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"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm a "savvy cyclist"

Sometimes I do things that aren't related to running at all!

Actually, often I do.  Roughly 23 hours of my day are filled with non-running related activities, unless you want to get all technical and say that my sleeping is rest in preparation for running, and my eating is fueling for running, and my showering is cleaning the sweat from a run... but I think that's overkill and I think you know what I mean.

This weekend, though, I did something fitness-related that wasn't running: I became a "Savvy Cyclist" via Bike New York's bicycle education program.  I have this bike that I bought last year, with lofty, ambitious goals of riding everywhere.  Instead, it collects dust.

Yeah, my bookshelves are messy, what of it?

The program was straightforward.  First, we watched a safety video.  Then we discussed safety on the roads.  Specific to New York, this essentially means assertiveness.  If you want to be treated like a vehicle, you must act like a vehicle.  The lack of confidence that many of us feel while riding on the streets is pretty obvious, and to a car? This timidity causes cars to do dumb shit like cut us off, pass us all willy-nilly, and otherwise endanger our experience.  In other words, being more confident and more assertive on the road (and knowing how to handle our bikes) actually creates a safer riding environment.

Of course, there was more to the class than the classroom portion.  There was also the part wherein I learned that my tires could hold 60-80psi of air pressure, and that they were currently at 20psi.  Or the part where we did drills and I realized that I do not stop my bike effectively.  Or the 4 mile ride on the streets where I became acutely aware of all of the obstacles in our way ordinarily (and where I got a nasty sunburn).

The class was free, and they even gave us a water bottle with a light, a reflective band, and a flat tire kit to take home.  Sweet deal.

Honestly?  There are times when I think that this city seriously sucks - days when it takes me two hours to run a simple, simple errand and I'm exhausted and the subway station is 110 degrees and the train doesn't come and when it does, it's completely full.  Days when I get my iphone stolen out of my hand in front of my apartment building.  Days when I get home from work and realize I left my keys at the office and therefore have to spend 90 minutes going back to work with all my crap to get my keys.

Then there are days when I take a totally free, pretty awesome cycling class and meet new, interesting people AND learn that there's a Rita's Water Ice in New York and follow it up with a lovely ride home along the river, and those days are not bad at all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

NYRR Achilles International 5m race

I'm going to let you in on a little secret right now: I have a race problem.

Seriously, what's wrong with me?  Is it normal to do a race every freaking weekend?  And then some?  In the past two weeks, I did 3 races over 9 days.  Take it back another week and you have 4 races over 15 days.  That is not normal.  They're just so cheap and convenient when you live in New York.

But, anyway...

The race was hot and humid.  I probably would have walked the whole thing if I hadn't met up with a friend at the start, and she encouraged me to run (albeit WAY slowly - I totally brought her down with me).  I was a total sell-out and was doing this not for the race experience and not for the cause (which is a pretty inspiring one), but instead for the medal (at a 5m race?!?) and the chance to meet Prince Harry.

I got a medal.  I didn't meet Prince Harry.  Which is probably for the best, since I was drenched in sweat (not my most flattering look, as you've witnessed).  Also, I'm not that into redheads.

Tracy!  Where are you!  I came to this race in 90 degree heat with so much humidity, just to meet you!  If only you'd run faster... our paths could have crossed... stars could have aligned...  If I fall off a horse later this afternoon at my polo match, it will be because I'm ruing not having met you today.

I've realized that I've done 6 races through the NYRR this year, and I'm registered for 2 more later this year.  You need to do 9 to qualify for guaranteed registration for NYCM.  Looks like it's time to do a volunteer shift, as it seems I'll be qualifying to run 2011.

Monday, June 28, 2010

NYRR American Heart Association Wall Street Run Race Report

The "Wall" Street Run.  I'm emphasizing wall here because, well, I kinda hit one, and hard.

For some eye candy, here's a wall I'd actually like to hit running.

There's more than one type of wall you hit when running - but you know that, right?  There's the metaphorical one that many of us, myself included, have hit later on in a marathon.  The one where you're exhausted emotionally and physically, you're doubting yourself, and you just need need need to push on.  That wall sucks; trust me, I've been there, in tears at mile 18 before the Gu kicks in and I can run again.

But then there's the other wall.  The wall that is more physical than metaphorical.  The wall that stops you, dead, that you have trouble psyching yourself out of.  That's the wall I hit on Thursday night... the one caused by glycogen depletion (in a marathon) or by running anaerobically above your lactate threshold (in a shorter race) - something you can only do for so long until your body is producing more lactate than it can rid itself of and you crash and burn and don't set the PR you so desperately wanted and hate yourself afterwards.

My fastest pace as far as the NYRR is concerned - and this determines corral placement - is 10:12.  But my recent 5k PR is 28:33.  I really, really wanted to bring my pace into the 9s - should be easy, right?  This race was my best shot, since it was a flat 3m course, and most of the NYRR races are 4+ mile, hilly Central Park races.

A few problems conspired against me:
-It was 90 degrees at the start, with humidity quite high.
-I had forgotten to eat lunch (busy day and yes I know how stupid this is).
-This race is crowded. So crowded. So so so crowded.  The Wall St. course and the evening start time make it incredibly popular for the after work business crowd.
-My Garmin measured me having run 3.21m.  Unbelievable but true: the crowds were so thick that I ran nearly 10% further than I had to.

Let's cut to the chase:  my official time?  29:59, or a 10:00 pace.  Bastards.  My splits? 9:04, 8:51, 10:10 (yep, there's that wall), and 1:54 (9:03 pace for the additional .21).

