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"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Does this make my run better, or worse?

I posted today's post yesterday again by accident.  Because I am a computer moron.  So here's something small for you.

My usual running route, along the river, is a highly popular picnic area.  This sign just popped up a few weeks ago.  Most days it's a non-issue, but on the weekends, especially with this glorious weather we've been having lately,* the place is JAM PACKED with barbecuers.  With their competing stereos, well... it gets loud.

The question will be: will people obey it?  Early signs indicate: NO.

*Last weekend and in general.  Not today, obviously.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Me Against the Music

First off...
So, Kara Goucher had her son, Colton Mirko Goucher, on the 26th.

And then Paula Radcliffe had her son, Raphael, today.

You know what that means...



I don't run with music.  I've tried, and I find that not only do I not feel comfortable with headphones in (because I can't fully hear my surroundings), but the music takes me away from the run.  I find myself concentrating on the music rather than the run.  I know a lot of people like the distraction, but I like letting my run create its own rhythm.  Does that sound cheesey?  Probably, but it's true.

I wear something exactly like this when I run.
The snake helps tone my arms. 
Often that rhythm is negative, frankly: "This sucks, this sucks, this sucks, go home, go home, go home," etc.  But sometimes it's nice to just be out there.  Taking it all in - my body, the air, the people around me, everything.  Now I'm getting very yogic.  Again - it's true!  I'm not someone who thinks deep thoughts when I run, at least not any deeper than what I'm going to eat when I get in from running.

Sometimes, though, a song gets stuck in my run.  Not in my head, mind you, it's not an earworm (I had to bring that up - a friend of mine wrote that article).  But it gets stuck in my run.  I'll be running, and all of a sudden I'll realize that for the past quarter of a mile or so I've had the same song going through my head.  It's usually catchy, annoying, and something that I don't know all the words to.  So, over and over again, I'll be hearing, "All my single ladies! Put your hands up! Up!" And repeat.  Or Britney.  Or Miley.  Lots of Britney.  Or, at its worst for nearly a full lap during the 18m tune up race, the "Baby Monkey Riding on a Pig" song.  In step with my cadence, a line or two from the song will be repeated.

Does this happen to anyone else?  Am I a crackpot?  I'm trying to switch to listening to NPR during my long(er) runs to pretend like I'm intellectual, but I end up feeling pretentious and frustrated at how monotone they are.

This is going to be long. Sorry.

I can't write deep posts that make my running sound like something more than it is.  Trust me; I've tried.  It's laughable.  As deeply as I love running, I can't take myself seriously enough to generate much more than light-hearted comedy.


Friday, my revised schedule called for me to do a tempo run.  Two mile warm-up, 5 miles slightly slower than 10k pace, and 1 mile cool down.  Easy-peasy.  Thursday night, I had my twice-monthly do-gooder sexual assault/domestic violence crisis counseling volunteer shift. At midnight, a victim came to the ER, the ER called me, and my night of sleep was shot.

I don't mind doing this.  However, it's a difficult thing to do, and frankly I'm not sure how much help I am in these situations.  But when a victim/survivor shows up at the ER, in crisis, they're not thinking straight.  Whether I can be an emotional support or not, I can definitely be an informational support and a liaison with the hospital staff, who are nearly universally overworked and exhausted.  In cases of domestic violence, there is a lot of logistical planning involved: where will the survivor go? how will she get her stuff? how will she avoid the perpetrator, who is often her partner and the father of her children?  With sexual assault, there are also a lot of questions: does she want the police called? does she need protection against pregnancy or STIs? does she have a support system in place to handle this?  And, of course, there's also the rape kit. I don't perform it, obviously, but I stay in the room with the survivor (if she wants me there).  Some women we see have never had a pelvic exam before the rape kit.  Other women, despite the well-trained and sensitive nurses who perform the exam, describe it as feeling like a second sexual assault.

After I've spent several hours with a stranger, watching her cry and listening to her most intimate details, I find myself at a bizarre crossroads of exhaustion and alertness.  The point being, at 4am Thursday night I finally left the bright lights of the hospital to head home, file my report, and go to sleep.

I slept for 3.5 hours.  I had a 9:30 appointment I couldn't miss, and I left the house at 8:30.  So, the run was pushed to the evening.

I dragged myself through my morning appointment, ran several errands, made it to my 11am library appointment, and worked until they closed at 4.  Then, off to the NYRR to pick up my 5th Avenue Mile bib and back into Harlem for my CSA.  There was lots of kale in this week's produce.  I hate kale.  The next 20 minutes or so until I got home passed in a blur, and suddenly I was lying awake on the couch, sweating in the unseasonable heat, and several hours had passed.  I must have taken a nap.

In a haze, I realized it was after 8pm.  The gym will close soon!  I threw on gym clothes, downed a glass of Nuun, grabbed my headphones and headed out the door.  I could still get 6m in.  Keith Morrison was on Dateline.  I settled into a slow, easy pace.

I watched some '80s New Age videos during commercials and silently bemoaned not having been born 5 years earlier - those New Age guys were androgynously hot.  The first mile passed quickly with none of the usual treadmill ennui.  One mile into the run (no time for a two mile warm-up), I cranked up the speed some.

