I’m having a good couple three weeks. I ran my third race in a row today, and it went ok.
I’m in Anaheim, having arrived here yesterday. I felt I could best affirm my attention to detail and respect for my clients by trying to find a race to run the day after I arrived. It’s May! I’m in Orange County! What could be better?
I first found a 5k on a runway. I was pretty excited. At track on Tuesday, I spoke to my friends Bill and Bill about it, and the joy of a pancake flat course. I was really into it. But after checking their website, and thinking more about it, I wondered if perhaps I could find something a little more, er, established. I couldn’t find online results. Who knew if would be mostly walkers? Who knew anything? Also, a runway. Hot. Boring. Flat. But Hot. Boring.
Luckily, I found the Magic Shoe 5k, which turned out to be a blast. Since I’ve been running a fair amount, and it was a 5k, I thought I should push it hard to see if I could — heaven forbid — PR. My PR in a 5k is 19:25, which I realized was a 6:14 pace. I didn’t write it on my hand this time (which I’ve done in the past), but I realized I could keep 6:14 in my head.
I figured I’d push it hard — I mean the worst thing that could happen is that the race would be a disaster and I wouldn’t tell anyone about it. I had a pretty good 5k a couple of weeks ago, track has been fine, and other than wanting to lose 5 pounds, why not?
The website stated that the course was fast and flat — “one of the fastest 5ks in Orange County.” Who doesn’t like that? I got to the race early, and ran into a friend and client coming out of the portapotties. Small freaking world!
I’ve run a 5k in the LA before, and it was great — these folks know how to pull out all the stops. I should mention that the race was extreemly expensive ($35 plus) but it was very well run. There was a freaking expo. Plenty of parking. And the miles were well marked and I think there were two waterstops. OK, maybe one. But still.
I did a short warmup (on the track adjacent to the start – now that’s awesome!) and I could tell it was going to be a fast crowd. Lots of folks in team uniforms. High School track teams. Ug. I got to the start, realized I had to pee, remembered it was a 5k, lost interest in peeing. I heard the guy behind me saying “I’ll just be happy if I break nineteen minutes.” I encouraged him to stand in front of me. I started to talk the runners close by.
“Fast crowd, no?”
“Oh man, the competition is rough here. I’m 53. The guy that wins in my age group wins in like 16:30.”
Well, I wasn’t going to have to worry about hanging out for awards.
“I hear this course is flat, right?”
“Oh no, not flat. Not flat at all. The first mile is flat. There is a downhill in mile 2. But you come back up the same hill and it goes on forever, then there is a little bit of a hill at the end.”
“So, what’s a good strategy?”
“Kill yourself in the first mile.”
Perfect. Confidence shot.
But I figured nothing to lose, let’s push it.
Gun goes off and we are off. In any 5k race, I consistently get a feeling in the first few seconds where I am convinced my heart is going to fall out my butt. Seems to be unavoidable So far, heart has remained in chest.
Finished the first half mile, felt great. Thought to myself, self, open it up. The guys said it was going to be hilly, let’s have a good first mile. For a fleeting second I thought I may be able to get the mile under 6 minutes. I came in at 6:03. Thrilled.
The second mile was a long out and back. Downhill on the out. Uphill on the back. And man did I freaking suffer. I think I want to design a running watch with another button. You press “start/stop” when you start the race, “lap/reset” at each mile, and my third button “Fucking give up” you hit whenever you think about quitting running during a race. It wouldn’t do anything. You’d keep running. But then when you downloaded the race off your watch, you’d get maybe a little brown line where you felt like quitting on the map.
I would have hit that button on the hill. I don’t know if it’s because I pushed it too hard in mile 1, but I was feeling like I had freaking nothing left. Eventually the hill ended. Mile 2 was 6:20. And I felt totally exhausted. My stupid GPS program says there is only 45 feet of climb in that mile. Not true.
And then, for the love of pete, we passed the finish line. The course runs by the finish line and then around the first 1/2 mile of the course again. I wanted to quit then. Bad. It should be against the law to see the finish line in the middle of a race. Then around the corner and I remembered it was a great course and running was fun. Then I though I should be seeing the mile 3 mile marker soon, no? No! Maybe they didn’t mark it. Felt like quitting then too.
I knew I was off my 6:14 average pace for a PR. Gotta push it or quit running. didn’t want to leave anything out there. Finished with a 19:30, five seconds off, but still I know I gave it all I had.