I'm pleased with my splits and my pace.  But at the same time, I was furious with the results.  Overall, I should have sat this one out when I realized how toxic the weather plus crowds would be.  I didn't need to do this to myself physically.  Wasn't worth it.  (Although it is a curiosity to be able to hone in close to my lactate threshold - is figuring out my VO2 max next?)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Week in review

This was the Week of the Tight Hamstrings.  For good reason, go figure.

Friday:  rest, in preparation for...
Saturday:  Mount Washington Road Race
Sunday: rest
Monday: 5.2m with the Runner's World group. Pain. Pain. Leg pain.
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: I intended to go out with the Runner's World group, but I wasn't feeling well when it was time to meet.  I dragged myself to the gym a few hours later for an easy 5 while watching So You Think You Can Dance.
Thursday: 3m NYRR Wall St. race.  My Garmin registered it as 3.2m.  More on that later.  I'm not happy.

Total: 21m.  Considering there was some serious recovery going on in there, I'm declaring myself pleased with my overall mileage.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pain is normal, right?

I've been keeping something from you.  I saw a doctor yesterday.

Of course, that's not weird at all.  I see my primary care physician usually three times a month and my hematologist about four times a year.  That's a lot of doctor visits.

But this wasn't one of those doctors.  This was a sports medicine specialist.

I'm currently experiencing some shin pain.  It's on the right shin, along the bone on the front of the leg and radiating ever so slightly to the interior of the calf, slightly above mid-calf.  It's more acute than shin splints but less acute than a stress fracture (it's not a stress fracture, right? I've had two, and the pain is not the same).  So far, I'm just doing what we runners do and carrying on, pretending there's no pain.  I'm sure it's nothing.  Right?  It's totally nothing?  I mean, I don't run enough to have a repetitive stress injury, right?

I am actually not freaking out about this.  It started fairly suddenly - no gradual build up, although there was never an "Ow!" moment - around the first week of June.  It gets worse after runs, but (oddly) it didn't after Mount Washington.

The doctor pressed around my leg a bit, told me that my hips are crooked (they are), and put a lift onto my right insole.  I feel very Tom Cruise about it.

I'm being paranoid, and I know it.  But I feel so strong going into marathon training.  Maybe not PR-strong, but fairly close to it.  After my stupid blood clots, I didn't know that I would ever run again - let alone that I would ever contemplate  new, loftier goals.  If I can help it, I will not let leg pain stop me!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When did "skirt chasing" become funny?

While I was in Chicago, I kept hearing this commercial for the Skirt Chaser 5k race that's coming up.  I'm mixed on this one.  

I can't possibly be the only one who pictured something like this when I heard about it:

The idea behind the race is that the women get a head start, and then the men "chase" them!  The women will all be wearing their SkirtSports running skirts, too, just to make it more 1950s.  

I don't know...  I'm all about leveling the playing field.  It's a rare (and small!) race when a woman beats a man flat-out.  And, as you've probably noticed, I only wear skirts when running.  But still...  Maybe it's my years working and then volunteering for a YWCA, or my years volunteering for a rape crisis center (and now a rape crisis/dv center), or my subscription to Ms. Magazine, or my ridiculously liberal college experience, but I kinda think it's too soon.  And it might always be too soon to celebrate misogyny and sexual harassment.

What do you think?

(Plus, I don't care for the way SkirtsSports skirts fit me.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

One last Mount Washington note...

This is so unbelievably impressive to me that I felt it deserved its own post.

The female winner this year was a woman named Shewarge Amara who won the women's race in a record-setting 1:08:21.

That is amazing on its own; however, more amazing is that she did it in borrowed clothes.

I was sitting at the start, listening to the announcer make last-minute announcements, when he said, "We have a slightly unusual request...  If any of you have a spare set of running clothes for a slender woman, average height, please approach the podium."

It turns out that Amare's driver had locked the car - with her running clothes and shoes still inside.  So Amare borrowed a pair of shoes and a singlet and proceeded to run the race.  (I swear the announcer asked for shorts and a singlet, but the reports I'm finding only say a singlet and shoes.)

Next question: a local 5m race this weekend is giving away medals at the end, and Prince Harry and Heather Mills McCartney and Governor Patterson and the McCains are all running.  Do I do it?  Rumor has it Prince Harry may be single these days... Then again, he is kind of young and did once dress up as a Nazi for a gag.  Dealbreaker? Perhaps I could overlook it for the crown prince - but for the third in line for the throne?

Speaking of medals...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mount Washington Road Race 2010: a sloooow race report

This race...  I don't know where to begin.  It was both the hardest thing I've ever done in my life and also something I'm desperate to do again.

I apologize if this goes on too long, but nothing I could write would do this race justice.  It really and truly is a race that you have to experience yourself.  So, I'm going to try to keep this short and illustrated.  I only wish I'd taken more pictures, and with a real camera (rather than my phone).

The Night Before

Going through the swag...
-a nice, wicking tee
-a copy of "New England Runner"
-a hat and long-sleeved shirt (these I paid extra for - I think the hat was $5 and the ls shirt maybe $15)
-and, miraculous wonder of wonders, a toothbrush.  The sponsor was Delta Dental.  Moments after saying, "A toothbrush! How weird!", I discovered that I hadn't packed mine.

Ritual laying out of the gear...
You don't realize how much stuff is involved in running a race until you see it all laid out.  Quickly: shoes, socks, arm warmers, LS shirt, number, compression socks, water bottle, Garmen, spibelt, sportsbeans, nuun, hat... I think that's all.

I never did wear the spibelt, and it ended up being too hot at the start for any of the layering clothes.  They had warned us, again and again, about the erratic nature of the weather and the need to bundle up as we go up the mountain.  That doesn't hold when it's in the upper 70s at the start.

