Monday, December 31, 2007

Here’s to 2007

I’m not one for resolutions (if you want to change yourself, go do it, you don’t have to wait until the calendar changes) and I’m not so much into year-end navel-gazing, either. I’d rather look at now and tomorrow, but whatever works for you is fine...

I think I had a pretty good year running my butt off, and from the sound of it, most of the running folks stopping and reading and surfing around and commenting did, too. I am my own worst critic, and that criticism carries over into the general population, as the title of this ole’ running blog tells you. Then again, you knew that. Anyway, many of you out there are like me and know well you’re strengths and weaknesses. And you try hard to do better, or just have fun, or both, and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But I think it usually does work out because just being out there and finishing one more damned race is enough sometimes. Especially the older you get, though try telling me that at the finish line of my next ‘hit the wall’ race.

So, I guess I can look back (didn’t I just type out something saying I don’t do that?) and be happy with what I accomplished. 19 races, including 3 marathons in the fall, a surprise PR in the 5-mile, and a lot of training just to get through all of that crap. And my running log tells me I finished 2420 miles this year; apparently, that’s a one-way trip to the outskirts of San Diego from NYC…

Now that I have a pain in my left knee, a tired right Achilles tendon, and a full-blown dread of winter training, I’ll have to start all this up again tomorrow.

And today I signed up for the Patriot Half in July and checked out my local pool facility where they are all set to get me going on the path to chlorine ingestion. The usual suspects out there got me all hopped up on their stories of brick-training and shit, and now I’ve gone and done it.

WELL. I know many of you out there have your goals for ’08 already lined up, even some of them that are real soon, so here’s to your goals and may we all meet them somehow (whether it’s a first marathon, an ironman, an ironman on the other side of the world, new races, whatever). Thanks go out to all of you who shared your joy and pain and comments over the last year, I know it helped me and I hope some of my rants and obvious observations showed you that running and pain and aggravation and failure and triumph happens to us all. Of course, it doesn’t just happen, we make it happen, so all the best to everybody out there who keep at it in ‘08.

As the annoying trust-fund anti-Christ kids in my neighorhood often scream into their cell phones, ‘like, you guys are so awesome, except when you finish some stupid race, and then you’re all gross and stuff, and I’m like, so over it…. Shut up!’

Happy ’08!

Friday, December 28, 2007

I’m Baaa-ck….

If anybody had checked this blog over the last week or two, and found nothing much going on, at least I can say that I was away from the old keypad most of the time. Last week I flew to southern VA, aka Crackerville, for a little family Yule-ishness. You know it’s C.R. writing this, not many others could come up with a dumb-ass phrase like that. But you’re welcome to try.

Anyway, I have nothing to report beyond that I got a head cold for Christmas, among other, far more rewarding things. I am just getting over it (I hope), and I’d write more about it but you’d end up reading a whiny tirade, and enough of that crap, right?

Now I’m finding myself sitting down and conversing with, well, me, about what races are coming up and damn training during winter. Which I hate, but if I map it out, it gives the illusion of being somehow official which in turn makes me feel like I know what the hell I’m doing.

Next up is the Manhattan Half Marathon at the end of January, then a few odd races probably, followed by Boston’s Heartbreak Hill on 4/21. And I am edging closer to the Patriot Half Marathon Which Includes Some Swimming and Biking, Too, on 7/5, a first for me. Before then I will at some point be discovered swimming in the Hudson River, NYC’s very own petri dish on the west side. And running over tourists in Central Park on some borrowed bike that’s been carbon-14 dated to 1986.

So pretty soon the complaints and snippy observations will begin anew. I have a feeling that ’08 Crankiness will a lot like the ’07 Crankiness, except with new features, like ‘Bike Seat Tokhes Pain Roundup’ and ‘Somebody Bitch-Slapped My Rotator Cuff’. I apologize, in advance…

P.S. Above is a picture of my niece Chelsea, in pre-nap mode, which adequately describes her entire life. If you have food, great, but if not, you’re wasting valuable time and interrupting canine REM sleep. I felt her facial expression also adequately described the after-holiday torpor that hits us all before the arrival of guilt-inducing ‘what have I done with my life this year?’ thoughts that arrive right at new year’s…

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Today’s To-Do List:

1. Watch Video.
2. Go Into Trance.
3. Become Insane.
4. Find Someone You Love, Very, Very Much.
5. Kill Them.
6. Get Dressed for 5-Mile Run.
7. Finish Run. Nice Job!

Happy Day!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Race Report: Joe Kleinerman 10K

Yesterday it was time to get out of the pre-holiday doldrums and get some layers of moisture-wicking material on, and run a little old race. And it wasn’t a marathon, thank you, Jesus. And Dude! Happy Birthday. Visa and MasterCard love you, too.

So I doled out the twenty bucks and got my bloody typical long-sleeve cotton tee-shirt for the Joe Kleinerman 10K, named after a running ‘legend’ in NYC. Race time was 9:30, and the temperature was 37 degrees. On the way to baggage check, I ran into a friend who wondered if there would be an elite corral, he hadn’t gotten the e-mail. Not being an elite runner myself, I’d never gotten one of 'those' e-mails; sounded like some kind of ‘secret society’-type of thing, along with a secret handshake that only sub-six minute mile runners know. Sure enough, he was looking to run about a 5:50. ‘Good luck with all THAT’ I thought. See you at the afterparty.

With no expectations other than low ones, I lined up with the nearly 5000 runners ready to circle Central Park once, and only once. The crowd was jammed with folks trying to meet their quota of nine races to qualify for next year’s marathon, and I wondered what the hell I was doing there among the cotton-clad novices. Oh yeah, trying to remember what it’s like to run a race under an hour. Whatever.

Off we go, blah, blah, blah, hills a-plenty, been there, done all of ‘em a million times. I pass a number of people, get passed by a few myself, and… actually feel OK. I realize I need to write a book about pacing, because I’m pacing at a machine-like 85% effort like I always do. Sometimes I feel like I’m not working hard enough, but I know I’ve got a few miles left and I’m not interested in hitting a wall during a measly 6.2 miles, that’s embarrassing. So I cool it.

And guess what? Yeah, you guessed it, all went well. In fact, I ended up with a nice finish time for me, my best 10K in years. I haven’t done speedwork or tempo runs in weeks and weeks, and here I go and pick it up in the last couple of miles, and finish respectably. A few seconds beyond 42 minutes, I’ll take it. They had hot chocolate waiting for us after the finish line water station, that was nice, too.

Well, I’ve written this before, but it’s worth repeating. Sometimes it’s just a good idea to show up for a race with low expectations, you end up surprising yourself. Even if you’re out there just to have fun, and how hard is it to achieve that? So don’t overthink, get out there, do it, and see what happens. If speed and clock-watching is your thing, fine, if only having fun on a course is your thing, then fine, too. I do a little bit of both, and it works for me. But you never really know how well it’s going to go until race day, so get your ass out there once in awhile, you may end up feeling better about yourself.

So for me, Sunday was like a very special ‘21 Jump Street’, I got to kick some ass and learn some life lessons, all in under an hour.

P.S. As for comments on my last, bleary post:

SR, you got it right, I have to get my butt in a pool, and perhaps the rest will follow. I’m currently looking at a local recreation center that has swimming instruction for dummies, which I need badly. I have been doing the stationary bike thing (though admittedly not the same as getting out on the road), and it’s been refreshing not pounding my knees and ankles into pavement for hours. Who knew? Oh yeah, triathletes.

Speaking of the dark side (Mindy), I’ll be sure to post whenever I make the dive into three-sport events, I’m still looking for ones that include running, bitching and moaning. Wait, that’s a marathon! Never mind.

And Angry, you know you’ll hang in there and be fine, so I won’t say it again. Just finish the damn race, that’s the best goal you can make for yourself at this point. Go to Epcot and point and laugh at everybody after it’s all over. Or go to faux-France and get a greasy croissant served up by surly French exchange students and yes, most of them are ‘pretty gals’.

S-Shine, thanks for commiserating, you know it’s true…

Bob-O, good luck in academia, I have no advice to offer there. I was busy with pseudo-allnighters way back when, cramming economic theory and international relations into my head, albeit temporarily. I think I’d rather run a marathon and get a root canal at the mile 22 marker than go through that again.

And finally, anybody out there facing the usual challenges we all encounter in the last month of the year… well, best of luck. It’ll be over soon!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


I haven’t had much energy to post or discuss anything running-related over the last week or so, and haven’t even looked much at other folks’ blogs (sorry). It’s that time of the year for me when most of the races are over and I begin to consider and plan for winter and early spring crap that I don’t even want to think about right now. So I’m avoiding all that, and feeling vaguely guilty for not mapping out training for the next few months.

It got damned cold here, and it even snowed almost two inches in the park on Sunday, so that didn’t do much for the daily dedication, either. No, I won’t whine about the weather, it’s just the time of the year when freezing temperatures and annoying yuletide cheer slap you upside the head, and there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.

So I’m still running, but along with it comes the ‘here we go again with this crap’ feeling I get at the end of every year (and returning in February); guess I’ll just slog through it. At least I don’t have a marathon a month away like Angry. Head on over there and let him know he’s only a couple of weeks away from tapering, that should lift his spirits… Otherwise, I’ll post something soon that will try to lift mine and anyone else’s, for that matter. ‘Til then, stay warm…

Monday, November 26, 2007

No Wetsuit in Central Park

… not because there was a triathlon, but because No Wetsuit Girl hit NYC over the weekend. And coming off of her fine performance in that Thanksgiving Day race in Salem and sporting a fresh technical shirt for all the trouble, she managed a nice Central Park five miles on a crisp Saturday morning.