Around 1.5m, I noticed something.  Just a twinge of something.  By 1.75m, it was unmistakable: it was my leg pain.  It was back.  I hung on through 2m and then I got off the treadmill.  I don't think the pain is back for good, but I think I've found the culprit.  The treadmill.  I went home, I iced, I had dinner, and I tried not to beat myself up for essentially missing another run.  I felt the pain on Saturday, but not as bad.  There it was again on Sunday, but possibly less still (and I'm, of course, paranoid).

It's time for this to stop.  I don't have two weeks to take off from running and then another week or so to come back timidly and test my leg.  I don't have the time or the energy or the money to spend on twice-weekly physical therapy and foam rollers and compression socks anymore.  I'm done with shin splints.  Done.  I will run this marathon.  I may not race it, but I will run it and I will do it pain-free.

There are things that are within my control: when I do my volunteer shifts, for instance.  When I run, where I run, how far I run.  Then, there are things that are out of my control: who I will meet during my volunteer shift and what happens to them when they leave the protective environment of the hospital.  Also out of my control:  injuries, like shin splints.  I am not going to be so crass as to analogize my running to my rape crisis work.  There is no analogy.  But it puts things in perspective.  I am lucky.  Each day that I wake up and I choose to run or choose not to run, I am lucky.  Shin splints are a minor setback.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A few things...

This was put online late last week:

That would place me in the second wave, on the lower level.  Having to suffer through the lower level - choosing between running on the inside with no view, or running on the outside with a view but getting peed on by runners up-top - is my penance for under-reporting my anticipated finish time and being assigned to the second wave when I'm so clearly third-wave worthy.  NYCM has a staggered, wave start, with three waves 30 minutes apart.  They base your wave assignment on your self-reported anticipated finish time, and I was ambitious when I registered.  My typing fingers made a promise that my running legs can't keep.

So, to celebrate having wave and corral and bib numbers that all avoid my OCD fear of odd numbers, I went to City Sports and bought this:

This, obviously, is a Nike Skapri.  Get it?  Skirt + capri?  Yeah, I don't think that terminology will catch on, either.  The "skapri" (AAAAHHHHHH worst term ever) is essentially the skirted swimsuit of the running world. It says, "I want to wear fitted capris, but my thighs are too large to be inflicted upon the world without being covered."  It says, "I'm out here and I want to have fun! But I also have severe body issues and am full of self-loathing."  Nah, I'm kidding.  It's actually cute.  But there were conspicuously more size XS and S left at the store than there were M or L.

Finally, because this post is labeled as "a few things" and I know that two is not a few, I'll offer a third tidbit:
Oh, dear.  This could be the year I make my dreams finally come true.

I haven't had the guts to friend him, but just seeing his smiling face there, with his friend list (including Pete Pfitzinger and Dick Beardsley, among others) made me very, very happy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fifth Avenue Mile: Race report

Things I learned at the 5th Avenue Mile:
  • I can run a mile in 7:52, including a 1:45 uphill 400m right out the gate in a thick crowd.  (That may not seem fast to you, but consider my slow-ass race times otherwise.)
  • My sister might know what she's doing with my training.
  • There is something to the whole "warm-up" thing.  Who knew?
  • Fifth Avenue is deceptively hilly. Looking down the course from the 400m mark, all I could think was "Holy #!$#@. That's UP."
  • I'm better at short distances than long distances.  My middle-distance times are consistently better than my long-distance times.
  • No matter how short the race, there will be etiquette violations.  Including: getting to the corral mere moments before the start and pushing your way up front (get there earlier if you belong up front!), starting up front even though your times can't support it (I am not fast, and yet I was consistently passing people for literally half the race), stopping DEAD to walk in the middle of the course at the halfway point. In a mile race.
Overall, I'm pleased with this race.  I honestly had no idea how I'd do: no matter what race times I plugged into different calculators, the predictions were in the mid-8s.  I loved the thought of going sub-8, but I haven't been focusing on (track) speedwork lately and frankly, I didn't think it was tenable.  8:xx just didn't sound sexy to me, but I was resigned to that - especially when I saw how thick the crowds at the start were for my wave (women 30-39).

But there was drama even before I got to the start!  When I got to the subway, I realized that my bib had fallen out of the pocket of my skirt.  I had already swiped my subway card, which means that if I left the subway to run back home and get the number, I couldn't swipe my card again for 18 minutes.  I had my D-Tag on my shoe, so I decided to deal with it later.  I'd look like a bandit, but I wasn't one.  (Sure enough, this posed no problem.)

The course was straight down Fifth Avenue, with a slight incline for the first half and a slight downhill for the second half.  I caught my 400m split (1:45 - too fast) and my 800m split (3:52 - slowing down as the hill got bad).  I saw the 1200m signs, but I didn't check my time - I was too focused on just finishing the race.  Also, by that point I could see the finish and I just kept thinking "Hold on Hold on Hold on Hold on."  I wasted too much speed going out quickly and weaving around people, and I was afraid I had nothing left for the finish.

