For now, if you're interested, I am over here:
I was totally overwhelmed by meeting and running with Amelia Dickerson in the NYC Marathon, a blind competitive athlete from Colorado who is one of the most determined, unflappable runners I have ever met. Filmmaker Becky Popiel is making a documentary about Amelia called "An Unseen Run." You can see the trailer for the film here; I can't wait to see the finished product.
I wrote a brief account of the experience--really about how totally earth shatteringly amazing it was FOR ME--in Slate. There's a lot to convey that didn't make it into that piece, but I hope I expressed how incredibly amazing Amelia is.
Even if there's not an Achilles group in your area or if you're not able to volunteer, please consider donating to support their work. Achilles athletes compete in mainstream athletics and totally kick butt doing so. Amelia finished ahead of tens of thousands of others in the NYC Marathon even though she was tethered to me.
On November 3, I'll be running as an Achilles International guide for Amelia Dickerson in the ING New York City Marathon. Amelia is the national 5k record holder who will be running her first marathon in NYC. Filmmaker Becky Popiel will be making a documentary of about Amelia, and is funding the project through indiegogo. Please contribute if you're able.
Finally. I finally started running again with some sense of purpose. A few weeks ago, I ran with my niece in Wisconsin during her high school XC training camp. That was fun. And it was clear that I had a long way to go if I was going to do any serious running this fall. But that was fine. I got to run with Nora and just watching her dedication and commitment to kicking ass was inspiring. So last week I actually started logging my miles again. And this week, I started working out.Read More
I just got too busy and stopped writing. Once I was working full time again, blog posting slid a bit down the list and then fell off altogether. And it might just stay off, but for now:
Yesterday at noon, NYRR kicked off the full-on insanity of the Brooklyn Half Marathon sign up. Despite doubling the capacity to 15,000 runners, NYRR reported the race sold out just before 9:00 pm. I think Brooklyn is a fun race and I enjoy finishing on the Coney Island boardwalk, but 15,000 or so spots in 9 hours was pretty stunning to me. (I wonder what the manageable limit is for a race like this. Can they handle 25,000? 50,000? NYRR's genius seems to be logistics; I'll be excited to see what they can do over time.)
I wrote something last year about falling apart during the Brooklyn Half and getting sick on the course. I know that my writing about running is not especially insightful or deep; I don't really try for anything more than a record of my experience. This--like most blogging, I reckon--makes it an essentially narcissistic act. I get that. I don't really have the eloquence to talk about running as a path out of adversity or an effective palliative for stress or anxiety. I can't find a way to draw parallals between the challenges of training, injury, recovery, and racing that strike me as thoughtful or interesting as some of you can be. Forgive me that. If this is objectionable to you, please move along.
I'm having a difficult relationship with running. I too often expect running to give me what I need without doing the work: stretch and strengthen, be thoughtful about the training, don't take it for granted. I want my 70-80 mile weeks on my own terms but I have to accept that there's more I need to do. I may be slow to learn these truths, but I am getting there.
Blessedly, it was only 30 degrees this morning when I ran through the Fieldston hills. I know it will be too warm soon, but I will take this brief chill as a gift and appreciate it while it's here. It's an exciting spring for running and I come to it with enthusiasm and a willingness to try again.
I've been preparing for the Brooklyn Half for months. It was a constant in my head. Always a date hanging out there to be reckoned with. I built my base through the winter and then put in the work to get faster through the early spring. I added excruciating deep tissue massages into my routine. I knew none of this would be sufficient to get me where I need to be, but this is a long process and I am committed to it.
I woke up at 4:10 this morning to catch my 5:00 am ride out to Coney Island (thank you awesome VCTC teammates!). The logistics of this race are tricky since it's a point-to-point and we chose to park at Coney Island and cab it back up to the start in Prospect Park. It was a beautiful morning as we drove along the Belt Parkway out to the ocean. Patches of bright sunshine and--my favorite--FOG. By the time we got to the park, the fog was mostly gone, but it was still a pleasant and cool start.
I felt strong through the first few miles. Controlled and in command of my timing. The Prospect Park portion of the race is two counterclockwise loops that start near the southwest corner of the park. My first mile at 6:13 was twelve seconds faster than my overall goal pace, but I felt fine running with the crowd and I certainly wasn't pushing myself. The second mile included the park's "big climb" (about 100 feet of elevation change overall) and my pace dropped down to 6:32 as I worked to ensure I did not overdo it early on. I dropped it back to 6:23 coming across the top of the park and then 6:17 as we came back down the westside. So far, so good, right? And it was. I wasn't straining at all at this stage and had in mind that I would keep myself back until we hit the long straightaway down Ocean Parkway to the beach.
And then I threw up. Two sips into a cup of Gatorade and my whole world went sideways. My stomach cramped pretty immediately and violently and up came the Gatorade and my early morning oatmeal. I moved the inside, ran up into the shrubs, and managed not to spatter my fellow runners. This all happened way too fast for me to think much about what was happening or what I should do. I took two or three uneasy steps and just started running again. I was pretty shaken and may actually have been shaking, but I was still riding the great feeling of my previous four miles. I didn't consider stopping. I didn't consider anything. I just kept running. The hill took A LOT more out of me the second time round, and I was eager for the next water station as it approached. I skipped the Gatorade this time (although I probably needed something in my belly) and sipped gingerly at a cup of water. MISTAKE. Ten steps after the water went down it was back up and in the grass.
Now what was I supposed to do? I couldn't keep fluids down and I was approaching the mid-point of a race that was basically blowing up in front of me. I went from running just under my goal pace to standing, hands on my knees, staring at the ground. I wasn't going to drop out of the race. I just wasn't going to. I didn't know why I was puking, but I knew I wasn't injured. That was enough to get me moving again. I was cursing myself at this point, but I'd only lost about forty seconds and knew I could still contribute to the team if I could just keep moving.
Somehow, mile 7 was fine. Back down to 6:22 as we exited the park and headed onto Ocean Parkway. I generally have no problem with Ocean Parkway. Yes, it's long and flat and boring, but it's also relatively easy. I had planned to drop the hammer and see how close I could come to breaking 1:24, but as I entered the parkway I just couldn't do it. The sun was in my face and I felt overheated and shaky. I needed water and gel, but I couldn't bear to puke again so I just sort of put my head down and ran. I managed 6:32 for mile 8 and felt OK about where I was. I figured if I could hold 6:32 I come out of the day a damned hero (to myself, anyway).
No big shock that I could NOT hold 6:32. I needed water badly now and tried again at mile 9. I threw a cup in my face, dumped another over my head, and begged the third to just stay down. No luck, although I didn't push it far enough to do much more than spit it up. I used the rest of the water to rinse my mouth and spit and gave up on the idea that I'd be able to drink anything. Mile 9 was pretty much a collapse for me. I dropped to 6:52 and continued to drop. Miles 10 and 11 were 7:01. Mile 12 was 7:14. This is about as close to heartbroken as I could be during a race, but I was not done. There was a cool breeze off the ocean and I accelerated with everything I had left into the climb up onto the boardwalk. I was running without much regard for anything at this point. I'm sure was form was shot to hell.
