On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Friday, April 30, 2010

Week in Review

It's Friday!  Another week has passed!  Almost May.  How did I spend this week?
  • Friday: I had a workout freakout.  Run?  Long or short?  Bike?  Spin?  WHAT TO DO?  I took a spin class and then ran 3m.
  • Saturday:  I wanted to run Saturday.  I really did.  But then I stayed up until 6am, unable to sleep.  Hours of trying to sleep, reading, cyberstalking old friends and exboyfriends (facebook makes this a lot less satisfying, somehow).  My insomnia is back, with a vengeance, and this is not good.  If you have any suggestions, please share.
  • Sunday: Lincoln Tunnel 5k!  New PR!
  • Monday: Nada.
  • Tuesday: Had an 8-10m long(er) run scheduled.  I got to the gym and it was HOT and CROWDED and MISERABLE and I had a terrible HEADACHE so I bailed after 1.5m.  I was really upset about it when I got home, but it is what it is.
  • Wednesday:  Back with the Lululemon Run Club.  Two lower laps of Central Park for a total close to 5.  It was...  hmm... maybe too fast.  I think my pace was closer to 9:30 than to 10.  Have I mentioned that a nearby GNC sometimes gives us free smoothies afterwards?  Yum.
  • Thursday: 5.6m on the 'mill.
Total mileage:  18m.  It's a priority of mine to get up to 30mpw, and I don't know why exactly I'm struggling with that.  A long run would help, as would just getting out there more.  Lately I haven't been called to run outside, yet I hate the treadmill.  Don't know why that is.  Like I'm afraid of getting mugged (or... worse) or something; I just don't want to run outside, despite the lovely running weather.  

This weekend, of course, is the Broad Street Run.  They capped the race this year for the first time - at 30,000 people.  Pretty huge race.  But no worries about crowds for yours truly, as I am a liar.  Yes, that's right: I'm a liar. 

When I signed up for the race, ages and ages ago, May was far away.  The race application asked, "When do you expect to finish, for seeding purposes?"  My eyes went all dreamy and I read, "When would you like to finish?"  I clicked 90 minutes.  And then, months later, I got this:
2010 Corral and Wave Line Up - Corral Assignment: Green
Corral Assignments and race bib numbers were based on the anticipated finish times that were provided when you registered.  For corrals where there was an overflow of participants, corral placement was based on date of registration.
CorralRace BibAnticipated Finish Time
Elite & Seeded Corral 1-300
Red Corral301-1000Under  1:04:00
Purple Corral1001-45001:04:01 to 1:17:00
Orange Corral4501-10001:17:01 to 1:29:00
Green Corral10001-145001:29:00 to 1:30:00
Gray Corral14501-190001:30:00 to 1:40:00
Yellow Corral19001-240001:40:00 to 1:55:00
Pink Corral24001-310001:55 Plus
Um, oops.  Yeah...  maybe Yellow would be more my speed.  Especially after I snarked out the NYRR for allowing people like me to sneak up ahead of the appropriate corral.  There's no excuse for my disingenuousness.  If I can't start back a corral or two, at the very least I'll stay to the side until the speedy crowds thin.  Even with the ultra-flat, net downhill course, 9 minute miles is pushing it for me - by A LOT.

Of course, there is a small but realistic chance that I won't run Broad Street after all.  I'm not happy about this, but I'm so completely overwhelmed between school and work that taking two days out of town for a two-hour race is an indulgence I can't afford.  There's a 10k I could do up here instead, if need be.  We'll see; whatever happens, you can read about it Monday morning. 

Have a good weekend, all!  Happy running!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Decade of Marathoning

On 29 April, 2000, fresh out of college, I ran my first marathon: the inaugural Country Music Marathon.  I crossed the half at 2:08, hit the wall HARD at 17 (like, seated on a curb crying about how I couldn't go on), and struggled through the last 9 for a 4:55 finish.  I've yet to beat that time for a half in a race, but I have bested that marathon time at least (with a more even race).

How glad am I that I did it way back then, and not this year?  The course was bleak the year I did it, but there were no chaotic and disappointing diversions.

So it's been 10 years since my first marathon!  I guess I'll go buy myself some tin to celebrate my anniversary.  Wow.

The only time I've ever bought a race photo.  But, I remember saying to myself, "I'll probably never do anything stupid like run a marathon again, so I should buy the photo to prove I did it."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My life could be changing!

WARNING: Boring medical diatribe below.  I've spiced it up with unrelated pictures to reward you for reading.

I had some news last week that could alter my life.
Okay, cut the melodrama.  It's not that big of a deal.

I saw my hematologist, and she said that she thinks I can go off of coumadin.

On one hand, this is awesome, awesome news.  I freaking HATE the terrible drug.  I hate not eating spinach - or drinking green tea! - and I hate bruising and bleeding and worrying.  I hate having lost two toenails and I hate wearing a medic alert bracelet.

On the other hand, this is scary news.  I've had two pulmonary emboli and I, you know, kind of value my life.