Meeting between the Apple Store on 59th and 5th and The Plaza Hotel, we made our way into the park, which was quieter than usual. It was under 30 degrees out there, and before I could make the comment that there were goofy runners wearing shorts out there, she beat me to it. I knew it was her, right then and there.

Well, the hills aren’t always easy, but I, Cranky talked and talked while we ran over all those nasty little inclines. Later, C. & C. got to hang with the Saturday morning Front Runners over coffee as the running club discussed recent race performances, which is SO ten minutes ago. And got to see Tim-the-runner-who-just-ran-a-60K-because-he’s-crazy, too.

So thank you, Femme Sans Wetsuit, for joining me on a fine run in the park and letting me play tourguide, and yap the whole time. If I do indeed sign up for that Patriot Triathlon in July (I guess that’s a newsflash that I actually just used the T-word), you’ll know, and you'll be partly responsible for another one of my insane life decisions. But we are ALL enablers, and that’s NOT a newsflash.

I hope you had a good time in the city. Come on back whenever you’re ready, and that goes for anybody else out there who’d like to run circles in the park and listen to me describe the frickin’ hills ahead…

- R.

P.S. Good luck with the move, so to speak, see you at the new digs tomorrow…

Friday, November 23, 2007

iPod Friday 22

Somehow I tripped over this rock band or something called ‘Baconflex’. They’re from Denmark, and of course, they have the obligatory MySpace page if you want to check them out, but they have this tune that’s all glam-rock synthpop, and called ‘Don’t Stop Running’. You could fill your hard drive up with tunes about or containing the word ‘run’ in it, but this one has lyrics that scream ‘ultramarathon’. Maybe it’s me, but all I hear is a fun little song about running for hours and hours. Oh well, you decide…

Baconflex – Don’t Stop Running

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Race Report: Knickerbocker 60K

I ended my last post discussing race performance, disappointment, and understanding how lucky we are just to be able to even be part of a race. With all that in mind, this week I registered for the annual November 60k in Central Park.

Yes, it’s somewhat insane to run a marathon and then turn around and run even more, but my insanity has become a tradition. I’ve done this the last two years and come out alive despite risking high mileage burnout. If you’re going to run an ultramarathon, you better like running an awful lot, and like being a glutton for more punishment than most races have to offer. And as ultramarathoners know, it’s a different kind of race, different than even a marathon. In some ways an ultra can be a better experience.

So after taking a little longer than normal to get over the NYC Marathon, I waited until mid-week to decide whether or not to go for the 60K. It’s usually held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, but this year it was moved up a week, so I had only two weeks to get over the last race, not three like the last few years. Long story short, I went for it despite concerns over my leg cramps in the marathon, and decided that I could just go out and try to run the distance on the assumption that I could drop out if things got really scary (such as an injury). Of course, anyone who knows me also knows I don’t normally enter races and not finish, but I won’t bore you with my personal mind games, I’ll just ignore them, right? Do the best I can and still kick myself when it goes south seems to be the norm, but this time the norm will not be in the program.

The 60K course is on the asphalt drives of Central Park. Starting on the east side, it runs north for a 1.4-mile loop followed by the central 4-mile loop of the park. And then… eight more of them. You try not to think about how the kilometers translate to miles, but I’ll tell you it’s 37.2 miles. Ultramarathons generally start off at 50K (a bit more than 31 miles) and move up in some sort of crazy round numbers from there. So this is one of the shorter distances, and with nine mind-bending loops in the park, I was happy it wasn’t any longer.

After I was reasonably sure I would be participating (if that’s what it’s called), I had written running pal Susie with an invitation to run or cheer us on, and she would indeed show up on the first lap. I also wrote another running friend, Tim, and let him know if he wanted to join me on a lap or two and watch me drift into an entertaining and amusing physical breakdown, he was welcome. He said ‘sure’ (he had just finished his first marathon in NYC two weeks before), and we decided to meet Saturday morning for a festival of masochism.

I couldn’t sleep much on Friday night, so I went in with only a few hours of sleep. However, I had slept just fine two nights before, and they say that counts most, so I decided not to worry. Saturday morning I went to get my t-shirt and number; I live two blocks from the start, and you can’t beat that commute, especially post-race.

After finding Tim, we joined the hundred or so runners at the start. It was definitely a low-key affair, the race organizer had to shout instructions over early-morning traffic. Since the marathon had been anything but low-key, it was refreshing to be part of a race that wasn’t such a big deal. I don’t mind huge, adoring crowds, but it takes the pressure off when two million people aren’t watching you and screaming at you and expecting you to ‘do it’ for several hours. Then again, there were no real spectators on the course except other recreational runners giving us funny looks as we passed by. So off we went at 8:30. For a few hours….

Susie was cheering at mile 2.5, and provided the best laugh of the day. As a large group of racers (which in this case means about eight folks wearing a bib) passed by, she yelled out a heartfelt ‘you’re almost there!’, one of our favorite spectator comments. She got a nice response from the crowd, and that’s when you’re reminded that ultra racers seem to have a better, relaxed sense of humor than many runners do. They’re not obsessed with finish times or being overly competitive, or anything much beyond being part of the journey. And they compensate for the lack of crowd support by offering their own encouragement to fellow runners. At one point, I was lapped by one of the faster runners who still managed to be genuinely encouraging as he passed by. You don’t get that in a shorter race, that’s for sure.

So Tim and I begin the laps, one after another, hoping to run each at a bit over a half hour. It’s a lot easier to break a course into half-hour-plus chunks, so I remind him to do just that. The sun is out, but it’s a bit colder than normal (below forty degrees), so heat is not an issue. The laps start to tick off, but knowing there are plenty of them left is not always easy.

And Tim sticks with me, I fully expected him to peel off after a few laps, but his strong pace keeps me going, and I keep him going by talking him through hills and being mildly positive about what lays ahead. I suggest we break the run into three sets of three laps to make it slightly easier to wrap our heads around the distance.

Somehow it all seems to work. We have two water stations, two miles apart, and each water station becomes a goal in itself, and we reward ourselves with a brief stretch and break every so often. It works, because I feel slightly better after each walking stop. Of course, the legs start to get stiff about the halfway mark, but not like they did in the marathon two weeks ago. I suck it up, while Tim and I manage to keep each other’s mind off of the fatigue by chatting every so often.

And on the last couple of laps I realize I’m not substantially slowing down despite the leg pain. Tim is feeling the pain, too, but he’s a trooper, and I also realize that he may very well finish the distance, his first. Wow.

We pass people walking, but the crowd is very thin, and seeing people with numbers becomes even less frequent. But we’re on the last lap, and there’s nothing stopping us. An older guy not in the race starts running with us and chatting and asking lots of questions, which gets our mind off of the final few miles… and I just keep the slightly slower pace going and make it to the last water station for a final ‘victory walk’. As I finish the last two miles, I realize I’m doing a PR. Tim’s strong pace in the first half and my ability to keep a reasonable pace in the second has lopped off about 20 or 30 minutes from my last 60K time a year ago, and I finish at about 5:35. What a different experience from two weeks ago. See? Sometimes you just show up for a race and do it and end up finishing well anyway. Of course, my relatively high-mileage year has something to do with it, but I’m not complaining.

Not that I wasn’t finishing with some pain and discomfort, but it sure was nice to cross a finish line feeling positive and reasonably happy. And of course, I’m happy to be done with those damn laps. Three minutes later, Tim comes across the finish time, and I know we’ve done it. It’s a few minutes after 2PM and we’ve been running since 8:30. We’re REAL happy it’s done and finished.

We go to the New York Road Runners offices to pick up our finishers’ plaques (if I’m going to run 37 miles I better get a frickin’ trophy or plaque), and for a little post-race food. What a day. My fifth ultra, Tim’s first, and we do fine.

So, boys and girls, thus ended my fall marathon season. And for me, on a high note. Not just because you’d have to be high to run three marathons in six weeks, but because I managed to do it all and end well. As I’m typing this I’m feeling some mild knee and glute and quad pain, but if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be alive.

The stats go like this: 5 races (2 marathons, a half, a 5-miler and an ultra) in six weeks, along with a couple of long training runs that I probably shouldn’t have done. 107.7 miles of races. I’m going to take it easy, if you can believe it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The NYC Marathon: What Went Wrong and Why, and Getting the Hell Over It.

I apologize that my last post was a bit long, but I thought you folks who know all about self-induced pain and suffering might feel better being reminded it’s universal. As Michael Stipe once said, ‘Everybody Hurts’. It sure would be funny if someday they played that tune at a Mile 25 marathon marker.

So I got all cranky about my marathon experience. I realize that I had expectations that were rather high, but this year I’ve managed to meet a few of them from time to time, and why not on a crisp fall day? So rather than write long, exhausting paragraphs about me, me, me and how I sucked, sucked, sucked, I’ll tell you in inter-office memo businessese:

Why my performance and finish time sucked in the NYC Marathon:

- I ran on hills that kicked my ass, hills I didn’t plan for but knew well despite previous experience.

- I didn’t carbo-load and hydrate as much as I should have during the days before the race.

- I had finished several speedy, shorter races over the summer that gave me over-confidence.