Another note about gear: I wore the compression socks not because I'm of the caliber athlete that would experience a performance boost, but because I have concerns about my circulation (stupid blood clots).  I have no idea if this was valid or not.  I only saw a handful of people wearing them (they're becoming more commonplace in NYC).  Hard to say if they helped or not, but I did get a few compliments.

The Day Of

A mantra...

My friend Sarah reminded me here and on facebook to remember: relentless forward motion.  So I wrote it on my hand.  Never mind that I had sweated it off by mile 1, I still remembered.  And this was a crucial mantra, given how tempting it was to either stop or - worse! - move backwards.  Very tempting.

At the start...
Doesn't that mountain look far, far away?  Yes. It does.

The race starts at 10am.  The road closes at 9:30am, and they advise that drivers get up the mountain as early as feasible.  This meant that I was dropped off at the starting tent around 8:00am - with two long hours to wait.  And to be intimidated. And to use the porta potty, and to use it again.

I kept hearing certain maxims: it's not about hill work, it's about your overall cardio fitness level.  Or, use your half marathon time as a predictor.  The former I say is total malarkey.  And the latter may have been true on a day that wasn't scorchingly hot.  But we'll get there...

I asked a volunteer where the start was, and he pointed it out to me.  It was quite a ways back off the road.  "They want you to be able to see the mountain, I guess," he said. "But the race starts on a downhill!"  I then asked him for some advice, and he said, "Don't be afraid if you have to walk a little to get your heart rate back down.  I had to walk twice last year, but just for a few seconds."  I stammered something about walking a lot more, and he quickly added, "But I'm a 2:40 marathoner! I don't usually walk during races!"

My plan was simple: run for a bit, run slowly for a bit, then walk for a bit.  I had no idea what to expect or how hard it would be.  

I have to say, the people there were all super, super fit looking.  They were also all incredibly nice.  Almost everyone I talked to had done it before, typically multiple times.  This was also the most organized race I've ever done.  I know there were only 1,000 runners, but given the logistical difficulties inherent in this race, I was quite impressed.  There will be a new race director next year, and he has large shoes to fill as far as I'm concerned.

The course
Now, the good stuff.

Have you ever encountered one of those giant-seeming hills during a race, and just thought to yourself, "Man, I when will this damn thing end?"  Well.  Take that hill, make it steeper, and know that it will not end for another 7.5 miles.

Seriously.  The hill just doesn't end.  It's like a nightmare... and I would know, since I was having them nearly nightly the week before the race.

I really, really wish I had taken more pictures of the course.  Bear with me for some narration.

They fired a cannon at start, made us all repeat the race motto ("there's only one hill!") and we were off.  I hung back, knowing I'd be at the tail end.  I was nervous - terrified, in fact, and seeing the hill as we approached wasn't helping.  We started up, and by about 2/3rd of a mile I was walking.  I wouldn't run again.  I was not alone.  There was a woman running near me for about two miles - yes, running!  She did pull ahead eventually, but I kept up until I couldn't.

I had been warned that mile 1 was the easiest (it was), mile 2 was the hardest (maybe?), and mile 4 was the toughest psychologically (it was).  Miles 1-3 are meandering, slowly moving through densely wooded mountain.  It's amazing how much variability in grade there can be - and how much you'll notice it - in a road that just goes straight up.

There are flat parts, but they never last more than a few yards.  At points, the hill would appear to crest - but it never did.  If there was any downhill, I never felt it.

Miles 0-2: honestly, I did not believe I was going to make it.  I kept reminding myself that it always takes me a while to "click in" to a race groove, to get into that rhythm.  That never happened, not at all during the whole race.  Worse, my heart rate wouldn't go down, even when I stopped for water or a break.  Although I can see now from my Garmin results that it was actually where it should have been for most of the race, it felt brutal.

I crossed the halfway point at 1:24, well behind what I wanted (about 1:05-1:10) and dangerously close to the cut-off halfway mark (1:31).  A woman I had been walking near said that she had done the race five times, always under 2:30, but was done in by the heat this time through and just hoping to finish.  I clung to her for another mile until she lost me.

Mile 4 opened up.  Not quite above the tree line yet, but no cover anymore.  Suddenly, you could see.  How much further you had to go, how steep the hill was, how far away the summit was.  And it just seemed... unbearable.  Impossible.  Awful.

There were a lot of swear words running through my head at this point.

That damn* hill.  (*Damn was not the word I was using.)  You could see people ahead of you, but they were always above you, literally.  And you couldn't catch up.  And the hill would never end.

Mile 5-6 I don't really remember.  There was some amazing scenery, and there was me, plodding.  Around mile 6 I picked up this amazingly chipper, wonderful British-New Hampshirer named Brian.  He had a Camelbak and an amazing attitude and he got me through the rest of the race.  He had trained on a treadmill, emulating the entire thing even down to the splits (calculated to accommodate the differences in difficulty of each mile).

It was when I began walking with Brian that - for the first time in the race - I actually felt like I could and would finish.

It was hot at the start, and it only got hotter.  There was some shade for the first few miles, but not forever.  It got cooler as we went up, but not enough.  The summit was a balmy 62.5 degrees - and the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on the summit is 74, to give you some idea of how this ranks.  In some ways it was ideal, but mostly it was hot.  And sunny.  I got pretty burned.  (You didn't see sunblock laid out the night before, did you?  Because I am STUPID and didn't bring any.)

