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.