NYCM 2009: front view (he's totally stuffing)

Here's the thing: my risk level hasn't changed.  I'm still heterozygously positive for Factor V Leiden, I still have a high D-dimer (even without a clot), I still have a something-something with a C-Reactive Protein (that would be the one I don't understand, at all), and my bad cholesterol is still high/my good cholesterol is still low.  A ct-scan in November turned up residual damage from the clot; not good news, but not bad news.

So what has changed?  Honestly, I think only my doctor's perspective on the long term use of coumadin.  Evidently, according to her, more and more studies are showing that my predisposition to clotting (Factor V Leiden) does not independently increase one's clotting risk, not without the existence of other factors.  And more and more studies are showing that birth control (which I was on) is more dangerous than previously thought when taken longterm.  So maybe, she thinks, maybe it's worth the risk of putting me on baby aspirin and "monitoring me aggressively." Baby aspirin, combined with shooting up with blood thinners for long-haul flights and vigilant awareness of risk factors, might be enough for me now.

NYCM 2009: rear view (AVAST! TMI!!!)

But ultimately, it's my decision, and it's a crapshoot.  I respect that she's leaving it up to me, but I don't feel in any way qualified to make this decision.  Plus, any sort of reminder that medicine is not a perfect science tends to freak me out.

I have two potential international trips on the back-burner for this summer, and if either of them happen I would stay on coumadin through then, at least.  But... after that...  I could be free again!  I could play ice hockey again!  I could take NSAIDs again!  I could eat green vegetables again!  I could save myself the inconvenience of an ER visit the next time I hit my head!  I could live in perpetual fear of a blood clot!  Oh, wait...

And a non-running related bonus photo: Gaybraham Lincoln rides the subway
UPDATED: I don't want anyone to misunderstand and think I'm making a crass joke - this was Halloween and the Gaybraham Lincoln was a self-identification.  He and his boyfriend were joking about how he had "The Gettysburg Address" and dance music on his ipod.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shoe Review: the new Karhus

It's not very fair to offer a review of these shoes as I've barely put 20 miles on them.  But, here we go!  I'll keep it limited - just like my experience with them.

The superficial and unimportant: They're green!  I love the color.  I think they make my feet look big, though.  Also, they are a little loose around the heel, but using the extra eyelets with a heel lock lacing pattern, that's not an issue.

The more important (the fit):  So...  the intriguing forward fulcrum.  First of all, it did not radically alter my footstrike.  I am a heel striker, in or out of these shoes.  It did rock me forward, almost imperceptibly.  After about half a mile, I got into a groove and they felt really neat - sorry for my inability to articulate this, but it was almost like I was floating.  I would land on my heels but then be immediately pushed off onto my toes and onto the next stride.  I made a mistake, wearing them for their first outside run on city streets with lots of stop and go.  Almost as soon as I would get into a groove of floating, I'd have to stop for a  distracted bike messenger or a stoplight.

Also, they are NOT in the barefoot vein, either.  There was one point during the 5k when I was nearing exhaustion and I thought to myself, "My feet are doing no work."  The shoe was propelling me forward and my foot muscles were barely engaging.  Again, hard to explain, but this felt like a good thing (at the time).

I'm not sure how they'll work in the long term, and with even a hint of knee pain still lingering, I'm not keen to stick with a shoe that might not be a good fit.  In the short term?  I'm curious to keep trying them.  My Asics felt heavy in comparison when I went back to them.

The unexpected:  I noticed something unusual while wearing them, something I'm going to pay attention to.  It seems that when I run my right foot points out at a slight angle.  I'm duck-footed.  It's subtle; I'm not surprised that no one's every pointed it out after a gait analysis in a running store.  I'd never noticed this before, and honestly I may never have noticed it at all if my shoes weren't attention-getting green.  But it makes me wonder: could this be related to my (right) knee pain?

PS: Because, as we've already established, I'm addicted to the Times, here's a sad article for you: the obituary for Alan Sillitoe, author of "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lincoln Tunnel 5k: BEST RACE EVER (a title earned by any race where I set a PR)

Here's the thing about a race run in a tunnel: half of it will be uphill, half of it will be downhill.  All of it will be slightly disorienting, because you can't really gauge from your surroundings how far you are into the race or where the hills are.  I could only sort of sense when I got about .25m from the finish from the blast of cold air that was entering the tunnel.

Which was good.  It was cold, rainy, and overall miserable outside.  Inside?  Not quite cozy, but perfect running weather.  Like running on a really long inside track.  Lots of people I talked to were worried about the fumes in the tunnel, but that just wasn't an issue.  It was clean and pleasant in there.  (I wasn't worried about it - I just didn't see how 5k in the tunnel without any cars in there would be any worse than the 20 minutes or so you can easily spend in there in traffic.)

The start was in New Jersey (cue the jokes...), which meant a 6:30 wake up call to take the subway to the shuttle bus.  I was coming off of a bad, sleepless weekend (insomnia, sadly not excitement) and I was in a right foul mood when the alarm went off.  Maybe pizza, chicken fingers, and a cupcake from Crumbs weren't the best pre-race dinner.  Whatever.  Only three miles.