The finish is a 22% "wall".  Honestly, it wasn't as bad as I feared.  In any race, by the time I can see the finish line the race is done, and this was no exception.  When I got to the top of the wall, the announcer read my name and said, "And now she's going to run to the finish!"  I ignored him.  He repeated it.  So I ran.  I crossed the line, and I wanted to die.  But I didn't die; instead, I took my medal, sat down for a few minutes, and then climbed a few more feet to the true summit for the inevitable photo finish (see yesterday's post).  And then we drove down.  It should have been a harrowing drive, but after running up that bitch?  Yeah, whatever.

The volunteers in this race were particularly commendable.  The race has a policy of cleaning up after itself, which is especially tricky with the water stations.  The volunteers hustled up and down the mountain, picking up cups.  I saw one shimmy down some rocks into a stream to retrieve a cup that had fallen over the edge.  It was impressive.

I'll be thinking about this race for a while, I suspect.  I'm not in that bad of shape physically from it - some soreness in my hamstrings, but overall I was slow enough that I'm not too beat up.  Dairy Queen afterwards helped.  But I need to figure out what went wrong psychologically, since that hurt my race.

I knew of one vaguely comparable race in New York, two weeks ago, that I was told was good preparation for Mount Washington.  Honestly, I'm glad I didn't do that one, as I may have chickened out.  At only 8%, it would be significantly easier.  I'll try that race next year.  I'm still registered for the Pike's Peak Ascent, although I'm thinking it will be just too, too much for me this year.  And there's always the Mt. Lemmon Marathon in the back of my head... although I think I can't justify the travel.  Besides, I should put my training toward the Sears Willis Tower climb in November.  Yep, I'm registered for that already.

And I'll be back in the Mount Washington lottery again for next year.  And again.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

I finished the Mount Washington Road Race. 6288 feet of elevation change over 7.6 miles in sunny, 80+ degree heat. It was hot, it was hard, I wasn't sure I could do it, then I did it.

Full report on Monday.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, June 18, 2010

Week in review

Well, well, well...  I have to say, I don't really care so much about what has happened this week as I do about what's going to happen tomorrow.  As you read this, I'm in a car en route to New Hampshire.  Wish me luck!

But, in case you're curious:
  • Friday: 3.2m en route to the NYRR to pick up my race packet for Saturday's race.  One of those rare and gorgeous 65 degree days with clear clouds and only a slight breeze.  The sort of day where you're grateful to be able to run.
  • Saturday: NYRR Mini 10k
  • Sunday: rest.
  • Monday: rest.
  • Tuesday: 4m on the treadmill.
  • Wednesday: rest.
  • Thursday: rest.
Total: 13.4m.

And I leave you with... two pictures.  On the left, a picture of my light reading for the weekend.  My sister/coach says that his programs will guarantee me success at New York this fall.  I say that he doesn't even offer workout paces for anyone slower than a 24:30 5k or a 2:00 half.  Hm.

Two, on the right, a picture of me on top of a mini-mountain.  I'm not a total novice!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mt. Washington: some details

First, the facts.

Now, some logistics.
One of the hardest parts of the race is getting back down afterwards.  We run up the auto road, meaning that the hiking trail/cog railroad is clear on the other side of the mountain (and thus inaccessible).  To get back down, you need to be in a car.  Problem is, that gets really congested, really fast.  How they handle it is through strict rules that allow certain drivers to go up for free, as long as they're carrying multiple runners back down with them.  The fees are not out of control but they are expensive if you haven't planned properly.  This creates a hodge-podgey mishmash of runners all trying to arrange rides.  Thankfully, the internet has made it fairly easy, and I got hooked up with two other runners pretty early on.

The next biggest logistical problem is the weather.  It's typically nice and comfortable June-in-New Hampshire weather at the start, but then the finish is on top of a mountain where it can often be freezing, with winds easily up to 35-40mph.  So it will be getting progressively colder, forcing you to do a reverse of what most races involve (putting clothes ON as you go through the race).  Of course you can also always have warm clothes waiting in your car.  My plan is to watch the weather and to bring arm warmers and an ear covering.  I'm going to be on the slower end, so I can't count on my body staying fully warm through running.  So far I've been watching the weather carefully.  This site has some neat diagrams that have made it easy to track - but hard to predict.  Or WAY more data here.

Finally, my preparation.
Truthfully, this is the embarrassing part.  I've been so proud of myself over the past few months, getting to the point where I could comfortably run longer distances and at times that I'm not ashamed of, that I've neglected hills almost entirely.  I did a few hill workouts on the treadmill, just enough to realize that I can probably walk up it without being pulled off the course, and then promptly concentrated on other things instead.  This will be to my disadvantage (and possible downfall) come Saturday.  Two days ago I did what will be my last workout before the race, and I realized something that scared me: at a 9% incline, I can walk for hours at a reasonable pace.  At a 12% incline, I suffer.  Bad.

Ah, well.  We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why I'm running Mt. Washington

What would cause an average runner - actually, a subpar runner going by the numbers - to attempt such a hard race?  Why am I doing this to myself?

I'm not drawn to mountains, by any means.  I'm drawn instead to the state of New Hampshire.  Or, more specifically, to Young Hickory of the Granite Hills: Franklin Pierce.

Since this blog is about running, I'm not going to go too deeply into my bizarre fascination with America's 14th President.  Or his amazing hair.  Or his alcoholism.  Or his military service (brigadier general in the Spanish-American War! until he fell off that horse).  Or the Gadsden Purchase, which enabled America to build a transcontinental railroad (if they'd taken the southern route...).  Or opening trade relations with Japan (so that was maybe more Commodore Perry's doing than his).  Or the Kansas-Nebraska Act (which was kind of a bad thing, but I'm hoping you don't remember American history very clearly).  Or the fact that he maybe, maybe killed a woman in a drunk-carriage-driving accident.  Or his sad and troubled marriage and his dead children.  No.  None of that.