I do wish I had held back a little bit in the first mile, maybe done that in a 6:30 to see how much more I had to give at the end. My friend Bill suggested that last week. But with my new found buddies at the starting line, I felt like I should push it and see what happened. Because it was “only” a 5k, or rather because it was a race I hadn’t been planning on, I was happy with what I did without being as deeply disappointed as I might have been.
All in all, I’ve loved racing 3 weekends in a row. Racing marks the days, the anxierty leading up to it and the inevitable relief after a race is welcome. Gotta keep doing it. Summer is coming and it’s going to get hot so I imagine racing will start to suck again but I gotta try.
I feel lucky to have been able to race two weekends in a row. That’s a bit counter-intuitive as I kinda hate racing. I hate when the race is over and I’m eating a nice bagel (do I sound like a 70 year old man? ”a nice bagel” as opposed to a mean bagel. Or a passive agressive bagel.) But all the anxiety leading up to the race can be an issue for me. And those around me. Usually people prefer not to be around me when I’m race stressed. Luckily my kids can’t move away. Until they are a little older.
After a pretty good (for me) 5k, I was able to run the Healthy Kidney 10k, a race I ran last year. This year, however, the course was completely different. OK, it was the other way in the park. Basically the same route. But for a runner, that’s completely different. What were they thinking? We hate change!
I had one objective, and that was to beat my time two weeks ago, which was an average pace of 6:44. So I wrote that time on my hand. Because I can’t remember anything.
Met a couple of friends and I got to drive, which is always an honor. Seriously. The forecast was calling for rain (but what’s 90% mean? That’s a 10% chance that it’s not going to rain!) and we spent a lot of time in the car watching the clouds gather.
We’ve been parking using coupons from bestparking — it’s been pretty good. I don’t get a cent from them, but they are a great resource for suburban runners parking in the city. The problem is that we are all cheap bastards, and many many of us are in relationships with spouses who feel that maybe our running habit is more expensive than they would support if given the choice to say, for example, marry someone else. For example. So bestparking allows you to type in a cross street and it’ll draw you a map of cheap parking. Or usually cheaper. If you find something on the street, you’re not committed to the lot, but if not, it’s a fix cost including tax.
We pulled into the lot just as the rain really started to come down. I asked the parking attendent gentlemen if we could have a minute to dress ourselves in our running regalia. His lack of response I took for an enthusiastic endorsement of us rummaging through our bags figuring out which tee shirt would be best soaked with water. In fact, in the 30 seconds it took us to get dressed he went from mildly disinterested to anxious for us to leave.
I warmed up for about 30 seconds. I was worried about missing my spot in the corral. The first mile had cat hill in it and I was thrilled to get it out of the way early. Even with the hill, I was right on pace at 6:32.
Mile two, which is the flattest on this course, at 6:30. Mile three had Harlem hill in it, which blew. I ran a 6:52. At this point, I felt my race was blown. A 6:52. Mile 4 6:59. Good lord. Better quit running. Then I found two runners to follow and realized I should stop complaining and just finish the freaking race. Mile 5 6:38. Mile 6 6:36. 41:38. Very happy.
Tonight I’m in Anaheim and have got to get some sleep as I’m going to try to run a 5k in the morning. 3 races in three weeks. That’s some blogging.
I am going to run in the Healthy Kidney 10k the day after tomorrow. This is a race that last year lead to my slow summer decline into crappy times so I’m a little stressed out. So before I mess up my confidence by having a shit race, I wanted to remember the 5k I ran last weekend.
I help out with the St A 5k here in Croton-on-Hudson. My friend Jenn is the race director, and I throw together some scoring gear and mark the course with her. She’s an awesome runner and an all around good person to be around. She lacks my innate cynicism and hated of people, so I can only imagine she brings out a little bit of the good in me. Which I suppress by blogging.
In 2009, I ran this race and put in my first sub 20 minute 5k. This effectively ended any real chance of ever enjoying a race again. 20 minutes is a magic number for older runners. Once you hit it, you gotta keep hitting it. Or die trying. That ma be a bit dramatic. Maybe a hilly course. Or if you stop for a meal. But mostly, you gotta hit it or try really hard. And maybe die. OK, moving on.
I ran a 19:57 four years ago, and started to think about what that number meant. I used the Mcmillan Running Calculator and thought to myself that with a little effort I stood a chance. I then started speed training at the track, ran in Boston a year later. The misery continues.
This year, I had one goal: run faster than I did in 2009. Otherwise I was just going to throw myself in front of a bus. That was it. Run faster or die. OK, I exaggerate. It was most likely going to be a train as the course is right next to the railroad tracks.