The finish was ugly and uninspired, but I managed to take out a few folks at the finish with my 6:23 final mile (and a bit). I crossed the line and did my best not to collapse into the arms of the closest volunteer. My final time was 1:28:27 or 6:45 per mile. Ho hum and hum dee dum.
As I wandered down the boardwalk, I ran into Dave, a fellow VCTC runner who was hobbling along without his shoe sporting a blood-soaked sock (bad blister, but his gimpy ankle seems to be strong). Talking to someone helped me focus and I headed over to get cup of water. I walked with that water a good long way before I took a sip, but it stayed down. The effect was pretty dramatic: it kinda felt like I'd had a Redbull. I wandered through the parking lot and tracked down Kevin and Mike who were comparing their insanely impressive race stories no doubt. I was feeling better now but was (and am) disappointed and frustrated. I know I ran a fine race all things considered, but I'm not one for all things considered.
The rest of the day was enjoyable. I nice post-race soak in the Atlantic. Some schwacky beer along the boardwalk followed by a great lunch. I don't know if I'll determine what happened physically to me today, but I do know this: more training, more racing, more training, more racing....
I did everything I could to run slowly this morning. I lined up at the back of the corral, I consciously avoided team runners I knew would pull me along, and (most importantly) I ran in plain white shirt; I knew I would feel compelled to race if I was wearing the VCTC team singlet.
I started the race at a VERY measured pace. I'm generally lousy at following all the collected race wisdom and coaching to start slowly, but today it was no problem. I rather enjoyed hearing the huffing and puffing around me as I breathed easy and cruised over the rolling hills up the west side of the park. My goal today was to run a progression. Not a strict time progression, but an effort progression that was based on the feel of my breathing and heart rate.
I ran the first mile in 6:35, about 5 seconds over my planned half-marathon pace for next weekend and 50 seconds (or so) slower than my typical 10k first mile. No problems here, although running slow never turned anyone on (I'd guess...). I did my second mile in 6:34 and was feeling strong (and bored) as we chugged up the hill at the northwest edge of the park. More of the same for the third mile, although I allowed the descents to pull me faster than seemed prudent. I felt steady and again skipped the water station as we headed to the east side and started to climb back out of the big dipper at the north end of the park. Mile four took a bite out of my me (as it always does on this course), but today I just went with it. I let my heart rate increase as I chugged up the hill but stayed aware on my overall breathing and heart rate as I held onto a 6:41 split.
Here, with 2.2 miles to go, I allowed myself to stretch out a little. I'd been following a nice pack of steady runners and decided to see if any of them wanted to run. I moved around them on the inside, leaned into a descent, and markedly increased my pace. They all stayed put. I pulled up next to someone who offered me advice on running faster (really dude? really?) and then, annoyed at his presumptuous chatter, picked it up again for a 6:18 fifth mile. With a little more than a mile to go, I felt strong and energetic. I held my pace until I saw the 800m to go sign and began my final push into the finish.
Mile six came in at a reasonable but steady 6:14. As usual, I ran the final 300 meters or so with a vigorous burst in 5:30. I crossed the finish line at 40:44 feeling fairly fresh and relaxed. Nothing like the exhaustion I felt last week in the Bronx. I truly don't know how fast I could have run today, but my energy reserves sure made me wonder. I'm confident I could have run close to 38:00 and certain I could have broken 39:00.
And what was with all this control and measured racing, anyway? Why bother? Next Saturday morning at 7:00 the horn sounds on the Brooklyn Half Marathon, a race I've been gunning for since January. I know I have a long way to go in my training to hit my goal time/pace, but next Saturday will truly be the measure of the work I've done this year.
I like big races. I like the energy of the crowds and the feel of a well-executed event. I like lining up next to guys I’ve beaten or who’ve beaten me to see who is going to gut it out on this particular Saturday.
I like small races, too. The community feel and variety of runners. The clear sense of a club or team or organization pulling together to execute what for them is a big event. And Saturday was a big event at Bronx Community College: the 33rd Hall of Fame Run and Walk. The race included a 10k and 5k run and a 2 mile walk.
The race was scheduled to go at 10. We showed up around 9:15 to check in, get situated, and do some warm-up laps. Despite the forecast of early rain, the weather was appealing on Saturday morning with bright shining sun and a nice breeze. The race start itself was moderately confused and messy, but it came together all right. They had initially announced that the 5k would start at 10:00 with the 10k and walk beginning at 10:10. I’m not sure how or when this changed or how it was communicated, but I found out at about 9:58 that all runners should start together at 10. Fortunately, as this was not a NYRR race, the gun time was much later than that. I scrambled over to the start and eased into the front section where I was surrounded by a nice turnout of VCTC purple, some WSX and DWRT runners, and plenty of unaffiliated runners.
After the typical chatter at the microphone, the runners seemed to bolt at the start. The pace of any start is often too fast, but this was ridiculous. The course started with a right turn onto 181st Street (Hall of Fame Terrace) followed by a quick left onto Aqueduct. This was a combination of downhill to flat and the runners, led by the 5k racers, were flying. Even though I was holding back, I ran the first half mile or so at a 5:30 pace. We ran along Aqueduct for about a quarter mile before turning onto 184th and dropping fast down to Grand Concourse. After another right, we headed south on Grand Concourse to the first turnaround at 170th St. At this stage I was still hanging with Chris Ekstrom and a small group cruising just below a 6:00 pace, but I knew I needed to should drop back to avoid blowing up later. So, sadly, I let Chris and a few others slide away from me. Not long after I let them go, I realized I was putting myself in a bad—if necessary—position. I went from running in solid group to running alone. I locked onto the back of the closest runner and resolved not to let him go.
And up the Concourse we went. We pretty quickly said goodbye to the 5k leaders who were heading to their finish and plodded north along the uneven roadway. For those who haven’t raced this road, it is not flat. Rather, it’s a series of 300 meter stretches of climbing and dropping. With sun in my face and not enough breeze to help, I did what I could to hang onto my pacer. We were about 3 ½ miles in when we hit the Van Cortlandt Park Avenue East turnaround at. I ate a caffeinated gel, grabbed a too-small cup of water to wash it down, and closed the last 15 feet to pass my pacer. Sadly, he passed me again pretty quickly as we neared the fourth mile heading back down the Concourse. This time, though, I hung tight and followed him on what felt like a soul-crushingly dull fifth mile.