Once I passed the sign for 1500m, I could see the finish clock and I realized I'd finish sub-8, so I didn't push for a final kick.  There wasn't anything left for a kick, anyway.  I finished the race, grabbed some water, and very nearly fell onto another girl waiting to exit the chute.  I grabbed her shoulder, grunted an apology, and got a very sympathetic smile in return.

My cool down was brutal, but needed.  My calves were screaming in pain.  After 2m, I got on the subway and headed home - and there, on the sidewalk three doors away, I saw my forlorn looking bib.  I could see it from a distance, sitting on the ground and waiting patiently for me to return.  (Now that I've personalized the bib I'll confess that I promptly threw it in the garbage. I rarely save bibs.)

I truly thought I'd hate this race.  I expected it to be a depressing slog for me; I expected to finish at the very back.  Instead I was toward the middle.  There's a lot of room for improvement, and I wouldn't say that it was the most fun I've ever had in a race, but I liked it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week in review: NYCM training week something

  • Friday: 8.25m.  A wonderful, wonderful, fast, effortless, amazing run in gorgeous weather.
  • Saturday: 4m with Mike.  Slow as the dickens (my fault).  Just taking it easy.
  • Sunday: 18.2m at the NYRR tune-up.
  • Monday: REST.
  • Tuesday: More rest.  Battling a stomach something that kept me tied to the house.
  • Wednesday:  5m in the morning along the river.  Really pretty.  Broken Garmin meant that I could totally pretend I did this run at like 7:30s.  Because I did, right?  Ha ha ha.
  • Thursday:  Um, embarrassed to say it, but rest.

This photo is apropos of
nothing. Does it make you
hungry, or grossed out?
All in all, not a terrible week:  35.45m.  The long runs are niiiice on the week's mileage.

Even though I know I would be bored with Hal's "all easy runs, just get the miles in" novice training plan, secretly I miss that.  I miss just waking up, running whatever it said to run with no complications.  I did that for my first marathon and it worked well.

I miss being able to guess what my mileage was, because I didn't have google maps or a Garmin (sometimes you guess high, sometimes low, and it all works out somehow).

I also miss having a regular training partner.  I miss having somewhere I needed to be every morning, and I feel like I run better when I have someone there pushing me.  I'm not a competitive person when it comes to running, but that's part of the problem: I'm too easy on myself.  Ah, well.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor and click over to Kelly's blog to read this entry about her pulmonary embolism.  What happened to her is very similar to what happened to me.  She's a talented runner who's running New York this year, too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What the... what?

All along the Hudson River where I run a fair bit of the time are these odd... things.  Wooden figures of some sort.

They are obviously man-made.  There are at least a dozen of them, and they span an area of probably at least a mile.

Why are they there?  What are they?  Do they just represent someone with too much time on their hands?  Are they all driftwood? That would be a lot of driftwood!

I don't know why, but they kind of seem very Blair Witch Project to me.

Turns out I'm not the only one with questions, though.  As early as 2005, the New York Times was reporting on them.  In 2007 they discovered the artist: Tom Loback.  Turns out it's no secret - and turns out I'm not the only one who found them curious!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I ask, you answer

I'm not doing the High Heel-a-thon today, after all.  I woke up with a stomach thing yesterday and skipped my run, so I don't feel like I can skip or truncate my run today.  Plus, the likelihood of me twisting my ankle is just way, way, way too high.  My physiatrist called me "much improved" at my appointment on Monday.  I'd hate to let her down with a new injury.  I still love the idea of a gimmick race, but not with a marathon looming!

Yesterday I wrote about some of the annoying things I'd seen at the 18m tune-up.  In the comments and on twitter, I got some other responses.  Some commonalities emerge...  Here are a few of the twitter responses I got:

I said it in the comments yesterday, and I'll say it again here: if you're going to be that pedestrian crossing the path of a race, first of all, don't do it.

Barring that, here's a sure-fire method: cross at an angle in the direction the race is moving.  It's much easier to weave in and out of people when you're moving in their direction (and it's much easier for runners to avoid you when you're moving the same direction they are) than it is to abruptly cross directly perpendicular to them.

Also?  This totally arrived in the mail yesterday (and yes, I'm old):
At first I was a little disturbed to be #47,170 when there are allegedly only 45,000 runners.  But I did register mere moments before the race closed, so I'm assuming that's what they based it off of, not their assumption of my speed.

LAST THING: It's my friend Kate's 30th birthday today.  Happy day!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Race etiquette

The NYRR races are usually a mixed bag for me in terms of etiquette.  A lot of people don't seem to understand what I've always considered basic runner's etiquette (stay to the side when you're walking, don't stop dead in the middle of the race route, try to avoid cutting over sharply at the first sign of the water station), but I've learned to live with much of that.

I saw a few things Sunday at the tune up, though, that really rankled me.  Am I being overly sensitive?  You be the judge.  Here's what I saw:

-At the start, in my corral, I overheard two people talking.  They were standing immediately to my left, talking about their nerves and whether they were prepared to finish the race or not.  The woman pointed at someone in front of me and said to her companion, "Look at her.  If she's going to be able to finish, I can."  The woman in front of me was slightly on the heavier side, and the comment was obviously directed at her size (never mind that she had a well-used fuel belt on, all wicking clothes, and running shoes that were not brand new - signs, to me, that she was probably an experienced runner who had trained for this).  I turned and glared at the woman who said it and I really wish I'd said more.