My fascination with Franklin Pierce led me to pursue an internship with the Hillsborough Historical Society during the summer between my junior and senior years of college.  For 6 wonderful, wonderful weeks, I lived with members of the society and spent my days doing archival research in Concord, NH.  It was while I was there that I took up running.  There was literally nothing else to do.  I had no internet access, I had no cell phone, and I was living with strangers - mostly senior citizens.

Each day during the week, I woke up when the sun came up and I went out running.  First it was one mile, then two, then three, and eventually it was about 4 each day.  I ran past wild turkeys - who knew?  One day, I even surprised a small black bear.  He was coming out of the woods and we had a brief staring contest before we both sprinted away at top speed.  (But if you ever hear me tell the story in person, he was totally a brown bear, totally huge, and he totally stood up on his back legs to snarl at me before chasing me.)  Every day was sunny and lovely.  The setting was straight out of a Robert Frost poem (more this one than this one).

In other words, it was perfect: serene, lovely, relaxing, and amazing.

You can't stay in New Hampshire for more than a few days without hearing about the Old Man of the Mountain (RIP).  Stay a few days longer, and you'll hear more about the White Mountains and specifically Mount Washington, the highest point in the northeast United States.

So, why not combine two things I associate so closely with New Hampshire: running, and Mount Washington?

NOW, why I'm doing this with inadequate preparation is sheer stupidity.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mt. Washington Road Race (redux redux)

A good friend of mine just graduated from law school at UVA and will shortly be moving back to New Hampshire, where she grew up, to take a clerkship.  She's been following my Mt. Washington "training" since it was just a pipe dream a few years ago.

She sent me a text message with a picture attached the other day:

In case you can't make it out, that's a bumper sticker reading: "The driver of this car RAN up Mt. Washington."  It's a clever play on the bumper stickers that read: "This car climbed Mt. Washington."

Well, well, well... that text message was followed the next day by another: "When is the Mt. Washington lottery?  Should I enter for next year?"

Yes!  Yes!  The Mt. Washington lottery allows you to enter as an all-or-nothing group.  They swear that it doesn't decrease your chances, but if one member of your group gets in, you all do.  So we'll be a group in next year's lottery.

Anyone else want to join us?

Monday, June 14, 2010

NYRR Mini 10k

Okay, so I snuck an extra race in there unexpectedly.  I'm a sucker for an all women's race; what can I say?  To make this Mt. Washington related, I'm not a sucker for Harlem Hill in Central Park.  That bitch sucks.  Pardon my language.  Why it sucks so bad when it's only a 4.4% incline I don't know.  But it sucks.  I was running on it Friday, and some guy ran past and gave me two thumbs up in encouragement.  I could have hugged him.  I smiled for another full mile - it was so unexpected and nice.

The Mini 10k - named not because women are mini, but because it was previously the "mini marathon" (after the miniskirt).  I did not care for this race, because I suck and not because the race itself does.  The corrals were crazy crowded, more so than I've experienced before (even at the Chicago Marathon!).  The crowds didn't thin out until about the 5k mark.  I was elbowing and tripping people.  Better yet, I was weaving around walkers in denim carrying purses through the one mile mark, people who were either in the wrong corral or had started too far up.

Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliffe were both there, celebrating being pregnant at the same time.  I'm glad they have each other as a resource, and I like both of them individually, but sometimes I feel like the only female runner that honestly couldn't care less about their new status as BFFs.  I was more curious to discover, later, that Delilah DiCrescenzo of "Hey There Delilah" fame was there.  And she finished in 33:38.  Which only earned her 12th place.  Yeah.

But the race.  I'm disappointed in myself, for good reason.  This race was terrible for me.  I really wanted to see how close I could come to breaking an hour, and I feel like I was in the right shape for it.  However, my body decided otherwise.

Anyone who races a fair bit and writes race reports will eventually have to face the same question: how much information is too much information?  Perhaps you know what I'm getting at.  For my sister, to whom the whole world is a bathroom, there is no such thing as TMI.  That woman will go to the bathroom anywhere.  What you and I see as someone's front yard, she sees as a potential toilet.  (True story: she once turned down a Starbucks bathroom to go au naturel a couple of blocks later.)

Instead of telling you what happened, let me tell you what I texted as my race report to my sister: "At 5m gave up and am walking the rest. GI cramps so bad I started crying and there are no bathrooms."  There were eventually port-a-potties, of course, but they were all lined up about .2m from the end.

You can see exactly where I crashed in my split times: 10:06, 9:32, 9:35, 11:57, 11:02, 14.25.  Frankly, I'm shocked the last mile only took 14 minutes.  Even when I could see the finish, the pounding weight of running hurt me too badly to contemplate.  So I walked.  All of the runners I had passed up in the first three miles (and more!) caught up with me and overtook me.

A year ago, I would have been ecstatic to finish a 10k.  6 months ago I would have considered this time a victory.  Today, I'm disappointed.  But I'll get over it.  At least it was only 10k and not 5000k, like this race in Queens that just started.

Finally, this picture from the NYRR (as is the earlier one) has me speechless.  If you've ever wanted to feel like a heavy plodder, just look at these women floating.  Linet Masai, on the right, won the race in 30:48.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Week in Review

Whoa... those of you not reading me through an RSS feed may have noticed some CRAZY changes this morning.  Just changing things up.  Blogger led me through changing the layout all up, and I added my silly twitter feed at the bottom of the right side.

