Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30th, 7:30PM

At Tavern on the Green in Central Park, the New York City Marathon finish line at night, three days before the race.

The Asphalt Green Thursday night running crew stops to take it all in after training for this damn thing for week after week.

Monday, October 27, 2008


OK, here’s what happened. I started writing about the Hartford Marathon (now over two weeks ago) and it started to turn into a James Michener novel. Those of you not familiar with James Michener will be amused to hear that most of his output consisted of 1000-page-plus doorstops that began with fictional discussions on how pre-Cambrian cellular life started where all his 19th-century melodramas took place. So my discussion was going on WAY to long, it was taking me longer to write than a high school term paper with index cards, and for no good reason. Then it dawned on me that half my readership was probably at the damn race and ran it, too. This realization sunk in as I realized that sometimes alarming blog silence=injury, when that’s not the case. Despite some quad pain on my left side, I’m OK, I’m just obsessing about the next marathon, now less than a week away.

So it looks like I’m not going to post that saga-in-process, because it’s already old news. Too bad, the part about my stop in the port-a-john at mile 8 recalled the 5-minute post-thaw bathroom scene in the first Austin Powers.

But I will say this. The race went well for me, for two reasons. One is that I was generally prepared to run 26.2 miles, I did the right thing and trained a bit. The other reason is those other folks who joined me. Ms. Speedy did quite nicely despite the usual ‘I must be insane to keep doing this crap’ and other more strongly-worded observations. Angry went with the flow, listening to three people ramble on and run and be fairly annoying, all while chaperoning and driving and then pulling out a nice 5K time on the side. And Iron Bob helped me focus in the last few miles as I tried to keep up every time I stopped at a water vacation, uh, station. He did really, really well, as did sub-4 Claire and Mr. A for just racing and putting up with us. So thank you all.

So I showed up and ran my fastest marathon in seven years. I beat the 3:30 finish time plateau I’ve been hitting for several marathons. And I qualified for Boston, which is nice, though I’m not sure if I’ll be there again next April.

And another thing, it was rather nice to run a small-scale race instead of the behemoth New York/Chicago/Marine Corps/Boston-type races with thirty or forty thousand runners all required to arrive hours before the start. This weekend, I’ve been assigned to take the 5AM bus at the New York Public Library to get to the start line of the NYC Marathon that has a gun time of… 9:40. I love the race, but it’s just getting gigantic, and pretentious, and overproduced (sort of like all those Pirates of the Caribbean movies). The starting line area in Hartford was terribly unorganized, but beyond that, it was a fine race once it got going. Of course, if I’d hit the wall, my opinion may have been different. But I didn’t, and it was a fine day, thanks to my training, and friends who made a difference.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Last Saturday

I’ll post my take on last Saturday morning soon, but before then I’d like to thank Team Hotford, you know who you are. As every hour goes by I think more and more about how ‘well’ it went for everybody. Of course, this means the pain and soreness is wearing off and the haze of fond memories is taking over, but that’s perfectly OK. If I can count on one hand all the things that went wrong on marathon race day, that’s very, very good.

We didn’t have the heat of yesterday’s Chicago (yet again this year) and got the damn thing over early in the weekend. Next marathon, we’ll spend more time lounging before and after. And make sure that Tina Fey is waiting at the finish line for Speedy.

I've spent about a half hour trying to upload an image of Team Hotford, but no such luck with Blogger. Since it's a holiday, thousands of part-time Walmart cashiers named 'Mary Lou' and 'Betty Jo' are busy uploading pictures of fuzzy kittens sitting in bowls of spaghetti onto their 'down home cookin' blogs, and slowing the system down. Maybe later...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Race Report: Grete’s Great Gallop/Norway Run

Make that Grete Weitz’ Great Gallop, the half marathon held last Saturday in Central Park. I’ve done this one before, it’s every October during the marathon season when you want to run a half but shouldn’t. What’s always most memorable here is the finish line catering: smoked salmon and cream cheese on bagels, bottled water imported from Norway, and waffles. I’m not kidding, the food makes it.

And it’s another duo of 6-mile loops of the park plus another 1.1 in case you needed reminding. Every year the weather turns fall-ish right before the race, and it did just that this time around. The humidity was lower than last week (thank God) while the temperature was right about 60 degrees. Perfectly fine.

Starting at 9AM, about 3900 runners queued up into the corrals based on their previous, fastest race pace. I positioned myself near the back of the first corral so I wouldn’t get run over and wouldn’t end up standing on the chip mat at the start. One time this summer I lined up too close to the front and the second chip mat recognized me immediately and I had to wait an extra 5 seconds for the skinny kids in front to take off. Hey, five seconds can make you miss your PR, I’d rather have a ‘running’ start… and yes, I don’t want to add dumb, extra time to my finish time if I can help it.

Off we went, and the first mile was zippy, at least for me. And crowded, but it’s better with the corrals than it was without them. I heard the usual sound effects, the runner who lands flat on his feet, which makes it sound like cinderblocks hitting the pavement, and the guy who carries jangling keys and $17 in change in his fanny pack. And of course, the runner who has to weave in and out of everybody because he only has an hour and a half to make up the time.

I passed the first mile marker around 6:50 and realized with the traffic jam at the beginning it was more like 6:40. Slow down, Tarzan, said the inner narrator.