I finally started to feel some relief as we approached the turn onto 184th Street. Here, there were at least a few spectators to holler at us; the majority of the course was basically silent save for the cheering of fellow VCTC runners as we passed each other. The climb back up 184th to Aqueduct felt steep at this stage, but psychologically I was finally feeling better. I knew the damned race was almost over, and I knew I had hung within shouting distance of a younger and fitter-looking runner. As we turned from Aqueduct to 181st I felt the end of race surge that typically carries me over the line. I accelerated up the hill into the finish and was in an all out sprint when I crossed the line in 14th place at 39:40.
I can’t say I am happy about 14th. Or 39:40. Indeed, it’s not even close to the sub-39 I intended when I signed up for the race. That said, I do believe the course was a bit longer than advertised and it was certainly a warmer day and more challenging course than I anticipated. Garmin told me I averaged 6:17 a mile while my official time was 6:23. Not a huge difference, but when combined with the longer distance I recorded I think there’s a bit something to it. No matter, really. The takeaway for me from the race is that I was tired going it, tired during me run, and tired at the finish. It goes without saying that I shouldn’t be doing double days on a Thursday before a race, but it’s good to be reminded what happens when I do.
I have another 10k this weekend, but my plan is simply to run it at 6:35, my target half-marathon pace for the Brooklyn Half. Even so, I plan for a somewhat more relaxed running week. No double tempo on Thursday and nothing more intense than my Tuesday track workout.
Congratulations to all the finishers, especially to my many teammates who placed prominently in their age groups in both the 5k and 10k.
I’ve been dropping nonessential activities lately in a bid to keep up. I guess writing about running isn’t essential; fortunately, while my training has taken a hit, I’ve been able to stay focused enough to keep my miles close to where they need to be. That said, my typical training week has become a bit of a mess. I used to run:
8 – 10 Monday
8 – 10 Tuesday (team track workout + warmup/down)
8 – 10 Thursday (team tempo + warmup/down)
4 – 6 Friday
10 – 12 Saturday
14 – 20 Sunday
Depending on the week, this yielded between 52 and 68 miles. This felt good and was a decent base that I could push beyond or back off from when I wanted or needed to.
Lately, though, I rarely run on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. My typical schedule lately has been:
9 – 11 Tuesday (team track + warmup/down)
8 – 10 Thursday morning (“easy tempo”)
10 – 12 Thursday evening (team tempo+ warmup/down)
11 – 13 Saturday (team group run)
14 – 20 Sunday
Again, depending on the week, this yields between 52 and 66 miles. This schedule is problematic, though. Forgetting how crappy it feels to cram all my miles into four days a week, my mileage takes a huge hit when I miss a workout because of family, work, or weather. It’s also a big problem when I have a weekend race that knocks out one or both of my longer runs. This issue will be especially acute through the spring, summer, and fall as my race calendar gets a bit crazy.
So, even as my running schedule has gone a bit sideways, I do plan to write a bit more in the next few weeks. While I am skipping this Sunday’s Japan Day 4-Miler (why, oh why did I register for a race on Mother’s Day?), I’ll be running the Bronx Community College 10k on Saturday in full race mode. I’ll also be running the Healthy Kidney 10k the next week, although I’m going to do it at my goal half-marathon pace (6:30) rather than my current 10k pace (6:15). All of this leads up to the Brooklyn Half Marathon, a club-points race that I am aiming to run below 1:27. I very much want to break 1:24 in a half before September, but I don’t think I’m prepared to that just yet. I’ll be writing race reports for each of these events, I’d guess, as well as filling in a few entries on my switch from the Asics Gel-Kayano to the New Balance 10 Minimus road shoe and my ambition (and training) to break 3:00 at the NYC Marathon this November.
Today was the second club race of the year, but it was the first for me since I joined the Van Cortlandt Track Club in March. A New York Road Runners club race is an altogether different animal from a standard race: they are much larger events, and all those additional runners comprise some of the most competitive athletes in the NYC area.
My express purpose in joining VCTC was to get faster and prepare for racing. And I'm working on it. I know the effort I've put in at each of the club workouts has improved some critical aspects of my running. Mostly though, it's just helped me feel comfortable running faster. As this point for me getting faster is chiefly about believing I can safely run at higher speeds without getting injured. My greatest fear remains being sidelined because I pushed just beyond what's safe for me at this stage. Speed seems as much about patience as fitness, and I'm working at finding that balance each time I go out.
Saturday's club workout was a nice and easy 5 miler in Van Cortlandt Park followed by some sprints on the track. I think I accumulated 11 or so miles when you include the run up to the track and back home. I suppose it would have been better planning to do some miles on Friday and stick to the minimal club workout yesterday, but it was such easy running that I don't think it greatly affected my performance in the race this morning.
For the Scotland Day 10k, I started the morning about halfway up in the first corral next to a couple of my teammates and behind the folks I knew would outpace me. I felt the regular pre-race adrenaline building in my system and watched my heart rate start to climb as the start approached. When the horn finally sounded, I probably could have run a sub-five minute mile (before collapsing in a quivering heap). I resolved to hold my shit together and let as many people go as necessary to run a smart race.
The first few miles running up the westside were all about this self restraint at 6:09 and 6:12 respectively. I allowed myself to try to find a faster, comfortable rhythm in the third mile and put down a solid 6:05, feeling good as we attacked the hills a the north end of the park. At mile four, my mid-race second guessing and fatigue bit me hard enough to drop me to 6:20 and I had to collect myself to focus on the finish that was quickly sneaking up on me. Speaking of sneaking, I'd been hanging with a younger guy from Dashing Whippets and a woman from North Brooklyn. Now, tired of the company and boosted by VCTC coach Ken Rolston yelling "nice and easy," I cut to the inside on East Drive and consciously increased my turnover. Dashing Whippet hung with me without comment and pushed me harder since I was determined to drop him. Mile five was a reasonable 6:12. We got passed by fellow VCTC runner, Chris Ekstrom, who gave some encouragement as he accelerated past on his way to a solid 37:43. Yeah, Chris dusted me, but at least my splits were going in the right direction at this point!
My friend the Whippet was gone as we approached the turn at the south side of the park. The finish seemed too far away to take off at this point, but I also realized my race thinking had broken down. I tried to calculate my time if I continued at my current pace and failed utterly. At least my clumsy math helped me kill a few minutes. I started looking and hoping for that damned mile 6 marker as I approached the west side of the park, and passed it at a satisfying 6:09.
The short uphill finish wasn't a surprise, but it still managed to ding my spirits as I scanned ahead to try to spot the clock. I was determined to hold my pace steady and not break too fast, but I probably could have (and should have!) taken off as soon as we passed the 6 mile marker. There was a significant presence along the final quarter mile shouting their support. I was especially helped by the admonition from an unknown VCTC booster yelling at me to kick it in at the end because "They're coming! They're coming!" It was the best boost I could have to end the race and I managed to accelerate through the finish with a 5:45 pace for my final .2 and an overall time of 39:08.