Number pickup was chaotic due to the weather, and the start was even worse.  They had two waves: the first for anyone who was definitely going to run under 25 minutes, then the second wave for everyone else, including walkers and those with strollers.  It was D-tag timed, but another runner at the start warned me that they didn't have a chip mat at the start - only the finish.  So we pushed up, past people in jeans, people with strollers, huge groups.  Getting closer to the start didn't help that much, and the first few hundred meters were an elbowing, pushing, slow mess.  The race encouraged walker participation, which is cool, but it would have been nice if the race organizers had made some effort to encourage walkers to stay toward the back, especially given how narrow the tunnel was.  It cleared out within half a mile.

Once inside the tunnel and in a groove, the downhills were amazing, but the uphills were really, really hard.  I'd love to see an elevation map for the race - is it possible it was only a 100 ft elevation differential from start to midpoint? (I didn't wear my Garmin, obvs, and we weren't allowed to take pictures in the tunnel - I'm guessing that the Port Authority doesn't exactly publish tunnel plans, either.)  Feeling the hill without seeing it was hard, and by the time you could see the hill, it was the last, steeper push to the entrance.  That hurt.  (So much, in fact, that for full disclosure: I walked maybe 20 feet toward the end.  I just didn't think I had it in me at that point.)

End result: 29:43, a 5k time I haven't seen since... um... a while ago.  In my early 20s I was pretty consistently in the 27-28 minute range, but I slipped to the "just hang below 30 minutes" range in my mid-late 20s.  That's slipped to the 32-33 minute range lately, so this is a welcome relief.  My sister has already taken credit for it, since she's been giving me speedwork plans.  I don't have any split times to report since there weren't mile markers.

My original plan was to take the shuttle back to Manhattan and then run the 7m home, but after the cold of the race start/finish, I scrapped that plan.  Okay, okay, to be honest?  I scrapped that idea before I left the house when I saw the weather.  Miserable!  I'll try today on the treadmill instead.

Here's a photo, some fetching eye candy for you, HA HA HA HA.  I'm not someone who looks all glowing and happy and lovely after a race, especially a cold, wet one.  This picture says, "I want to go home!" while also saying, "I love my cuffins!"

Friday, April 23, 2010

Week in Review

Let's see... where did we leave off...
  • Saturday: I went to the gym, ran .5 on the treadmill and was feeling lousy, so I bailed on it to play the fish game on the erg for half an hour.  Huzzah!  Cross training: check!  Un-huzzah - I erg'd it too hard and had blood blisters on my calloused hands!  It's almost rowing season; time to get in rowing shape again!  And evidently use a LOT of exclamation points!
  • Sunday: The aforementioned treadmill incline "run."
  • Monday: Resting from the quad pain.
  • Tuesday: Ran 4.2 home from work.  Lovely weather, lovely run.
  • Wednesday: Lululemon group run canceled due to "weather."  I have to put it in quotes because it was about 55 and sort of, maybe drizzly - not really weather for canceling a run...  But I took that as a sign and went home and rested because I was beat.
  • Thursday: 5m on the treadmill.  In the afternoon, I went to a live taping of the Daily Show and saw Zoe Saldana.  I think her waist is about 18" around.  I went home and promptly went to the gym.
  • Friday:  Nothing yet.  I woke up late and have to rush in to work, so I'll run tonight when I get home.
Total mileage:  14m.  Nothing too hard this week because of the leg, which feels fine right now.  I'd really like to get up to 30mpw - maybe I'll aim for 25 this coming week.  Counting tonight's miles toward next week will be a start to that - actually, maybe I'll do my mileage Fri-Thurs from now on.

Coming up...  I'm going to try do a sort of long run tomorrow of 10m.  Then Sunday is the Lincoln Tunnel 5k, which I'm quite excited about (even if it means traveling nearly 3 hours total to run a race of roughly half an hour).  I haven't done a 5k in ages.  This one won't be ideal as a time trial, since it's half-uphill, half-downhill and IN A TUNNEL.*  But still, I'd like some indication of how I'm doing at shorter races.

Here I am, waiting for a treadmill at the gym Thursday night.  Green shoes and a new camouflage running skirt (can you even see me in this picture, or does my skirt do too good a job of disguising me?).

*I still haven't forgiven Pete Rose for the Pete Rose Way and its terrible tunnelly underpass, which freaked me out bad at the 25m mark of the Flying Pig and caused me to get left behind and finish two full minutes behind my training partner.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Preparing for Mt. Washington...

On Sunday, I ran just over 4 miles on the treadmill at the gym.  It kicked my ass.  I wanted to die.  (Or at least to stop running.  Maybe death is melodramatic.)

Actually, I didn't exactly run the miles, unless you consider 3.2mph (18:45 minute miles) to be running.  But, you see, that was the fastest speed I could muster - nearly twice as slow as my normal training runs.

Because, understand, the incline was set to 11%.

What craziness is this?  It's in preparation for Mt. Washington.

Even this won't be enough - the course description says that the race "has an average grade of 11.5% with extended sections of 18%."  The treadmills at the gym won't go above 11%.  Luckily the race also has a generous (and oddly specific) time limit of 3 hours, 2 minutes - gun time.  If I'm doing the math correctly, that works out to roughly a 24 minute mile.

1.43m in and I'm still feeling ambitious and good.

