The smells of running

I did a good chunk of yesterday's 18-miler in Central Park--about nine miles.  While I was running I noticed a smell all throughout the park.  It was vaguely of incense, and that could make sense if there was a street vendor selling incense nearby, but I was smelling this all over the park.   

The NYRR was having a Marathon training run, so maybe it had something to do with that?  Then I noticed some red powdery stuff on the cobblestones near Tavern on the Green where the smell was particularly strong--perhaps that was it?  It most definitely was not the horse poop smell that dominates the loop from the sixth avenue entrance to the grand army plaza exit.  I never figured it out, but I was relieved when I left the park and no longer had to smell it.

But this makes me think that smelling is a bigger part of running than you would initially imagine.  I mean the whole process of running really is an exercise in breathing right?  In through your nose, out through your mouth. So it makes sense that you end up smelling a lot while running.  And from all that, you start to identify certain smells with running.

There are two major smells that dominate my weekday runs in Astoria.  First, there is the stench from the power plant.  Or it might be a broken sewer pipe as someone posted on a photocopied flyer taped up throughout Astoria Park.  Either way, on a bad day the smell can invade the whole neighborhood and can be really upsetting to a run.  

The second smell, and forgive me for sounding creepy, is the smell of over-perfumed Astorians walking by in the morning.  I don't exactly know why, but my neighbors, both male and female, love perfume--or heavy scented soap.  Every time I pass someone I swear I can smell one of my dad's colognes or the smell of my first grade teacher.  It's eerie and comforting at the same time.

The are some random other smells I associate with running.  For about two weeks in June/July every year the Jasmine trees in Astoria park bloom and the smell pervades the track--this marks the beginning of fall Marathon training season.  There is the car exhaust smell from doing hill repeats on the Queensboro Bridge--absolutely choking if the wind is not in your favor.  There's also my own scent, the one that I swear sometimes smells like chardonnay and the reason I try to find a seat in the corner when I take the subway home after a long run.


Update on training for Portland

I seem to be at a lack of interesting things to say.  So under the guise of "this blog is record of my running history" I figured I should check in on how training is going for Portland.

Things are going well--not incredible, but well.  I'm hitting all my runs without having to do crazy rescheduling of runs or life.  Tempo runs continue to be an issue for me: it is the one type of run that disagrees with my stomach (and I wonder if it has become psychological trigger at this point).  I thought that I hadn't been able to get my repeats down to my fastest speeds, but after comparing against my training this time last year, I actually am on par with my better times and have actually cranked out a few new records for training splits.  I've also noticed that my long runs have gone exceptionally well: the most difficulty I've had was yesterday's 17 miler, and that was mostly because I had to do a series of loops at the end to make my mileage and meet up with Wifey.

Ever since I threw out a perfectly good pair of shoes, I've been running in the same Brooks Adrenalines for every run. This is the first time in years that I've only used one pair of shoes and I feel like I'm blasting through this pair.  And my feet have noticed it too: all of a sudden I'm getting all these new aches and pains in parts of my feet that never hurt.  All this means that I have to order a second pair ASAP.

This definitely has not been a repeat of training for NYCM.  I made leaps and bounds during that training cycle because it was the first time I had trained entirely outdoors (no scheduled treadmill runs).  But, even more importantly, it has been a huge improvement over my last training cycle in preparation for Delaware.  This has been a much more positive experience and I definitely feel better about my running this time around.  However, Delaware did lead to a PR come race day--which makes me wonder if I might need some of the bad training to have something to work against on race day.


More runner's speak

I'm adding a new term to my runner lexicon: suicide repeats

Yesterday, I was at an off-site meeting for the afternoon which ended at 4:30, meaning that I got to go home early and that I was comfy on the couch by 5:15.  Having all this free time on my hands and knowing that Wifey wouldn't be home for a while, I headed over to the park to do something that kinda resembled cross-training.  Really, I did push ups and a bunch of crunches--I would have done pull ups too, but there were some punky kids hanging around the pull up bars and I just wasn't down for that.