This course is fast and flat, and the weather was a perfect 55°. First mile, I went out at 6:18. I needed a 6:24 to beat my old time, so I was happy. Mile 2, 6:27. Not happy. Mile 3, 6:29. Overall, 19:52 according to my watch (19:55 official), so I was very very happy. What’s weird is that my first mile was so strong. I was hurting in the end, to be sure, but also the race was thinning out so it was hard to key on others. I should mention that about mile 2.5 this guy who actually looks like he has some upper body strength blasted by me which I found very surprising. Not surprising like “oh wow, here’s someone to hold on to,” but rather “oh, look this guy is fast. I should give up running.”
I won my age, which was awesome, and Jenn makes the awards a plant — so I have a plant! And all in all I was very happy.
Now this 10k Saturday. No happiness there. I feel calloused and tired. And sluggish. Had a good track workout this week. That was probably a mistake. But I want to keep training hard and I’m thrilled I can race this weekend. Thrilled to be miserable. What isn’t healthy about that?
It’s been a hard week to be a runner. Or a human being, for that matter. These fucking asshole terrorists have forever associated one of the greatest running events in the world with an act of cowardice without parallel. That a few fans standing on the street should give their lives as they cheer on their friends and neighbors reminds us all of the value of the gift of life and how precious each and every one of us is. It’s hard for me to be as articulate as I’d like about this, but I did read something great that really hit home. Please check out Erin Gloria Ryan’s blog post. This will be the first and last time I ever link to Jezabel.
And now, for some running banter.
I’m in Atlanta this week, and I arrived yesterday at 10:30am with nothing to do. I’m staying across from the Galleria, which isn’t a mall, but rather a convention center, across the street from a mall. I researched where I’m staying, looking for places to run and alas it didn’t look so good. There’s nothing around here but interstates and more malls, as far as I could tell from the map. When checking in, though, the receptionist mentioned that there was a network of trails close by, a few miles, “but you have to drive there.” I asked her to write down the name because I wasn’t quite sure how to spell “Chattahoochee”.
It turned out that it was a two mile run there, and it is a little rough. Sidewalk for a while, but sidewalk along traffic buzzing by at 50 miles an hour. Then a kind of sprint-or-die dash across an onramp, and then, wow, a great national park.
The area I was in is called Cochran Shoals, and the trail itself is only three miles long. But at the end of it is a quiet residential street which goes another four miles or so. It was great, and there were a ton of other runners and walkers out there. Most with great kids and friendly angelic golden retrievers. OK, I may be seeing this run through rose colored glasses, but I started off thinking I was going to be breathing exhaust fumes and getting water at a truck stop, and I wound up having a great run.
I went really slow. My watch was all sorts of messed up, but I can’t imagine I ran many sub-nine minute miles, but it really was great. 12 miles overall. Of course, the last two were spent dodging the vehicular traffic again, and then I got back to the hotel. I thought to myself “self, you should get some lunch.” And what better place to get lunch than a freaking mall? So I went to Subway. Got a starbucks. What a freaking great run.
Last week was the Scotland 10k in Central Park. As soon as I got out of the car, I was filled with self doubt. Not about my race, which I was confident I could mess up without any doubt, but about what I waswearing. It’s April. It’s supposed to be spring. I was going to dress like it was spring.
Runners combine quiet resilience with never ending disappointment. On the coldest days we leap out of bed (exaggeration) and say “well, it’s 12°! That’s just 20 degrees below freezing. Freezing isn’t so bad.”
In the fall, we declare the season of inevitable death of everything green as “the best seasons for running.” If, on Thanksgiving, the men aren’t wearing tights we embrace the cold and wonder if this year we can be spared winter. On a warm day in January, we run in the unseasonable weather knowing we are taking full advantage of all that nature has to offer. Ah, then spring! The hippies come out of the woodwork, and the runners breath the fresh air in shorts confident that the winter is over.
Last Saturday, winter was not over. At the start it was 30°. Cold. I texted with my buddy — also named Gregg (he spells it wrong) — and we both agreed it was perfect shorts weather. It was not! Although I wasn’t cold during the race, the walk from the car to the start caused more soul searching and doubt than usual.
I wound up warming up alone, and got to the corral right before the gun. For whatever reason, I was placed in the second corral, and because I was late, I was in the back. The gun went off and it was a struggle. There were people in front of me wearing headphones that looked like something out of MASH. One woman was wearing an overcoat. I may have made that part up.