- I ran and survived the now-infamous ’07 Chicago Marathon with a 3:30 finish time, and thought I could do better in ‘good’ weather. And by doing better, I mean 10-15 minutes faster because it wasn’t 87 degrees in NYC. Is that too much to ask?

- I trained hard in the three months leading up to NYC, harder than ever.

Why I should get THE HELL over it:

- I ran Chicago four weeks before, f’Chrissakes!

- I NEVER finish NYC fast. It’s not a PR course.

- I didn’t take a break in the four weeks between the two marathons. I just rewound my training schedule to ‘four weeks out’ and re-started the tempo runs and long runs like I’d never come near Chicago. I had only two days off from running the entire month between marathons.

- I kept at my weight training workouts without taking any sort of break, either.

- Finishing in 3:35? What the hell is wrong with that? Get over yourself!

- And I’ll say it again, I already ran a marathon the month before!

So now I’m indeed pretty much over it. I ran NYC about five minutes slower than Chicago with all the heat, and in the end my legs had had enough of all the shit I was making them go through. I tried, as has been said by another scholar of the streets, to ‘Superman That Ho’. Like anyone else, my legs don’t like hearing the H word, so they waited until Mile 22 to turn on their Running Pimp. Yes, I’ve reduced myself to a Running Pimp.

I must be feeling better, because now I’m fantasizing about a whole line of running outfits based on pimp and ho archetypes. Running pal Mindy and I once jokingly discussed getting a ‘marathong’ in a race goody bag, so that would certainly fit, uh… nicely.

So what’s next? Well, some of us are truly insane, and by us I mean me. I am seriously contemplating showing up (and there’s really no better way to describe it) for this. If it happens, or doesn’t, who cares, I tried, right? That’s what I should always remember after every race. Learn this, my friends: disappointment may come your way, but in the end… you have to get over yourself. We’re all damn lucky to just be able to show up…

- Cranky

P.S. On behalf of all the folks who were out there running the NYC Marathon, I’d like to thank Mr. Lance Armstrong and Ms. Katie Holmes Cruise for not shoving their faces in front of cameras, hogging the limelight and generally making spectacles of themselves before the race. Lance did that last year and paid the price for all his hubris and lack of training. This year was a different story, and I’m happy that he ran much better this time around without creating a media circus. Long training runs help, too, don’t they, Lance?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Race Report: New York City Marathon

I haven’t written or posted much over the last week. For days after the marathon, I would wake up every morning re-living the race, for better or more likely, for worse. I can’t admit to obsessing about it, but it was on my mind so much I didn’t really feel like writing about it. I guess I’m over it.

Hmmm. This will probably be a long one.

The weather was pretty nice on race day, though it always seems a little colder than I’d like it; everybody else called it ‘perfect’. Which means I’m in the minority by liking warmer races, but that sometimes works to my advantage. Anyway, the sky was clear, there were a few breezes, and the temperatures ranged from the upper 40s through the mid-50s.

We had been warned well in advance that the primary transportation to the start would be delayed by construction on the lower level to the Verrazano Bridge. The organizers ‘strongly suggested’ that we find alternate transportation, more specifically the Staten Island Ferry. Every year, most runners go to midtown and the New York Public Library to catch one of the dozens and dozens of chartered buses available between 4:30 and 7AM. The buses drive through Manhattan, Brooklyn, and across the Verrazano to Staten Island, and the trip typically takes a half hour or so; they leave extra early to get the estimated 30,000 Manhattan-based runners to the 10:10AM start on time. With the construction on the bridge, everybody was heading to the ferry, but I decided to get to midtown early and take my chances with the buses. Plus we all pre-paid a non-refundable $20 for the bus ticket when we registered, and although I can handle losing twenty bucks, it’s annoying that the organizers ask you to pay in advance for transportation they can’t guarantee and later advise you not to use.

So of course, I get up at 4AM (which is easier than normal since we gained an extra hour at the end of DST that night), out the door at 4:45, on the subway and at Grand Central by 5:10. And immediately on a bus. Warmly-padded, cozy, big-ass, tourist-on-the-way-to-see-‘Mamma-Mia’ type bus. I could’ve stayed there all day. Then a nice, quiet ride across the boroughs despite the loud, nervously chattering ladies sitting behind me. Of course, the bridge construction was one lane that barely caused a ripple in traffic, and we arrive by 6. Yes, that’s four hours of waiting (and camping) in Fort Wadsworth, and even with the end of Daylight Savings Time only 4 hours ago, it’s still dark out.

Ft. Wadsworth is a big, flat, fenced-in space with one and two-story military-style buildings dotted around it, and it sits right at the toll booth entrance to the Verrazano Bridge. The race organizers have used it as long as anyone can remember, and it gets the Staten Island portion of the day over and done with while everyone sits there or stands in bathroom lines for hours before the start. It’s usually chilly, and no matter how warmly you dress, you still end up getting cold because you’re not moving around much. But there’s lots of coffee and water and bagels, and they all that makes you end up in the port-at-johns, which sure is one way to kill time.

So I find a spot near my Blue Corral bag drop-off area, and I sit with my back against a street sign, watching enough Europeans to fill an airport, walk by. When they say that the NYC Marathon is international, they’re not lying. Out of the 40,000 that got in, nearly 21,000 are from outside the U.S., and most of those are from The Continent. So you hear French and Italian and Kazak all day, and you’d swear Borat himself was standing behind you, all ready for ‘high-five’. Which brings me to another little issue that bugs me, and sorry in advance if this is a bit non-PC.

Many Europeans have no sense of personal space. I didn’t say ‘all Europeans’, so give me a break, but I have to say when I’m in a race, or even in line somewhere where there are lots of my cousins from the Old World, there’s an in-your-faceness about it that can get a little too close for comfort. You can say that Americans have issues about not being too touchy-feely, or needing a personal space around them (because we have tons of space here that allows for that), and perhaps you’d be right. Myself included. But there’s a type of blissfully ignorant euro-pushiness and aggressiveness that I experience at some races, and I can see it coming from miles, or make that kilometers, away.

Case in point: I’ve run the Paris Marathon a few times, and every time I’m on the receiving end of more than the normal quota of elbowing and pushing. The start of the race is on the Champs Elysée, a six-lane avenue that’s converted into a crowded mass of sardines facing southeast into the center of town. There are no corrals, and it’s first-come, first-jammed into the crowd. First time I was there, I found myself being happily pushed by French guys who wanted me to move forward. Problem was, we were packed like Vienna sausages in a can, and there was nowhere to go since everyone was packed in for hundreds of feet ahead of us, too. Didn’t stop monsieur behind me from taking his entire forearm and pushing me to move up the only two inches of space available. I turned to give him a ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ look, and he barely responded with that patented French look that lies somewhere between distraction and personal misery. I realized then it wasn’t personal, he was just raging against the injustice of the tyranny of ‘the people’ trampling on his freedom, because, well, that’s part of his culture. This happened again and again, and continues to this day as I feel a French or Italian runner attempt to push me out of the way in search of greater glory. You can’t fight it any more than you can ask Americans to stop driving SUVs.

With this cultural awareness present in my mind, I continued to sit while trying to not shiver, waiting while the minutes ticked by, watching French and Italians bumping into me without a hint of self-awareness that they were walking over me. A nice-looking elderly Dutch couple decided to stake claim to the three square feet directly beside me on the grass, and after sitting, proceeded to converse as if I wasn’t there. Oh, I was there, I was about four inches away, but they didn’t seem to care, so why should I? So with my head (and ears) placed exactly between theirs, they discussed the day and everything else as if I were completely invisible. Again, no rudeness intended, just obliviousness.

After the unscheduled Dutch lesson, I was off to port-a-john visit #4, and then off to check my bag at the Blue Corral UPS trucks parked nearby. Unhappily, it was more like thunderdome; after reconfiguring the waiting area this year, the organizers had in their infinite wisdom created only one way in and one way out for the 20,000 or so runners checking blue or orange-marked bags, it was a fifteen-foot wide entrance for all traffic. The result was the worst logjam I’ve ever experienced before or during a race, thousands of runners unable to move in or out. It would take five minutes just to move five feet, and your UPS truck was waaaaaaay over there, if that was indeed the one you had to use (each runner had to go to a specific, numbered truck). So that ‘I’m not going to make it to the start on time’ sinking feeling starts to take over, even with an hour to go before the starting gun. I finally figure out that my own truck is about ten feet away and push myself (who’s being pushy now?) to freedom. I’m still amazed I made it out with under forty minutes to line up. But I know a lot of people were having nervous fits during that bag drop-off traffic jam, and I don’t blame them.

I line up in the Blues (how appropriate), and actually make it up a little further in the numbers because I’m planning to run with, and wearing a bib that says I’m with, the 3:15 pace group. No, I hadn’t lost my mind. I ran with the 3:20 pace group in Chicago before Dante’s inferno kicked in, and I’d been training to run a 3:10-3:20 most of the summer. Fast for me, and for some, I know, but I can try. Especially after running a 1:30 half a couple of months ago. Plus it’s my eighth NYC Marathon, and I know what’s ahead. No surprises for me on this course.

We head off onto the bridge for the final line-up, and I meet a guy from San Francisco running his first NYC. He’s really excited, and I can’t help but tell him about all the great neighborhoods ahead, and when to hold back and where the hills are. He has a map (!), and after I tell him that the Queensboro Bridge comes out on 59th St, and that by mile 25 you’ve returned to 59th St., he jokingly suggests we just keep going on 59th St. once we get off the bridge and get rid of those nasty miles 16-25. Later on, that would sound like a great idea.