-Because this was a three-loop course, I was lapped by the fastest runners twice and by many runners once.  The first time the leaders came around, they had cyclists and a police car announcing them.  I was pretty shocked at how many runners moved out of their lane while the cars and bikes passed, and then moved right back into that lane.  Honestly, I attribute some of this to headphone wearing.  I know lots of people depend on music to get them through their runs and races.  But this was a clear case of people being made oblivious to their surroundings by headphones.

-At one point, a child on a bike - he was probably about 12 or 13 - came up beside the race and noticed the water table.  He started saying, loudly to whoever he was with, "Look - they have water! I want water!!" and then he noticed that it was a Gatorade station and started yelling, "I want Gatorade!  I need Gatorade!" before cutting over into the race and asking runners to hand him a glass of Gatorade.  I was... shocked.  First off, whoever he was with should have told him not to do that.  Second off, it was pretty obvious that the water/Gatorade were set up for the race and not for the public.  Am I being too sensitive?  I wouldn't have outright denied the kid a glass of water or Gatorade, but I was shocked he had the gall to ask and, as a slower runner, I have been in a position where water tables have run out before I've gotten there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

NYRR 18m tune up race report

Anxiety builds...

I had a marathon nightmare last week.

It was a terrible, too-hot-in-my-room night of tossing and turning, so I'm not surprised I had bad dreams that I remember vividly.  This one, though, was the worst.  I was running the marathon, slower than I wanted but I was chugging along, when I saw a friend of mine on the course.  He was just about to get something to eat, and I inexplicably decided that was a good idea.  I didn't care about my time in the marathon, so I figured I'd just enjoy myself and get some food.  I left the course and we had a meal.  Meanwhile, another friend came in to the bar and bought me a beer.  About an hour after I left the course, I hopped back in (somehow magically ready to run despite pub food and drink).  The problem is, even though I'd been running along fine up to that point, the hour delay put me behind the marathon closing time.  And for some reason, their way of enforcing this was not by opening the roads to traffic, but instead by forcibly and physically removing runners from the roads.  Even though I was running in a group of people, a course marshall decided that I - and I alone - needed to be removed from the course and began chasing me and yelling at me.  I tried to explain to him that I was running much faster than everyone around me and if he let me catch up, I would soon be ahead of the closing time cut-offs.

And then I woke up and it was all a dream.

This totally happened after the race. Porterhouse
for two (I did share) and a glass of lychee sangria.
I've been having bad marathon anxiety lately.  Saturday night, before the tune up, I tossed and turned and (this is classic) dreamt that I did the run and it was over.  Vividly.  Saw myself sweating, felt the hot day, I ran the race in my head.  How disappointed I was when I woke up.

Instead, I got to the start on too little sleep and ran my fool heart out.  A friend graciously met me for a lap of the park, but it was mostly on my own and I was okay with that.  I also decided once and for all that I hate the hills in Central Park (I walked them this time, all of them).

I finished in 3:30:xx with badly uneven splits.  If I keep up that pace the whole race - plausible, given how bad the hills in Central Park are - my sub 5-hour goal is just barely within sight.  I was also upset by the lack of enthusiasm that went into this race.  No spectators (which I expected), but also it felt like its name: a marathon tune-up.  (Mostly) everyone was nice (more on that tomorrow), but there wasn't the same level of excitement that I know I'll find race day.

Today starts a new week of training.  With a needed rest day and an 11-hour workday.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week in review: NYCM training week something

I thought this post needed a picture. I
should not legally be allowed to own pets.
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 4m race
  • Sunday: 15m long run
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Rest (oops...)
  • Wednesday: 7.5m at HM pace
  • Thursday: Rest
26.5m.  Hm, lots of rest days in here.  Tuesday's rest was an accident (just like I can accidentally run 4 too many miles, I can also accidentally run 6 too few, it turns out).  Thursday was an intentional rest day, gearing up for a weekend of 8-5-18.  Yep.  I had some slight twinges of pain in my leg, but nothing that's caused me any alarm - just awareness.  I've been icing more.  And I got my new foam roller, which I'll be trying.  Honestly?  I'm just not that into the stretching.  It's a work in progress.

I'm trying to be realistic about my race.  Completing the marathon is within my grasp.  Doing well isn't.  It won't be my worst finish ever - thank goodness I got that out of the way last year at Chicago!  It won't be my best finish, either, although had I not been derailed, I think that my PR was within reach.  I'm not going to lie and say that "As long as I finish, I'll be happy!"  I'm going to be disappointed if I don't do well.  But, finishing is my first priority, and I'll be more than disappointed if I don't finish.  (I initially typed some nasty cuss words to describe how I would actually feel about not finishing, but then I thought better and changed them to "more than disappointed.")

And remember my wishful thinking schedule of yoga and spinning classes?  Um, yeah, I kind of didn't do any of that.  Next week is another week...

But at least I wasn't one of these people.  Seriously - go check that link out.  Fitness Fashion Police.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happy birthday to me!

Let me start by saying: it's not actually my birthday.  That was back in May.