I'm not out of shape, but the race is going to be rough, if Sunday is any indication.  I hoped to do 7 miles but told myself that I would do at least 4.  At the end of 4, I actually didn't feel that bad, but it was mentally draining, tedious, exhausting.  I stayed well ahead of the race's cut off time, but I was feeling more and more beat down as the minutes ticked by.  I did another 10 minutes on the stairmill at the end just to force myself to push out of my comfort zone, and that was damn near impossibly hard.  Brutal.

In short: I have my work cut out for me.

These are the Karhus I bought recently.  Green shoes!

PS: While I'm on a roll citing the Times, I thought this article made a good point about Nike's continued endorsement of misogynistic athletes. 

PPS: Another link.  I'm surprised that this guy's editor allowed this xenophobic, racist article to go to print.  What a douchebag.  He actually states that he would prefer Rosie Ruiz to win over someone who "virtually none of us by the end of the week will be able to name."  It's the Meb/NYCM argument all over again.  Maybe if you've never heard the name Cheruiyot, maybe you shouldn't be covering running?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You can tell it's post-lottery, pre-marathon time in New York City when two noticeable things happen: you see a lot more people on the treadmills at the gym, wearing brand new running clothes, and the Times begins running more articles about health and exercise.

Like any good academic/New Yorker, I read the Times regularly.  Okay, I read the "most emailed" articles on the website regularly.  I was even quoted once!  (Although, admittedly, that never even maybe made the most emailed, so I wouldn't have read it if it weren't for my name.)

Anyway, this article has been on the most emailed list all week, and it's been bouncing around my friend's facebook pages, as well.  In short: exercise does burn calories, but because it's often coupled with an increase in appetite and therefore food consumption, it is ineffective as a weight-loss tool on its own.  It is effective as a weight maintenance tool, however.

One thing that the article touches on only tangentially is something I've noticed with myself: when I'm running regularly, I don't crave fatty, bad-for-me foods.  This isn't as simple as not wanting to negate my workout by eating crap; it's more of a subconscious desire to fuel my body with good foods.

What do you think?

Apropos of nothing, I'm running home from work today.  The Karhus are in my gym bag, next to my industrial office floor.  I have two choices: beautiful path along the river that will be about 5.5m, or direct route up through city streets that is about 4.2m.  It will be a game time decision.  I just hope it's still lovely out by the time I leave here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I am not freaking out.

TOTALLY not freaking out.  Just, you know, maybe spending some time on this website.

It started innocently: some very mild (very mild) pain behind my right knee.  I couldn't even discern exactly where it was coming from, let alone whether it was a muscular pain, tendonitis, one of those mystery bruises I tend to get, or what.  It was just these little fleeting "oh, hey" sensations that came at random, coupled with a mild tenderness if I pressed on the area.  I swear, I would have stopped running if it had gotten bad enough to warrant treatment.

Then it turned into calf tightness.  Like, ouch.  That lasted about a week.  So I started stretching.

Then, Sunday, it turned into knee pain.  At the top of the knee, only the right leg.  It's fine when the leg is straight or bent at a right angle, but when I try to hyperextend it out in front of me it's uncomfortable.  Same when I'm going from straight to bent and I bend it past roughly 50º.  It's still not severe - just emphatic.

I'm still monitoring it, and I'll be incorporating "stork stretch" into my routine, it sounds like.  And perhaps reconsidering the Karhus, if it doesn't get better.

Getting old blows.  And I'm only 32.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Also? How could I (almost) forget!!

Today is the Boston Marathon!

My friend Stacey is running her butt off, currently at the 30k. I cheered her when she qualified, in New York.  She kicks ass.  My friend Nicole is volunteering.  She'll run it, someday.

I may very well never make it to Boston.  If I was even somewhat close to qualifying, I'd give it a shot, but since I'd pretty much have to take an HOUR off my PR, I'm cool if it never happens.  Incidentally, I was offered a (legit) bib shortly after I started running.  The daughter of a friend is high up in one of the charities and asked whether I wanted to run.  Even though I'd only been running for a short time, I knew that if I ever made it to Boston, it would be through qualifying.

But...  I have made it as far as the expo.  Here I am with my sister and MY HERO FRANK SHORTER at Mandy's first Boston expo:

I did something stupid

And I'm totally excited about it.

You know the whole barefoot running craze?  Of course you do.  So probably you already know the arguments, about how it's more "natural" for runners to be fore/midfoot strikers, but modern running shoes pad the back of the shoe and force us to heel strike.  Knowing that, you likely already know the arguments: that you have to ease into barefoot running, and that it's not for everyone.

I want to jump this bandwagon, because I'm the sort of person that follows trends.  Sad but true: I took my mom and lined up to get the last Harry Potter book at Barnes and Noble at midnight on release day.  We dressed her dog up in HP glasses.  Not because I wanted the book, but because I wanted to be part of the spectacle.  I was, you know, in my mid-late 20s at the time.

I want to jump this barefoot bandwagon because, in theory, it makes sense.  I read Born to Run; I bought into it.  However, you could argue, it also makes sense that I'm not a runner who genetically is fit for this trend.

One thing is certain: no chia seeds for me.  Not yet, anyway.  Never say never.

