I suddenly felt.

Once I got into a comfortable pace I started pushing the speed. But stuff was starting to feel funny. I could feel that my IT bands were not happy and extremely tight. I also got a weird feeling in my left calf/shin. It was something I had never felt before and it most definitely was not a shin split—I’ve had those before and this felt very different. It was as if the outside muscles of my left lower leg were wound up tight and each step tightened them more. It wasn’t bad enough to stop, but enough to make me worry for a while and prevent any speeding on the last flat section of the course.

Holding true to what many others have said leaving Manhattan and entering The Bronx is hard. First, the bridge is full of pot holes and only two lanes wide. Second, I was just in Manhattan, within a mile of the finishing line, and even though I had run three miles away from the finish already, it didn’t hit me until I had to cross a river and enter an entirely different borough that I still had a long way to go. The worst though was that upon entering The Bronx I got the feeling like I was not welcome (at least contrast to the rest of the course). There were sparse crowds and the people just look at the runners. There was very little clapping and lots of WTF facial expressions. Let me tell you, I was very happy to leave The Bronx as quickly as I entered it.

Once back in Manhattan—in the heart of Harlem—the crowds were strong and lively. The course flattened out again and I tried to just focus on the last couple of miles to the finish. I was frustrated because I couldn’t get up to speed without sparking a stitch or bumping into somebody (yes, it was still crowded at Mile 21). I could feel the wear on my legs; by now the pain from my IT bands had become numb and my calves were starting to complain—and my calves do not complain until it gets bad. But while I was physically tired, my mind was still throwing logs on the fire.

Then came the last three miles. The dreaded Fifth Avenue Mile started at his point, the sneaky incline that has claimed many a Marathoner before entering hilly Central Park. I felt the drain instantly. After 110th Street I don’t remember seeing or hearing things as much as sensing them. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds and lit up the stern Fifth Avenue facades and golden leaves dangling overhead. It was a flurry of colors mixing together.

The crowds were deafening and so swollen they were spilling onto the street. They were shouting any name they could get a hold of—and of course I didn’t have my name anywhere, so I imagined that someone in the crowd was calling out “gray shirt!” because that’s what I was wearing and someone out there knew that I needed a shout out too.

The turn into Central Park was brief and abrupt. I had to slow down because of stitches, but I was constantly talking myself out of stopping. I cannot tell you what was driving me, because I wanted to stop and I almost did stop a dozen times, but something kept me going. I guess most people would call this heart, but I don’t like that word. The feeling is too complex to be bottled into one word that reminds me of Valentine’s Day. So it will go unnamed for now—which, quite frankly, only makes it feel more special.

Exiting onto Central Park South I stayed toward the left side of the course. Mindy, Mom, and MBF would be there at Central Park South and Seventh Avenue. I held on for them: I couldn’t bear to see anything but joy and cheers from them. Sure enough I spotted the bright yellow signs from half a block away and they did not fail:

They were all so happy. I let out a little sob of pain/happiness and plodded away from them. I couldn’t fail now.

The 800m mark passed and then the 400m mark. I know there was a hill before the finish line, but I don’t remember climbing it. The finish line was a sea of colors and sounds and seeing it unlocked that last reserve of energy—the one that is tucked away so deep inside of you that you have to run 26 miles to find it. My plodding became running, then my running became sprinting, and my sprinting gave way to catharsis as I crossed the finish line.

3:50:23 according to my watch. Within four seconds of my PR and 13 minutes better than The Flying Pig.


The Race of Races, Part III of V

Staten Island/Brooklyn/Queens

Mile 1: 9:35
Mile 2: 8:19
Mile 3: 8:46
Miles 4&5: 17:41 (8:49 pace)
Mile 6: 8:35
Mile 7: 8:29
Mile 8: 8:37
Mile 9&10: 17:32 (8:44 pace)
Mile 11: 8:38
Mile 12: 8:33
Mile 13: 8:36
Mile 14: 8:28

The view from the Verrazano, as promised, was unforgettable. Two-hundred feet above New York harbor, Brooklyn ahead, the Manhattan skyline washed out in gray due to the overcast, all set to the tune of roughly 30,000 feet slamming the roadbed. I tried to pick out the Time Warner Center (the most visible landmark near the finish line of the Marathon) and quickly decided that I shouldn’t be doing that one mile into the race.

The stitches came on quick, within the first mile. But this, as I said all through training, was good. If the stitches had to come at all, I would prefer they come as early as possible so that I could deal with them properly. They never became full-fledged, race stopping stitches, but they were enough to keep me in check for the first couple miles.

The crowds came on quick too. The second you hit Brooklyn there are people to greet you—and except for the Queensboro Bridge, there is essentially no break in the crowds for the next 22.2 miles.

As I promised myself I trusted my training and did not start pushing hard from the get go. I avoided bobbing and weaving around runners. I basically found the blue line and stuck to it. But there was a problem with this strategy that became apparent once we merged with the green starters at Mile 3. The amount of runners on the road prevented anyone from running a fast race.

I checked my watch during those early splits and thought that there was no way for me to hit my goal pace unless I starting swerving around people. I told myself to calm down, have faith that the pack would thin out in the next couple of miles, and to not do anything crazy.
Meanwhile, the spectator crowds were fantastic. Flags were waving everywhere, boom boxes played out from apartment windows, there were more bands than I could remember. It was a gigantic spectacle—and a gigantic distraction that I had to keep on ignoring in order to stay in good shape.

Staying on the blue line meant that I kept toward the center of Fourth Avenue those first several miles. Only once or twice did I wander to the edge to slap a few hands or feel the roar of the crowd.

I was doing a great job of staying focused and breathing correctly and keeping my form in check. But even with all that I gave up my hopes for a 3:40 finish at Mile 8.

This Mile marker was the first sharp turn after getting off the Verrazano and where all three starts converged. I got stuck on the inside of this turn and slowed down to a jog—and that’s only because I refused to walk. Yes, Mile 8 of a Marathon and the runners were so dense that it could slow you down to a walk. After that the street got very narrow, adding to the difficulty.