It’s hard to talk about being behind slow runners in a race without sounding like a dick, but in many many people’s eyes, I am one of those slow runners. And it’s hard to politely relax while people in front of you talk casually about all the bullshit in their lives. I have a lot of bullshit in my life. Which I will resume in about ten kilometers. But I can’t be one of those assholes who bobs and weaves through the crowds. So I took it easy.
But a slow first mile was a good thing. I hit it in 7:01 (I was hoping to run 7:40 pace) and by then the crowd was thinning out a bit. The hardest thing about a crowded start is remembering when the crowd opens up, I have to pick up the pace.
It worked. Second mile in 6:39 — right on pace. Third mile 6:34. I could write a novel about how much love the third mile of this race. It ends at the bottom of Harlem hill after a great decent. Ah, then time to pay the piper — running up Harlem hill 6:52.
But then I was feeling great, looking at folks in front of them, reeling them in. Lap 5 6:32.
Then, a sharp pain in my rib cage. I am sometimes worried about cardiac events. And by sometimes, I mean always. But this didn’t feel like my heart, it felt like someone was trying to rip a ribs out of my chest. Ouch! Wow. My first side stich. For fuck’s sake. I had to back off, a lot. Lap 6 6:45. OK, maybe that’s not a lot — but it was 15 seconds off my pervious split, and I think I had more in me.
Total time 41:52. Average pace 6:44. I wasn’t thrilled, but even if I had run the last mile 30 seconds faster. OK, then I would have been thrilled. Last year I ran this race in 41:59 and it was a precursor to a few more bad races. So I am glad I at least beat least year’s time.
But because it was a sharp pain I didn’t beat myself — it wasn’t like I died out there. Literally or physically.
So what’s next? Race more! I’m going to do the healthy kidney 10k in a few weeks, and there is a 5k in Croton I got my eye on.
And I swear I’m going to blog more — these posts would be funnier if there were more of them. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
A couple of months ago, I ran the Philly marathon. I was happy with my run there. But all my races leading up to Philly kind of blew. I really did only once race once I started training, and it was a half marathon in which I proved that flying back from Singapore and running two loops of central park in the heat is not the greatest path to happiness.
Since Philly, I’ve been relaxing, cutting back on my milage mostly because of schedule, but also because I was getting a little burned out. I have a couple of great loops from my house, but I feel like I’ve run every one of those great loops about a million times. Every curve, every hill, every mile. A million times. So it’s been harder to get out there.
I’ve also not been hitting the track… I mean, it’s the freaking winter. Ug. So many excuses.
That being said, I do feel like a little down time can lead to better training when I start up again. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
So, with my low milage and lack of serious workouts, I decided to run a race. I was hanging out with a bunch of runners talking about the future, and someone mentioned that there was a 4 miler on New Year’s Day. The rumors were varied but not ambiguous the course was a hard one, hilly.
The race was the Run for Sight in Brookfield, Connecticut. The drive is about an hour from my home, so I was happy to find that two buddies, Tim and Michael, we willing to do the drive. Sitting in the car for two hours to run for less than half an hour is not the greatest sitting to running ratio, after all. And the race was New Year’s Day. New Year’s Eve claimed Michael, so it was just Tim and I for the drive. We drank coffee and talking about our hopes and fears. Hope: not falling apart in the race. Fears: Crapping ourselves during the race. Typical runner discussions.
It was just under 40°, but there was a wretched wind blowing. Pre-race the high school was open for registration, so we could wait for the start in relative warmth. Saw fellow Taconics Carol, Tom and Bob and talked through the course. The run starts with a rough downhill, so Bob’s advice was to open it up for the first half mine, put some speed in the bank so with the uphills wouldn’t be quite as detrimental. I like a good down hill as much as the next runner, so I was all for it.
Tim and I did a mile or two warm up, which was great. It was cold as crap at this point, so I was glad to get out in there and suffer a little before the race. It’s a nice small race, and everyone was flashing a smile of painful recognition beforehand.
The race started right on time, headed downhill as advertised and then up a rather forgiving uphill. No one seemed to mention that uphill. That being said, I got in a pretty good lap in 6:27.
Mile 2. Ug. Hills. Tim, the guy I drove with, is a great runner and typically kills me in races. He’s so far ahead of me, he’s like a rumor. But I could tell how serious the hills were because he and I were doing them together. Both suffering. Very serious. Mile 2 we did in a freaking 7:09. Not so good.