But, back to my stupid thing.  I ordered a pair of running shoes, without trying them on, from Sierra Trading Post.  They were $30, and I recognized them from last month's Runner's World shoe guide: the Karhu Forward Fulcrum Ride.  Magic shoes that will take my speedwork to new levels via technology that will tip me onto my forefoot whether I want to be there or not.  And on the cheap!  And I do love all things Scandinavian.

A dog wearing glasses looks exactly as dumb as you'd expect, no?  At least we spared her the lightning bolt tattoo.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Week in Review: What Went Wrong? Happened?

So...  back in the swing of things, although not as motivated as I should have been.  Here's a recap:
  • Saturday: short run, ca. 2m, and then a walk.
  • Sunday: 4m race, then another 2.8m in the afternoon because it was so nice out.
  • Monday: rest
  • Tuesday: short run, 3.1m
  • Wednesday:  4.6m with the Lululemon group.  They called it "hill repeats" - it didn't really merit the term "hill" for me, but it was a solid effort.
  • Thursday:  Got my running clothes on, complete with Garmin and HRM.  And then bailed on the run.  No idea why; just a long day of meetings, dentist appt., office hours, etc., and it was dark before I knew it.
  • Friday: 6.4m - mostly downhill course (if I'm being honest).
Total: ca. 22.9.

Not bad.  I would say that not much went wrong, truthfully.  What was obviously missing from this week was the sort of pushing myself I'd like to be doing now: there was no long run, no speedwork, no true hill workout, no cross training.  I'll make that my goal for next week, to incorporate something harder.

I think that I often allow hiccups in my training to derail me more than they should.  Prior to my 8-day hiatus, I was more-or-less on track.  After it, I feel like I'm starting over fresh - even though it was less than a month ago that I ran a half and felt okay with it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

...or not. I spoke too soon.

Just got an email that I won't be running the 6k after all - some problem between the race sponsor and NYCRuns.  Easy come, easy go.


NYCRuns (courtesy of the race itself) has offered me a free entry to the 6k race, as long as I do a race report after.  Does this type of compensation make me basically a professional athlete?  A professional journalist?

What's that you say - "No to both"?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How nutty would this be?

So...  I have a thought, one that I'll likely abandon when the time actually comes.

But...  but...

How crazy would it be to do a 30-day bikram challenge?  There's a center only a few blocks away from my house (it's actually closer than my gym).  I could freeze my gym membership for a month and try it...

I'm torn on how I feel about bikram, but I suspect that I'd have some strong, strong feelings after that.  And I'd probably build up my resistance to heat and humidity, too.  There are only so many 30 day periods I know that I can be in New York this summer.

I guess I'll start the summer by taking a few classes to see if I even like this studio.  I did bikram with some regularity when I lived in Philly, but I haven't done it since then - I haven't regularly practiced any yoga since then, which you could read as a sign that it hasn't been worth it to me, or you could read as a sign that it's high time I did it again!  I liked bikram as a complement to slower vinyasa/hatha classes, but on its own, I never felt like I got a very "yogic" feeling from it.  It felt like yoga for Type A people.

I'm going to stop now before I get too New Age on ya.

Now, if you have any suggestions on why I can't just quietly run some 5ks, maybe a 10k or a half, and why I can't just go to my gym's hybrid yogaerobic class and call it a day, but NO, instead I have to push myself to the limits of athletic pursuits despite knowing full well that I am not that competent, well, feel free to chime in.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NYRR Run As One, and why I'm frustrated with the NYRR corral system

I think this race was my favorite race last year.  Not because of the course - just Central Park.  Not because I did well - I don't remember my time.  Not because of the cause - happy to support lung cancer research, but no personal connection.  It's because of the shirt.

Every NYRR race costs the same, but for this one, thanks to the sponsorship, they forego their usual cotton t-shirts and give out this amazing New Balance technical tee.  At $18, that's a steal.  It fits like a dream, comes in men's and women's sizes, and is my go-to shirt bar none.

Anyway, the race went well.  Sort of.  I had to stop for water twice (I guess salty barbecue the night before is not a great strategy for pre-race fueling).  I ran the 4m in 41:02 - my 4m PR, which should be a cause for celebration, right?

Except it's not.  You see, the NYRR places you in a corral based on your best per mile pace for any race longer than 1m.  My 10:12 pace PR, set at a 3m run last year, puts me in the brown corral - the very last.  (The corrals/paces aren't fixed; it varies based on how many runners register.  However, I've never been higher than the last corral since I started doing these races.)

I have no problem with a corral system.  And I accept that I belong in the back.  I don't even mind the .5m walk to the start (or don't mind it that much, anyway).  The corral system is important to give structure to the start line and to keep every casual runner from bum rushing the start line, which they would do.

However, the system has a serious fault: if you've never run an NYRR race before, or if you register race-day, they take your word for it on the pace.  At a race like Sunday's, which was a charity event, they have literally thousands more people than they do at other runs, and many of these people have never raced before.  They show up, they're asked what they expect their pace to be, and they guess.  When I ran my first NYRR race, I had no idea why they were asking my "best pace."  I knew that my best pace wasn't where I was right then, but I smiled and entered 8:30.