I looked at Fenny and knew I had to pick up the pace. But then I looked forward and knew there was no way to do that. I stuck to sides where runners were able to circumvent the mass in the middle, but every split proved that I had met the speed limit for this race. Now I just concentrated on getting to the finish line in one piece, without flaring up the stitches that were still coming and going (yet never getting to full strength).

The rest of Brooklyn went by in a blur. I didn’t recognize any bit of Williamsburg although I had run Bedford Ave about two dozen times over the past years. As I approached the Pulaski Bridge I was happy, not just because it was the halfway point, but because it meant the departure from Brooklyn and the start of my home borough of Queens—and knowing the streets in this neighborhood, they would be much wider and much easier to maneuver. The Pulaski Bridge also meant that I’d be seeing Wifey, Mom, and MBF in a little more than a mile.

Sure enough, a couple blocks into Long Island City and streets were wide open. Forty-Fourth Drive looked like the Champs-Élysées compared to what the course went along in Brooklyn. When I rounded the corner onto Crescent Street I looked immediately for the Comfort Inn—the landmark that my cheer squad would be waiting across the street from. Uncontrollably I felt my pace quicken as I was excited to see them and get in one last rush before the Queensboro.

I hurried through the water station, opting for my water bottle instead. And a few seconds later saw the yellow posters saying: “Left, right, repeat!” and “See sRod Run” (Mom took this opportunity to advertise my blog. If I’ve gained any new readers because of this, please let me know. Mom would be happy that her work wasn’t in vain.)

I started waving my arms in the air and hooting and hollering—I’ve been accused of missing people too many times to screw this up. Once I saw their faces and realized they saw me I got louder and even started skipping/hopping in the air. (Maybe not the best idea before facing the hardest climb of the race, but hey, I was excited.) They returned the shouts…and so did the fifty people around them, which totally caught me by surprise, as if I momentarily forgot there was a crowd three people deep surrounding them.

Coming off that little burst of energy I turned the corner and faced the Queensboro Bridge—what I had prepared for as the hardest climb of the race.


The Race of Races, Part II of V


At 9:20 J returned from her coffee hunt. They had just started calling the wave two runners, and like pulling out the plug from a full bathtub, the whole crowd emptied out the field and began moving toward the corrals. I took a couple sheets of paper towel from J—who was brilliant and packed a whole stack of paper towels (this is now on my packing list for race starts)—and ran off to bag check and the port-o-potty for one last nature break. Fortunately, the weather was warmer than I had prepared for (low 50s, light wind, heavy overcast) so I shoved my track pants and gloves into my check-in bag and stayed with just my too big sweater.

J had warned me that the corrals were further away than we thought, so after the port-o-potty I headed straight for the back of the start area. Indeed, these corrals were far. I started eating an apple after the going to the bathroom and managed to finish it by the time I got to my corral—perfectly timed, because I was one of the last to get in before they closed wave two.

Once inside the corrals the atmosphere completely changed. Outside the corral was a restrained patience—a sense of preparation. Inside the corrals there was no more preparation (because if you weren’t prepared by now, you would never be prepared). Here, people were ready to race; they were jumping in place, stripping off clothing, eagerly looking for any sign of the herd moving toward the starting line.

I ducked into a port-o-potty just in case there was anything left (this was the third visit of the morning--yeah, I was cleaned out) and hopped back into the mob. The fences of the corrals were six feet tall and covered in green mesh so that you couldn’t see in or out. But you could certainly hear the growing crowd of wave three runners outside eager to get started themselves.

Then I heard the cannon.

It was an explosion akin to distant thunder: deep, ominous, powerful. The crowd shifted forward in response. At the head of the corrals was a sharp right turn through where normally a fence is 364 other days of the year. I could see the buses—the crude, but ultra-effective barricades outlining the last couple hundred feet to the start. I could hear Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York pumping over the speakers. I rounded the corner of the buses, with the expressway tolls to my back, helicopters hovering overhead, the roar of runners filling every inch of space. I was square on facing the Verrazano—tall and imposing, with a mass of runners like no other covering it from end to end.

A rush of emotions grabbed in those last final feet before the start. This was it, the race of races--everything from the past four months, from the past twenty-six years, had led me to this very moment.

The NYRR announcer was on the speakers as I crossed the starting line. He said something I will never forget: “New York is the sports capital of the world! The Yankees are in the World Series. The Giants are playing the Eagles tonight. The Jets are playing the Dolphins today. But right now the whole city—the whole world is watching you!”


The Race of Races, Part I of V

This is a long one; so long that I had to break it into five parts. Granted, only two parts are actually about running the race, but there is so much involved in the before and after of the NYCM that I couldn’t just skip it. As always, this report is more a reference for myself--a rehashing of the 1,000 fragment memories I collected that day--than a critque of the race.

Fantastic Voyage

The journey of four and a half months had led me to a stranger’s garbage bag in the middle of a muddy field at the base of the Verrazano Bridge. I laid there in old track pants and a sweater two sizes too large keeping my eyes closed trying to make up for the lack of sleep the previous night.

I could hear the couple next to me speaking some language I didn’t recognize. The group on my other side was American, but their conversations were hushed by the covers of their sleeping bags. The lone man off to my left was quietly getting ready applying generous amounts of Vaseline to all parts of his body.

I opened my eyes and saw a helicopter flying low, hovering under the overcast like sting ray in a shallow pool. The field, still damp from the rain the night before, had become a muddy mess thanks to the flood of 43,000 runners, untold numbers of volunteers, UPS trucks, food and water stations, and perhaps the largest collection of port-o-potties ever. The announcements cycling over the PA system in six different languages had just notified the close of the first wave corrals and the quickly approaching opening of the second wave corrals.

I had woken up at 5:10 that morning. After taking care of business in the bathroom, drinking water, and getting into my race clothes, I woke up Wifey to pin on my race number. Then I quickly slipped into my track pants and sweater, grabbed my bags (one bag to check-in, one bag filled with breakfast), and kissed Wifey, Mom, and Mom’s Best Friend (MBF) goodbye—it would be about seven hours before I would see them again at the half-way point.

On the stoop of my building I was happy to find that the rain had subsided overnight and it wasn’t too hot or too cold. Once the door behind me closed and locked I realized that was it, I had no key to the building and there was no turning back: I was going to run the NYC Marathon. I put on a goofy smile, let out an eager “hello” to my deserted block, and headed off to the subway.