So then President Mary W. from the NY Road Runners speaks and requests a moment of silence for Ryan Shay, putting things in perspective for at least a little while. After a Mariah Carey-influenced version of The National Anthem from 90s popstar Tevin Campbell, the cannon goes off, followed by the Sinatra recording of ‘New York, New York’. OK, I get it, it’s a classic, and nothing else will do, but it sure would be refreshing to hear one of those other oldie New York tunes instead (Grandmaster Flash, Nina Hagen, the Rolling Stones ‘Shattered’, for example).

Into the fray we go. The blue corral is lucky enough to be running on the top level of the bridge, so we get the best view. On our far, far left is lower Manhattan, and it looks like it’s ten miles away; maybe it is, but I learned long ago not to look into that light. ‘We’re running all the way to THAT?’ is about all you can think of while going uphill on the Verrazano.

Arriving in Brooklyn, the street party begins, and it’s vaguely insane. Residents have come out with signs, food, costumes, boomboxes, anything to celebrate with us as we move forward with the French and Italians and Kazaks. It’s so international you wouldn’t be surprised to see Klingons running. I won’t go into too much detail about the course itself, I certainly discussed it a previous post, but I’ll just say the New York City Marathon gets more ‘New York City Marathon-y’ every year. Make of that what you will.

So the minutes and the miles tick by slowly, and no sign of the pace team, they’d taken off like bats out of Hell’s Kitchen at the start. So I’m wearing my cheap orange-lensed sunglasses they handed out at the expo, and I don’t care, because everything looks kind of bright and happy like I’m on some gel-induced acid trip. My brain is saying: ‘Man, this shit is GOOD, where’d you get this shit, man? Shit’s good, man.’ Or something like that.

And before I know it, I catch up to the 3:15 pace team at mile 8, less than an hour into the race. There are about 20 runners in the pack, staying slightly under a 7:30 mile per minute pace like good boys and girls. I keep running with them, then I lose them again at a water station near the halfway mark. A mile or so later, I’m onto the Queensboro Bridge and still feeling, well, OK. I pass the 15 mile marker comfortably under two hours, and I’m ready for my close-up in Manhattan.

And I when I arrive on 1st Avenue, I find all the other runners are clinging to the left side of the course while thousands of spectators on the right are straining to see who’s coming through. My inner, European ham shoves his way through and lunges over to the empty center of the course, and I’m smiling and prancing and sharing stores of unknown carb-fueled love to all the spectators. In hindsight, it really was an embarrassing spectacle of self-promotion, but I gotta say too, when the crowd loves you, they let you know it. And I’m soaking it up like the running whore I am.

I rein it in after the hubris subsides, and make my way up 1st Avenue, all alone on the right hand side except for the adoring crowds. I knew it wouldn’t last, and I was depressingly correct. As I reached miles 17 and 18 I began to feel the fatigue, and experienced the creeping sensation of the 3:15 pace buffalo passing me. I knew the ‘digging deep’ portion of the day was coming up along with the Bronx. That’s OK, I’d already figured I could run the second half about ten minutes slower than the first and I’d still be happy.

Passing into the 20-mile markers I felt a bit more tired, but not horribly so. Just that ‘here we go again’ feeling that many of you out there know so well.

And then sometime after mile 22, my inner quad muscles turned to granite. Both of them. I couldn’t tell if it was an actual injury. But they forced me to stop at a water station and rub or even pound them; it started to look a lot more like my hands were defibrillators and I was yelling ‘clear’ before jump-starting. So there’s Mr. Look-at-Me, bent over slightly, trying to revive my upper thigh muscles while hundreds of runners pass by. And medical personnel hovering over, checking and suggesting I hit that station’s medical tent. More than once I replied that ‘I’m not that sick, I just need to get my quads back to normal’, and would continue to run in pain. Until the next water station/medical tent, where the routine would start all over. I was not happy.

And then there was that damn hill on Fifth Avenue. Even a cop asked me if I was OK, and I had to reply yes, because just by slowing down my fatigue began to subside, it was just my frickin’ quads (don’t worry, I’ll use ‘fuck’ later).

Into the park, finally. Mile 24 water station is up ahead, and I know people there. I finally hobble up and start telling anyone who’ll listen why I’m so slow and why my finish time is going to be embarrassing. Someone should’ve slapped me, it would’ve taken my mind off of my quads at least. And there I pull over, and rub and hit my legs and scream up to the sky like that scene in The Shawshank Redemption’. And then I continue on just as a passing Italian runner pushes me.

It’s a downhill from there, and my usual pre-finish smiles have given way to frowns and steely determination. I make it another five minutes and stop to let another hundred runners fly by. I’m finally on 59th St. and halfway to Columbus Circle with less than a mile to go and I see a medical tent on the right and pull over like a fucking Nascar driver (see? I told you) with a flat tire. Slightly-bored looking young ladies are the medical personnel, and they’re concerned and peppering me with questions. I’m ready for them to adopt me, but until then, I explain the situation and one of them decides the best thing I can do with less than a mile to go is drink some Gatorade. I say ‘fine’, and Sister Christian whips out the biggest big-ass gallon bottle of unopened red punch Gatorade anyone laid eyes on. This thing is so big that Sam’s Club wouldn’t stock it for fear of breaking the forklift. I let out an ear-splitting ‘HOLY SHIT!’ and the crowd erupts in laughter. In pain, pissed off, and looking like crap on a ritz, I still have them rolling in the aisles. I guess I can make it.

And you know I did. I didn’t stop, though I wanted to, dearly. I crossed the finish line a full twenty minutes later than my pace had predicted, my legs had just had it with me and all my ego/superego head games. They’re still pissed off, though we’ve started speaking since.

I shuffle to get my medal (Volunteer: ‘Congratulations! You did it’; Me: ‘S-T-F-U’). After you cross the finish line, they have us walk up the drives in Central Park to the UPS trucks parked one after another. There are 73 trucks. My stuff is in Truck 71. You guessed it, the first one is ‘Truck #1’.

I’m looking sad and dejected, head bent over, ‘life sucks, I suck, life sucks, I suck…’ is my mantra, and I’m clutching my mylar (security) blanket just like everybody else. I’m still getting pushed from behind by my European brothers, but I don’t care. Medical personnel are still asking me if I’m OK, and I say yes, I am, there are people out there probably worse off than I am right now. Until I encounter a hill midway through my walk, when a young lady asks me if I’d like some help walking a bit. After an intentional double-take, I find myself saying yes, and she’s got her arm around me and helping me walk up the hill. I know I could’ve done it without her, but she asked, and I think I just wanted to talk to somebody or anybody who would understand. And she listened as I told her how mean my legs had been today.

To make a long story longer, I finally got my bag after the 20-minute shuffle north and quickly discovered that it was very stupid to pack running tights instead of loose sweat pants. Yet another medical person watched me writhe on the ground as I slowly pulled the tights up over my evil legs. The caring medical person tried to stop me from scaring small children, but I was already cold and ready for another layer. I wanted to get the hell home.

Caught the bus, got a seat, and was home soon. All I could think was ‘today sucked!’, but my legs still hurt and that kept my mind off of the experience. Of course, I felt better later, but it was days before I was even close to normal, taking a lot longer than the last marathon. Wait, that was four weeks ago…

Next up: What Went Wrong With Brother Cranky. And Why He Should Get The Hell Over It.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New York City Marathon: The Course

Before I get into some unjustifiably testy post/discussion about how last Sunday went, or more accurately, didn’t, I’ll let you know a little about what this race is all about. It’s really more of an event than a race, but who knows, someday you may want to join nearly forty thousand people running this crazy, well, event. And a little course knowledge can help you decide if you want to make the trip to old NYC for a little afternoon pain and dehydration. Is it worth it? I think so, but it’s not for rabbits desperate for a PR. As the local cliché goes, and yes, it's embarrasing to type, fuhgeddaboutit.

OK, one of the goals of the marathon here is to get you to race throughout the five boroughs (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Manhattan, in that order). So you start off for a few minutes in Staten Island and head across the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn. The steepest hill on the course is the incline up to the top of the bridge, but you never really notice it because the crowds slow you down and it’s too early to really feel a hill anyway.

Runners are divided into three corrals and are directed onto either the top part of the bridge, which is more scenic, or the bottom level, which is somewhat less so. And oddly dangerous, because men on the top section stop to relieve themselves over the side of the bridge once the race gets going, and the resulting rainfall from above makes for panicked mayhem below. Imagine lots of runners near the sides of the lower level seeing windborne drops of mystery liquid heading towards them. Getting wet this way is not a pleasant way to start off your race, so most runners run in and away from the sides to avoid unplanned golden showers.

After a mile and a half you’re in Brooklyn, and you’re there for quite a while. The crowd support is unbelievable, and you see quaint ethnic neighborhoods that just fly by, one after another. From Hispanic to Hasidic, Brooklyn has it all. And 4th Avenue is the main drag of the race, it goes on and on in the direction of Manhattan for miles. It’s flat and wonderful and filled with rock bands, DJs, gospel choirs and everyone and evrything else you can shoehorn into one gigantic twelve-mile street party.