At this point we both picked it up, and we seemed to be doing a lot of running with a third guy, a guy who seemed like he was a little bit older than us. He was doing great, we were reeling him in, he’d pass us. I realized that holding on to this guy was going to be the key to me doing OK in the race.
I think I have a problem when I have a bad split. I get too easily disheartened and resign myself to a slower pace than I might otherwise run. But with Tim and this other guy, I could just hold on to them and do keep pounding away.
Mile 3 6:33. And I was feeling every week I had taken off of speed training. But I just held on and eventually passed my new found buddies. I did mile 4 in 6:39, and finished the race 26:59.99 according to my watch. My average pace was 6:41. I was happy.
I feel like all summer I proved my ability to run one shitty race after another, but this one felt good. I ran a four miler in 6:33 in 2010, but I was in way better shape then.
I guess the takeaway here is that I need to not let myself lose heart after a bad mile — and to look around to people to be inspired by to keep up the pace. The problem is that training is often done alone, and I’ve got no one to hold on to. I’ve got to keep training so I can keep writing positive posts. Because no one wants to read a blog about some guy bitching about bad races. No one.
Part I: Expo Revelation
The first rule of marathoning is don’t do anything new on race day. Don’t try a new gadget to massage your muscles or modify your nutrition. Not that anyone would, but don’t modify your stride or try a new kind of shoe. These rules are set in stone and are non-negotiable.
Have a bad marathon? The community with gather round with love and support. Unless they fail the first round of questions: ”you didn’t do anything new on race day did you? Wait, you switched shampoos? And you normally don’t shower before your long runs. Man, you are lucky you’re not dead. I’m surprised the sweep bus didn’t pick you up and drop you off at stupidville. Everyone knows not to change anything on race day.”
This is true of every marathon, and true of every runner.
Another thing that is constant is that for every runner, and at every marathon, is that in order to pick up your race bib you have to cross through the freaking super mall of running gear known as the expo.
At the expo, you can get not only new clothes, new shoes, new gel, but you can attend seminars where people tell you to run differently (mid strike! barefoot! bike!). You are supposed to stoically turn aside from the salespeople. ”Wow, I’ve always wanted to try ‘crack’, your brand of gel, but you know I’m not going to use this tomorrow!”
“Yes, Bart Yasso, you’ve coached thousands of runners, but anything you say to me I’m going to ignore because I can’t take your advice as I am running a marathon tomorrow. And your marathoning advice must be categorically ignored. Because it has been written. So say we all.”
So I went to the expo at the Philly expo last night prepared to ignore everything. I was to pick up my number, maybe buy some gel — of the brand I’ve always used before — and get the hell out. But I did one to check in with the pace teams, to see what the deal.
A pace team is a group of runners who meet at a marathon and line up with a team leader. This leader, presumably, has run many many marathons at a much faster pace than the team’s target. The leader wears a GPS, and runs even splits and gets everyone on the team to their target time. Well, everyone who doesn’t fall off the back, or abandon the team.
I’ve never done a pace team before. In Boston, as far as I know, the marathon is way too hard core to have pace teams. We Boston runners just know our pace by feel and can just go out and hit even splits for a marathon. Or 50 miles. Or whatever.
But I’ve always wanted to run with a team. I look at my watch way too much, and stress when I’m off pace or on pace or too fast or two slow. So I was thrilled to see that Cliff Bars were organizing a team.
I needed a 3:20 to qualify for Boston. I showed up at the Cliff booth and found out there wasn’t a 3:20 team. There was a 3:15 and a 3:25 team. I had been training to run a 3:15 on a great day, but holding on to 3:15 in even splits felt like a stretch. 3:25 felt like it would be a little rough — I’d have to meet some people who were trying to hit a 3:20 and then get them to run faster with me. Too much thinking.
I met a couple of guys who were also trying to qualify — and discussed my issue with them. ”What should I do? I need a 3:20.” One of them — I will call him Hero — said “Dude, you need a 3:25.” I looked it up on my. And indeed he was right!
I was thrilled! I could run much slower than I had planned. Maybe enjoy the marathon instead of trying to kill myself the entire way.
Then, the doubts set in. ”Why do I run? To enjoy the scenery, or to push myself? Do I line up to have an easy day, or line up to see what I have? Good grief, you trained to run a 3:15, and now you’re talking about a 3:25? That’s ten minutes closer to death you lazy bum!”
I called my friend Bill who got my head on straight. I was running this race to qualify for Boston. To qualify for Boston, I needed a 3:25. Don’t redline it. Don’t get greedy.