BUT.  I did get to pretend that it was my birthday when a box of birthday presents arrived from my sister in the mail on Monday.

What did I get?
-a case of lemon-lime Clif Shot Blocks
-a case of chocolate chip Clif z-bars
-a sportsbra
-three tubes of Nuun (two cucumber-mint, one citrus fruit)

And then, of course, about five minutes later this happened:

It wasn't just the birthday box that arrived today, though: also a box from RRS! New compression socks and a new foam roller!

The compression socks are the CEP variety.  RRS doesn't carry them in a women's L, so I had to order a men's.  Now I'm paranoid that they're too long, but I'm also too cheap to deal with returning them to RRS (at my expense) and then paying more for a new pair direct from CEP.

I also love that Running is Funny linked to me last week.  Thanks again!

That's a lot of Shot Bloks...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Going the Distance

My weekend schedule called for 8m on Saturday and 11m on Sunday.  Since I kind of turned the 8m into 4m on Saturday, I decided I'd cheat a little and do 13 on Sunday.  Specifically, I'd do the last 12 miles (in mixed up order) of the NYCM course, including the Queensborough Bridge.  Mike was game, so we set out in lovely, cool Sunday morning weather.  A nice relief from the crazy heat of this summer.

I originally looked grumpy
but Mike told me to smile.
This run was tough.  First off, the hills (like 5th Avenue) are exactly as bad as you've heard.  They've covert; they sneak up on you.  Second off, the bridge?  A BEAST.  I hated it.  We went over it and then back, a stupid, stupid mapping decision on my part that I regretted.  Mike was a hero and just charged up it both ways, while I whined and held back and cursed silently.

I'll admit: I was damn glad when this run was over.  We (okay, mostly me) put the "slow" back in "long, slow distance."  Partly that was starting later than we intended and having a laidback attitude about it, partly it was taking more breaks than usual (buying water, finding a plastic bag for my cell phone when it started raining, bathroom breaks), and partly that was the stop-and-go nature of running on city streets.  But mostly it was just me being really, really, really slow.

Willis Ave. Bridge. I'll
admit; I'm sad the gong
didn't sound.
The course I mapped was just over 13.  Due to some detours, we ended up running 15 - by accident.  We had to take a few detours, like finding the entrance to the pedestrian walkway on the Qboro Bridge or taking the wrong walkway leaving the Bronx and running an extra 6 blocks or so because of that.  Poor Mike had 17 on his schedule and had to keep going after we parted.

My sister/coach called to check in Sunday afternoon, and I told her about my weekend.  She was disappointed that I didn't do a cool down after the race, but she was downright irritated that I ran 15 instead of 11 on Sunday.  "By accident?  NO.  If you said you ran 11.6, that's an accident.  You don't accidentally run 4 extra miles!!"  I'll admit; I'm impatient and want to be running more.  I confessed to scheduling 13m to make up for Saturday's truncated run ("You don't get to 'make up' miles! They're gone! You just keep to your schedule!!"), but I swear that the extra two were an accident.  I certainly wasn't about to walk home from the Bronx once I realized that I was at 13 miles and still two miles away from my house.

So, it's back to the schedule this week for me, which means I'm about to leave on my 10m run.  Sort of back to the schedule - I blew off yesterday's run.  Not sure why.  It just didn't happen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

NYRR Fitness 4m race report

My schedule called for a 2m warmup, a 4m race, and a 2m cool down.

I woke up late, thus scratching the 2m warmup.  (You can probably see where this is going; I'll eventually scrap the 2m cool down - but that's after the race.)

It was a gorgeous day.  September 11, actually, and it felt odd to be at a joyous running event knowing about the remembrance ceremonies that were going on downtown.  Someone sang "God Bless America" at the start (I hate that song and would have much preferred the national anthem).  Some celebrity chef - Rocco something? - said some words and we were off.

I had a secret goal going into this race: I wanted a 4m PR.  Maybe I was inspired by M's recent racing success, but I really wanted to run it in under 40 minutes.  Even more, I'm on my never-ending quest to lower my best pace, which is how the NYRR seeds their corrals.  I completely understand their system (although I do have trouble with it), but it's not really representative of a true PR, per se, since Central Park where most of their races are run is a hilly course.  My (non-NYRR) 5k PR pace is 9:14, but I've been stalled at a (NYRR) 10:12 bib pace for some time.  I lowered that to 9:59 at the miserable Wall Street 3m race, but that's not good enough for me.  So that was my goal: lower that time.

Things I loved about the race:
-It was a sunny, wonderful, beautiful day, the sort of day where running feels more like flying.
-Having a separate men's race (9am start) and women's race (10am start) meant that there were a lot of men cheering us on.  Nice!
-Every water table, I heard a loud chorus of "thank you"s as women grabbed water.
-People running with their coaches rock.  When I hit a low point near 3m, I just listened to the man near me barking, "You can DO IT.  You HAVE THIS.  Keep going!!"  It worked!