I got to the subway at 5:40 for the 5:50 departure out of my station—I didn’t even think the subway ran on a schedule until I had to plan this early morning trip. I saw a couple of stragglers from Halloween just coming home, one of them too drunk to avoid bumping into the poles on subway platform. I settled into my seat, fruitlessly trying to recoup some sleep, but at each new station I would open my eyes looking for Marathoners boarding the subway.

While on the subway I made my only mistake of the whole trip to Staten Island. Instead of transferring trains where I was going to I stayed on the subway and kept going south on the N. Little did I know that the N was under construction that weekend and was being rerouted into Brooklyn before reaching South Ferry. Fantastic. At Canal Street I had to wait 20 minutes with a growing group of runners waiting at the platform for the train that seemed to never come.
Finally, the train did come--and it was filled with other runners, which must have really thrown off the people in Halloween costumes just wrapping up their night out.

Even though I had lost time waiting for the subway I still managed to get to South Ferry as they opened the doors for the 7am ferry—so I was still on schedule. I made my way onboard and found a good spot away from the cold breeze toward the far end of the boat, not too far from the Jamaican contingency which seemed to be having a party all the way to the starting line.

I struck up a conversation with the pair of runners who sat next to me. We shared notes on this race and others and a happiness that the weather was turning for the best. At one point, the whole boat broke out into “Happy Birthday” for one runner—the amazing part was that the song instantly spanned countless cultures and languages in the matter of a couple of bars of music.
Once docked at Staten Island I shuffled along with the crowd to get to the shuttle buses and suddenly found myself right next to The Laminator! We knew we were both shooting for the 7am ferry, but without cell phones we had no way of meeting up. It was a relief to bump into someone I knew to share this surreal experience.

On the shuttle I talked with The Laminator and his friends, some of which were seasoned Marathoners, some were doing this for the first time (how spoiled to have NYCM be your first Marathon!). We arrived at the village at roughly 7:45am and faced yet another mob of runners (this one about a quarter mile long) waiting to be checked into the starting area at Ft. Wadsworth.

Once inside the security checkpoint we disbanded into our respective bib colors to parted ways to find our start areas. I went off with The Laminator and his friend J to the blue start, which was adjacent to the checkpoint we had just cleared. We found a patch of dry grass and spread out J’s garbage bag to cover the area.

After a quick bathroom break (during which I learned most of the port-o-potties were out of TP) I sat down on the garbage bag and took in a deep breath and began to wait. J soon went on a long mission to find coffee and then The Laminator hurried off to his wave one start, leaving me alone on the garbage bag eating the peanut butter sandwiches Wifey had prepared.It was amazing to just sit there and watch the swelling crowds—it really was a non-stop flow of people entering the fort. Eventually, I laid back and tried to calm myself down. I would need my energy for all the challenges in getting to Central Park. But, fortunately, I already had successfully cleared the first challenge of the NYCM: getting to the start.


A surprisingly long recovery

Today is the first day that I'm back at 100% post-Marathon, which, for me, is crazy. I don't remember ever taking this long to fully recover after a race. Yesterday I went to Chipotle for lunch. It's about a 5-6 block walk each way. By the time I got back to the office, I was pooped--yes, tired from about a mile long round trip.

It's therefore almost needless to say that I've been pooped every night this week. I started to write a race report but only got two paragraphs in before calling it a night. Let's hope tonight is more productive.


New York, we have a problem

Oh New York, how I underestimated you. Deep inside I really thought all the hype about the race was just that: hype. I was so very wrong. The moment I turned the corner to face the starting line--the Verrazzano standing tall in the background and Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York"--I was done.

However, there appears to be a problem, a big one: my timing chip did not work. I don't understand what happened because it worked when I picked it up at Expo and I've successfully used D-Tags a couple times now. But no one received updates while I was on the course and I'm not listed on the results page (name or number). I've already emailed NYRR to see WTF is up with this, but as you can imagine, things are a bit hectic over there.

So for now I'll have to use Fenny's time: 3:50:26.




That is the word that will carry me through the race. Not passion, not resilience, not determination. It's honor that will pace me along Fourth Ave. It's honor that will carry me over the Queensboro Bridge. It's honor that will push me through Central Park.

I have taken some time during each of my runs over the past four months to prepare for the NYCM. Fleeting thoughts gave way to mile-by-mile mental run throughs of the course. All the time visualizing what my ideal race will be. During those unintentional yet vital preparations I realized the kernal of my race strategy: I have to honor my training. I can't ignore the months of work I have put specifically into this race. I can't ignore the wisdom I've gained, both mental and physical, from years of distance running. My body knows how to do this. I have to honor that. My brain is just along for the ride--and quite frankly if I could leave it home on race day, I would.

This means that I am not running this race for a 3:40 finish time. It means I am running the race that my body is prepared to run, and I have tried my best to prepare it to finish in 3:40. But I can't force that finishing time upon myself. Too many times I've tried to force my body into running the race my mind has wanted to run and each time it has backfired (see: MY FIRST MARATHON EVER, The Flying Pig, Grete's Great Gallop). I have to trust that my body knows what it's doing and understand that the finishing time is an output of that trust.

So my race day strategy will be to start off with the 3:40 pace group. I won't bind myself to the pacer, it'll just be a a way to keep myself in check during the first mile or two. After that I plan on running the first 10 miles between an 8:30 and 8:40 pace. The second ten miles I'll run between an 8:20 and 8:30 pace. The last six miles will be whatever I've got left.

While out there I will have to constantly remind myself to slow down to avoid fatigue and stitches. I have to keep my shoulders loose and my hands low. I have to check my breathing as often as possible. I will have Liam with me, but I don't plan on listening much to him--he'll just be there if I need a musical distraction or power boost. I will have my water bottle with me, but I'm seriously thinking that I won't need it--it will be cold and there are ample water stations, so I'm thinking I won't need the water bottle, but I haven't run a race without a water bottle in years and it's a bit late in training to be trying something new.

So that is my game plan: honor what I have trained myself to do by letting me do it. It's simple really, but it takes lots of discipline to execute. Game on.