Plenty of second guessing for me: I blew the tangents and ran 6.35 rather than 6.2. I'm usually quite smart about my angles through the turns, but the race was crowded today with some pretty steady runners and I felt unusually distracted. More racing means more comfort and racing smarts and I'm looking forward to both of those. I have little doubt that I was too conservative down East Drive. It wasn't until I decided to drop my NBR and DWRT companions that I really felt like I was racing. All running includes a significant mental element, but racing means pushing yourself harder than you want to for longer than you want you and I need more practice at it before I'll feel truly adept.
All that said, I had a solid race on a cool spring day with some great folks. I am excited and proud to be part of the Van Cortlandt Track Club. Looking forward to the training that will allow me to push my times lower and lower and hopefully get me into position to score some points for my team.
Big thanks to Kevin Shelton-Smith, Ken Rolston, and Glen Shane for the help and encouragement to a new team member!
I've been nervously anticipating the Colon Cancer 15k for several weeks. It was my first 15k and my first race as a member of Van Cortlandt Track Club. I'd been pushing my training pretty hard through most of March to try to tune myself for the race, but my running still felt more aligned with shorter and longer events. Through all that training I had only a vague notion of what my goal should be. I knew I could hold 7 minutes throughout and I suspected I could reasonably run it faster, but my most recent "fast" runs were either on extremely flat courses or were only about six-miles. As I dressed on Sunday morning for the race, I did some rough math and decided I wanted to break 1:03.
My own goofy mind-games aside, the Colon Cancer 15k was a strange affair. Given the multiple races as part of this event (and the early-morning duathlon in the park) NYRR did a great job staging things yesterday. The 11:15 start was strange and it made for a jittery morning for me, but at least it allowed my wife and daughter to cheer me on at the start and finish. I woke early (as I think most of us do on race days) and made my typical mug of rooibos and cinnamon tea and bowl of oatmeal. I did some extra stretching to try to appease my crazy-taught hamstrings and slowly geared up for what looked like a chilly morning.
I headed out much earlier than necessary to meet up with an out-of-town running friend and we casually made our way down to Columbus Circle. It was still only about 10:30 when we arrived, so I headed up towards the boat house at a reasonable warm up pace. I saw cyclists getting ticketed and pedicabs getting lectured by Parks and Rec staff. (Central Park has always seemed like a strange place to me for serious training rides; I think the Parks Department must have decided that it will no longer be available for that purpose since the new enforcement makes training there impossible.) I took advantage of the heated, clean, and empty bathroom at the Boathouse restaurant and headed back to the start.
Fortunately, just as I started to slide into a pre-race funk, I ran into fellow Inwood Hill Runner Amy Cooper @runamyswim warming up. I tagged along as she completed her own warm up and got into the corral with plenty of time to spare. Having recently run a couple races that seemed packed, this race seemed empty. The blue corral looked smaller and although it was pretty full, there were probably fewer than two hundred runners in the group. I was surprised to hear that the race had sold out and that the line of runners stretched all that way to Central Park South. My nervous energy was on the rise again and the requisite pre-race chatter seemed to drag. When the horn sounded, I was more than ready to make a run for it.
I started in the back of the first corral to play it safe (and avoid being the obnoxious guy elbowing his way forward for no good reason), but I quickly slid to the inside and started putting some runners behind me. I was thrilled at the quarter mile mark to pass my wife and daughter standing on the inside rail cheering with great enthusiasm. I blew past a Mile 1 sign and thought I'd gone mad before realizing the marker was still standing from an earlier race (not cool NYRR, not cool) and started to climb the gradual hills on the east side. My tight hamstring made its presence known, but I felt confident as I held my 6:31 pace and continued to put guys behind me. 6:31 was decidedly too fast, but it took real effort not to be running faster at this point. In fact, I fell in with a small group in mile two and picked my pace up slightly to 6:28 as we cruised past the reservoir up to the 102nd Street Transverse. The group dissolved as we made the turn and I eased back to a more reasonable 6:46 for the hilly third mile along the west side.
After 6:37 for the fourth mile, I felt unsure how to proceed. My legs were strong and my breathing was even and relaxed. My heart rate was steady and reasonable. And yet I knew I had more than a full loop ahead of me and was unsure if I'd be able to hold my ambitious 6:35 average for the remaining miles. I'd been trailing my VCTC teammate Carlos Lopez (who I met for the first time on the course) for the last mile and I elected to let him pull away as we began the fifth mile. I choked down a couple Cliff Blocks and concentrated on steady sub-7:00 running for the next few miles. Mid-race was mentally tough for me. I was trying to run a smart race, but I also felt I could reasonably be pushing harder. I struggled (as I always do) on the downhills and felt strong pulling myself up the hills.
After mile 8, I knew I could safely open things up without fear of crashing. I waited until my watch showed 8.3 miles and focused on a runner at the horizon to try to reel in. I passed a lead woman with her bicycle escort and continued accelerating through the very sharp turn onto the 72nd Street transverse. I spotted some friends in the crowd before noticing the 1:02:30 clock ticking away in the distance. I had just enough juice left to close on and pass two more runners and crossed the line at 1:02:46 smiling to the announcer's "Van Cortlandt Track Club runner Jonathan Stenger."
My mile splits for the day were a bit wonky and I know my pace was adversely affected by my lack of mental training for this distance. That said, finishing 78th overall and 14th in my age was satisfying. My next race is the Scotland 10k on April 10. Plenty of time to focus on a sub-6:30 10k pace and try for something a bit faster. I felt good out there yesterday. I feel good today without any marked soreness or tight spots. And I'm feeling good as we head into spring racing in earnest. Happy to be on VCTC. Happy to be training. Happy to be mumbling, "more training, more racing, more training, more racing...."
Having run through the worst of the winter, I figured I’d be thrilled by spring's arrival. And I am, I guess, although perhaps the late March sleet suckfest darkened my mood. I’ve trained for more than a year with this year’s racing season in mind. I did week after week of what felt like requisite base-building drudgery. I crept my mileage up over the summer into the fall before turning my thoughts towards 2011 racing. In January, I ran the Manhattan Half on a crazy cold day and turned in a respectable but restrained 1:35. I followed this with the icy Gridiron Classic in 26:08, and a rainy Coogan’s 5k in 19:23. All this felt like pre-season racing to me. Although it’s a funny distance (for me, anyway) this weekend’s Colon Cancer 15k feels like my 2011 opening day.
I started the year running with a local club, the Inwood Hill Runners. They meet three days a week: Tuesdays are speedwork on the 561-meter lower fields perimeter path in Inwood Hill Park, Thursday is a four-mile loop through Washington Heights, and Saturday is a longer run that seems to vary between a Riverdale hills run and an upper Manhattan west-side/east-side loop. These are friendly, social workouts that are truly some of the friendliest runs I’ve ever done. Tamara oversees a strong community club that feels like a group of friends who run (as opposed to a group of runners who happen to be friendly).