Enough craziness.  Time for running:
  • Friday: yeah, nada.
  • Saturday: 10.6 w/a friend along the river.  Felt good throughout the run but was drained afterwards.  Humidity will do that to you, I guess...
  • Sunday: rest.
  • Monday: 5.2m with the Runner's World group. A tempo run only a tad slower than desired. I felt like I was flying. Was it my natural abilities, or the iced mocha I had with lunch?  Mad skills.
  • Tuesday: Student grade complaint meetings took two hours longer than expected and planned trip to IKEA became an epic adventure, complete with road rage (a crazy woman threw her car into reverse on the highway to try to hit us before aiming a glass bottle at the side of the car).  In other words, a rest day. This is why I don't care for evening runs - too easy to postpone them.
  • Wednesday: 4.6 with Runner's World.  Hill repeats.  In the pouring rain.
  • Thursday:  Woke up dead from the hill repeats, and then a friend offered to share his (free!) Mets tickets to the 7pm game.  Foiled by the evening run again!  Way too easy to spend the evening at a ball game, watching other people exercise.

I think sometimes I take for granted how freaking amazing it is to be able to run in Central Park whenever I want.  I mean, on Monday, I was even bitching about the hills as I was running along.  And then I got to talking to someone about how often you can see celebrities in the park.  I've seen Uma Thurman along the reservoir, Al Roker announced on the Today Show that he's out there twice a week doing a 4m loop, and the woman I was running with has seen/knows people who have seen Kelly Ripa (tiny in real life) and Elisabeth Hasselbeck (I loved her when she used to host "The Look for Less," but then she married a football player and went on The View and became completely uninteresting to me).  On Wednesday the park was nearly empty due to the pouring rain, but even that was neat.

I think I've decided that I'm excited about the New York Marathon coming up.  I still haven't decided exactly how I'm going to train for it - I've played around with some training schedules, working from Hal's Intermediate II and trying to adapt it around the races I know I'll be doing this summer.  I have an okay base going into training in terms of the long runs, but I need to get more consistent, in particular with consecutive days of running/hard workouts.  I rather intentionally don't have any goals yet, but I like the idea of going into training feeling strong and good about it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

I get it, it's funny, right?

I screwed up my mountains.

That puts me in a league of other geographical mishaps, including (infamously), Fox News' blunder:

(I will never screw up the location of Egypt, for the record.)

And I still don't think I'm as bad off as Ann Curry's similar mistake.

Maybe if there were more maps in South Africa, I wouldn't have made this mistake.

Thank the lord

My friend from NH pointed out to me that I used a picture of Mt. Washington, Oregon in my last post.  Because I am an idiot who doesn't google well.

This is good, because I then had my first "I can't do this" anxiety dream about the race last night after putting together that post.



Still kinda scary, but not as bad.


Next week on this blog will have a theme:

All Mt. Washington.  Every day.  As I psych myself out up.

CORRECTED.  See this new post for why this picture is maybe a little too intimidating.  (In other words, yes, I know that I'm showing the wrong freaking mountain.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Today I am going to discuss the issue of plateauing.

As an aside, because I'm feeling very stream-of-consciousness right now, do you know how many undergraduate papers begin with something like that?  No matter how many times I preach that one should avoid the first person in formal writing?  I just graded 120 of them, and it's more than you would think.

I had one student who began every paper this semester - all 12 of them - the same way:
"In this paper, I will endeavor to discuss the assigned reading for this week."

And so, in this blog post, I will endeavor to discuss the issue of plateauing.

That's how it works, isn't it?  We don't get better all at once.  We get better in fits and starts, slowly here, a lot there, a step back there.  I know that rationally, and I can see and feel it in my own training.  I got faster for a few weeks, quite a bit faster, and now my paces are stepping back as my legs have gotten tired.  A few weeks from now I may still be here, or I may be faster.

There are lots of variables that go into training.  Some are fleeting: sleep the night before your run, your hydration level, the weather.  Some are things that will change, but are less fleeting: your weight, that time of the month (for women), your training level.  But sometimes, there are things that are just out of your control.  Sometimes you have a bad day or a good day and there's no explanation for it.

I don't want to get all metaphysical - although I know many runners who are attracted to Buddhism, and I understand that.  It's just not in my nature to be overly contemplative, I guess.  But the road to improvement has peaks and valleys.  Ebbs and flows.  And lots of plateaus.  It's hard to recognize where you are on the road until you reach the next phase.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Do you find that drinking water is too hard for you during a race?

A good friend/former training partner emailed me about a new product she came across: the Hydrapouch.  Yes, that's "hydra" with an "a", as in a giant, mythical serpent, and not hydro with an "o."  (Hydropouch was already taken by a company that seems to make either energy drinks or pouches for energy drinks or maybe both?)

From what I could glean off of the website, this is a product that is easier to drink from than traditional cups.  Therefore, it will improve your race times (you'll have to spend less time stopping/walking at aid stations) and cut down on waste by reducing the number of disposable cups that are used at races.  Saving money for race directors, saving time for runners, saving the environment - a win/win, no?  Well... sort of.  Unless the race is completely hydropouch/hydropour compatible, you'll still be taking a paper cup and pouring it into your hydropouch.  And also?  The pouch will set you back $17, so it doesn't really save money - it just passes the cost of cups onto the runner.

The website is full of that unique brand of business writing that uses too many words to say not much at all.  For instance:  "The patented HydraPouch® personal hydrator is the first beverage container of its kind. Its unique design has been specifically optimized to improve a racer’s entire “hydration experience” during a road or trail race."  For what that means and how it works, you have to watch a series of youtube clips on the website.  