Track me

For the thousands (well, really just one) of you who have asked for tracking info for the NYCM my bib number is 27707. Just go here and use my bib number to not only follow me through the five boroughs but also to find out what my real name is. That is, of course, if you didn't catch it the one time I let it slip here. Given my handle it shouldn't be much of a surprise.


Taperitis relapse

I'm going to come out and say this: for the first time ever I am failing to taper. Usually I can begrudingly get myself to slow down, get used to the reduced mileage, and properly prepare for a big race. Not so this time around. I had to stretch out my peak long runs an extra week do to our anniversary weekend (like hell I was going to run 20 miles while on an anniversary getaway) and that has played a big part of it. But here we are only six days (!!) from the NYCM and I am exhausted. I went a little too rough on my long run yesterday afternoon (an 8:23 pace vs. an intended 9:00+ pace) and the early morning three miles this morning were easy, but still an unwelcomed wake up call.

So I'm going to try going to bed at 10pm on the dot tonight and get a full eight hours before tomorrow's tempo run. Also, I'm going to tell my nerves to settle down: race day isn't until Sunday, so save some of the nervous jitters for then.


Marathon Fever

Normally, I start getting Marathon Fever around the two-weeks-to-go mark. I check the weather religiously, I create my playlist, I check the race website daily for information, I start planning out race day down to the second. It is a magical time that only comes once or twice a year--kinda like daylight savings (which happens to coincide with the NYCM). However, this time around the Fever has set on about two weeks early. Why? Well, I saw this in the Times Square subway station:

At first I thought "whoa, this is really early for the Marathon." But then I realized that it was October 1 and new subway ads go up around the first of each month and will stay up for a month (well, you could buy more time, but in most cases you're only up for a month at a time). So ads that are date-sensitive to November 1 would be going up that day. If my internal cues weren't enough, now I would have daily external reminders that the race is less than a month away.

Over the next couple of weeks I saw more and more ads:

There's even a creepy one for the NBC broadcast of the race, featuring a baby-faced Ryan Hall in his best "give me your effing wallet or I will cut you" pose:

There was also an ad for the Poland Springs Kick-off run (held the weekend before the race), you know, for those five runners in New York who didn't know about it:

And yesterday, while walking around Brooklyn, we even saw street light banners lining the course:

As someone who has worked in advertising longer than he cares to admit I find it really cool how the NYRR uses advertising to provide a backdrop for the race. They don't need to advertise that the race is going to happen: the bib numbers were given out long ago and, in general, spectators know the race date well in advance. NYRR uses its advertising budget to really help build buzz and excitement for the approaching race--essentially the experience I've written about here. Imagine if there were no posters, no banners, no signs. How boring would that be? There would be no anticipation, no tease, just a race on Nov 1.
Well done NYRR. Well done.


Peak training ends with a celeb sighting

My 18 mile long run yesterday was the end of peak training for the NYCM! I'm taking in the relief this morning that it's all taper for the next two weeks. Oh sleep, how we need to be reacquainted over the next 14 days.

The long run itself went really well. It was cold with sporadic winds and growing overcast--your typical autumn day around here. I started off from home and went south to go over the Queensboro Bridge. Usually, I'm pretty alone on the bridge, even on the weekends. But now that it's prime Marathon season, there were tons of lone runners and running groups training over the bridge.

Of course part of me--the same part of me that likes to torment puppies and step on flowers--was devilishly thinking that these people waited until now to do their training runs over the bridge. Meanwhile, I've been training over this bridge for years. Their one-off long run two weeks before the race would do essentially nothing to prepare them for the Marathon. ::insert evil laugh here::

When I reached Central Park it was no different. There were runners everywhere. At times it was so dense I felt like I was in a race. Even when I crossed over to the Hudson River path there were more runners than I've ever seen there. It's like everyone was out there training for a race.

The high point of the run was when I returned to Central Park for the last five miles of the run. Somewhere near the Marionette Theatre I saw a pair of men running barefoot. I saw their feet first and then looked at their faces. The taller one I didn't recognize, but the other one I immediately recognized as Eddie Izzard! If you don't recognize the name take a look at his IMDb page--he's one of those "oh, he's that guy?" guys. I've been a fan of his for years and saw him last time he performed at Radio City. I knew he ran Marathons, but never expected to run into him. After the run I texted Wifey that I had seen Eddie Izzard and she confirmed (via Eddie's Twitter) that he was indeed running in Central Park barefoot. After all this time finally a confirmed celebrity sighting! (Even if a minor one.)

The only thing that went "bad" on the run was that in the last mile I got a stitch. I was doing great the whole time and then I past the 17.5 mile mark and BAM, full-on stitch. WTH? I'm trying desperately to figure out what triggers the stitches, but I can't quite get it. I suspect it has something to do with my breathing (breaths are too shallow, which cause cramps in the diaphram?) and maybe my arms (I keep them high, which might increase the overall tension in my upper body?).

The only good news from the stitch is that I didn't stop for it, meaning that I have successfully completed all my high distance long runs for this trianign cycle without having to take walking breaks. And that's an accomplishment I'll take...even if I still have to work on the stitches.


Cute--painful--but cute

Did you guys hear about the marriage proposal during last weekend's Chicago Marathon? I just read the story here: http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local-beat/chicago-marathon-proposal-64016052.html?yhp=1.

As a runner, that's absolutely how I would have proposed--if Wifey ran Marathons too. But really, right before the finish line? You can't jeopardize a BQ like that!


Two weeks' notice

I have a job!

I've been in freelance-ville for about six weeks now and after lots of persistence (and a long series of fortunate and unfortuante events) I landed a job that is not only a raise, but also a promotion. I start on October 26 at the new place, doing pretty much the same thing I've been doing for the past 4+ years, just at a different ad agency.

Of course, this is great news, but if you could hear me talk about it you could tell in a second I'm not excited about it. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely happy to have a full-time position locked up and the promotion was overdue. However, the place I'm going to isn't ideal: it's big, it's corporate, it's not exactly a hotbed of creativity--pretty much the opposite of where I've been working in for the past couple of years. But even all that I was ready to accept, because I needed a job. What has taken the fun out of the new job and given me a nervous stomach and kept me up at night (literally) was the other agency.

