I wanted to run Boston. The bombing last year made we want to want it even more. I wasn’t the only one. Even given the more difficult standards imposed, and the fact that I’ve aged into a new division, I missed it. I missed it by 20 seconds.
The hows and whys of the mechanics of qualifying for Boston and how they decided who got in and who didn’t are too obscure for me to detail (and they are described on the web, of course). But I feel it was fair, and the people who did get in did run faster than I did.
I’m bummed though. There is nothing like Boston. I’ve run it twice, and I was hoping to run it again.
Part of running is admitting you’re trying. That you’re setting a goal. That you’re executing on a plan. The emotional capital I invested means that it’s hard to just shrug off today. But I am hardly alone, and there are many great runners who are excluded from this year for any number of reasons. Many friends made it this year, many didn’t. And although I won’t be at the start, my heart will be with everyone who is running. I’m proud to be part of the running community, and because of last year’s Boston, the community will be out in full force this year.
It sucks to not get in, but I’m still going to try for next year. Hell, I’m going to go for a run for an hour today — that’s what I do. Runners are nothing if not persistent, and there’s some comfort in that.
Racing is a gamble. Anything can go wrong. It can rain. You can be hungover. It can be hot. It can rain, you can be hungover, and it can be hot. You can eat a bad piece of tuna. Hell, you can eat a good piece of Tuna and still have to step off the course in the middle of the run. Anything is possible. Thinking about all the things that can go wrong, as far as I know, has never helped a runner run one second faster. Fighting this anxiety is something I’m working on, and, I have to say, don’t seem to be getting good at.
For this year’s Dutchess County Half, I was relatively free of pre-race anxiety except that I was quite anxious to not do the race. My training has been off, I’ve got a lot of personal stuff going on, and I feel like I had no freaking interest at all in running a half marathon. Which, if memory serves, is quite long. I’ve run this race twice before, and the last time — in 2010 — I burned out at the end. I even blogged about it. Not to give myself any undue advantage I of course didn’t read that blog post before running this year. Very smart.
Last year, I ran Gretta’s Great gallop, a half in Central Park, and was as miserable as I’ve ever been. That was two long loops of central park, I was just off the plane from freaking Singapore (bad running town because of weather alone), and every mile felt like more a chore than the last. I tried to go under 1:30, which was freaking nuts. I ran a 1:38 something and hated it.
I’ve been in Chicago for the past week, and the running there was fantastic. Everyone seems to be in great great shape, all running along Lake Shore Drive in their pace teams, with their mid-western smiles and down to earth strides. It made my race lead up a lot easier, because it was easy to hold on to my pace. I ran 14 miles the Saturday before the half, taking a nice two hours to do it. I wound up feeling OK, so I had a little bit of confidence.
My friend Gregg needed a 1:32 to qualify for the local elite start in the New York marathon, and my friend Jin and I agreed to try to get him to that number. I’ve mentioned Jin before — he’s a great runner, super even, and I’ve often regretted races where I didn’t match my pace to him. Or keep up with him. Or even keen in him my sight from afar.
The event is a great — it starts out of a high school and there is plenty of parking and it’s festive environment. The Taconics set up a tent with some drinks and a little food after the race. I thought I had per-registered, but I hadn’t, and registering onsite took all of 35 seconds. Gotta love that. Cost $40. Awesomeness.
Jin, Gregg and I lined up and we were off. First mile was great at 7:03.
We caught up to a few women in the second mile — Kristy and Jean, who run with Orange County Runners. After a few grunts, we confirmed we were all running around 7 minute pace, and then we had a freaking pace team. We held it together for most of the race, and it was great. There wasn’t a lot of talking, but the occasional disparaging comment about how bad we’re feeling goes a long way to kill the time.
This is a beautiful course; there’s farms and cows and barns and fences. There’s also strip malls and road traffic, but only for part of it, but by and large it’s fantastic. I think it was 50° at the start, which was amazing weather
We were feeling great, I think all of us. Another guy named Dave joined us, and he seemed anxious to push the pace. He was running well, then at the nine mile mark he said “wow, I think that was my 15k PR.” That’s not so much what you want to hear — and indeed, he backed off and slowed down.
I felt like in the last 5k maybe I could open it up a little, finish with a great time. I didn’t feel I could go under 90 minutes, but I felt I was running well. Then at the 10 mile mark (which is, amazingly, 5k to go), the wheels kind of fell off. I couldn’t push any harder, and the miles seemed to come a lot less often.
Jin was doing great, and he did push hard. I held on for a little bit, then let him go.
I’m looking at my splits now, and they really aren’t bad — Mile 10 was a 6:54, 11 was a 6:50, 12 was a 7:03 and 13 was a 6:58. But they were long hard miles. Jin was out in front of me by at least 50 meters, and behind me I didn’t know what was going on.