So I showed up today, found the 3:25 team leader — a great guy named Mike, holding a sign that said “3:25″ with three helium balloons. He had to run with those balloons and that sign for the entire race.
I hung out with him a few minutes before the race, and he got asked the same questions again and again. Let me recall them: ”what pace is a 3:25? Are you running evenly? How do you handle water stops?” Answers: 7:49. Even. We slow down but don’t stop. I suggested he start to make things up. Like tell people he ran positive splits (meaning he ran the first half of the race faster.) Say things like “I like to go out at 6:15, then fall apart. ” He told me that humor was a lot more welcome at the expo, but in the corral people seem to have less of a sense of humor.
Off we went.
Part II: The race
It’s hard to find people who will say bad things about Philadelphia. They out on a great race. The volunteers were fantastic. The course is pretty flat. And the town comes out in force.
We’ve all put up with a lot for New York Road Runners recently, and in Philly, it’s just hard to not be in love with the race organizers There seems to be no layer of bullshit. After the debacle of the cancellation of New York this year, Philly actually welcomed thousands of runners into their race. This is after they were previously sold out.
So, here comes a complaint: it was crowded out there. Now, I was running with the pace team, so we do cluster together, but people were throwing elbows, tripping, etc. It was freaking crowded.
OK, back to the positive.
The pace team was great — we were off to a slow start, but our leader knew it was going to be slow, so he picked up the pace a little every mile. Our first mile was 8:15. Second one was 7:57. Then 7:26. Then 7:45, then 7:29, then 7:48 — so he wasn’t hitting each one exactly, but the overall was perfect. So I knew all I had to do was hold on to the balloons and I’d hit my BQ.
It became more like a long run then a race. It’s just a different dynamic — I had an objective, to run at that number. I held on to the dude with the balloons, and all was going to be good.
The problem is that I’d stop at a waterstop and fall behind, and he’d get a little ahead. And I’d think “I’m losing contact!!! There goes my BQ!!! Run you bastard!!!”. But then I’d catch up.
I hoped to pick it up after 20 miles, to see what I had and to, ultimately run my own race. But we ran a really slow mile 18 — an 8:28, and I started to flip out a little bit. I realized that the pace team came with no guarantees, and I better pick it up a little earlier to make sure I got it in time.
Mile 19, I did 7:53.
I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but a runner I know and respect — let’s call her Jenn Latham — gave me a great strategy for marathons, let’s call it 10, 10, 10. Which is, take it easy for the first 10 miles, just relax. For the second ten miles, hold on to what you have, and then for the last 10k, open it up.
I love thinking about a marathon that way. It’s all just a waiting game to get to the last 10k. So when I was at mile 13, I thought “only 7 miles to the last 10k.” We can all visualize 7 miles.
So there I was at 20 miles. Let’s see what I’ve got.
It wasn’t great — 7:31,7:33,7:35,7:42,7:30. So it was faster than a 3:253, but nothing amazing. 3:23:44. And the last four miles, I just wanted it to be over. It was almost as painful as redlining it for the beginning of the race.
But I have to remember what I set out to do. Qualify. And I did. So now I’m hoping to run Boston in 2014. Until then, I’m going to try other things. Like not running. At least for a couple of days.
Part III: Parting Shot
Philly really impressed me — in a lot of ways, it’s like New York without all the bullshit. I stayed in a hotel 10 minutes from the start, I was in the corral 30 minutes before the start and I was like the firs tone there. The course is good. There is some weirdness (the half marathons start at the same time with the full, the second half sometimes has out and backs that were clearly in pace just to add miles). But it’s a great time and I really recommend the race.
In a way it was a gateway drug into Boston for me, which feels a little weird. I did what I wanted to today, but I’m not sure I gave it my all. I’m fine with that as long as I then give it my all in my next race, or the race after that — I just want to make sure I’m not become so set on say hitting Boston that I’m not relaxing too much.
So I guess that’s why I want to do other things, like, heaven forbid, a tri. Maybe drowning in the middle of a town lake somewhere will make me understand the importance of road racing.
But for now, I’m just going to keep taking Advil and wait for the official results to be posted. Maybe find out what it takes to lead a pace team. It was a great day, but like any great day of running, it’s certainly a lot greater in retrospect.
When training for my first maraton, in 2008, I found myself in a love/hate relationship with my training plan. I loved having some direction in my life — ok, in my running life — but I hated feeling like I had to run. Running was something I liked, but I liked it on my terms. My terms often meant 45 minutes of slow running thiking about how wonderful life was. It didn’t mean running 7 miles because the running plan said run 7 miles. But run seven miles I did.