A couple days before I got the offer from the new place I got an email out of the blue from a great ad agency, which I'll call the other agency. They reached out to me and I thought I had no other leads, so I got on the phone with the other agency right away. There were a couple things that stuck out about the other agency. First, they reached out to me, which meant they were already interested in me. Second, they were not in New York, actually, they weren't even in the Northeast--they were tucked into a (comparably) small town with a very attractive cost of living. Third, they paid comparable to New York. Fourth, they were having a stellar year (yeah, in 2009). Fifth, they actually walked the walk during the hiring process (I can't explain with out revealing too much info).

I hit it off with HR and fell in love with the other agency and the idea of leaving New York--which Wifey and I have been toying with for some time now. We could have a house and a car and a dog and all the other things we miss in our lives! Imagine that!

Then I got the job offer from big, corporate agency. I had to rush the other agency, but they really liked me: they even hurried to fly me out for interviews before I had to accept/reject the job offer from big, corporate agency. Wifey and I had our hopes sky high because this was a one-in-a-million chance to make a lot of the life changes we wanted--and it looked like it was going to happen.

But it didn't happen. Once again, I don't want to go into too much detail, so suffice it to say it just didn't work out. It hurt. It hurt to read the "you're great, but unfortunately" email. It hurt to have to tell Wifey. It hurt to have to accept the NYC job instead. And to compound the crappiness this happened on our wedding anniversary and the last thing I wanted to be was happy.


Wifey (again) proved herself to be a bigger person than I am. The whole night while I was angry at nothing I could fix, she brought me back to where I needed to be. She was bummed, but not letting it get to her because it only meant that something bigger and better was in the works. And sure enough she was right: the very next day HR from the big, corporate agency let me know that they finagled a higher title for me that was not originally part of the offer.

It all worked out pretty well, in the end.

Now that my job situation is finally settled I can focus on more important things, like the NYCM that is coming up in less than three weeks!! I got my bib number today: I'll be in the second wave (10am start) in the blue start--meaning that I'll be running on the upper level of the bridge and not getting peed on.


A race that I'll probably forget

Like I said in my post on Saturday morning, Grete's Great Gallop kinda came out of nowhere. I wasn't even eyeing it up as a race until a few weeks out and registered the day before the two-week price increase. The course didn't thrill me either: two loops around Central Park, plus 1.1 miles. That made it very hilly and not very different from my usual weekend long runs. Actually, the course was probably the hillest course I've ever been on since there was essentially only one mile total that didn't have some kind of incline or decline.

I woke up and didn't feel like I was going to a race. I slept horribly that night and had been sleeping pretty bad for the previous couple of days, which only compounded the stomach issues I had all week (I'll explain that in my next post). I woke up Wifey and she was none too happy to be going to a race that even I wasn't excited about. But regardless, I ate two PB&J sandwiches, chugged water, and had Wifey pin on my race number--just like any other race.

We left the house perfectly on schedule to get to Central Park by 8:15, for a race start at 9:00. But when we got to the subway station the train pulled out as we were walking up the stairs. That meant we had to wait for the next train and got to Central Park at 8:45. Crappers. I texted my friend that we were running late, because the starting line was no where near the subway stop we got off at.

Once we got to the staging area I heard Mary Wittenberg get on the mic, which meant I only had a couple minutes to get into the corrals. I gave up looking for my friend and scooted into the corrals. Well, turns out I had more than a couple minutes. Mary gave a lovely, but very, very long introduction to race's namesake: Grete Waitz. Then Grete took the mic for a bit--which was encouraging, but once again, we're all just anxious to start the race. Then they sang God Bless America. Then (finally) they sounded the gun...and a Norwegian Horn, since Grete is from Norway and that is what they do in Norway (except in Soviet Norway, horn blows you).

Right before the starting line Grete was giving out hi-fives and I figured it might be good luck to slap hands with one of the greats--and maybe have some greatness rub off on me. I got in the line of jogging (yes, I said the J word) people and planted one right on her hand. She looked at me square in the face for a split second, she smiled and the clouds parted. A chorus of angels descended from the skies and a light brighter than 1,000 suns bathed us. A unicorn appeared from behind a tree and a phoenix perched itself on Grete's shoulder. A fairy flew toward our connected hands and laid upon them a weath of golden lotus flowers, blessing the moment when greatness touched a mere, undeserving mortal. And then the moment passed and all returned to normal.

I knew I was mentally in a bad place when I was looking for the mile markers before the first mile. By mile two I was thinking it was all a bad idea to even be running at all. And then right after mile three the stitich set in. I don't know why I don't anticipate these. I have run 13 races and six of them I've gotten a stitch--that's a 46% likiness. FMR (F' My Running). I was bored, I was fighting back a stitch, I was on a hilly course, and I didn't feel like running: so I pretty much just bitched for next six miles.

By mile 10 the stitch eased up and it started to feel like a race. I picked up the pace a little bit and saw that according to Fenny I wasn't too far from a PR. So I put my head down and pushed through the last three miles in a rather nice fashion. Here's how it breaks down:

(Splits reported as time per mile/pace per mile)

Mile 1: 9:03 / 8:52
Mile 2: 8:38 / 8:43
Mile 3: 8:20 / 8:13
Mile 4: 8:31 / 8:15
Mile 5: 8:22 / 8:19
Mile 6: 8:12 / 8:07
Mile 7 & 8: 17:11 / 8:34
Mile 9: 8:14 / 8:13
Mile 10: 8:24 / 8:17
Mile 11: 8:17 / 8:11
Mile 12: 7:35 / 7:32
Mile 13: 7:43 / 7:39
Mile 13.1: :45 / 6:50

Distance: 13.11 (Fenny: 13.24)
Time: 1:49:23 (Fenny: 1:49:20)
Pace: 8:20 (Fenny: 8:15)
Overall Place: 1209/4332
Gender Place: 901/2249
Age Place: 144/302

Hopefully you notice the rather significant disparity between the official final stats and the stats from Fenny. Fenny measured an extra .13 miles but registered a time just three seconds faster. I don't know if this is consistent across my past races, and frankly I don't feel like checking, but I'm calling BS. BS on the course for being so damned curvy. How the hell are you supposed to run the tangets when the tangets are two feet long and the course is only 20 feet wide?