So your eardrums take a brief rest leaving Brooklyn, and you take a small bridge into Queens and Long Island City. At this point, it’s halfway, and like most folks, you’re starting to feel it. After a few minutes of hearing the self-evident ‘Welcome to Queens!’ you’re zigzagging through warehouse terrain towards the first big hill of the second half, the Queensboro/59th St Bridge. With no crowd support on the lower level, you find yourself running in dim light and on a somewhat steep uphill past mile 16. The bridge goes on for a mile and a half, it seems to never end… until you start to hear something, and that something is the roar of midtown Manhattanites waiting for you. They say that 2 million people show up to cheer on the marathoners, and suddenly it feels like at least 1 million of that is waiting at the bottom of the bridge and 1st Avenue. It’s the cinematic marathon lump-in-your-throat moment of your marathon life, and nothing can compare to seeing thousands and thousands of people, ten deep behind baricades, cheering like they’ve lost their goddamn minds.

And 1st Avenue opens up to six lanes wide, and you can see three miles straight ahead of you. Like Nebraska, but with asphalt and concrete and skyscrapers… Well, maybe Nebraska isn’t a good analogy, let’s just say it’s cavernous, and with an incredible number of people facing you. Making your way north through the Upper East Side, the avenue rolls a bit, and miles 17 and 18 and 19 tick off, but a lot slowly than before. So you head through the 60s, the 70s, 80s and 90s until you start to hit Spanish Harlem around 96th St. and not much later, Harlem. It looks better than ever, though the crowds get a little sparser the farther you get from midtown.

After a tiresome uphill across the Willis Avenue Bridge you’re in the Bronx, wending your way around blocks of low buildings and brownstones for about a mile or so before crossing back into Manhattan in the 130s. It’s a U-turn, and now you’re heading directly south back through Harlem. It’s Fifth Avenue, and it’s miles 21 and 22, and if you’re going to start struggling today, now’s the time.

The crowds are still there to cheer you on as you sidestep Marcus Garvey Park in the middle of the road and continue on towards Central Park a mile ahead. The early November sun is shining directly in your face now, and if it’s warmer than usual, it’s not a good thing, but the park trees are coming up soon to provide shelter. But wait… it’s getting harder as you pass the northeast corner of Central Park. You already know you’re getting tired, it’s mile 23 after all, but… it’s… A Hill, and it’s the second really unpleasant incline of the afternoon. It goes on gradually for what seems like an eternity; you begin to look for street signs, they’re getting lower… 104th St., 103rd St., 102nd St., and it never seems to get better. All you see are upper east siders cheering you on both sides of Fifth Avenue (narrowed to two lanes now) and row after row of hanging traffic lights ahead, taunting green one minute, red the next.

Finally, finally, the hill gradually flattens as you descend into the mid-90s, and then before you can actually have time to enjoy a flat Fifth, you’re swept right into the park. Where thousands and thousands, now five or six deep behind barricades are cheering you on, NYPD cops, bunched in twos, watching you go by. Mile 24 and a water station are around the bend (thank God) before you head down Cat Hill (thank God, again) towards the bottom of the park. The hills start to roll, though some are heading down, and it’s now when most runners are digging deep.

After a short trip to the southeastern corner (Grand Army Plaza, where you find the Plaza Hotel, the Apple Store Cube, FAO Schwartz, etc.), it’s a quick right turn along 59th Street/Central Park South. You’ve already passed the ‘1 Mile To Go’ marker, and the running effort and crowd support is getting vaguely hysterical. Heading directly west, you pass by Columbus Circle back into the park, and you see ‘800 Meters to Go’. Sheer willpower and concentration pushes everyone forward as one huge mass of runners moves forward up one final, damn hill. At last, the finish line is there, and there’s no stopping now, and the crowd is so nuts it won’t let you stop even if you wanted to. By that point, 300 runners a minute are crossing the finish line., and it’s just impossible to not be swept away by the tide through the huge FINISH arch and the beeping chip mats.

(P.S. This morning I saw on the news the last person to make it across the finish line, a lady with MS who was walking to raise awareness about her disease. Though it took her 28 hours to complete the course, it took me about 1 second after I saw her to know she was my favorite runner out there… She and Paula Radclifffe really should meet for lunch to swap race stories…

Monday, November 5, 2007

NYC Marathon Weekend: Saturday

More pictures from the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials/Men’s Marathon…

5-minute mile 'blurs' at about mile 5.

You need a really fast shutter speed on the old camera to even think about catching up with these guys. Or maybe a car.

Ryan Hall and pals after running up Harlem Hill for the first of five times. I get tired just looking at this image, much less running up Harlem Hill once.

Khalid Khannouchi, behind the pack at the front, but still kicking it ‘like he just don’t care’. Eventually, he came in fourth, just missing the chance to qualify for the U.S. men’s Olympic team. I hate when that happens.

As close as I could get to the finish line. Everybody’s watching winner Ryan Hall coming through up ahead…

Meb Keflezhigi at chip removal after finishing, certainly looking better than I do after a marathon, or anything else, for that matter.

Jumbotron action at the finish line, everybody’s watching TV instead of watching runners. Welcome to the U. S. of A.!

So after checking the final results, about 34 of the approximately 140 entrants ‘DNF’ed. That includes speedy folks like Alan Culpepper. On some marathon days it’s not happening, and it must’ve been tough to work hard and train and go out there and still have to drop out. But it makes me feel better about my own races that turn bad, and that it can happen to anyone, even to guys far faster than I’ll ever be.

New York City Marathon

Yesterday I ran the marathon here in NYC, and managed to finish yet another 26.2 miles of awful-tasting gels, elbowing Europeans, sneaky hills, and wonderful crowds. I survived, but finished in a disappointing time for me. I’ll write much more later, but I just wanted to confirm in case there was any doubt out there that I’m a little nuts for running two marathons four weeks apart. I’ve done it before, but I’m starting to think I’m too old for this crap. Especially after my bad experience in the last 4 miles yesterday, when my quads joined the Hollywood writers and went on strike for the duration. There’s nothing like standing on the side of a marathon course and pounding the front of your legs to stop the pain while surrounded by medical personnel. Well, maybe there is, but I don’t want to know what that is.

As I said, I’ll write lots more later once I get the plastic, sickly-sweet taste of strawberry/banana Power Gel out of my mouth.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Men’s Olympic Trials in Central Park

It was cold out there, but I got to see much of it. I’ll probably post more photos later.

When I first got out there, I stood right between mile 5 and 6, across from a water station at The Loeb Boathouse. I saw some of the fastest men in the country go by. After a handful went past, I noticed one fall down by the water station and get back up. Like the rest, he was a blur in my camera. I didn’t gawk, I knew it was embarrassing for a runner to slip; I just went on my way after most of the runners passed by, and didn’t notice anyone leaving the course.

I hope it wasn’t Ryan Shay. Ryan died today while running in this race, at mile 5.5. 28 years old. Goddamn it.

I took a photo of some of the runners (above), and the guy who fell is the ‘blur’ by the water station. I guess it doesn’t really matter whether that’s Ryan or not, it just makes you feel so incredibly sad that this can happen during something we all do, and love, every day.

It’s indeed a sad day for Ryan’s family, friends, New York, and the running community.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Everyday is Halloween

…on the New York City subway. I’m on it enough, I know.

And today is the day parents show off the little monsters so they can all go insane with late-night sugar attacks. If their children are anything like some of the trust fund kids in my neighborhood, it is indeed a frightening day.

Ministry – Everyday is Halloween

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tonight: NOVA Marathon Challenge

If you’ve got the time to watch TV tonight, NOVA (PBS, 8PM DST, and re-run ‘til the end of time) is devoting an hour to following a group of folks as they train for a marathon. I can’t have an opinion on the documentary since I haven’t seen it, but hopefully it won’t end up being public TV’s answer to a reality show (dysfunctional people complaining, whining, crying on-camera, etc.), nor an overly sentimental take on ‘the triumph of the human spirit’. Sure, there’s a little bit of all of that in any training and race coverage, but I hope the NOVA team has the good sense to be, well, honest about marathon training without resorting to the usual TV clichés.

Link to ‘NOVA: Marathon Challenge’

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Race Report: Poland Springs Marathon Kickoff

I’m getting so blasé about races, I’m forgetting to bring my camera. So no funny pictures of people from behind, which always happens, right? And pretty soon all the race pictures start to look the same. It’s like sports highlight footage on the news, they could show five seconds of somebody catching a ball from last year and it would look exactly the same as the footage that was taken this afternoon. And it’s also like that generic video of obese people from the neck down, walking down the street, always shown when there’s some study published about overweight America… they could reuse those pictures for years, and we’d never know. So you know the one I plopped in (above) is from some other race this year. Hey, at least I’m honest.

Today’s race was a 5-miler, and it was a preview of the last couple of miles of the NYC Marathon next Sunday. Thousands come out for it, and the Central Park drives are jammed beyond belief, so the first two miles end up being a slow jog for practically everyone. It’s a big pain in the ass, especially because at least a fifth of the runners are wearing headphones and blasting the Theme to ‘Rocky’ between their ears and can’t and don’t want to hear anybody else. Unlike Chicago, here headphones aren’t outlawed, just ‘strongly discouraged’, so we can only hope those iPod batteries die sooner than normal on the NYC Marathon course.

My 5-mile time was OK, but it felt like it was about an hour off my PR. Then again, as NYRR prez Mary Wittenberg said before the starting gun, ‘if you’re running the marathon, you shouldn’t be racing today’. True enough.

So we finished at Tavern on the Green, and got our Poland Springs water and bagel and that was that. It had started at 8AM, so getting home by 9:30 was rather nice; unlike the marathon, it didn’t feel like we’d spent the whole day traipsing all over kingdom come.