I could see this system (hydropour and hydropouch) being useful at a smaller race, a trail race, or any other race where the runners might be spread out and staffing the water stations with several volunteers might be overkill.  I'm biased in this regard, since even a small race in New York draws thousands of runners.  Then again, the Bolder Boulder is going cup-free* this year, so I'll be curious to hear how that works out.

Again, though, my bottom line is price.  At $17 for something you can only use while racing, the price is steep.  I'm leery of the price creep that is effectively making racing cost-prohibitive for many people.  Also, for me, in longer races I don't mind the break that the water stations provide, and in shorter races I don't need to stop for water.  Still...  I'll admit...  I'm curious.  I kind of want to try it.  I've spent $17 on stupider things.

*Or not.  From what I can understand, they're having Hydropour stations in addition to traditional aid stations.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How did I spend a race-free weekend?

Well!  No race to report on!  Happy Monday!!

I did go running, though, and it was nice to run without a bib or a clock or worries.  Someone that I met through the NYRR and ran with ages ago emailed me, and we were able to meet up Saturday morning.  To be honest, I'm not sure why he actually agreed to meet me again, as I blew him off the last time we were supposed to get together.  We ran once, months ago, and I was winded and out of shape.  Then, the next time we were going to meet, my iphone-cum-alarm died in the middle of the night and failed to go off.  That is NOT my style.  I had even set up a backup alarm, but I'd set it for 6pm instead of 6am.  I called when I woke up to apologize, but even as I was saying the words they sounded hollow.  Despite my jackassery, we've been running many of the same races and finishing within a few minutes of each other, so it made sense to run again.

Holy holy cow was it humid out.  10.5m along the Hudson River and not much to report about it.  I had to stop mid-run to reapply Aquaphor, which probably looked quite indelicate but whatevs.  Can I count this as cross-training since I was basically swimming?

Photos: technically the hottest I've ever been, on a train ride in Morocco (and I lived without air conditioning in the desert for a looong time).  The AC was broken on the train and the train just got hotter... and hotter... over the 9 hour ride.  And the windows wouldn't open.  And, because I am a moron, I refused to drink any more water than a few sips out of fear of having to use the train bathrooms.  (During the run I drank water, lots of cola-flavored nuun.  Delicious when at full strength, and pretty gross watered down.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Week in review

  • Friday: rest, in preparation for...
  • Saturday:  Soldier Field 10M
  • Sunday:  Hair of the dog: another blizzard
  • Monday: 3.33 with my dad and his golden retriever.
  • Tuesday: 3.04 with my dad.  No dog.  Brutal heat and legs that still feel dead.  I know, I'll cherish this bonding time someday when he's old.  He looked pretty old out there running today, ha ha ha!
  • Wednesday: rest.
  • Thursday: stayed up too late getting grades in and unpacking.
Whew - this week was rough and my mileage is pathetic.  Exhaustion and heat (thankfully not together) hit me like a sack of potatoes and I'm beat.  I've been kind of bummed about how painfully hard my runs have been this week, but then my doctor called me the other day to tell me to start taking my iron, now.  My ferritin is low again, go figure.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Should liability trump personal responsibility?

As some of you may know, many Chicago-area races (is this national?) use a color-coded "event alert system" to warn participants of the weather.

To the best of my knowledge, this started with the 2007 Chicago Marathon, aka The Year The Marathon Got Canceled Partway Through.  I was volunteering at the 5m elite water table that year, and it was hot out.  Once the elites had passed by, we went to the 10k water station and tried to help.  They weren't short of water, nor volunteers, but they were short of cups.  They couldn't get the cups filled fast enough and the desperate runners were taking several at a time.  The whole time, from a few minutes after the race started until we left the finish area hours later, we heard sirens going off.  We saw a man collapse and two runner/doctors stopped to help him.  "Our race is over, anyway," they said, even though they'd traveled in from Tennessee to run this race.  My sister was leading the 4-hour group, but she didn't cross the line on time because they made her walk, which gave us a several hour scare waiting for her while not knowing what was going on.  And while listening to the sirens.

Like I mentioned the other day, the Soldier Field 10m run was changed to black around the 2-hour mark of the race.  When I heard the announcer say that (after I'd finished, thankfully), I kind of thought it was a joke.  He was saying, "When you turn on to Soldier Field, please walk the finish.  The race threat level is black."  The last 50m of a race?  You're supposed to walk?  On the actual field where the Bears play?

I understand why a race would want to protect itself against runners hurting themselves.  But if this trend of races being canceled (Chicago Marathon, Soldier Field 10m, Myrtle Beach) or re-routed (Nashville) continues, it's at odds with the trend of pricier and pricier "destination" races.  The 2011 NYC Half Marathon will cost you $104 to enter.  Add plane tickets and a Manhattan hotel and you've easily spent at least $750 to run a half marathon.

This trend also - to me - seems to play into the undertrained, novice runner.  I'm not knocking novice runners; everyone has a first-time, and let me tell you, most of those novices are faster than I am.  However, if you've trained for a race - really and truly put the time and miles in - you should have some idea of what it means to run in heat or rain or snow or "extreme" conditions.  Shouldn't you be able to decide for yourself if you'd like to continue the race?  We've all met those people at the start line of a marathon whose longest training run was 10m, or who didn't really do any running, per se, but who swear they're totally talented cyclists.  And then we've all seen those people either drop out or stagger to the finish, unhappy and hurt and vowing never to run again.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

To buy online, or to support a local running store?

Happy National Running Day!