Afterward we finally met up with my friend who ran the race. We had a smelly, sweaty breakfast at a place called Good Enough to Eat. And believe me it is. I had two waffles with orange butter, Wifey had an omelet, and my friend had pumpkin bread french toast with strawberry butter. Hello delicious!! I'm considering going back post-NYCM.

One last thing: to the girl I kicked in the foot half way through mile 13, I'm sorry. I was trying to PR and kinda zoned out. I might have even closed my eyes and turned up the volume on my iPod. I might not have. We'll never know for sure. But I do know that screwed up your groove in the last half mile of the race and you must have said "who is this f'er kicking me in the foot?". I'm so sorry.


Running late

I know, I left for a Half-Marathon on Saturday and then left you guys hanging. But to be honest, I've barely looked at my time--I didn't PR, but I came close. I will write a full-fledged race report in the upcoming days. It's just that the past seven or so days have been filled with a lot of life-changing events--I still can't say what's going down, but hopefully I'll be able to share soon. It's exciting stuff that's waking me up in the middle of the night and therefore making it very difficult to do runs in the morning. I'm eager to wrap it up so that I can focus on what I need to.


Surprise: Half-Marathon today!

Even though I signed up for Grete's Great Gallop over two weeks ago, I'm still surprised to find myself awake at 6:30 on a Saturday getting ready for a race. I wasn't planning on running a Half-Marathon before the NYCM due to our depleted travel funds--and I was cool with that. But then my friend from middle school, who now lives in New Jersey and is also running the NYCM talked me into running the Gallop--not that it was a hard sell: $30 for a Half-Marathon that I don't have to travel to it.

There are no medals given out at this race (boo!), but I'm looking at it purely as a tune up for the NYCM (ahem, which is 29 days away!). I only have one goal: to PR at this race. That will be difficult because Central park is so hilly, but then again, I am very familiar with the park and know where I can slow down and where I can speed up. If all goes well, hopefully this will be a confidence booster heading into November 1.

Per usual, I've come up with a playlist for this race. Unlike in the past this playlist took less than an hour to put together. That's probably because I've added a lot of new music to the ol' iTunes library over the past month. Here's what I'll be listing to during the Gallop:

  • Proud Mary; Tina Turner
  • Ulysses; Franz Ferdinand
  • Ain't No Rest for the Wicked; Cage the Elephant
  • Under Control; Parachute
  • Lucid Dreams; Franz Ferdinand
  • Bulletproof; La Roux
  • Tears Dry On Their Own; Amy Winehouse
  • Heavy Cross; Gossip
  • PYT; Michael Jackson
  • Spaceman; The Killers
  • Always Where I Need to Be; The Kooks
  • Lisztomania; Phoenix
  • Heads Will Roll; Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Jump In The Pool; Friendly Fires
  • Resistance; Muse
  • Can You Feel It; Michael Jackson
  • HAPPY Radio; Edwin Starr
  • Blinded By the Light; Manfred Mann's Earth Band
  • I Saw It on Your Keyboard; Hellogoodbye
  • Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough; Michael Jackson
  • Uprising; Muse
  • The Love You Save; Jackson 5
  • Zero; Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Beat It; Fall Out Boy
  • I Don't Feel Like Dancin'; Scissor Sisters
  • Reptilia; The Strokes
  • Let's Dance to Joy Division; The Wombats
  • The Pretender; Foo Fighters

Now that I've typed up the list I realize there are a ton of MJ songs in the mix. Well, that's partially because like the rest of the world we felt compelled to buy his best of albums after he died, but also because they actually turn out to be great running songs. He may (or may not) have liked little boys, but you have to admit the man made some kick ass music.

I'm a little worried about the race because I slept like crap last night and the night before. A lot of stuff has been going down on the employment front in the past week and it has me excited and stressed to the Nth degree. So much so that I'm also having trouble eating--which is next to impossible. By the middle of next week I should be able to share--and I promise, it is BIG big news.


Goodbye September

It's been a busy month. I looked at my stats for the month of September and I've run 180 miles and burned through about 24,000 calories. It's the most I've ever run in one month and it's absolutely insane!

180 miles happens to be the distance from:
  • New York City to Worcester
  • Portland to Seattle
  • Kansas City to Omaha
  • Columbus to Pittsburgh
24,000 calories is equivalent to:
  • 480 tomatoes
  • 258 cubic inches of fudge
  • 125 glazed donuts
  • 81 McDonald's cheeseburgers
  • 10 Uno's Chicago Classic deep dish pizzas (wow, only 10?)
  • 1 gallon of mayonnaise
Not only did I run through the caloric intake of a high school football team's post-victory Denny's raid, but I also reached some other milestones in my running career. First, and most impressive, I ran eight miles in 60 minutes. Considering that this is faster than my 10K PR I think it's quite an achievement. I also completed my first 20 mile long run without running into any major problems. AND all (maybe most) of my runs were at or faster than goal pace. I consider that a very successful month!

What does October have in store? Well, there is Grete's Great Gallop: a Half-Marathon this weekend that I was talked into by a friend of mine; then continued peak training; and finally a brief taper (two weeks) leading right into race day on November 1. Woo hoo!


20 mile win!

I've always had trouble with 20-mile training runs. I can't quiet seem to get to the 20 mile mark without stitches or fatigue and having to walk the last quarter of the run or cut the run early. It has to be something about the number 20 in my head because I have had great runs at 18 and 19 miles, heck I've had a great 26.2 mile run--but for some reason my body freaks out when I know I have to run 20.

So with mixed feelings I woke up early yesterday for the first 20-mile run of this training cycle. I told myself that it was only another training run, only two more miles beyond the 18-miles I ran two weeks ago. I made sure I wore exactly the right clothing: the new shorts, the good shoes, and the warm-weather long-sleeve t-shirt (my most versatile running t-shirt).

I also saved a new running route just for this distance. For the first time I was going to run over the George Washington Bridge (the GWB, which links I-95 from New York to New Jersey) and try to run along the Palisades in Jersey. New routes always excite me, and this one was extra special because I was going to be running across two states, which sounds impressive.

I headed out from Astoria and caught the bus over to Columbia University and at 116th and Riverside Drive I started running north. This is one of my favorite stretches of Manhattan because of the views up the Hudson with the GWB in the foreground and the apartment buildings clinging to the hilly terrain.