My training often meant that they were the second run I did on their respective days, but these group runs became the social center of my running life and I hated to miss them. Sadly, I’ve recently started to miss them more often as my work and personal responsibilities have encroached a bit on my all-out training. I am committed to getting faster and stronger and this has meant trying to be more focused in the limited training time I have. To that end, I considered signing up for Bob Glover’s speed class in Central Park and toyed aloud with the idea of hiring a private coach. Neither of these seemed to fit perfectly with my needs (and resources).
I live upstairs from a dedicated and fast runner who runs with Van Cortlandt Track Club. She and I have been meeting for weekly early morning runs and have occasionally managed weekend long runs together. She’s got a fierce (awesome) competitor’s streak; I think just talking to her about running makes me faster. From our first meeting in January, she encouraged me to come up to VCTC for a friendly run. I felt torn about this as my heart has been with Inwood Hill Runners, but I finally accepted her invitation to attend a Tuesday track workout a few weeks back.
From the start, being on the track made me smile. I haven’t done significant track work in twenty years, but just standing on the beautiful all-weather surface in Van Cortlandt Park brought back my fondest teenage running memories. Even though nothing really changed after that first track workout, I felt faster. I felt like a different kind of runner. I felt, I think, like a kid again. I loved the fact that there were two coaches leading the workout. I loved the overwhelmingly clear sense that this was a team—a team that trained and raced to win. I ran home after the workout and joined the club.
Since then, my training has been more closely aligned with VCTC’s schedule. Track workouts on Tuesday, tempo runs on Thursdays, and long runs on the weekend. I always add a 10 miler on Mondays and try to tack on a dozen or so extra miles here and there when possible. Much of my schedule is dictated by work and family duties, but I feel like I am doing what I need to be doing to improve. I know that the fruits of most of this work will come later in the season, but I already feel stronger and faster. Sunday’s race feels like an early test of these efforts. It's a test that I am happy to have. It's the first race I'll be running in the purple VCTC singlet and I'm excited to run with my team on Sunday morning.
I'll post a race report after I get settled back at home on Sunday. Good luck to all the runners who'll be in the park competing and raising money for colon cancer research.
Racing season has always marked springtime for me. It used to be late-winter track meets, then it was early-morning bike races in the park, and now it's the beginning of NYRR's club series that helps me close the door on winter and kick off spring training. Of course, spring training means one thing primarily, work. It's time to figure out my training needs as the days get warmer and longer and my spirit starts to emerge from its midwinter funk.
As it turns out, I've got a little bit of work to do in a lot of different places. This isn't a huge shock. I know I'm carrying around six or seven extra pounds since I can feel them slowing me down. I know that unstructured long runs are great for base-building, recreation, and sanity, but they can't form the backbone of a serious training regime. I know that I need to incorporate lactate threshold training. And on and on and on. In other words, spring is here and it's time to get serious.
The race today is a tricky route. The ease of the grades throughout the course mask how hard they can be when racing. I scouted things last week and came away with the impression that it was an easier course than Central Park. I think I was wrong about that.
The weather this morning may have been a factor for the spectators, but it wasn't bad for racing. If anything, the break in the rain meant that it was a few degrees warmer than my body and wardrobe were counting on. The road surface was very wet, though, and there was plenty of uneven and broken pavement to look out for.
I began my race prep by running the few miles down Broadway to the race start. I cruised this at about 8:45 and was feeling really good when I pulled into the Columbia Medical campus around 8:25. I took my time stretching and running along Haven Avenue before trying to track down a some friends at the start. Not much luck there, although I did see Melissa and her crew of speedy women from VCTC. My parents are in town for a visit and I ran into them around 172nd Street, just in time for some good-race wishes before getting situated in the middle of the packed blue corral.
The race has a fairly flat start that quickly turns into a hill after the first half mile. The hill has the advantage of spreading runners out a bit, but I was in with such a fast group of club runners that there wasn't a whole lot of that happening. Really, all I noticed was that I was getting passed by some impressive looking men and women who were finding their natural place in the race order. I pushed myself (and was pulled by the crowd) through the first mile at just over a 6 minute pace.
Heading into the second mile, we hit Margaret Corbin Drive in Ft Tryon Park for the loop around the Cloisters. As fast as the descent is on the first part of this loop, the climb back out is an anaerobic nightmare and I was sucking wind as we passed the mile two marker at the top of the hill. I probably should have taken a swallow of water at this point, but my mind was kind of floating away from me at this point. My second mile at 6:11 was certainly aided by the downhill and hampered by the climb back out.
With one mile to go I knew there was a bit of climbing left to do, but I failed to realize just how badly it would kick my ass. Thanks to the climb back from the Cloisters, I knew I didn't have much left in the tank. I cursed my lack of speed work as I let two runners go who I'd been jockeying with from the start. With a half mile remaining, I tried to pull it together for a respectable kick and found I had just enough to bring me within reach of my earlier running mates.
There were a few times this morning that I felt like I was out of my body—certainly out of touch with it—and there were plenty of moments that I felt outclassed and outmatched. I do think the 5k is a challenge I'd like to face again this season, especially if I can create the kind of structure in my training that I'm craving. My time this morning was 19:23 for a 6:15 pace. Plenty of work to do, but also plenty to feel good about on a hilly course early in the season.
I ran into some VCTC and IHR pals after the race. Congratulations to Fernando (@MCFernie) on a PR and to everyone out there today who gave it their all on a tricky course and a rainy day.
The great joy of my morning was watching my daughter in the four-year-olds' race. She was ecstatic to be running in a REAL race, but was mildly disappointed that the distance was so short. I think that's a good sign....
Winter may be plodding along, but for the last few weeks I've been on kind of a runner's high. Without really thinking about it, I let my weekly mileage creep up past 60. This is the point at which my body starts to feel really good. And while I know I need to ensure I am running smart miles, I still gotta do what feels right.
I was scheduled to run the Valentine's Day Marathon last Sunday. I went up to Van Cortlandt Park on Saturday to check out the course and got kind of a bad feeling. The "packed snow" on the trail felt more a toboggan run to me; my only real option was to run the race in spikes, a prospect I did not relish. (I know many folks who ran and enjoyed the race, but I doubt I would have). Instead, I met up with my downstairs neighbor Melissa for a long run in Central Park. We caught a ride down to 103rd and did a pretty quick lap before deciding to hit the streets up to Van Cortlandt to see the end of the marathon. We ran up 8th Ave to 155th where we jumped over to Harlem Speedway. Still a bit of snow and ice on the path, but nothing too bad. We then ran up 10th Ave to the Broadway Bridge, cruised up Corlear Ave, and finally did the last half mile or so on Broadway. It came to 15 miles in exactly two hours. Not bad. Not bad.