This all came on the heels of this week’s marathon organizers’ e-mail to participants ‘strongly advising’ them to find alternate travel methods to get to the upcoming marathon start. That means an alternative to the bus diaspora from midtown. Taking the bus costs an extra $20, and most runners already bought their ticket when they registered, and now they tell us not to take their very own buses if we actually want to get to the start in Staten Island on time. The delay is caused by ongoing construction on the Verrazano Bridge that won’t be finished in time, so everybody is mildly screwed.

As for me, it will all work out, this week’s foreign policy is all about being blasé. Like the weather, I refuse to get angry about something I have no control over. I’ll always get cranky about certain things, but after running the Chicago Marathon, I feel like every race is a fun run anyway.

Friday, October 26, 2007

iPod Friday 21

Today’s recording is kind of appropriate for this time of the year, though it’s a bit too old school for most, I guess.

But I like how the Martians end up in Central Park only to drop right near the location of the New York City Marathon finish line. That’s even more appropriate.

Orson Welles & The Mercury Theatre on the Air – The War of the Worlds

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Runner Profile: The Mummy

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a picture of the first known runner, pre-Marathon, even.

He was an Egyptian athlete, and after getting all mean and nasty to other runners, he was wrapped in non-wicking gauze and doomed to an eternity of slow, and that means very slow, power-walking.

OK, I’m in a trough between races. Gimme a break, they can’t all be winners.

Anyway, as the old Hollywood saying goes, if you can’t outrun the Mummy, you deserve to die.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Race Report: Staten Island Half Marathon

Yeah, I’m a nut, I ran a half marathon a week after a marathon.
Sue me.

It was a ‘fun run’, OK, and that’s a phrase that’s loaded with way too much meaning for me to go into right now. Anyway, a nice part of it all was getting to the start of the race, which involved a subway ride on the Lexington Avenue line and a 25-minute trip on the SI Ferry. The ferry is still free, which means the terrorists haven’t won, and it’s a fun way to rid yourself of a half hour of your life.

However, on the way, the #4 train I was riding on stopped at 42nd St., as scheduled (you never know on the weekends, it’s travel roulette ‘round here). Since it was early Sunday morning, there was room to sit and fewer passengers getting on and off. And as I waited for the car doors to close, I noticed the biggest damn cockroach in midtown trying to board the train. I’m telling you, he was big, as in ‘Vs. Godzilla’ big. He stopped at the edge of the platform, looked in, and began to think about the feasibility of jumping onto the train. Since the doors stayed open for a few minutes, he had plenty of time to turn around, do a few laps, return, and think some more. Again and again. And I’m just sitting there watching this big-ass insect considering his options during his long run. So I started thinking about Kafka, European Lit’s Mr. Sunshine. And about turning into some running insect myself, and just then the doors slammed shut before Megalon could make another trip to Tokyo. I must say he did appear more intelligent in his decision-making abilities than some of the citizens I’ve come across in this fair city of ours.

So I got to Satan I-, uh, Staten Island, met up with running pal Susie, and she listened to me gab on and on and on about the Chicago Marathon for a full 13.1 miles. Poor thing.

Finished the race, ran to the noon ferry, and was back home before I sprouted antennae.

But that damn cockroach still haunts me. Better re-read
The Metamorphosis in time for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chicago Marathon Day 2.1: Afterparty

Now that even I’m getting bored with replaying race day through my head, I won’t make anybody suffer through a megapost about how I ate a protein bar at 3PM. But I will make a few comments about what went right and wrong after the show.

I can’t belabor the zombie analogy anymore, but I will say that after I crossed the finish line it was pretty much business as usual for the finishers. That usually means exhausted-looking, very quiet, sweaty people moving forward at a top speed of a quarter mile an hour. There was one guy in front of me, who was declining assistance, but then changed his mind. I watched him get carried off, and then it was my turn for volunteers to ask me if I was alright, too. I told one of them that yes, I was OK, and almost followed up with a remark that if I could hear you and answer you, I’m relatively fine.

I even had the wherewithal to stop and get my official finisher photograph. A very nice looking blonde girl, probably half my age, was in front of me in line. She was smiling, and so was I, and I said something obviously dumb like ‘I’m just glad that’s over’, and she agreed. So off we went through the lines of people telling us how wonderful we are and handing us provisions that nobody in their right mind would want to eat after a race like that. I would’ve liked a little bag to put all the crap in (juggling food, etc., takes more brain power than you think you have), but that was the least of anyone’s problems.

I made it to the baggage pickup, and after getting my checked bag, I realized I was the only one still standing up. I found a tree and stretched a little, and I was the only one doing that, too. I have to tell you, I may not feel like 100% after every marathon, but just ‘not running anymore’ makes me feel better, fast. As long as I keep walking or moving I don’t have time to let fatigue catch up, and I don’t let my legs freeze up, either.

I stopped again to look for the food I’d just put in my bag five minutes ago, and it reminded me of my mother’s lament ‘I can’t find anything in this purse’, and then another runner came over to where I was standing and dropped to the ground. He immediately started with the loudest session of dry heaves I’ve ever heard, and it was then that I realized a lot of people were having a bad day. A lot of people.

So after stepping away from Heave Prefontaine (sorry, I’ve used that one before), I left the runners at baggage check to enter the civilian world outside of the chain link fences around us. It was not quite noon, and I headed to the family reunion area around Buckingham Fountain, unshaded and bathed in blazing sunlight. One runner told me that he saw a bank temperature sign that read ’96 degrees’.

And I waited and waited for comrade runners R.B. and Bambi, and started getting worried after another half hour went by and no sign of either. I started to need water, and the race organizers had none beyond the finish line, and now that I was out of the finisher’s area, I couldn’t get back in. That should’ve told me something, but I was still unaware of what was going on out on the course. So I went to the area near the start that had water before the race. I didn’t see a damn thing, but something else kind of strange. Runners were coming in to the finish line from the opposite direction, slowly; another finisher behind me asked me what was going on, and we concluded there was some other 5- or 10-K going on along with the marathon. Of course, no one had said a word about another race, but when the heat starts to fry your brain you can convince yourself of anything. Just as we chalked it up to some concurrent ‘fun run’, a spectator walks by and informs me that ‘they’ve cancelled it’. I didn’t really believe her, but I didn’t say so. What do non-runners know?

I went back to the meet-up area, no sign of friends, but by 12:40 R.B.’s Husband/Patient Spouse found me. Long story short, she shows up about 20 minutes later, and Bambi shows up another half hour or so later. Despite the heat, and because of it, both decided to do the smart thing and take it easy and finish the race when they were good and ready. Bambi had been told to stop at Mile 24, but managed to quietly finish the race anyway despite the stern warnings of organizers, and now, police. Both finished between 4 and 5 hours, and under the circumstances that day, that’s pretty darn good. They even looked better than I did after all that, and that just pisses me off (!). But we were all fine, and damn glad it was over, especially since we kept seeing overcome runners in wheelchairs going by.

That night I watched the local news and saw frightening scenes of runners in convenience store lines buying their own Gatorade and water. Talk about pissed off. And of course, coverage of the guy who collapsed and died. The media was all over the other racing death of the day, too, in the Army 10-Miler in Washington, D.C. Same old story, crazy runners in the heat, what were they thinking….

Well, they trained for months, and didn’t want to stop. Some of them had raised thousands of dollars for charity and had been taken out mid-race. In hindsight, stopping the race was probably the right thing to do, but I have to say I don’t know what I would’ve done had I made it to the halfway point and been told to get on a bus or walk back home. For me, running faster has its benefits, and in this case, not running out of water. But those folks not running as fast? They were screwed by bad weather and poor management. One you can’t control, but the other you can, so I’m not heading back to the Chicago Marathon anytime soon. The race management STILL hasn’t admitted any mistakes were made.

OK, I’ll try to end with some constructive advice. After you finish a long race, keep moving. Resist the urge to plop down. If you keep moving, your legs won’t stiffen up as much and you’ll feel better in the long run (no pun intended there, my puns are more obvious than that). After the race, I kept moving for a couple of hours and felt better that night because of it.

Eat a protein bar or something soon after you finish, as long as it won’t make you sick. You need fuel whether you know it or not. And keep drinking water, that helps for recovery, too. You knew that already, but your brain does funny things with the on/off switch after a race sometimes.

And here’s the strangest advice, this may or may not work for you, but here goes. Try a brief run the next day. I ran for 20 minutes or so the next morning; sure, I was somewhat sore, but a little leg exercise (of any kind, really) helps get rid of the lactic acid that accumulates in your legs. And by Tuesday/Wednesday, I was starting to feel pretty good. Most marathon trainers would probably say I’m crazy, but it works for me.

Thus ends my Chicago ’07 saga, and I’m happy to write that I’m lucky enough to have had a generally good time. Next up: New York City.

P.S. Upon my return to NYC and e-mail, running pal Mindy informed me that I had qualified for Boston. Shit! I’ve done it now…

The number pickup area at the expo, usually staffed by the AARP. Just kidding, I made that up.

A view of downtown, around 6AM. Before the deluge.

One of the departure areas after the finish line, around noon. Those are family members and friends pressed against the chain link fence, waiting for runners. Notice how many runners are coming through. Yeah, not many.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicago Marathon '07, Day Two: Judgment Day!