After snaking along Riverside Drive and remote parts of Washington Heights I arrived at the ramp for the GWB. Dodging cyclist all along the way (apparently there was some big ride going on) I made it across the GWB. The views were stunning: downriver was the biggest city in the US, every landmark building glimmering in the sun; upriver was the Hudson Valley carved deep by glaciers in the last ice age, now lined with forests as far as you could see.

On the Jersey side I turned into the Palisades Park. I had researched this part of the run, but couldn't find more information beyond how to get there. Once in the park I was faced with two paths; for no particular reason I made a split decision to take the path on the left.

I instantly found myself on a trail run complete with fallen trees, rocks, roots, streams, and branches. I couldn't believe I was just across the river from Manhattan. Although when I turned off my headphones I was kindly reminded by the non-stop air traffic noises and the cars on the Palisades Parkway.

Eventually, I ran into a church or a catholic school (couldn't really tell, because on the same campus they had a Shalom Center, which most certainly betrays St. Peter's name on the main sign). I couldn't find a way around this campus so I went onto the road and started heading back to the GWB.

Once I was back in Manhattan I was at the 10-mile mark and felt fantastic. So I kept my head up, controlled my breathing and started heading toward Central Park, knowing that I could easily find 10-miles between 178th and 59th streets.

On the way south I stopped at my favorite sewage-plant-cum-public-park since I had never run through the park on top. This was a well-timed detoured because the second I saw the bathrooms my stomach decided it was time to go. Let me tell you, those were some of the cleanest public bathrooms I've ever been to--just as clean as the ones in Central Park next to the Boat House (you know, for all you people out there that need to know these things).

After the bathroom break I continued the march south along Riverside Drive. At Grant's Tomb I made a left and cut through Columbia to Morningside Park, and from there went for the last five miles in Central Park--starting at Harlem Hill.

When I got to Central Park I felt great. I had five miles left and I knew I had them all inside of me. I ran over Harlem Hill and cut across to East Drive. I was feeling so good and I had such a short distance to go that I started picking up the pace, like the show-offy 20 something year old I am. Yeah, that back fired.

At the end of Mile 18 I started to get a stitch. I was so close to the end that I couldn't believe it. I had gone 19-miles without any type of problem and then at the very end I get a nasty stitch. I was rocking the pace so I slowed that down. I started breathing hard and timing breathes with my left foot. I straighted up my back to correct my form. All of these things do work for me, but not when it's the last mile of a run. It suddenly puts me in a two-front battle: on one side I'm tired and have to push every step and on the other side is a stitch that I have to keep at bay. And what's worse is that they compound each other: the tiredness makes it harder to fight against the stitch and the stitch makes me more tired.

At mile 19.7 the stitch was so bad it was impacting my stride. I stopped at a bench to stretch out my side, correct my breathing and then pound out the last .3 miles--the stitch was not winning this one. I sucked it up, and in a half-hobbling gait cranked out .3 painful miles. As soon as Fenny ticked over from 19.99 to 20.0 I stopped.

And then it was done: my first ever 20-mile run successfully completed. Even though I got the stitch at the end, I'm still going to count it--but walk away with the lesson that I really need to always pay attention to my breathing and not let myself get lazy.


Changed my bridge and I don't like

I've done my last two hill workouts on the Queensboro Bridge, and that was working for me. It replicated part of the NYCM course, it was difficult incline, it was well-lit in the early morning hours, etc.

However, earlier this week I saw some people riding bikes on the bike/pedestrian lane of the Triboro Bridge (which is now called the RFK bridge, but I will continue to call the Triboro Bridge). I thought this bike lane was closed while they were doing construction, but apparently I was wrong. And since the Triboro is about two miles closer to my apartment than the Queensboro I gave it a shot this morning.

Wow. What a bad idea. What a horrible idea.

First--and I really should have seen this coming--there was the traffic. The Queensboro Bridge is a regular street we regular street traffic on it. The Triboro, though, happens to be I-278 as it leaves Queens and turns north to the Bronx. Therefore there is a lot of traffic on Triboro. And a disproportionately large part of that traffic consists of tractor-trailers, semis, buses, and construction trucks that cannot go on the Queensboro Bridge. And all this traffic moving fast, pumping a lot of emissions into the air, making the air-quality suck ass.

Second, it was very dark since there were no lights on the pathway. So dark that a cyclist scared the be-Jesus out of me when he kinda just appeared out of no where on the path.

Third, I felt jipped because the incline wasn't as sharp as the Queensboro Bridge.

Lesson learned. In three weeks I'll return to the Queensboro Bridge for my last set of hill repeats. Unless you want to count the Marathon as the real last repeat. But that's only one time over the bridge, so it would be properly called a hill single.


Sense of place

One of my favorite things about running is the sense of place it gives you. I love using a long run to explore a part of town that I've never been to before. Or when I'm away from home, running gives me a chance to discover the local character and off-the-path places. By running around my neighborhood I'm up-to-date on new apartment buildings, closed restaurants, and the brand new doggie day care that opened. (Sigh. If only I had a dog.)

When we visit family in Philadelphia I love running around the city. I get to see all the historic sites, pass by the Art Museum (and the accompanying 13-foot Rocky statue), traverse UPenn, pass by the boat houses. I always try to run a slightly different route so that I get to experience a new part of town.

Running in my parents' neighborhood is always nostalgic. When we were there last I intentionally ran around my elementary school. Turns out it has been transformed into an "ele-middle," which is a school with grades K-8. The field where I ran my first mile ever and watched the SWAT team do demonstrations on Career Days was gone, replaced by a set of three-storey buildings most likely housing grades 6-8.

Here in New York I've explored all sorts of neighborhoods and seen all kinds of things while running: a turkey, llama, donkey, and emu; a head-on runner collision; and a man running shorts in single-digit weather. During yesterday's 13-mile run I had another unique New York sighting.

I had run uptown through Harlem from 125th Street to 207th Street and crossed over to the Hudson River to run down to Central Park. About a mile after crossing under the George Washington Bridge I saw two guys fishing. This was not unusual. During good weather you can usually find someone fishing this part of the Hudson--I don't know why you would fish here, but people do.