It’s amazing how crappy I felt during those last three miles. I kept looking at my watch thinking things like “30 more seconds and we’ll be half way through this mile. 30 seconds is like a quarter of a lap. Wait, is that right? Man, this sucks.” When you’re parsing out comfort in 30 second increments you know you’re fucked.
I swear mile 11 and 12 are long. By about a half mile or two.
Finally, I could see the finish and there were a bunch of Taconics screaming. I broke into a big grin. “THERE’S NO SMILING! PUSH IT!” I hear, or thought I hard.
I finished the whole thing in 1:31:16 on my watch, 1:31:18 official. Much to my surprise I came in second in my age group! Oh, and it was a freaking PR!
I felt great, I was freaking thrilled. It was great to feel good through the first ten miles — the last 5k totally blew. But it really was because of the people I was running with. I’m now facebook friends with Jean and Kristen, and hopefully we can run together again. I know Gregg, Jin and I will run together again and I think we make a good team. When you feel like crap, there is nothing like seeing your buddies pushing hard.
I signed up for the Ridgefield Half on 10/6 — I’m hoping to get some folks to run it with me. It’s funny how I changed from hating half marathons to looking forward to the next one. I think I’m better, at least mentally, when I have a little while to work into the pain. The blow out of a 5k is over fast, but if you have a bad first mile it totally blows. In a half, you can have a bad mile or two or final 5k and still feel out.
After the race I got a trophy, which was awesome. I took a bunch of pictures and put them on the Taconic site; my friend Bill got a good shot of me. The team did well; my friend John came in 3rd overall in the half, and our teammate Tom won the 5k overall with a 16:10.
Bringing a trophy home is nice and the kids loved it. They didn’t seem to want me to take it in to restaurants or to meet their teachers at back to school night. Strange.
Monday I couldn’t run at all, today I did a slow two and a half miles. This could be a problem. I’m going to have to pick up my mileage, I have a half marathon in a few weeks.
I can’t believe I’ve gone all summer without the opportunity to bitch about training in the heat or racing in the heat or sleeping in the heat or complaining about the heat. It’s been a hot summer — at least until the last week or so, when it’s been blissfully nice out.
That being said, I’ve not had the chance to race or even train very hard. Some personal stuff has kept me from hitting the track often or get in as many long runs as I’d like. That’s fine — life should come before running, right? Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
I was signed up to do the club championships 5 miler in central park on Saturday, and it was important to me to do the race. This is a unique race if only because it’s so competitive. Everyone it it has a team affiliation and therefore you don’t see people out for their first run in the park. It’s also split up into genders — the men run first and then we cheer on the women. It’s just different.
Also, the race is small compared to other central park races — I think there were only about 800 men running. So you can actually run at the start of the race rather than feeling as if you’re stuck on the subway trying to escape a fire with a bunch of emaciated potential victims.
I wanted to do the race, to be sure, but I knew it wasn’t going to be a great day for me. When I woke up to the sound of rain I thought very seriously about just going back to sleep. It’s what the cats wanted, to be sure. But I got my ass out of bed and drove to the city.
I thought the race started at 8am, but it turned out it was 8:30, so I had another half hour to kill. I bullshitted with the other runners, found a handicapped porta-potty which was awesome. It was like a suite at the Ritz. OK, not quite like that. But it was awesome.
At the start I saw my friend Jin and talked to him — he said he was going to do around 6:30 pace or maybe a little slower… this was perfect for me. Jin, unlike the rest of us, has a habit of actually sticking to his race plans, and I thought it might be a great day to try and hold on to him to make it a little less stressful. Thinking to myself I wondered if maybe for once I could relax.
I wound up running with Jin the entire race and it was great. Whenever I thought to myself “Self, you can’t run. You’re not in shape to be racing. Stop for a hot dog. Or maybe one of those pretzels. Does anyone get mustard on their pretzels when they buy them in the park? If so, would you get it in a separate container and use it like a dipping sauce? Is it yellow mustard, or spicy?” I’d stop and think “just hold on to Jin. He’s doing all the work.”
I felt good, and tried to pick it up just a little bit in the final mile. I looked back at Jin and he said “just go ahead,” as if I had any freaking chance of going ahead. We finished, I think, within a few seconds of each other. Our final mile was our fastest in 6:24.
I wound up with a 33:24. 59 seconds faster than last year, a race that I totally hated. So the relaxing, such as it was, seemed to work out well.
My results aren’t in the NYRR system even though my bib looked intact to me. I filled out a form online and I’m sure they’ll add me later. It’s amazing that they don’t have more problems like this — I’ve run 20 or 30 races with chips and this is the first time I’ve ever had a problem.