I had full intentions to make it a 100% non-running workout.  But when I saw the track full of people--some of which were much faster than my morning crowd--I couldn't resist turning onto the track after getting off the sit-up bench.

That morning I had done a so-so effort at a Tempo run and I knew the following morning (today) I would have 1600m repeats, so I didn't want to do anything too crazy or anything that I would normally do.  I did a warm up lap and followed that with 100m strides to help me get my form in shape.  After each 100m of strides I would recover with 300m and then repeat.  It was amazing to see my form get increasingly efficient as I went through four 100m strides--by the end I was going faster than I started but spent much less energy. 

After the fourth recovery lap I decided to finish with something fun: run all out, holding form as best possible, for 100m, take a 100m recovery around the curve and then go straight into the same all out effort.  In the middle of that craziness I thought that this was suicidal because these repeats were killing everything I had left on the table.  I quickly put that together into a compact, marketable, jargony phrase: suicide repeats.

Later that night I received confirmation that I had coined the phrase appropriately.  When I told Wifey what I did at the track, she responded with "oh, that's dangerous!"  Double point score!  One point for sounding badass, another for impressing the ladies......um...impressing the lady...um...the only lady...in my eyes (triple score for kissing up!).


Summer Streets gets badass

While hanging out with The Laminator for his birthday festivities, he brought up that we should get together for a Summer Streets run this year.  I had completely forgotten about Summer Streets until he mentioned it--much less did I realize that Summer Streets would start in only a few days.  I guessed since I hadn't heard anything about it this year that they had gone the way of most frivolous looking city programs during this economic situation.

Oh, but how I couldn't be more wrong.  A quick visit to the site lets me know that Summer Streets is very much alive.  I just pulled up the site and sure enough, the first three weekends in August NYC will continue to shut down Park Ave from 72nd Street to Brooklyn Bridge.  The schedule has the usual bunch of exercise classes, bike rentals, and karate demonstrations.  It's all truly wonderful stuff that makes me love being in this great city--and provides a rare reprieve from the usual long run routes.

But why is it now badass?  What did they do to this genius idea to make it badass?  They added a pool.  That's right: in the middle of Park Ave they are setting up a bunch of dumpster pools (thanks to the crazy kids at Macro|Sea) and the public can swim in them.  What are dumpster pools?  Macro|Sea has reclaimed some old dumpsters, given them a fine cleaning, and outfitted them as the hottest, hippest pools you can imagine.  It's music to this urbanophile's ears.

I can't wait for Saturday!


What did I sign up for?

There is one key feature missing from my training plan for the Portland Marathon: a Half-Marathon.  For my past four Marathons I've run a Half halfway through training as a gut check for the Marathon and as a convient way to get another state off the list.  As it turns out, it's never really a gut check.  I run the race knowing that it's not the "serious" race I'm training for.  Also, I'm running out of neighboring states to run in, so the half-way Half-Marathon doesn't help with the 50 state goal.

However, always being game when someone suggests a run/race, I did just sign up for a race a few weeks before Portland.  But this race is not a Half-Marathon or 10K or 5K or anything that resembles a standard running event.  It is a nuts crazy uphill, obstacle laden 3.23 mile race called the Warrior Dash.

This race takes place on Windham Mountain, which is a ski slope during the winter.  During the race not only do you zig zag up and down a ski slope, but you also:

  1. High step through a series of tires
  2. Jump over a wall
  3. Crawl through a pipe
  4. Navigate a forest
  5. Wade through a swamp
  6. Run across a gully on thin wooden planks
  7. Run over a rickety wooden bridge
  8. Run through a wide stream
  9. Climb cargo nets
  10. Scale a wall of slate bricks
  11. Go down a mud slide
  12. Leap over a line of flames
  13.  Scramble through a mud pit under barbed wire
And there is no further description than what is on the website.  There is no walk through or detailed orientation of what the obstacles entangle.  That's all part of the challenge.  Even though I've never done anything like this before and it's completely out of my typical races, I'm really friggin excited!