I went to a specialty running store the other day, one that I won't name because I don't have very much good to say about it.  I've been to this store twice now, and frankly I'm not sure if I'll be going back.

At least some of that is because of the employees.  The store has a great selection (new flavors of Nuun I'd never tried! several different types of sports-specific laundry detergent!) and reasonable prices.  They have a huge wall of running shoes - one wall each for both men and women - and an equally impressive range of clothing.  They have treadmills for gait analysis and a giant, welcoming, signed poster of Meb on the wall.

When I go to a running store (as opposed to finding cheap stuff online), it's for the knowledge of the employees.  And that's where my experience got kind of weird.  The first time I went in, I had an odd run in with a sales associate who stopped helping me midway through my question to help some other people.  Like, just turned around and walked off.  I got his attention again to ask about the shoes, and he said, "Oh, yeah, that's right.  Well, I'm helping these people now."  Still, that's a one-off and not at all representative of their customer service.  What I was asking about was the women's LunarGlide, and he said, "No, we don't carry them for women.  I'll bring you a men's shoe."  That was kind of weird, too, but I know that some women do wear men's running shoes, so I let it slide.

The next time I came in, I heard one sales associate tell a customer about these crazy new shoes called "veeebrams."  Weird.  Have I been pronouncing Vibram wrong?  Then, before he would bring me the shoes I wanted, the salesman insisted on doing a foot measurement test on me, making me stand on these black pads to tell me what size/arch I was. Sure, I was game.  Well, my feet have been an 8.5 since about Grade 9 and I've had mild issues of overpronation all that time, too.  So I was shocked when he told me that I actually wear a 9.5 and have a medium arch with normal pronation.  Can you even tell my pronation from having me stand still?  I was even more shocked when I asked to see the Nike Free in an 8.5 and he brought me a 9.5, because that's "my size."  Now, he did not bring both the pairs for comparison.  He did not listen to what I wanted.  He trusted the computer.  Even weirder still, he argued with me and told me they fit when I said they felt sloppy and that I wanted a snugger fit.

Out of curiosity, I asked if they carried Karhus.  He was confused for a second (not surprising, as they're slightly obscure).  But then he said confidently, "Oh, yeah, I've heard of those.  Those are an old brand; they don't make them anymore."

I am NOT condemning the store based on two weird experiences.  In fact, their selection is great.  But I'm not sure I trust their sales staff to help people find the right shoes, and that concerns me.

Now, for those of you in the NYC area, heads' up that today you get 20% off of anything and everything at the RUN by Foot Locker store in honor of National Running Day.   And I swear this store and this promotion is TOTALLY and COMPLETELY unrelated to any of what I've written above.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Soldier Field 10M race review

I can do this race report in two words:  THAT SUCKED.

If you want more detail, I can give you seven words:  Gorgeous day, well-organized race, dead legs.
Let's add an extra four words to that: two blizzards = bad idea.

My dad and I have a longstanding tradition of racing.  Well, my dad and I have a longstanding tradition of placing bets on races that I invariably win.  Invariably.  I would say that he throws these races, but I like the feeling of winning too much to concede that.

When I was still easily able to come home for Thanksgiving every year, we would race the Dan Gibbons Turkey Trot every year.  And I won every year.  And he had some injury or excuse every year.  The photo to the left is our family Thanksgiving, years ago.  My friend Jason from college is in the front, then I'm the one with the freakishly large piece of lasagna on her plate, and my dad is the one wearing a paper plate around his neck.  A paper plate with the image of a turkey on it - it was his turkey award (for being such a turkey by losing the race to me).

We've moved on to other races since then, and this year's competition was the Soldier Field 10M.  Of course, a few weeks before the race, the excuses started pouring in.  Evidently he hurt his hamstring, aggravating an injury he got years ago in the navy.  He also tried a new tactic this time: pointing out to me that there really isn't any glory in beating a 60 year old man.  I'll admit; I was tempted to throw the race and let him have this one.  For like a second.  Okay, no, I actually wasn't.

I felt good about the race.  The weather was great, my training has been going well, and I was ready.  Sort of.  A short run on Thursday felt unusually heavy to me, and by mile one of this race I knew I was toast.  I had not one but TWO blizzards the day before (yes, I have a Dairy Queen problem).  I was tired.  I went out too quickly and, worst of all, I evidently drank too much water at the start and had to stop at a port-a-potty at mile 3.  A port-a-potty!  Mile 3!  You want to know the worst part of it?  I dropped my Clif Blocks on the floor of the port-a-potty.  Yes, they were still sealed, but no, they were way too gross to eat after that.

The out and back course along the lakefront started south down LSD - literally on the road, with one lane of traffic still open - and then circled back along the lakefront path.  The gorgeous, 65 degree breezy weather of the start quickly ascended to the low-80s - not unbearable, but relentless, with little relief from the sun as we pounded down the highway.  I don't know what to say.  I was just feeling it, badly, in my heavy heavy legs.  By mile 5 I was having to make deals with myself ("You get one minute of walking, but only if you make it to the water station up ahead first"), and by mile 8 I seriously thought I should just walk the rest in.  I ended up finishing in 1:49:06, three minutes off my February 10 mile race.  Considering how bad I felt throughout the entire race, I consider it a victory.

Well, actually it was a victory.  My dad finished in 1:51:03.

And evidently I wasn't the only one who suffered in the heat: rumor has it that they actually raised a black flag shortly after I finished, telling runners that the conditions were too extreme and that they needed to walk because the race was canceled.  As we were driving home, the bank thermometers along the Eisenhower Expressway all read in the mid-80s and the day did become hotter still.  Coupled with the humidity, it was uncomfortable, but not race canceling weather.