The rest of the week was a runner's dream. The weather gradually warmed and I was able to get in at least one run a day. On Thursday, as the warmer temperatures and sun did in the last of the January and February snow, I mapped out a route to City Island. As part of my new adventure running column over on New York City Runs called Run the City, I've committed to writing up one such run every couple of weeks. The run to City Island was a great run, although the last few miles on the return trip kind of did me in. I had not brought enough water for a 19 miler on a warm day and didn't feel like stopping to buy any.
Fortunately, my legs recovered nicely and I was able to join Melissa for an early run on Friday morning through the hilliest sections of Riverdale. We did a very cool figure eight route that offered nice variation and periods of recovery while also providing the kind of leg burning pleasure I look for on hills. As my daily schedule begins to shift, I suspect I'll be doing more work at 6:00 a.m. than I have in the past (and I'm actually looking forward to that). I'm also very much looking forward to starting a Tuesday night track workout. Haven't figured out where or how yet, but by this time next month I WILL be doing speedwork on Tuesday nights.
Of course, it's snowing again today. Not sure what that means for my running this week, but I guess I knew it was too soon to put the insulated tights away.
The promised throwdown between Steve Lastoe of New York City Runs and Sean Haubert of New York Road Runners did not happen. But then, I don't suppose it was meant to. This afternoon's panel at Jack Rabbit Sports near Union Square was billed as a discussion of how the New York area running community uses social channels to share training tips, show off, and voice opinions about...everything. It was moderated by Karla Bruning, a journalist, blogger, and NYCRUNS columnist who is currently the sports editor for the Washington Times Communities. It featured Steve Lastoe, founder of NYCRUNS, Kai MacMahon, a tweeter @idiotrunner, runner, and social media guru, and Sean Haubert, NYRR's social media manager.
To my mind, Sean was the biggest get of the event. As far as I can tell it's his job to absorb everything New York runners want to hurl at the Road Runners while also building a coherent social media strategy to get in front of some of these criticisms. He has to do this at a very well established, old guard institution that clearly seems to realize it needs to change while not fully understanding what, how, or why that change is perceived as so critical. You've got to feel for Sean. He's a good natured and affable guy who is likely the exact right face for NYRR to put on what is essentially a community outreach program in a rather pissy community. I was left with the impression that his presence makes NYRR more nimble and customer focused (and thank goodness for that).
Karla began the event asking about opportunities and risks of social media within the running community. Sean discussed his role at NYRR and their efforts to maintain better real-time contact with members while getting in front of potential crises. He described the PR challenge following the NYC Half Marathon lottery and NYRR's initial slow reaction to the anger building and being expressed online, especially on Facebook. Sean seems dedicated to avoiding another day like that day. He also seems tired, really tired, of Tshirt-gate and half marathon lottery discussions. Perhaps fear of another similar shitstorm will lead to real positive change at NYRR; I think it's already affecting their decisions and approach to customer service. Sean told the story of a flood of media interest when someone tweeted their intent to live tweet the NYC Marathon. This drove media calls and significant interest in discussing NYRR and social media but it was all based on a kind of crazy idea to run a race with 45,000 others while tweeting. I think it points to the media's fascination and awkward coexistence with social networks. Oh, and the fact that Twitter is so hot right now....
Steve raised the potential for social media to reinforce an already robust NY running community by providing access to information impossible to conceive of just a few years ago. New York City Runs was created, it seems, to fill a void that NYRR allowed to form. Without a strong social media presence, NYRR ceded what could have been theirs: a central meeting, discussion, and promotion location for all NYC running. Steve's site remains very much a work in progress, but he seems committed to responding to the desires and interests of the NY running community. Frankly, NYCRUNS offers the potential to be a true partner for NYRR. It's not there yet, but it seems poised to grow into a robust and active community that NYRR will want to talk to in some formal way.
I appreciated Kai's perspective on information everywhere. He didn't really get the time to expand on his point, but his idea that there are really too many fitness-oriented social media platforms certainly grabbed my attention. Why dailymile and not Strands? What's the best use of Garmin Connect? To take this further—which we did not—what would it take for a dominant platform like Facebook to integrate all this functionality. Could dailymile et al simply become apps on larger platforms? Should they? The other big point here was the rise of Twitter in disseminating real time, local, and critical information to runners. From road and path conditions to potential running partners in a given location about to go running. Finally, Kai raised the idea that there is a gradual fatigue setting in from all this online "community" participation. That's a hard idea to consider in a group who elected to attend a discussion on social media and running, if only because there was nothing like a typical user or runner sitting in the room.
Kai also counseled caution about the many "experts" eager to offer advice, especially with respect to injuries. That same caution certainly should be extended to training advice, race strategy, shoe selection, and everything else we often feel qualified to discuss.
Karla led a discussion of safety that prompted murmurs of assent from a few in the crowd. I can certainly understand the desire to protect personal information and I think most organizations do as well. Fortunately, most of this technology is opt in and it's quite rare for personal information to be published without consent.
We then shifted to charity races and fundraising. Sean expressed real enthusiasm for Crowdrise and its grassroots fundraising model. In 2010, NYRR partnered with Crowdrise to raise more than $30 million during the lead up to the NYC Marathon. Impressive stuff, and I wonder what it augurs for the future of NYRR charity events. Steve and Kai discussed possible animosity between charity runners and "real" runners and while I know there's a real and perceived dichotomy there, it seems less pronounced than in the cycling world. I think this idea might be blowing up right now because of the incredible difficulty getting into premier NYRR events. I wonder if the perception is the same outside the NYC area.
In a discussion of groups and organizations using social media effectively, I was pleased that Steve singled out Inwood Hill Runners for mention. Always nice to hear props for the hometown team. Kai followed by mentioning Body Glide for their social media presence. And Sean discussed Ford's success with the Fiesta brand introduction.
The Social Runner was another chance for NYRR to present its new face to the New York running community. Sean clearly understands the point that if you keep people informed they won't react quite as harshly to even the worst news. Around this Steve, Kai, and Karla did a wonderful job fleshing out a discussion of the uses and abuses of social media. Karla deserves praise for holding the reigns at what might have become much too loose a discussion. The diversity of backgrounds and experience could easily have led to the panelists talking past each other. Fortunately, what we had instead was a thoughtful and relevant conversation about NYRR and the role of social media in the NY running community.
I ran the Gridiron Classic this morning and it was good. Today was the perfect racing day: sunny and hovering around freezing at start time. I arrived in time to do a quick warmup from Columbus Circle up to the corrals and realized the black ice could be a problem for my race plan. I saw a running friend at the start and we cruised up to the Boathouse and back to shake the legs out a bit. My first impression during the pre-race scene was the size of the crowd. There were 5700 finishers and it kind of felt like they were all packed into the blue and red corrals.