And then the 20s. I remember my first 20 mile run as something to dread. Would my legs fall off? Would I shit myself? Both? Nether? Who knew what happened at that magical point where I knew I had run further than I had ever run before. Surely, it was something to dread.
Then the weekly milage increased. From 35 to 40. From 40 to 50. Good lord. What a lot of running.
But I knew towards the marathon itself, there would be a taper. The point where I was baked as a runner, and I just had to stew in my own juices until race day. It was going to be great. I would sit around, watch TV, eat chicken parm, play with my kids, balance my checkbook, paint the house. I would enjoy the awesome shape I was in by relaxing with my fabulous self in fabulous runner land.
Then, the reality set it. Ten days before the marathon, I was starting to clear my mind. Clear my mind of any thoughts other than pure panic about the marathon. I’m a runner. I know how to deal with stress. Go run. Oh no you don’t big guy marathoner. You’re tapering. You gotta sit this one out. Put your feet up. Watch TV. Stew in your own juices. Juices of panic.
On Sunday I will run my 5th marathon. And I have to say the tapering has gotten not much better. But, I have to admit, I’m a little calmer. I had a job earlier in the week, so I was working. Now I’m working from home, and trying to keep my mind off the race. My McMillian plan has me running a very easy week. Easy means panic ensuring. I ran for 40 minutes today. With a headlight on. The headlight was cool. 40 minutes was too short. Tomorrow is off. Saturday 20-30 minutes. Almost not worth putting on shoes. Oh. Sunday 26.2. But who’s counting?
The cutback in milage is designed, of course, to give me a huge store of energy on Sunday. If energy is created by borderline and consistent panic, I’m going to break the world record.
The training has been good — I had a great 22 mile run, squeezed in an 18 two weeks ago, and ran a good 12 last Sunday. I have to think about those good runs rather than the crap races I’ve run or the low milage panic. Running is fun. Keep telling myself that.
The hard thing to come to terms with is that the worry does no good on race day. In fact, I think it hurts. I can’t sleep as well. I’m stealing cookies from the kids (nothing new there. I mean they’re my kids, so they’re really my cookies, right?). But I can’t get away from this stress by running. So I guess I’m blogging!
Next stop Philly. At least I’ll be able to get a long run in.
I feel great guilt about being away from home during hurricane Sandy. I hesitate to post about by run, which was great. But it was filled with great guilt. So I put off posting about it. Because that’s totally mature.
I had a good run. Churned out 22 miles here — where it was sunny and warm. Unlike my last non-US long run, I only got lost two or three times, so it was less frustrating than usual.
This was my last long run before Philly, and the schedule had me dow for 20-24 miles. I chose 20. It was great. I started by running down Avinguda Diagonal, which is a great broad street with a center bike and running path. Took a right, headed down to the sea, and then I was on the beach. Too cold to swim, but nice to run. Saw big groups of runners, everyone looking very fashionable. Many were wildly overdressed. It’s 50° out, and folks are wearing sweat shirts, tights, scarves. Also, there seems to be something in the air here that makes men thing Capri length tights are appropriate. Not sure what that’s all about.
It does seem like a lot of the runners are less casual than the runners you’d see in New York. I made a trip to a local running store (two trips, actually. Apparently stores are closed between 3pm and 5:30!). The clothing looked great. A shirt was typically $90. So I didn’t buy any shirts.
All and all, a good run — kept it just under 8:30 pace. Feeling good.
I’m back from my trip to Singapore. I did sleep on the plane, watched some movie about aliens or maybe it was Woody Allen, really it was hard to tell. That being said, even though I slept, I am as jetlagged as ever, and feel as if day is night and night is day. Literally. And in this case I’m using “literally” literally. So there.
I’ve also developed some sort of head cold. My colleague in Singapore said “oh, yeah, there’s a cold going around. Everyone has it.” That my cold is shared with an entire city-state is cold comfort indeed.
I had Grete’s Great Gallop on my calendar. That’s code for a two loop half marathon in Central Park. I felt so crappy yesterday that I considered not doing it. But we all knew that wasn’t for real. Of course I was going to do it. I imagined tears running down my face from fatigue, snot rockets before the race, maybe some digestive distress. So much to look forward to.
My training has been going pretty well, although I’ve been on the low end of my milage targets, I’ve tried to keep the speed work up while traveling. And I’ve been hitting the target paces in training runs. Again, what could go wrong?