What this means for my race (and all the other slower runners) is that I spent the first mile dodging walkers in the middle of the course, dodging couples holding hands, dodging children darting in and out of the race.  I passed people in jeans and people with handbags.  I absolutely support the right of all of these people to be there, but proper corral placement is key, especially for the back of the pack.

The NYRR gives great lip service to supporting slower runners.  But sometimes, it feels like that's all it is: lip service.  When they run out of bottled water at the end of the race (today), or out of water at a water table, period (last year's NYC Half), that's not true support.  When my race is hindered like this, that's not true support.  I understand the logistical difficulties.  But I also understand that I paid them $18 registration times something like 12 races last year, $80 for the half, plus my dues, plus lottery fees for the half and full - I'm not asking for more than my due, but I want to feel like a member, and not like an add-on.

Here's what I would propose, personally:  haven't run an NYRR race before?  Last corral.  New to New York, from out of town, or otherwise deserve to be in a higher corral?  Pay extra toward your race registration, provide a link to your race results, and the NYRR will verify and sort you accordingly.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What a glorious feeling!

It's easy to sit here at my computer, thinking of reasons not to run.  Some days, it's hard (or impossible) to get out the door and just do it.  Other days, I do it and it's not that good.  The way running builds - day after day, in small increments - it's easy to lose sight of improvements.  I'm not going to be better tomorrow or next week and maybe not even the week after that.  It's easy to forget why I do it.

There are so many things I do that exist to distract me from running: watching my Garmin instead of feeling my pace, listening to music instead of listening to my body, watching tv on the treadmill instead of the scenery around me.  Counting down the miles instead of enjoying the experience.  Taking my stresses with me on the road and feeling weighted down by them.

After 8 days off of running, I went for a run on Saturday.  The weather was absolutely perfect: mid 50s and sunny and gorgeous.  I felt great and refreshed - maybe a little trouble breathing (allergy season), but no biggie.  When a friend called me 2m into my run, I walked home while talking to her the rest of the way.  You see, I was running too fast.  I know that it's normal to speed up in spring when the weather's this gorgeous.  I know that I was on completely fresh legs.  But, I knew that if I did all 5m at that pace, I risked being cooked for Sunday's race.  So, I'm happy I got out there, I'm happy I enjoyed the day, and I'll get back into running regularly later this week, post-race.  It was a great, great day and an awesome (albeit short) run.

That feeling - that fleeting feeling of peace and happiness and joy - that is why I run.

Also?  I caught a glimpse of my reflection mid-run and realized why I'd been getting honked at and why I'd had such a cool, breezy feeling during my run.  I also realized why I don't wear that particular running skirt very often - HELLO, Tracy's legs, completely exposed by the short, flippy skirt.  TMI, but for your eyes.

Race report to follow tomorrow.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Week in Review: What Went Wrong?

Ah, last week is an easy one.  Nothing went wrong, because I didn't run.  8 long days off.

Last Thursday, April Fools' Day, I got three funny (ha ha!) emails:

-The first was in reference to an article I'd submitted to an edited volume last March.  I was invited to contribute, I finished my contribution in advance of the deadline, and I received the proof for editing last Wednesday.  With a note that they needed it returned no later than 7 April.  As in, 6 days later.

-The second email was regarding a pedagogical project I've been working on part-time.  It's an easy project, but time consuming.  Creating solid multiple choice questions (especially when I don't use them in my own teaching) is harder than it seems.  I'd been slacking on it, waiting for spring break, and the first deadline hit me harder than expected.

And...  the pièce de resistance:
-The third email was from the assistant to my graduate advisor, telling me that I needed to have the full draft of my dissertation to my committee by next Thursday or I wouldn't be able to graduate.  Ever.  So I sucked it up and wrote ~100 pages last week to have a draft to send off (I had already written somewhere around 350p of it, but I was waiting for feedback).  The drama there continues, but hopefully at a slower pace.

So, no exercise to record.  Bailed on the race and barely left the house.  The next few months are going to be busy, but hopefully this blitz week was a one-off and I can go back to balancing eating, working, exercising, and showering after this.  If I could only record the miles I ran in my head, pretending I was outside along the river while I was stuck inside at my desk, trying not to eavesdrop on my neighbors (or inhale their secondhand pot smoke)...  I even missed all the nice weather, and now it's gloomy and rainy.

But it's a new week!  New training!  New optimism!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

6k race = automatic PR?

I didn't spend enough time on the website to determine if the distance is because of course limitations (not wanting to lap Prospect Park twice, I'd imagine), or if it's a gimmick of some sort tied to the cause.  Either way, a 6k race is definitely an anomaly.

Edited: um, duh, it's a gimmick.  From the website:

Cool cause.  I'm sad I can't do it, but I'm really busy right now (understatement) and my race calendar is pretty much as full as it can get.  Plus, it takes me like an hour to get to Prospect Park from my apartment.  But... I read that there will be "two Grammy-award winning pop acts" at the after-race expo, so maybe, maybe I could justify it, if it was M.I.A. or Santigold, or some other cool Brooklynite.  But it's the Roots and John Legend.  The Roots did record one of my favorite albums of all time, they named an earlier album (also good) after one of my favorite books of all time, and they're from Philly and are very trendy right now, what with Jimmy Fallon and all...  (And I can't leave out this freaking cool song, and - although I think he's otherwise kind of annoying - I do like this song of John Legend's. WARNING: link will play song, and song is soft and cheesy and might embarrass you, depending on your environment.)