So it’s 5AM, Sunday the 7th. Since my body thinks it’s 6AM, because it is indeed 6 on the east coast, I wake up two minutes before the alarm goes off. Feeling rested. So off I go into pre-race autopilot, shower, shave, dress, go down to the hotel lobby for coffee (my stomach can handle it before a race, always can) and back up to put on the temporary tattoo from the New Balance Pace Team. It’s a 7-inch excel spreadsheet in green and white, and it gets slapped onto my inner left forearm. I know, Nerd Alert. Anyway, I’ve signed up for the 7:40 minute/milers, which means a 3:20 marathon. Based on my last half marathon finish line, I should be done around 3:10, but with the expected heat I allow for an extra ten minutes.

So out the door I go with a big-ass tattoo on the left arm, and all the fixin’s I need packed for post-race glory or depression. Since I see other hapless runners heading to the Red Line stop, I join the lemmings going up the steps to wait for the next train, and lo, Jehovah or Yahweh produces public transit salvation. We get on the train, and we quickly discover that the only folks nutty enough to be on the CTA at 5:50 on a Sunday morning are marathon runners, runner hangers-on, and very large, inebriated homeless men. One of these large, drunken men gets on after a few stops and decides to stand and stagger around the train car for the next twenty minutes. And we’re all just nicely sitting there and thinking to ourselves ‘Stay the Hell Away From My Legs’ Drunk Guy’ because having your legs and feet crushed by a raging drunk right before the Chicago Marathon ain’t kosher. He yells and annoys some guy listening to an iPod for another ten minutes, then leaves, thank you, and we’re back to enjoying our typically inexplicable stopping and starting experiences on the lovely CTA.

Then we’re at a downtown stop, and off we go to the baggage area in that Millennium Park area that better be big enough for thirty or forty thousand people. It’s still dark, but that’s OK, it feels nice out, it’s in the mid-70s, and that’s… uh oh, that’s a little warm for 6:30 in the morning. Cue foreboding incidental music.

Next is a quick cell phone call to comrade runner Bambi, who’s arriving with Running Bitch soon, and I’m fussing with my checked baggage while standing by Buckingham Fountain, which I think was in the opening credits of ‘Married With Children’.

I have some time to spare, but after meeting up with my running friends, and rummaging through our packed bags a dozen times, we’re off to baggage check where listless, bored kids file your bag in big cardboard boxes. I make some joke with one of these kids who's trying to nap for some reason, and I say something along the lines ‘yeah, I’m not sure I want to be here, either’, and he doesn’t get it. Anyway, more fussing with safety pins and such follows, and I encounter running friends without even trying. Off to a last-minute bathroom break, the men’s bathroom lines are too long, which rarely happens, so I go to my corral.

The corrals are set up this way: elite (i.e., Kenyan) runners up front, a group of the top 100, then three corals, A, B, and C, seeded based on a submitted previous marathon or half marathon time. I had sent them my 1:30 half marathon time from August, so I land in corral B, with bib numbers in the 2000-4000 area. Corrals are optional, and the bulk of the runners are in the ‘open’ field, which probably means about 80% of the folks out there. So after a ‘bathroom’ trip en plain air, which means locating an obscure tree in the park (women are doing this, too), I make my way to the B corral, which is filling up, with 15 minutes to go. It feels like we’re right up front, and relative to the rest of the runners, indeed we are. Some guy wearing a camelback and sporting at least ten gels in a fuel belt stands in front of me, and I roll my eyes and issue another mental Nerd Alert. Later that day, I retracted that very Nerd Alert, goofball runner was right.

So country star and marathon runner Jo Dee Messina belts out a twangy national anthem, and pretty soon, we’re off. It’s crowded, but I can see a 3:20 pace team ahead of me, so I keep up. There are three pacers holding little signs from what I can tell; I pick one team and stick with it. Suddenly, I realize that the Chicago spectators are cheering to the point of going nuts. Really. I haven’t heard such crowd support since NYC, and it only gets stronger. Gotta love that.

The first few miles create an S-curve through downtown, shady, and crowded. The weather is cool but humid, and after a few minutes I realize I’m sweating more than usual, and I’m not known for that. Never mind, I feel good, even though I see the first runner of the day starting to walk at the 5K marker. Headphones are banned, so for once I’m not getting cut off by somebody who can’t hear anything but their tunes. Sure, there are a few runners with mp3 players, but there are far fewer than you see in New York races.

The course heads north parallel to, but not on, the lake, and every so often you feel a nice breeze. Although we knew it by looking at the course map, it wouldn’t be until later on that we’d fully realize those would be the last breezes of the day. After six or seven miles we U-turn and run a few streets over from the one we ran up, parallel again. My pace group is keeping up, the head pacer is giving us words of encouragement, and spectators are even cheering us as a group. ‘Go, three-twenties!’ we here, over and over. Heading for the Mile Ten marker, we’re almost back downtown to the shade and comfort and huge, huge crowds. I feel good and actually have to slow it down and try to not run faster than the pace team, which shows you how much I was raring to go. But I have to cool it and keep the pace because it’s not going to get easier, I know from experience.

Around mile twelve, my right Achilles tendon wakes up. The same tendon that caused me to take nearly a week off in September.

AT: What? What? Hey, what’s going on?
CR: Uh… uh…. Nothing, don’t worry about it, just a little, uh, race..
AT: You sure? I feel like I’m working kinda hard.
CR: Don’t worry, we’ll all be fine.
AT: Well, if you say so, but I know you, and well…
CR: Relax. You’ll be resting this afternoon, and then we can all have a protein shake to celebrate.
AT: Alright!

And that was the last conversation I had during the race with my right Achilles tendon. Love that A.T.! No problems.

But then my quads and glutes start to have a similar conversation between them, and I overhear it. They’re starting to stiffen a little and they’re not too happy about it. So I convince them it’s time to show me what they’ve got. And despite the grumbling, they come through for me, then and for the rest of the day.

After a few twists and turns downtown, we head due west towards the halfway point. For the first time, I start to long for mile markers. It’s too soon to do that, I haven’t even reached the 13.1 marker, and the hardest part is ahead. Heading west, we lose the shade of the skyscrapers, and full sun hits our backs. It’s getting hotter. I arrive at the halfway point at 1:40 and some seconds, and the big-ass pace tattoo on my forearm tells me I’m pretty much on time. Anyone else could’ve done that math in their head, but when you’re running and losing brain functions, sometimes you need an excel spreadsheet on yo’ ass to help you out. For the first time, I stop at a water station to take off my shirt and re-pin my name banner, which requires more motor skills than you’d think. So I lose about a minute and or so, but I’m just glad to be halfway done.

A note about the water/aid stations. There are fifteen of them total, about a mile and something apart. Not at every mile marker like in some marathons, but instead, sometimes as much as 1.8 miles apart, and unless you’re carrying a map, it’s a little bit of a mystery as to exactly where the next one is. This would be an anxious and sad situation later on for everyone.

So off I go and… where’s my pace team? I know I stopped and all, but they’re really nowhere to be seen, not even somebody wearing the 3:20 pace bib. I start to see 3:10 pacers without teams, and a few people with higher numbers than mine, and… it’s starting to look like a zombie movie. And after slugging it out to about mile 15, the course U-turns and now the sun is facing us, and it’s even worse. We’re in an area that has lots of low, two-story warehouse-looking style buildings, and there is no shade, unless you want to count shade from fire hydrants. Like running through Long Island City, and that ain’t so pretty, either.

Casting for the zombie movie is in full swing, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sign that says ’Brain Station Ahead’. If somebody had thrown a whole cauliflower on the course, it would’ve happily halted the race, at least temporarily. But we’re plugging away, no sign of pacers, and I realize that everybody around me is pretty damn fit. All of the men are skinny and shirtless, all of the women are wearing those sports bra/shorts combo bikini-like outfits, and it’s a tough crowd. Which helps me a little, because you find yourself keeping up with the Joneses if you know what I mean. But, boy, is it getting harder.

By the Mile 16 marker I’m starting to get more tired. For crying out loud, I have ten miles to go, it’s too soon for that. And it seems to take forever, and I can’t believe it’s the Mile 17 Marker, I thought I’d passed that. I don’t even want to think about how long I have left, it’s got to be more than another hour (and it is). And it’s getting hotter.

People pass me, I pass them. I start to stop at every water stop, walk for a half a minute, then continue, feeling slightly better. I pass the people who just passed me. Spectators are ecstatically cheering us on. But I generally keep my pace. And guess who I see? Mr. 3:20 Head Pacer, passing me, he’s all alone. You mean to tell me I’m running faster than he is? Not really, he just passed me, but what gives? Things are falling apart.

Then at one of the water stations I encounter my first and only running idiot of the day. I feel an entire cup’s worth of water hit my right leg and go into my shoe, and then I see this guy pass me. He’s taking cups of water and dousing his head, one after another, until he’s finished off around eight cups (and you just knew he did this at every single water station). I almost went up to him and said ‘thanks for the shower’, but I didn’t think it was worth the effort, and besides, the water would evaporate soon enough. Of course, he had every right to use as much water as he wanted, he paid his entry fee, but in hindsight it was a tad bit indulgent. Not that he or I would’ve known it, but runners behind us would’ve killed to have that water later. Anyway, I watched him weave and cut in and out of runners despite the wide open space we had, and that pissed me off, too, so I decided I was better off turning inward to wallow in the mounting misery.