What was unusual about this pair was that they had caught a fish. I didn't get to see if it had a third eye, ala Blinky from the Simpsons:

However, it was a sizable fish, about 12-15 inches long; sizable enough to eat...which is what they were getting ready to do. That's right folks. I saw someone fish out a fish (doh! stupid verb and noun being the same word) on roughly 140th and the Hudson river and gut it for lunch. Delish.

But to understand the full grossness of this let's examine the geography of this area of Manhattan. Essentially there are three landmarks on the Hudson from the northern tip of Manhattan south to 59th Street. Toward the northern end is the George Washington Bridge. Toward the southern end is the 79th Street Boat Basin. Right smack in the middle is the third: Riverbank State Park.

What's so special about Riverbank State Park? Well, it just so happens to be built on top of the North River Water Treatment Plant, which processes 125+ million gallons of waste water--a day. How far were these guys from this plant? About 2,000 feet.

That's right. Ew.


Runners' speak

Like most sports, running is loaded with jargon. Tempo, repeats, rabbit, splits, kick, bonk, chub rub, and the list goes on. It's part of the mystique of the sport: a lexicon full of sometimes funny words (fartlek) that usually don't clearly describe what they are meant to describe until you learn the meanings from the running community. Essentially, it's a bit of the initiation--kinda like runner's trots.

Conversely, you have to be well-versed in running to start adding to the lexicon. For example, Nitmos introduced limbo runs and Vanilla introduced chicked. Although I'm pretty sure the latter has existed for a while, Vanilla was just the one who brought it to running.

I've had my own modest addition to runners' speak. Playing off chicked, I coined the far more embarassing geriatricked, meaning to be passed by someone roughly the age of your grandparents while running. It hasn't caught on, which I'm assuming is because being geriatricked is a rare occurance rather than people shunning my creative word play skills.

Anywho, there is another running term that I've coined using my crazy good word play skills: unearned downhill. I came up with this term while I was running the Great Bay Half-Marathon last April--why it look me so long to share I really don't know. In the second mile of the race there was a steep 40-foot downhill drop in the course--however, the course hadn't gone over any hills yet. Technically, I was running a downhill section that was very easy without having to run a tough uphill section first. I hadn't "earned" the easy downhill because I hadn't put in the climb first.

At the moment I found it really annoying because it put a big acceleration ramp before the mile two marker--and you just shouldn't have that on a Half-Marathon course. It either forces you to start burning through your brakes early, or, if you're less experienced, creates a false speed impulse, which is not a good strategy so early in a race.

The other thing that bothered me about this unearned downhill was that I would have to earn it later in the course. I knew the race passed through that very same street on the way back to the finish--immediately after the mile 12 marker. Sure enough, it was killer passing through there so close to the end. And this would be the case with most unearned downhills: you have to earn it later and it's going to suck because you'll always be more fatiqued.

There you have it: unearned downhills. Use it. Love it. Credit my mad word skills for it. Just don't get caught running one.


Half way there (oh, oh, livin' on a prayer)

I've noticed a curious habit. When I was unemployed I fell way behind on reading Other People's Posts (O.P.P.?) but managed to post an entry every other day. Now that I'm working I've fallen behind on posting, but have started to catch up on OPP (Are you down with O.P.P.?)--i.e., I have 50 unread posts as opposed to 150. However, the good news is that this freelance gig is pretty cool. Great agency, great account, great people. So with some luck I can convert this into a full-time job and be happy.

On to running. Last week marked the halfway point in training for the NYCM and I'm really happy with where I am right now:

  • So far I've executed the training plan to the letter. By which I mean I've gone out for every single run with the full intention of completing the assigned run for that day (sometimes biology, climate, and the all-around difficulty of training for a Marathon get in the way of successfully finishing the run). Of course, last night I forgot to set the alarm and sleep right through my run. Now I have to figure out how to make that up.
  • Doing all my runs outside at first was an adjustment, mostly because I had a hard time finding a flat course for Tempo runs. But otherwise it has been great because I end up doing a proper(ish) warm-up and cool-down and I feel like I get a real workout on my legs for every single run.
  • I've continued to run without music. I pretty much save Liam for Long Runs and sometimes speed work. I realized that I've gotten to the point where I don't need the music as a distraction anymore--I can keep myself plenty entertained just by paying attention to the run and how my body is reacting to it.
  • Stitches and, um, bowel movement, (which had become an issue during Tempo runs) seems to have subsided for now. I feel the early weeks of each training cycle my body is like "whoa, this again?" and needs a couple weeks to get used to the running. This might factor in to where I do my early Tempo runs during the new cycle (i.e., near a bathroom!).
  • Usually by this point in training I would have seen weight loss--and I have, but it just hasn't been as big as in the past. I used to lose 10-15 while training for a Marathon. This time around it's been more like five pounds, which is nothing because my weight can change five pounds in the course of a day. What's stranger is that I think I'm eating healthier this time around. So either I'm creating muscle as I'm losing fat OR someone is injecting me with calories while I sleep.
  • All the sweat from running in the summer heat is causing a pubescent-style break out on my forehead. Using a hat probably doesn't help either. Last summer this happened too, but oddly enough I broke out on my eye brows, so it wasn't that noticeable. But this year it's all over my forehead like cake on a fat kid.
  • Adding the additional run each week has actually been a big help. I've had to focus more on my running and my pacing--which I think is paying off. And the good news is that I haven't noticed any additional fatigue.
  • In August I passed my monthly distance record. (Is that even a record to be worried about?) I beat my peak mileage month for The Flying Pig by 10 miles. But, August isn't my peak month for the NYCM, that will be September. It's scary when you see that monthly number approach 200.
  • I usually start getting crazy excited for a race two weeks out. But the NYCM is different. I've never run a race on the streets where I do my training. Even when I ran the Boston Half-Marathon I trained in completely different neighborhoods than where the race went through. But here I do my hill work on the Queensboro Bridge, I do my Long Runs in Central Park, I run along 4th Avenue when I go through Brooklyn--it's like I'm running a bit of this race every week. I'm already starting to obsessively check the race website for more details (although I got the race booklet already and there really isn't anything else to know except my race number, corral, and transportation).