Which I did, a little. And the first loop was about 42 minutes. Much faster than a marathon, somewhat slower than a 10K. OK, let’s see if we can do this second loop in the same time, I said to myself. At this point, I realize I’m having strange play-by-play commentary on my race performance. And I do this a lot lately, like I’m having some out-of-body experience, watching the action (or inaction, sometimes) as it unfolds. And then I’m retooling as I go along, rethinking my race ‘strategy’, whatever the hell that is. I should probably just admit it all involves me wanting to slow down and avoid pain while my brain says ‘suck it up’. Anyway, next time you’re on a tiring run, schedule a meeting with the legs and feet committee every couple of miles and have a discussion about hitting corporate goals. That sounds a lot more amusing and entertaining than just whining ‘I want to stop’.

‘Cause I’m a Meeaverrrick, doggone it!

Yeah, well, enough of that. So I start feeling the fatigue, and it’s totally predictable. And people I actually know start to pass me, and though I wish them well, my goals start to turn to dust, so thanks a lot, folks. But I keep up the fight. And math is not so hard for once, I figure I’m keeping a 7 minute/mile. Especially when I hit the 10-mile mark. Because, wait a minute, wait a minute, I’d have to run that in, I got it, um…. 70 minutes in order to keep that pace. I think.

And at the 10-mile marker my watch says 1:10:05. Don’t tell me! That means a… wait, I’m slowing down. The Race Narrator began to piss me off.

Then at mile 12 I know I’m not going to average under a 7-minute mile. How do these things get into your head? Who said I had to run a set pace? Who said I had to race at all? Can’t I just run a nice, leisurely half marathon for a change?

The answers: I Don't Know, Nobody, Nobody, and No. My old friends.

And yes, I just sucked it up instead of just… sucking. And raced the final mile. I thought I wasn’t going to make it without flying off the road, but I crossed the finish line in 1:31:36. Since at the time my brain couldn’t handle the math of that extra .1 mile, I didn’t know until after the results were posted that I’d run a 6:59 pace. I’d finished that last mile with only six seconds to spare. But I did it. With the help of corporate.

Y’know, I need to find some slower races out there for a change, because last Saturday I was still getting passed big time. These NYC events in Central Park are hyper-competitive. Not that they shouldn’t be, but people, it’s not safe out there. I felt so slow I was amazed anybody I knew finished behind me, including the guy from my running club that’s a contestant on Survivor this season (he finished right behind me). I’d still rather run a half marathon than eat bugs for lunch and dinner, but Jeez…

And I understand another fun race is coming up, so my ‘race every weekend’ schedule continues...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Race Report: ING NYC Marathon Tune-Up (18 Miles)

Since I’ve run two races over the last couple of weekends it was time to say something about them before I completely forgot all about them. I’ve run enough races that my mind has a way of turning recent events into vague and fuzzy stream-of-unconsciousness memories that crop up again only when I’m feeling some ankle or leg pain two days afterwards.

So on this last Sunday in September the New York Road Runners held their annual 18-mile marathon ‘tune-up’ race. You’ll probably never do an 18-mile race, either, unless you’re in New York City and you decide to wear a bib number and a chip on some long run. I’ve done this race about six times before over the last ten years, and it’s OK if you like catered food and drinks and a white t-shirt for the trouble of a training run. At least it takes some of the mindbending boredom out of the typical weekend long run schedule. Problem is, some of us end up racing this distance when we’re not used to racing for 18 miles.

AND it’s three hilly loops of Central Park, one after the other, obviously. It gets a bit old after a while.

So about 4000 runners took off at 7AM on a blisteringly humid morning, it was 93% humidity and about 60 degrees. Nice and cool, but the foggy air just hit in waves, and I am not so good in Jurassic humidity. This summer I was reminded that high humidity adds 10-15 seconds per mile to my pace. And as for this race, well, summer was not over.

So I planned on running the 6-mile loops at around 45 minutes each. I’ve finished this race between 2:11 and 2:25 in the past, some years I take it easier than others. This time I figured I’d finish somewhere in between… since all of my race times over the last few months have hit right in the middle anyway. Solid ‘B’ grades. No ‘A’s, no ‘C’s, just ‘B’s.

Which is fine.

I tell myself.

Anyway, after the end of the first loop I looked at my watch and saw 44 minutes and change. OK, that’s nice, but there’s twelve miles of the exact same course to go. And then the hills started getting tougher. And at the end of the second loop my watch starts closing in on 1:31 or so, and I realized I was slowing down a little. And then on the third &%*(#)@ loop the hills are pissing me off, and other runners began to pass me. I knew I was slowing, but it sure felt like I was running the same pace. I admitted to myself a 45-minute 6-miler was not going to happen, I just wanted to get across the damn finish line. And I did, at 2:18:54. As predicted, right in the middle of my previous race finish times. And I had had plenty of time to talk to myself and over-analyze pace strategy, so I guess that meant there weren’t as many runners ticking me off like there normally are.

However, I did try something new during the race. When I had a downhill, I would kick my feet back a bit higher than normal, similar to the ‘butt-kicks’ during strength training. And I would run faster. And you guessed it, my quads were sore later. My quads never get sore, so I get what I deserve, probably.

In the end, it was a good ‘long run’ so to speak, but I don’t recommend racing long runs. I knew I could not keep that pace and run another 8 miles, if you know what I mean. Speaking of, marathon racing strategy is a whole different scene. More on that later.