Things I hated about the race:
-The moaners and the Darth Vaders.  You know those people, where every breath is a very, very loud affair.  I usually don't mind, but this was a situation where I couldn't escape a few of them and heard it for an eternity.
-Tourists in Central Park.  I know it's cliche to complain about them, but I was running past east 90th St. - a large entrance to the park, complete with pedestrian traffic light.  The light changed to walk and a good-sized group of tourists strode boldly into 3,000 runners.  Seriously.  (They lost.)
The award for thing I most hated...:
-The course marshall, at about mile 2.2 (right after the 102nd St. transverse) who for some reason thought it was motivating to yell, "The next few miles are all hilly!  Hills from here on out!"  Several times.  No, "You got it," or "Great job," or even "Almost there."  My morale sank like a stone; several women near me were mumbling complaints.

The bottom line:
When I got to mile 3, I felt terrible.  I played "let's make a deal" with myself, and told myself that if I could lower my bib pace, I'd skip the cool-down.

My finish time?  39:29, a 9:52 pace.  Maybe I'm not setting any speed records, but I did see two women throw up in the finish chute and I was proud of myself.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy 2.5m millennia!

Yesterday was the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon.

We all know what that means - our sport is 2500 years old!
Pheidippides died so that we could all follow in his footsteps... or something.

(Ahem.  Okay, maybe it's next year.  But there's more symmetry to saying it's this year. And it might have been in August. But I'm going with yesterday.)

Tomorrow I have a race report from this past weekend, but before that, I wanted to give a shout-out (all '90s style - keeping it real with the "shout-outs") to a friend of mine who recently moved to VA.  She was excited to do her first race there, until she discovered that there were literally 20 people registered for the 5k.  But, still - good chance to place, right?  She was all set to be 2nd overall female, until...  the course wasn't marked.  And she got lost.  I guess the race directors thought that it was a "fun" run, and they took the fun part too literally.  Except it's not fun to make a wrong turn during a sparsely attended run and end up running way too far in too long of a time.  Weird.

Edited: If you check in the comments, you'll see a link to Pheidippides' race report.  Thanks, M!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Week in review: NYCM training again

Yay!  Yay!  I have a week to review!!
  • Saturday: 4m with Mike along the river.  You could not ask for better weather.
  • Sunday:  14.2m training run.  Better weather, unbelievably!
  • Monday:  Rest.  After 9 great hours of sleep.
  • Tuesday:  PT.  Overslept (up too late because it's PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE SEASON!!!) and I missed my run.  Almost missed PT.  I debated running at night - even got my running clothes on - but I'm not ready for a back-to-back, night run followed by the next morning.
  • Wednesday: 7.2 or something. I was aiming for 8, with 5x600m repeats at 5k pace.  My first four repeats were spot-on.  My last one... I didn't finish it.  Massive wall.
  • Thursday: 3m. I wanted to do 5, but I got called in to the hospital for my bimonthly do-gooder on-call volunteer shift.  I didn't get home until 1am.  Friday will be rough, I predict.
28.4m.  Not too bad for my first week back.

I have a new training plan.  I'll reproduce it here for you:

As you can see, my sister took away most of my longer runs.  Instead of multiple 20s, I'll now do one 20 before NYCM.  In place of the long(er) runs, I'll have several back-to-back weekends, running three days in a row with two of those runs being double digit mileage.  She thinks that this should keep my mileage low enough that I don't get reinjured, but it will simultaneously get my legs used to running while tired.

I got a groupon for the bikram studio near me, so you'll see that on there as I'm going to try to incorporate yoga.  Let's be realistic; I may not end up doing it.  (At least not that often.)  Basically, anything in red represents "wishful thinking."

Incidentally: today is one month until the Chicago Marathon.  Yup.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shoes. Shoes. More shoes.

Today's question: proper shoe fitting.  What's normal?

I got a call over the weekend from a good friend, who has recently moved to New Hampshire and  needed running shoe advice.

As an aside, this friend has near-impeccable taste in shoes but very different habits than mine.  I visited her in Paris a few years ago (she was spending several months working there), and I was flabbergasted to find that she had THREE pairs of shoes with her: running shoes, Ferragamo Audrey flats, and heels.  Three pairs of shoes.  Not even one pair a month.  I probably had more shoes with me for my several day trip.

This is the two of us at Machu Picchu.
Look closely and you'll see her Mizunos.
Anyway, she's very athletic and has been a runner on-and-off since high school, but is not into distance running.  She is, however, preparing to do Mt. Washington with me next year if we get in off the lottery.  And since high school, she's worn the same style of Mizunos...  until they changed them recently, and both the new shoe and the replacement that was recommended don't work with her feet.

I, of course, defaulted to my usual: go and get fitted.  Now, she has a small frame and is a normal pronator and would probably be okay with almost any shoe, but I held firm: go to a running store and get fitted.

And here's my point: I told her about my most recent experience buying shoes and how the woman at Jack Rabbit kept me there for nearly 45 minutes, telling me all about my feet (medium arches, "fan" shaped forefoot) while bringing me different shoes, and how she had me run on the treadmill while videotaping my footstrike and then played back the footage so I could see my pronation on the big screen to see how the shoe fit.  I also told her how Jack Rabbit gives you two weeks of wearing the shoes to try them, during which you can return them if they don't work.

Well.  My friend was surprised.  Evidently she's never been fitted like that.  Moreover, though, she was calling me from Sports Authority wanting to buy shoes just then.  (She was willing to wait, but for what? There aren't any specialized stores around, so her chances of finding something on her own at Sports Authority were as good as her chances of finding something online.)