I showed up at the race, and the park was already crowded. It was a 10:30 start, which is pretty late — I think this is because there were so many other events in the park that day. I wound up seeing a bunch of people before the race, made it to the porta-potty and then realized I had about 5 minutes before the gun. That was cutting it a little close because they close the corrals at some point before the start, and if you’re not in your assigned coral you’re totally screwed. It’s happened to me. So I ran to the start, arrived at the first corral and the marshal looked at my number and said “you’re late.” And then stepped out of the way to let me in. I then kissed him. We’re now dating. That’s another story.
I listed to Mary Whittenberg give her pre-race speech. She was in the paper yesetrday in an article with some fairly critical comments directed her way. She was all smiles though, and the race got off without any booing or throwing of used gel packets, or whatever runners would do to extress distain.
I went into the race knowing I was a little sick and a lot tired, so I tried to have no expectations whatsoever.
I saw my teammate Joe at the start, he said he was going to try to do a 1:30, which is faster than I’ve ever run a half. I asked if I could hold onto him for at least the first few miles, promising to keep my mouth shut and not tell jokes. He was cool with that (I imagine he wanted to see if I could actually keep my mouth shut), and off we went.
I guess I thought I could run a good pace for a while and maybe get lucky. It’s the “maybe get lucky” thing I have to watch out for. I should have started at 7:15 pace since I knew I felt like crap. What the hell was I thinking? If I say I’m going to have no expectations for a race, I think lining up with someone running a pace that would get me a PR was Not. Very. Smart.
First mile at 6:45. Nothing wrong with that. Well, except it’s way too fast.
Mentally, I was already starting to feel shaky. The biggest problem with the central park loop is that I’ve run it so many times. I know it — the good parts and the bad. In a 10k, you run it once, so you conquor each hill, speed through the flats, wait for the downhills. But you do all that once. In a half marathon, you do it twice. Well, twice plus an additional 1.2 miles just in case you weren’t bored enough.
That being said, it’s a good course — plenty to see. The park was, indeed, crowded and the runners were all kind of squished together. There were a couple of elbows thrown, and anger directed between runners. It does seem that most anger is directed towards runners who are wearing headphones — one woman, enjoying her no doubt rocking tunes, complained to a man that he should be more careful. He suggested she not wear headphones, concentrate on her race, and keep her comments to herself. It’s a friendly sport.
Mile 2, still on track at 7:02 — really things were going pretty well until mile 4, which I did in 7:08. Then the freaking wheels fell off. 7:18, 7:14, 7:10. Then things got really ugly. I started to have stomach stitches every time I picked up my pace. I would see people pass me, say “this is my chance, hold on to that guy.” I’d then feel a sharp stabbing pain. Not like a poop-your-pants kind of pain. More of a “I think I pulled my abdomen kind of pain. And I didn’t know that was a kind of pain. Now I know.”
I actually walked for 10 seconds in mile 11. Thinking that may help — like if I just relax for a minute, so much the better. No better.
So then I thought to myself “self, just think of this as a nice Sunday run. Don’t stress about it. No one is judging you but you. You slow fuck.”
I realized that I did feel like crap, that I had just been half way around the world and was living in a different timezone, that I should just relax. So I did. And ran. I ran with others. Then the others passed me. I ran with new others. They passed me as well. Ah, passers.
Finally I got some traction and held on. Then my little pea brain said “well, you should relax. But surely you aren’t going to run slower than a 1:40, right?” I looked at my watch, and realized I may actually run slower than a 1:40. So I picked it up.
On south drive it was crazy crowded. Because it was two loops, the slower runners with among the faster runners who were lapping them. And then there were also non-racing runners. And, in the opposing traffic seemed to be an endless run of horse drawn carriages. So there I was, contemplating my shitty race, smelling horse fumes, and loving life.
I crossed the line just over 1:36:37. The slowest half marathon I’ve run since 2009.
But it’s all just pathetic — I felt like crap, I shouldn’t beat myself up. But I guess I wonder what’s the point of running a race if you feel like crap. It’s so hard to detach from the emotion of doing shitty, and just thinking of it as a training run.
I’m a little down today. I have about five weeks until Philly, and I’m going to redouble my efforts to keep my milage up and keep working hard. I am sure my race yesterday isn’t indicative of my fitness. But it’s hard to shake a crappy race, and the fact that I may not race again until Philly is no comfort.
Just grabbed my schedule. For today “10/5 Mon OFF.” Well, that’s some training I’m sure I can do.