Our team coach Jack got a picture of me where I look more miserable than I ever have running. And this was a race when I was as relaxed as I could ever imagine being in a race. I guess I’m a long way off from being relaxed. I think no matter how much I tell myself that I’m not expecting anything, I have to push it hard in the last half mile at least.
Where that picture was taken was about 400m from the finish, and our whole team was standing there. Almost to a person, there aren’t any smiles in those pictures. Everyone is racing. Everyone is pushing. I guess that’s what makes it a race. There is no happiness at the end. Until the end. Then you can relax.
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I’ve been working a traveling more than usual, and have found myself in Arkansas and Dallas. Surprisingly, Arkansas had weather that was a lot better for running, a lot cooler.
I was in Fayetteville, which is the home to a great running store as well as a pretty great network of trails. I had a great time running there, even though I was busy and stressed out. Dallas is also a great place to run, home to the Katy Trail, which is filled with some fast runners (and unfortunately some fast bikers). It was hot in Dallas, super hot, really the only time to run was at like 6 in the morning, which is usually when I have to be at work. So although I got in a lot of good runs, a lot of them were shorter than I’d like, and there was no way I could get in any speed work.
That being said, I tried to do a tempo run on a treadmill. Which I’ve tried before. It didn’t go so well this time. I have some sort of callous on my foot which won’t go away, and I can’t get a podiatrist appointment in this century. Why is it I can get a colonoscopy at a moment’s notice (which I don’t want, just for the record) and it takes a freaking year and a half for someone to deal with my running pain? Life isn’t fair! This thing on my foot doesn’t really hurt that much except when it does — when I’m running on a road, I can modify my form a little bit and all is good, but on the treadmill it’s like hitting myself repeatedly step after step. So while that’s not that much different from running in general, it hurt a little too much to churn out 3 miles at 7 minute pace.
So without any long runs or any speed workouts, I decided to go ahead and race the Portugal Day 5 miler, which I’ve run twice before. It’s a lower loop of central park, which means the runners avoid the dreaded Harlem hill.
I drive in with my friend and teammate Tom who is injured but makes it a point to come down and cheer us on in the team races. That makes Tom AWESOME, both as a runner and a teammate. We found a killer parking space, I got my pre-race coffee, had some private time on the portapotty, and did about the shortest warmup imaginable.
It feels like I’m always arriving at the race just in time to run a little less than a mile. I never know what to do with these warmups. Heart rate up — check. Make sure shoes are tired — check. Run a little more. Now go stand in the corale for ten minutes. Heart rape drop — check. Tie shoes again — check. Worry that race is going to suck — check.
I was in the first corral so I got to hang out with my teammates and a bunch of really fast runners. It’s really a blast. There’s a lot of joking around, saying hello. Stress.
I wanted to PR — I mean why the hell not? No proper training? What could possibly go wrong? I needed a 6:28 pace for a 32:22 overall to PR.
I was thrilled at the start to see my fellow Taconic Gregg, who is an awesome runner and a great guy for me to run with. He starts strong (which I don’t) and sometimes falls off a little at the end, where I tend to pick it up. We agreed to do 6:30 miles throughout. We didn’t pinky-swear or anything, but I felt like we had an agreement!
Gun went off, nice start. It was crowded, but everyone was moving fast. 6:31 right on target for mile one. We actually made the turn onto the 103rd street transverse between miles one and two, I was hoping that was the half way point. It’s sometimes a mistake to think you know a course better than you do. Mile 2. 6:23. ”Too fast” I mentioned to former friend Gregg. Mile 3 had a little bit of a climb in it, 6:41. Mile 4 was pretty good in 6:33. Gregg backed off a little bit, and I was alone with my thoughts and inevitable demise. Pick it up, you bastard. Run faster. Or just quit. But the truth was, I dug as deep as I could and just didn’t have anymore. I was doing all the tricks — counting steps, trying to hold on to another runner, etc. Right into the finish line there was a little uphill and I thought I wasn’t going to make it! 6:36 mile 5. Final time, 32:46, 24 seconds too slow.
What did I learn? Well, you actually have to train to PR. Also, I gotta watch my freaking weight. I’m still eating everything. I think five pounds lighter and I’d be killing these things. I should mention that I’ve just finished eating a little cheese before bed. Because why wouldn’t I?
But looking at my times, the five miler I PRd in was in 44° weather. So that’s worth something. This was a PR on this course (I ran 32:51 in this course in 2011). So I guess I do have a PR left in me, I just have to work for it.
I have loved racing recently, and I really want to keep doing it. Not being able to pick it up in mile 5 today was really disappointing, but I should have started slower. Also, I should have done some speed workouts. Or some long runs. There may be something to decades of running wisdom.
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.