I guess this brings up - and what doesn't, these days? - questions about how important one's shoes are to running, anyway.  If you follow the minimalist mentality, too much shoe is worse than too little.  I'm on a backlash right now, having just upgraded to more shoe to stop my shin pain.  But could she have just grabbed pretty much any shoe that felt good to her?

So, for her sake (living somewhere relatively rural without big-city technology), what suggestions do you have?  What are your shoe fitting experiences?  What's the weirdest shoe experience you've had?  What's the most high tech experience (I suspect Jack Rabbit is up there)?  And most importantly, how much do you rely on the sales associate versus your own gut - what should she have done at Sports Authority?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

14.2m training run

(Okay, due to some blogger fluke, I'm writing this from the future.  I set all my posts to auto-post and I typically do it at the start of the week, and this one went through today even though it's clearly dated tomorrow.  Weird...  Sorry for today's double post, and the fact that now there won't be a post tomorrow!)

The weather this weekend was... dare I say it?  Absolutely glorious.  Beautiful.  Awesome.  Amazing.

Perfect weather for running.  And so I did!

On Saturday, I went out for about 4m - enough to test my legs out again and confirm that there was no pain.  Nice.

I stupidly took NO pictures of the event,
so you'll have to settle for a picture of my
really dumb BBQ-loading the night before.
On Sunday, I went along with my plan to do the 14.2m Training Run along the entire length of Manhattan.  I'd gotten a flier for the event ("It's not a race!", according to all the promotional material) at a 5k a few months back, and I thought it sounded like a neat idea.  Plus, you get a ton of swag: a bag, a coffee mug, a shirt, and a medal.  The only problem is the price, which by most standards is kind of steep (I think it was $45 when I signed up, and it went up from there).

That said, those of us who belong to the NYRR are kind of spoiled with our $18 races.  I don't know if I would say this run was worth $50+, but it was a great event: well organized, well supported, and fun.

I didn't know what to expect of myself.  In theory, I only took two weeks off - my running shouldn't have been compromised.  In practice, the week before I took off was pretty weak, and I haven't been the strongest in general for a while.  But, it was a training run.  No clock, no pressure.  Just gorgeous weather, beautiful scenery, and good company.  Not only did I meet up with someone from the Runner's World forums who was running almost exactly my pace, but he was happy to let me chitchat as I'm wont to do.  He's training for his first half - Yonkers.  He'll be prepared for it.  And I'm impressed. That race is infamous.

I was under strict instructions from my sister (that I secretly had no intention of obeying) to only run 10 and to walk the final 4.  As a concession to her, I told my newfound friend to go ahead of me around 10.5 and I alternated running and walking for the last few miles (mostly running... shhh...).  The race set up was clear: they had police blocking the roads for us in northern Manhattan and then flag wavers marking the course once we entered the path along the river (in the 90s).  There were water/Gatorade stations set up every couple of miles with super-friendly volunteers and fruit and bagels at the finish.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I'm BACK!!!

My first run back was the middle of last week (all on the down-low, as it was still against doctor's orders).  How did it go?

Well...  honestly, not very well.  My sister instructed me to do 3 miles - no more - and that I could walk if I needed to.  I stupidly picked 10:30am on a hot day.  It was already in the mid-80s when I left my apartment.

I don't know about you, but my runs follow a pretty standard trajectory.  Something like this:

Miles 0-.25: "I'm running!  This is so awesome!!!"
Miles .25-~1.25/1.5: "Why am I doing this. This sucks. GO HOME. Crap, if I turn around I have to run home. So I'll gut it out. But this sucks."
Miles 1.5-3: "Eh, this isn't that bad.  Nice day out."
Miles 3-3.2: "HALFWAY THERE! Take a walk break. Check your email. But don't dawdle... too much."
Miles 3.2-6: "I love running. So nice out. I love running.  Running is awesome.  It's basically like flying.  But better."

Well, sadly, a problem I was having before I took time off has continued.  I don't know how better to describe it than to say that I'm not "clicking in" to my runs.  That point I get to around mile 1.5, where I just settle in, I'm warmed up, my body has accepted that like it or not I'm running now - that hasn't been happening.  I wasn't ever, ever getting to the last phase, the phase that keeps me coming back for more.  And that would describe this most recent run.

In terms of pace, the first mile was too fast, and then the second and third were too slow (go figure).  My legs - which I expected to feel superfresh - felt like jelly in a bad way.  I noticed my ITB for the first time, ironically the day after it had been "kneaded out" on a foam roller.

More tomorrow on my leap back into the deep end of the running pool, as I attempt to pick up where I've left off with mixed success.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Unsolicited advice from me to you.