I start to get into the 20s. Same routine, I run until I make it to the next water station, curse the heat, curse the world, stop at the station, walk with my water or gatorade, hear the cheers of teenagers and older volunteers. At one point around mile 23, a teenage girl sees my name pinned to my shorts and screams out an earsplittingly loud and mock-encouraging ‘RICHARD, YOU’RE GONNA DO IT!!’ At that point I’m holding a cup of water, bent down, facing the ground and watching sweat drip like vanishing points to the unshaded asphalt. Waiting a beat, I let out a comparably loud and insane ‘YOU GOT THAT RIGHT!’ And the whole water station erupts in laughter. Thus ended the comedy portion of today’s program.

And a water station away, a nice lady, noticing that I’m not enjoying this particular chapter of my life, quietly offers me a little cup of ice. My brain instant-messages an ‘OMG’ to the legs, and I effortlessly stop and thank her with more sincerity than anyone has a right to. It’s a frickin’ episode of ‘Touched By An Angel’. After crunching on some of it, I walk a bit more to add more water to make ANOTHER iced water, and it’s heaven. I didn’t know it for sure, but the temperature is in the mid-80s, and it feels like the 90s because of all the humidity, and there’s no shade, and it’s only 10:30AM. Got to run to the next water station.

And I do, and amazingly, my pace has not suffered substantially. Despite the little walk/stops at water stations that are killing any hope of a 3:20 finish, I’m not delirious, I’m not feeling light-headed, I’m not even feeling nauseous like I have in a couple of other hot marathons. Just getting more tired, hotter, and even bored with having to struggle to the next water station. And the course has us zig-zagging south through a Mexican neighborhood, and then a mile later, Chinatown. I see the typical ethnic establishments, but I’m not paying much atttention, because I just want to finish the damn race. And get to some shade.

I see a mile marker at an underpass and we get a ten-second break from the sun. I realize now that I have about three miles to go, and thank God, because I’ve had it out here. What’s three miles, about 25 minutes? That sounds a hell of a lot better than an hour, so I suck it up until the next water station. And I can do it because strangers I’ve never seen in my life are screaming at me like insane asylum inmates and telling me I can. (I must admit I heckled a spectator at mile 22 who yelled out a chipper ‘You’re almost there!’, with an equally chipper ‘No, we’re not!’)

So after heading south through another non-scenic neighborhood of automotive body shops and warehouses, we turn left onto Michigan Avenue. A straight shot of two miles, where every far off highway sign looks like the finish line. And you get closer, and it’s not. And I’m still seeing skinny, fit, personal trainer types trudging along with me, trying to keep a respectfully decent pace amid this third reel of today’s zombie movie. Less shade, more insane spectators.

I realize I’ve hit the last water stop, and soon (but not soon enough), I see the Mile 25 marker, and thankfully, the Mile 25.2 marker, which means you-know-what. I know the course is going to turn right, go a bit, then left to the finish, and after another ‘OMG’ IM, I’m turning. And here’s the hill everybody warned me about. It’s steep for its location on the route, it’s a bridge going up to the final 400 meters. But I was warned, and off I go, up the hill, no stopping now. Someone screams my name out, and I pass a younger guy, he hears them scream out, too, and in a split second he looks over at me, and I look at him, and there’s this mental connection that says ‘this is hell, but we’re going to finish, aren’t we?’ It was a level of communication that can’t be fully described; he knew it, I knew it, and we turned to look up just as the hill ended. We turned left, and there’s the $%&^# finish line.

Upon seeing the finish line banner, I let out a ‘THANK-YOU-JESUS!’ which I’m sure no one else heard, but was about as heartfelt as any cynical, post-enlightenment going-to-hell heathen like me could muster. I look down and see a spray painted ‘300’, which better mean 300 meters, and there’s no stopping now, looks like my finish time is about 3:30. I can’t believe it when I cross the finish line… wait, I can, it’s about fucking time.

Next: Post-Race Wrap-Up and Race Organizer Bitch-Slap!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Race Report: Chicago Marathon ’07 - Day One

With every passing day I feel luckier and luckier that I didn’t pass out or drop out or get diverted like thousands of runners did during the marathon. I didn’t even hit empty water stations, for crying out loud. But I now know that people behind me did, and once I started hearing ambulances at the finish line, and then hearing them announce it was a ‘fun run’ (yeah, right) and then hear that the race was cancelled outright, I knew it was not going well. Later that night I saw on local TV scenes of runners in long lines buying liquids at convenience stores during the race. One runner, brandishing a bottle of Gatorade, told the news crew ‘I paid $110 and this is what I have to do’ right before taking off down the route. She was right. And many runners weren’t just sarcastic, they turned hostile, and it probably would have been a worse scene if everybody wasn’t already so damned weak from the heat. And the race organizers still deny they ran out of water (not even a ‘we’ll look into it’) despite thousands of runner testimonials about having to carry cups with them so that ocals could fill them with water from garden hoses.

The race organizers should be ashamed of themselves. Right before they’re forced to run a waterless, shadeless, hot marathon in mid-August, and then banned from running or even managing a run, for life.

Well, that’s my rant, and I probably don’t have as much of a right to that opinion as many others would, but it was a mess out there last Sunday. I’ll try to describe my happier experiences knowing full well that over 300 runners ended up in the hospital, and one didn’t even make it out alive.

Getting to Chicago

As my plane landed at Midway Airport on Friday afternoon, it banked sharply left and right, then started to land with only a few hundred feet between the plane and the runway. Suddenly, the plane lurched back up and started climbing again. The passengers all started looking at each other with worried expressions, and then the pilot comes on and tells us there was another plane that ‘was being a little slow taking off’ on the runway we were about to land on. Hmm. That’s great, ‘Tragic Plane Crash Cancels Marathon Pasta Party’ and other similar headlines flash in front of my eyes. Everybody looked at each other and just waited for the second landing attempt, which went much better. Of course, all I’m thinking about is having ‘DNF’ (Did Not Finish) after my name in the marathon finisher list. No, I’m not thinking about human tragedy or disaster grief or anybody else, just whether or not my race statistics are going to be embarrassing because I ‘DNF’d due to an airplane crash. I quickly chalk this up to Marathon Taper Disorder (MTD symptoms: restless leg syndrome, weather forecast obsession, mood swings, etc.) that has dogged me for ten days.

Saturday - The Expo
So it’s in the southern part of Chicago, and I need to take the Chicago Transit Authority Red Line to Chinatown, the nearest stop to McCormick Plaza or Place, whatever the hell they call it (see? I’m getting cranky already). I quickly discover that Chicago’s mass transit has some rather sucky qualities. Like the stations are lit by greenish neon lights that turn them into sets out of some teen torture flick. And most disturbing of all, there are plenty of slowdowns on the tracks, so at any moment you could go from 50 to 2 MPH and sit in the tunnel for a little while, or just coast along. The Chicagoans I saw riding the CTA seemed rather used to the erratic speed, and had an air of resignation about not getting anywhere on time, whatever that is. I’m not trying to come down too hard on the CTA, let me tell you, the New York Transit system is nothing to write home about either, but when you’re timing a slow, undependable trip to the expo you begin to have doubts about your far more important trip to the actual race in the morning. So I decided I would have to taxi on down the several miles to the start the next day if the good ol’ Red Line didn’t fulfill expectations. And then the conductors started picking and choosing which stops they were going to hit, and I ended up switching trains twice even though I was on a direct line. Great.

Then I get to Chinatown where I immediately meet running pal R.B. and R.B.’s Patient Spouse. Off we go to the expo on a Partridge Family-approved marathon shuttle school bus, and the damn convention center is the size of an airport. You could’ve parked several space shuttles and the mother ship in there, and still had room for somebody sitting in a booth selling glow-in-the-dark sports bras. We’re talking BIG, and R.B. agrees with me that we have reached Runner Heaven.

All the major shoe companies are there. Staffed with clean, chipper sales people and stocked with overpriced gear. And people in booths from all those marathons you hear about but never go to, you know who they are. And then we become Sample Whores and start snacking down on bite-size pieces of energy bars and drinks served in plastic shot glasses. If you throw a leg of lamb into the Amazon river, and see piranhas attack, you get an idea of what it’s like to see a bunch of runners with the MTDs at a Clif Bar booth. And if you don’t pull your hand back fast enough… well, it ain’t pretty.

So we get our numbers, and the little old ladies are always so nice, aren’t they, and then we get the goody bags which is more bag than goody, but that’s OK because my plane didn’t crash yesterday. Yeah! And then old running pal Bambi and the Official Bambi Posse arrive and we meet and assault the expo with everything we’ve got. Official marathon jacket: $125 plus tax. It’s a mustard color, and heavy, so forget it, because the thought of buying something for the wintertime is surreal when it’s still 85 degrees outside. Funny, the singlets are almost gone...

Well, the rest of the day was even nicer, despite a 30-40 minute wait for the shuttle bus to get us the hell out of there. A quick lunch was followed by a trip to the crowded Art Institute, which is rather worth a visit if you find yourself in Chicago. Famous paintings live there, and it was a fine way to spend the afternoon before heading out to dinner at a carb-loading pastatorium. Of course, the night before a big race is when you’ll find hapless runners nervously scanning menus for non-threatening entrees (once again, a symptom of the MTDs), and that night was no exception. After a quick trip back to the hotel (of course, the train was faster because I wasn’t in a hurry), I settled in for some mindless rest in front of bad Saturday night TV. I actually got some R n' R, and managed to get some good sleep too even though my body was an hour off due to one hour of jet lag.

I’ll post more soon, this time about race day… but so far, so good.

Next up: Satan Races in Hell!