Three short races, three weeks in a row?  That's silly.  Also silly is that I'm thinking about doing this race, too.  My dad was a fireman, and I'm a sucker for supporting police and firemen.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Time to jack my mileage?

Conventional wisdom, or at least Hal Higdon, always preaches that your mileage should increase by no more than 10% a week to avoid injury.  If I'm understanding it correctly, a short reader comment in the Letters to the Editor section of the newest Runner's World even suggests that this should be modified down to 5% for older runners.  Sounds reasonable enough, right?

I've always had trouble with this argument.  It would seem to make sense for high-level athletes who are running mileage at or near 100mpw, for sure.  But the smaller the mileage, the more restrictive this rule is.  Even if you're only (only!) running 50mpw, that allows you an increase of only 5 miles over the course of a week - not even an extra mile per run, let alone adding substantially to your long run.

Those of us who have fallen out of fitness may remember fondly our days of regularly running 35mpw, and working up to that from 10-15mpw could take 14 weeks.  Three months.  A long time - cautious, to be sure, but that's a lot of build up and a lot of waiting and not running for someone who just wants to get out there.  And what about entering a training cycle?  As you amp up your long runs in preparation for a goal race, it's necessary to also increase your midweek runs to have the fitness necessary for consistency in your long runs.  This adds to your mileage, possibly holding you back at a time when the point of what you're doing is to push yourself.  AND, this assumes absolute consistency.  For me, the difference between my training schedule and my training reality is often measured in missed runs... which lower my weekly mileage.

I've always personally felt more comfortable listening to my body and going with what worked for me.  Being cautious is all well and good, but sometimes throwing caution to the wind is advantageous.  If you put in a high mileage week and feel good, there you have it.  If you put in a high mileage week and feel worn down, you may be trying too hard.  After a certain point, most of us work out a pretty fair idea of what our bodies can handle and what they can't, what our risk of injury is, and what it feels like to be at or close to the edge.

A sidebar  in this month's Running Times backs me up (next to the guide to dynamic stretching on p. 28 - sadly not online).  They argue, citing Jack Daniels, that the best way to increase your mileage may actually be to do exactly what I propose: just do it.  Then, give yourself a few weeks at the increased mileage to see how it feels before readjusting.  Working slowly up is not only unnatural (your body doesn't understand the base 10 system), but it doesn't allow your body time to adjust to the higher mileage before continuing to increase.

I do realize the irony of making this argument, given that I've had two stress fractures.  The first was simple overuse: I went from never having run further than 12 minutes (gym class in high school) to running 30-40mpw in one eight week period during college.  The second came, similarly, from doing too much too fast: I went from running consistently to training consistently, with speedwork and longer runs, without any care to the additional stress put on my body.  Both times, I knew something was wrong and I decided to push through it.

Incidentally, there's also another article in the same magazine that suggests that the benefits of running are cumulative over time, that running-related gains in fitness over time make it easier to do more on less training.  I like that.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I got a package!

A package has come in the mail!

What could it be?

The anticipation builds...

Let's pretend my desk isn't messy.  I'd like to pretend it was a one-off and it's usually clean, but I'd be lying.

It's the new Fuel Belt I ordered!  I'ma rock this bad boy on my every long run once it gets hot out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Confirmation of your ING New York City Marathon 2010 registration

Okay, it's sort of a cheat post since I actually got this email way back in February, but it's still exciting and today is LOTTERY DAY!


Congratulations! You have received guaranteed entry to the ING New York City Marathon 2010.
Your entry number is 539526. Please include this number and your name in any correspondence pertaining to the marathon. To check your status, or to update/change your personal information, click here and enter the username and password that you created within the application. Correspondence may be sent to marathonmailer@nyrr.org.
Your Official Handbook will be mailed in the summer. For further information about the event, please visit ingnycmarathon.org. Please note that the dates for the ING New York City Marathon Health and Fitness Expo, where you must pick up your race number, are Thursday, November 4 – Saturday, November 6.
Thank you for your interest in the ING New York City Marathon 2010, and best of luck.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm alive. I'm okay. Just not running.

Hoping to be able to rectify that soon.

It's true: just when you need running the most is when it's the hardest (this is also true of showers, incidentally).  Yesterday I left the house, briefly, to walk the dog, and it was the first time I'd left the house since Friday.
Anyway, back to work.  I think I wrote a few posts last week that I auto-saved to post later this week, so relaxed Ghost Tracy might be talking at you from the past in a few days - hopefully I'll be back soon.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

No race report

Because I'm not running the race.  The Scotland Run is off, as is my planned Sunday treadmill/Mt. Washington test (cranking the incline on the 'mill and seeing how fast and how far I could go).