The start was slow, as always. Too many runners in too small a space and every one of us worried about black ice. With a jam-packed corral in front of me, I hardly had to keep focused on a conservative start strategy. In the first half mile, I'm pretty sure I couldn't have run any faster without stepping on someone. I guess I should be grateful to have had 1000 people pacing me up cat hill, but mostly I just felt frustrated not to be able to stretch my legs out.
Fortunately, the course condition was safer than I expected. I managed a decent stride on the inside lane relatively close to snowbank. There were some tricky patches as we took the left turn onto the 102nd street transverse, but I was able to open it up a wee bit as the pack split to run through the respective chutes that indicated fan support for either the Packers or Steelers. As I saw it, the Packers were the clear favorite. Quite an accomplishment since it meant taking the wider path through a turn. And now I think I should have just taken the inside lane....
The left turn onto West Side Drive was the last ice of any note (what's with the ice on the turns, anyway?). It was, of course, the entry into the ass-kicking west-side hills and boy did they kick mine this morning. I lost about fifteen seconds as I pushed my heavy, angry legs up and down the rollers. I was sucking wind and feeling overheated as we passed the fluid station at mile three; I removed my hat and gloves to moderate my body temperature. A half mouthful of water gave me a nice pickup through the slight downhill, but the next 800 meters or so still felt like a crawl towards the blessed end. Finish line signage always kickstarts my inner racer and I cranked it up for the final hundred meters or so to finish strong.
It feels good to know I didn't leave much out there today. I do wish I'd shaved eight seconds or so off my official time, but there can be no tears about 26:08 and I know that with a bit of work (and some course training) I'll see some improvement.
It was a BEAUTIFUL day today. Pretty much the best an NYC February day can offer. I took a cool-down lap through the park with Fernando, a fellow Inwood Hill Runner. He's a relatively new runner, I think, but he's fast and getting faster. He's also got an impressive dedication to the sport which is evidenced by his significant commitment to running through the winter. (I think NYRR should hand out some sort of swag to folks who run all the winter series events. A merit badge perhaps?) Hopefully this is the year NYRR recognizes Inwood Hill Runners and I'll have a chance to race next to IHR's diverse and dedicated squad.
I'm happy with my performance today. Happy to have run on such a mind-blowingly beautiful morning. Happy that the Brooklyn Half registration opens tomorrow and I can start focusing on SPRING.
I was slow to catch on to our absurdly cold and snowy winter. I kept thinking we'd shift back into a normal pattern after the next storm. No? Maybe the next one. With February dawning and a new slate of storms lining up to ice us in until April, I have finally given up on all that and accepted the tenacity of this assholishly cold winter.
Running through the winter is typically pretty straightforward in NY. It an average year, I can maintain a 40 - 50 mile per week winter average and still avoid the worst of the cold or precipitation. This year, the only way to approach that kind of training base is to run on days that are too cold or too wet to be enjoyable. I have a tough time talking myself into running during a storm, but I have steeled myself to running in icy or slushy conditions. For me, such running requires different gear. Gear that I've typically eschewed as unnecessary or wasteful now seems like the only possible way to get through the door and onto the road. Could be my age and skittishness about injury are catching up with me.
I wear a pretty standard outfit for anything less than 30 degrees. My favorites pants are Asics Thermopolis LT tights. Asics makes a variety of tights and pants, but the LT is the right combination of heat trapping and windblocking for me. I have tried the rather phenomenal Sugoi Storm Shelter 220 pant and Asics Storm Shelter pants, but they're each a bit too bulky for me as I really do prefer tights in winter. Plus, I don't really need truly waterproof and windproof pants even in the crummiest weather.
For upper body, I generally wear a Thermopolis LT half zip top over which I'll layer a vest. I do this to retain core heat, to increase visibility, and to add a few pockets to my get-up. On days below 20—or for chillier night runs—I switch to the Thermopolis XP half zip which I can wear as a single-layer in even the worst NYC conditions. Thermopolis gear is well constructed and should last several winter seasons if well cared for. It's also pretty ubiquitous at running and sporting goods shops and can often be found competitively priced if not discounted. This time of year can be a bonanza for finding discounted winter gear as shops move to stock up for the busy spring running season. Check out EMS or REI right now and you'll likely see some of your favorites for more than 50% off.
This is the first year I felt like I need a dedicated pair of trail shoes. After a few crummy runs through lingering slush and snow in my beloved Kayanos, I knew I wanted full Gore Tex protection. I hunted around for the two-year-old model of the Asics Gel Trabuco with Gore Tex and then found the Montrail Mountain Masochist GTX. For a trail model, this shoe is surprising light weight and flexible. The fact that it's warm and dry are sufficient for my dry-feet needs, but the strap closure system and gusseted tongue ensure a comfortable fit that is free of rocks, sticks, and ice chunks. The closest I get to trail running these days is packed ice and snow that conceals a path or road beneath, but I have found these shoes to be comfortable and responsive on both concrete and macadam. The fit is snug through the midfoot with a comfortably open toebox. While this model is listed for $115, I found mine at EMS for $55.
For extra coziness, I wear a combination of Smartwool PhD ski socks and ultra light running socks. I'll occasionally wear my lightweight Pearl Izumi cycling socks as a second layer on cold days, but I'm so hooked on my Smartwool socks that I often wash them as soon as I return from a run so that I can wear them again the next day.
I recently purchased a reflective "buff" to try to keep my jaw and cheeks warm. My jaw tends to freeze when I'm running in extreme cold and I've never really found a comfortable solution. The buff is essentially a fabric tube constructed out of a thin layer of polyester microfiber. Mine, the Speed Reflective Buff, has a Scotchlite strip for visibility. It can be worn as a hat, neck-gaiter, balaclava, headband, or helmet liner. I tend to wear it on my neck and pull it up over my face when my jaw starts to get numb. It was a great addition to today's windy run and would have been a godsend during the bone-chilling Manhattan Half a few weeks ago.
For a hat, I wear an under-helmet skullcap from my cycling days that is lightweight, windproof, and made from something sufficiently spacey that it keeps my skull feeling warm and dry on even the sweatiest runs on the coldest days. If I know it's going to be especially cold, I add an old Pearl Izumi Transfer headband underneath the skullcap to protect my ears. I'm usually sweating like mad with two layers on my head, but it's better than frozen ears and my daughter enjoys watching the steam rise from my scalp when I return.
Finally, gloves. Seems like I could write an entire chapter somewhere on gloves and mittens. I prefer an extremely lightweight glove liner for almost all cold weather running. The Terramar Thermolator II glove liner, made from a blend of microfilament polyester and spandex, is soft and sufficiently warm for all but the coldest days. If I am running in temperatures below 20 degrees, I'll switch to one of a couple of pair of winter cycling gloves I still have. They're bulky, but few things beat a cycling glove for warmth and windblocking capability.
So, that's that. Yes, it's stinking bloody cold and icy and snowy and crappy and on and on and on. So what? Let's go running.