American Apparel does
inappropriate like nobody's business.
With some time off from running to think about, well, running, I wanted to share my insights with you.  Here are two pieces of advice for you on running, based on my experience.  My sister touched on some of this yesterday, too.
  1. Wear sunscreen.  I can't say this enough.  Especially if you're a woman.  Month after month, I open up my favorite running publications and see a picture of a gorgeous, lithe, beautiful runner in her late 30s/early 40s.  And then I read in the accompanying article that she's actually in her 20s.  Wear sunscreen, especially around the eyes.
  2. Check yourself in the rear-view mirror before you head outside.  I have no problem with cellulite; this is not a sizeist rant.  I just want you to make sure that what you're showing off is exactly what you think you're showing off and that it is what you want to be showing off.  The super-short shorts that look adorable in the front?  Well, I might be inadvertently seeing the bottoms of your cheeks (not the face kind - also, how do you sit on the subway in those?).  And this advice is gender neutral: your testicles may well be an unwanted side effect of those super short shorts.  Especially when you're stretching, sad but true.
Now.  Something else.

Yesterday, first thing when I woke up, I was greeted with an email telling me that one of my favorite internet runners had given me an internet award.  Bizarrely and miraculously, this happened AGAIN from ANOTHER one of my favorite internet runners last thing before I went to bed.  Two awards!  One day!!  To make it even crazier, another one of my favorite internet runners, favorite midwesterners (at least now), and favorite vegetarians gave me the same award again this morning.  I'm kind of awed, actually.

The good news: I'm totally flattered.
The bad news: I am where chain letters/memes/email forwards go to die.

I will definitely participate in rule #3: thank the people who gave it to me.  Mrs. Duffy, the Dutch Silly Girl, and M are awesome, dedicated, talented athletes (with lives outside of running, too!) and I love reading about their training.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


My sister pacing a friend at Badwater.
When to Say When:
This summer has been unusually hot all across the country.  The past few summers we have been lucky with just mild temperatures.  We have all had to suffer through 90+ degree long runs, finishing with wetter clothes than if we had just finished swimming in the lake or ocean.  You are not a hero if you go around bragging you just had a 18 mile PR training run and wound up dehydrated for the next week and therefore were not able to run at all.  Just like you are NOT a wimp if you had to bail on a run or two or head to the treadmill because the weather was just too much.  One or two missed runs is not a big deal at all.  10-15 missed runs is. 

On Fashion:

What does fashion have to do with running?  A lot!!  Wear what is comfortable, within some limits.  Bunhugger shorts, not allowed, ever nowhere nohow.  Running skirts?  Good.  A lot of women look cute in them.  People from all over the country wear them on a regular basis.  Compression socks/leg sleeves while running?  Definite yes on the upcoming (hopefully) cooler days closer to the marathon.  Maybe even race day if the temperatures are under 40 degrees.  Men in self made half shirts?  NO.  I saw this one just the other day.  Ick. Bottom line, if you have to question yourself as to the appropriateness of your attire before you leave the house, then change. 

On Nutrition:

Eat.  A lot.  Eat before you run, after your run, and before you get hungry.  Hammer products are good, they make an excellent powder mix called "Recoverite". Protein powders are good.  Do not be afraid of protein.  Drink A LOT of water in this warmer weather or you will suffer from a Charley Horse!

Any questions?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On mileage

Me again.  More from my sister tomorrow, but here's something I wrote a while ago that tied in with my sister's post yesterday.

A few weeks ago, when I was talking about Runner's World, I got to thinking about mileage.

A lot of runners - hugely successful runners - agree that a key to success is high mileage.  Look at the training programs of the elites, and almost all of them run high mileage.  (Lots of Lydiard in the linked article, if you're into that, and also lots of photos of Shalane Flanagan if you're into that.  She's running New York this year, just like me!)

I've always been a low mileage runner.  Part of this is my speed: even at my peak training back in Philly with my beloved training partner Tamara, if we ran 60mpw it took us at least 10 hours.  Someone who runs 8mm could have done 75m in that time frame.  Lately, a good week is when I inch toward 30m, and of course my marathon training should take me beyond that.  (Key word at this point: should.)

Some of it is my physiology, or at least my caution.  Having had the two stress fractures for no other reason than overuse/high mileage, I don't want to risk that again.

And yeah, I'm lazy.

I remember vividly one summer when I was in maintenance mode.  It was the first time in years I'd worked a steady 9-5 and I wasn't running as much as I wanted.  I told a friend that I was down because I was barely running 15mpw and that most of my running friends would consider that low mileage.  He said to me, "Well, if this really bothers you, maybe you don't need to run more so much as you need to get new running friends."

Obviously he was half-joking, but I'm constantly amazed at how much variation there is with runners' mileage totals.  Some people I know race a 5k or 10k every now and then with little to no preparation and are proud to identify as a runner.  Other people I know put more miles in than many runners, but they see it as part of a larger fitness program and so demure at the thought of being considered a runner.  A friend and beginning runner was given the advice that he should be doing something every day, if not running then cross-training; another friend openly swears by the specificity of training principle and advocates that "only running will improve your running."

Just some thoughts.  No conclusions.  Now that marathon season frenzy is in full force in New York, I'm amazed at the variety of training plans, from near-elites with their triple digit weeks to the beginners with long runs of 6m or 8m or 10m.  Some of the super-low mileage runners will beat me.  Hell, some people with next to no training will beat me!  So I guess that is the conclusion, then: I want to run more miles than I am currently running and I see that as key to my improvement, but everyone is different and individual.

Anyone feel like confessing their mileage?