No, I'm not injured.  I got hit with this absolutely insane deluge of deadlines - like, truly insane, as in I thought it must be an April Fools' Day joke - and I must work almost non-stop until at least Wednesday.  I don't see myself being able to run until then, and I certainly can't race.  (The first deadline must be met tonight before I go to sleep.  I have to edit 135 poorly* written pages, which is why it's 1:30 and I'm still awake and will be for a while.)

*Trust me on this.  I wrote them  myself and they're bad.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Week in Review: What went wrong?

Every Friday, or when I remember to do it, I'm going to review what I did during the week and figure out how I could have done a better job of it.  It's a fine line between reviewing my week and beating myself up, I know, but I rather suspect patterns will emerge.  Identifying those patterns might help avoid pitfalls, right?

So.  What did we have going on this week?

  • Saturday: the GWB run.  Not as long as I would have liked (I ran out of time, in my haste to catch my bus to DC).  Not as hard as I would have liked, since I didn't know what I was up against.  Rolling hills. 6.8m.
  • Sunday: Slept in.  Also did not run on Monday.
  • Tuesday: This was a mess-up.  I had a 5m hill workout planned and a spin class, but it got truncated to 3m hill + spinning.  The run and the spin class in immediate succession were too much.  I wonder if I should have not shortened my run and foregone the spin class.  I'm okay if I do one in the morning, one in the evening, but going back-to-back, I could tell that I had two mediocre workouts, to a detrimental effect, instead of one strong one.
  • Wednesday:  5m with the Lululemon people again, sort of - I was pretty much running alone.  Yet again I was the weakest link, even though I was running hard (for me).  Possibly too hard,  since Tuesday felt like a hard day.  Lower loop of Central Park, twice.
  • Thursday:  Nice, easy 4.5m along Hudson River - but on legs that felt deader than they deserved to.
  • Friday: Rest for Scotland Run 10k tomorrow.  I have no predictions for that.  If I use my half time, McMillan spits out 1:06.  If I use my 10m time, McMillan spits out 1:03.  My last 10k was 1:05:28 in December, and I feel like I've improved since then.  We'll see.  Reasons why I might be slow tomorrow:  There will be crowds.  The race is capped at 10k runners, and even though they haven't met their cap yet, last year my corral at the start was ~.4m from the start.  Reasons why I might be okay tomorrow:  There will be bagpipers.

So what did I learn this week?  I think I have to put more care into what workouts I do when.  That sounds silly, since my mileage for this week (at a whopping 18m) was not exactly high.  Still, I could tell I pushed it in the middle of the week, and moving the hill/spin combo away from the harder Lululemon run may have helped me feel better.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Not FREAKING this again: a day in the life

Pardon me for a moment while I veer off of running briefly, for another health-related topic.  This might get long.  It will get whiny.

I'm calling this one... "a day in the life."  A Sunday in the life, specifically last Sunday.  I woke tired, but excited.  It was Terra Cotta Warrior day!  We saw the things, they were cool, we posed for photos (I'm the one on the right, with the cute shoes), we went out to brunch.  Leaving brunch on our way to check out cherry blossoms, I accidentally closed the car door on my head.  Don't ask.  I'm kind of an idiot.

It wasn't a rough hit.  I felt the impact and had an immediate but fleeting ringing in my ears and a dull pain.  Pretty much an every day sort of smack that you don't even really register until a bruise comes up.  Three years ago I would have called myself an unfit-for-print name, laughed, and moved on with my life.  Three years ago I wasn't on coumadin.  Three years ago I wasn't at high risk for a brain bleed with any head trauma.  Beyond the graphic name, I don't really know what a brain bleed is but I know I don't want one.

So, instead of getting on a 3:30 bus back to New York City, I spent the next several hours in the ER at George Washington University Hospital having blood tests and ct scans.  And I'm fine.  Completely and totally fine.  Except that I'm also upset.  Completely and totally upset.  Upset that I hit my head, upset that hitting my head meant going to the ER, upset that I have this clotting situation, upset that I have to take rat poison blood thinners.  I'm tired of having to explain to doctors that yes, someone my age had a pulmonary embolism - in fact, two! - and yes, I know it's rare, and no, the hematologist doesn't know why.  I'm tired of going to my GP three times a month and my hematologist once a month.  So. Tired.  And basically just feeling really, really sorry for myself.

I know I'm supposed to be grateful that I'm alive, and I am.  I truly am.  I am alive and I am well.  What I have to do to keep myself healthy pales when compared to what others go through, and I respect that.  I'm in awe of myself that I nearly died, twice, but didn't and am here, now, fine.  I'm in awe that my lungs can carry me a mile, let alone 10 or 13 or more.  But...  but...  sometimes, like today, I think back on the healthy 29 year old I was a couple of years ago, before all this began, and I get just a little bitter.

Lovely GWU ER bracelet!

Okay, I'm over it now.  All I've truly had to give up because of the coumadin was ice hockey, spinach, and sleeping on airplanes, and I wasn't really any good at ice hockey.

But the nightcap to my craptacular Sunday?  I left the National Geographic bag with my reproduction Terra Cotta warrior on the train.  Oh, yes: and I had to spend $143 to take the train because I missed my bus and the rest were sold out.  That was money I'd earmarked for new LunarGlides!

Tomorrow: more running, less whining.  I promise.