I guess I decided to take it easy this week. I knew I'd have Sunday off after Saturday's race, but I realize I needed to give my body a bit longer to recover than I typically want to. I dislike admitting I need more rest and I hate admitting I need more strength and flexibility exercise, but of course I do. Frankly, I think my greatest need is a training partner who'll push me to stretch, roll, and strengthen.
I did my typical eight miles down the river to the Upper West Side on Monday at a feel-good 7:44 pace. Yeah, 7:44 felt great the whole time, but it was careless to go out this fast two days after the half marathon. I trade on the fact that I've never been injury prone, but I know this will catch up with me eventually. I can't overstate how devastating it would be for me to get injured; I must keep that in mind when I'm itching to push myself harder.
To that end, I am forcing more structure into my weekly routine. For me, this means discrete tempo days, speed days, long-run days, easy days, and rest days. The logic of this is plain enough, but for some reason it's hard for me to shift from "run your tail off" to "run with the goal of getting faster." I already know I can run farther than I'll ever need to, now I need to set some training targets and work methodically towards them. I know a coach would help with that, but I kind of need to tackle this stage on my own. For all the miles I run and enjoyment I get out of them, I'm still basically just playing at training. I feel like I'll know when I'm close to doing all I can on my own; I can seek out a coach when I feel like I've implemented what I've learned from former coaches and experience. For now it just means being smarter about my miles. And I'm trying. I'm trying.
It was a fun week with the Inwood Hill Runners. Tuesday is designated speed-workout night and we played a movie-guessing game as we did our pole-counting laps around the field. It was collegial and fun and certainly added to the camaraderie in the group. NYC was walloped by another damned snowstorm from Wednesday to Thursday morning and IHR's typical Thursday loop was replaced by a sledding adventure in Fort Tryon park. I banged up my tailbone pretty good yesterday playing in the snow with my daughter and her friends, so sledding felt like some kind of crazy torture on my body, but it was fun to see the group just goofing around. (Some good sledders, by the way. Maybe we should form a toboggan team. I can provide cheering support.)
My goal today is to piece together a real training calendar for the next eight weeks. My next race of significance is the Colon Cancer 15k at the end of March. I think eight weeks is sufficient to set and achieve a moderately ambitious goal. I'll wait to set that goal until I see how this week progresses, but I already kind of have my heart set on 1:04 (pretty much a seven minute pace). I think I'll know soon how realistic that will turn out to be.
I got up this morning at 5:45 without much enthusiasm. It was eight degrees with a steady ten-mile-an-hour wind and some nasty gusts. I do most of my race preparation the night before, but I still had to shower, eat, and stretch before my ride picked me up at 6:45. I've been nervous about the state of my calves and hamstrings: they get uncomfortably tight on longer runs in the frigid cold, so I spent a few extra minutes on the floor this morning with the foam roller to try to convince myself it would all be fine. My only unusual concession to the extreme weather was some Dermatone skin protectant I used to grease up my face. I think it helped prevent the sweat icicles from sticking.
The course was beautifully prepared given how cold, icy, and snowy it has been, but there were some slick patches to be careful of. The worst areas were the ice sheets that formed near the Gatorade and water tables. They were pretty treacherous by the end of the race, although I did see volunteers throwing down salt and sand. As for those volunteers who arrived at 3:30 this morning, they truly deserve extra praise; maybe they should get their +1 credit for 2012 as well.
The race corrals were civilized enough this morning although there were certainly folks jumping gates to move forward. I understand the impulse given the slow traffic at the start of the race, but I think there should be a little more effort placed on enforcement (a tough assignment for volunteers, I realize). As it was, the first few miles felt trying to move through out-of-town shoppers on a particularly crowded weekend day near Rockefeller Center.
The race started on West Drive near 63rd Street. We completed two full counterclockwise loops of the park for twelve miles and came around the south end of the park for the final 1.1 before finishing near the bandshell on the eastern side of the 72nd Street Transverse.
With the crowd to negotiate at the start, it wasn't until mile two that I had to consider how fast I was going to try to run. I still wasn't sure how my muscles would react to the extreme cold, but I settled on a mildly ambitious (but not too agressive) pace-goal of 7:20. My hamstrings were feeling tight but stable as I climbed the northern hills in the park and I was pretty sure if I didn't do anything crazy I'd be fine out there. The real-time pacing on the Garmin is pretty inexact, but I remained relatively close to my goal as I chipped away at the miles. At mile nine I was pretty sure I had enough energy to cut my moving pace to under seven for the last four miles, but I held out until the end to ensure I could finish strong and without a limp. Thought it was satisfying to pass several runners in the last hundred yards, I realize should have left more out there this morning than I did.
I can't complain about 1:35. I'm pretty pleased that I felt strong at the finish and am uninjured. I'm confident that I can put in a sub-1:30 half sometime this year on the right course and the right day.
I ran in my new Montrail Mountain Masochist GTXs yesterday. I had to find something with Gore-Tex; these were 50% off at EMS, seemed comfortable, and didn't look too goofy. With sleet/snow forecast for today and my race on Saturday approaching, I planned yesterday as my last sub-8:00 run for the week. I'll do the club run on Thursday night, but that's really just to shake out my legs out before Saturday.
Anyway, the Montrails: other than seeing their shoes at REI over the years, I don't have any background with this brand. I wore them yesterday in some deep slush and icy snow and can now attest to their grippy soles and watertightness. I feared my feet would overheat in the Gore-Tex, but it didn't seem to be an issue. Of course, it was 23 degrees and windy; I imagine these shoes will get tucked away in a month or so when winter finally starts to wane. I know, I know, those who choose to live in the Northeast are not entitled to bitch about its weather. I'll just say how glad I am to have shoes to keep my feet warm.
I didn't hit the pace I hoped for yesterday, but I came close. I've been falling off my mileage totals and pace lately, so I guess it's not a surprise that running more than eight miles each day for the last few days should affect me. It still annoys me to feel as though I really pushed it and still finish with a 7:38 average moving pace. I was confident that I was cruising sub-7:30. I guess my GPS and my internal rhythm need to be synced.
The run itself was my standard route back from Central Park and 84th street. As usual, I doglegged my way over to the greenway by taking whatever traffic light was green. It made for a south-westerly route that allowed me to enter the park at 82nd street and meet the newish pathway just before the promenade. There was a rather strong breeze coming down the Hudson (my jaw was pretty frozen when I got home), but I've put up consistent 7:28s in breeze that strong. I was flagging a bit by mile six and at mile seven my pace slowed to 8:14 as I climbed the grade towards Washington Heights.
I came off the greenway ready to be home. The Montrails were definitely a success: they gave me decent grip over the ice and snow and my feet were certainly warm. I'd gain a bit of traction with Yaktrax, but I'm not sure it would be worth losing the Gore-Tex and toastiness. Of course, I could wear both....