Greg Cohen on April 8th, 2014

I’m back in Phoenix, a place I love.  Mostly because of the running.  Sunny.  Flat.  I guess it can get hot.  But for now, after the winter we’ve had in New York, I am thrilled to to be here.  My Phoenix running BFF Terri (from whom you should buy a house) found a race for me to run.  Which is great.  Because what’s better than racing when you’re out of town?  Nothing!

Run the Runway takes place at the  Scottsdale airport.  On a runway.

I was a little concerned about many things.  First, and foremost, was how freaking boring the course was going to be.  Although in a perfect would I could entertain myself with the voices in my head, I do like a little scenery.  Maybe a hill or two.  OK, no hills.  Well, downhills.

Terri also pointed out that there would be zero shade.  And that last year it was very very hot.  Hot.  No shade.

Unique Expo!

Unique Expo!

The race is unique — it’s an airport that is closed for just one morning.   It’s cool — you park at the airport, walk into the terminal, and then out onto the tarmac to register.  I spend my life in airports, but very little time with my feet on the runway, so it was pretty special.  They put out a bunch of planes and helicopters.  They all look the same to me, but still.

I was way too early.  My nerves started to come into play, so I used the porta-potty three times (TMI?) and got in a 10 minute warm up.  Everyone had to hang out in the tarmac area until right before the race.  We were then all released to the runway, to the starting line.  Everyone seemed to know each other,  and everyone looked pretty fast.  I asked if the miles were going to be marked — I  couldn’t imagine painting mile markers on a runway.  No one knew.  So I let my garmin auto-lap, because why not?

My only real desire was to run a little better than I did at the Sleepy Hollow half marathon two weeks ago.  McMillian had be down for a 41:49…. but since the course was flat, I just had to do better than that.

Off we went.

Here’s what I learned.

It’s all about the sun.

When the sun was behind me I ran way better than when it was in my eyes.  Simple right?

Sad face running into the sun

Sad face running into the sun

The race started with the sun behind us, down to the end of the tarmac.  Felt pretty good, crowd was pretty thick.  Then we turned around and ran into the sun.  Hot.  Shitty.  Mile one, sun behind me 6:33.  Mile two, sun in front of me 6:49.  But something happened in Mile 2.  I realized there were very few people in front of me.  Like six people.  Then this guy passed me with a dog.  The dog was fast as shit.  The guy was too.

I turned the corner and was running with the sun behind me.  I passed some people.  Then one more guy.  He said “good job.”  I said “what about the 5k?  Aren’t we going to have to deal with those guys?”

See there was a 5k as well.  They started 15 minutes after us.  Their first finishers would be well ahead of ours (say 15 minutes delay +16 minutes of amazing running = they’d finish 31 minutes into the 10k).  But the problem is the slowest 5ks we’d be lapping.  We’d be running up their rears to finish the race.

In any other race, this would be a huge problem, but the thing is runways are very very wide — so it was super easy to get around them.  But it didn’t help me mentally.  There I was in mile 4 of a 10k thinking “put the hammer down, hold on, do something.  don’t slow down.  just keep running.”  And all around me there were people pushing strollers and kids out for a walk.  There were people talking on the phone.  I think I did a 6:58 or something.  Not so good.  But I knew I had to turn around once and then be done with it — I’d have a mile or so to go, straight away, sun to my back.  So I did.  And I did have something left.  Last mile was a 6:26.  I tried to finish strong and Terri got some great finish line pictures.  You get a sense of my amazing speed.  And the 5k runners/walkers around me.

Finishing 4th.  Amongst the 5k walkers!

Finishing 4th. Amongst the 5k walkers!

I am a little sad that effectively I let myself get distracted by the walkers.  It was just disheartening to not have anyone to hold on to (whomever was in front of me I couldn’t see because of all the walkers) but I just need to work on that, run the race inside my head regardless of what’s going on around me.

I finished with a 41:20 by my watch.  A PR by a few seconds.  But I came in 4th overall.  Which was a fantastic feeling.

The results were an absolute mess afterwards, they lost a bunch of times or chip reads.  But everyone was really great about it, and it was a festive mood afterwards.  I didn’t pick up my award, but I still had a great time.

So what have we learned?  The sun matters.  There is absolutely no shade on a runway. And it feels good to be 4th.

 

Greg Cohen on March 22nd, 2014

Training has been going well — I’ve been very happy with some of my speed workouts, I’ve gotten a long run or two in, but I’ve not raced since a badly measured 5k over a month ago.  I was anxious to see how I was going to do in a longer race, and what better opportunity than a relentless half marathon.

I ran the inaugural year of the Sleepy Hollow half marathon in 2011.  I did pretty well — heck, I think it was my PR at the time.  This is a notorious course, there’s a rumor that Jim Gerweck, race director of the never-flat Boston Build Up series designed it.  I’m not quite sure how I ran it well three years ago, but the fact that I had a good time under my belt made today’s race more intimidating that I would have liked.

My pre-race stress was based on having a shitty day and then realizing my fitness was off and then becoming so depressed that I quit running.  Not really.  But really.  The anxiety was over the top — it felt like a marathon inside my stomach.  I couldn’t get the rough course out of my head.  I took some comfort in that the route had been changed.  Maybe it would be easier.  Or different.  But there was no question that it was not going to be flat.

And flat it wasn’t.  886ft of climb.  Good grief.

The ENd

The End

My friend Jin was running and we talked about running together and holding a seven minute pace.  This worked out great for me at the Dutchess half last fall when I PRd on Jin’s heels.  By heels, I mean he was about a minute in front of me. But we worked together for a lot of the race.

Today it wasn’t to be.  Things started off well.  I manually lapped, which maybe doesn’t make so much sense in a smaller race as many of the mile markers were a little off (of course, you can only complain about miles if they’re short), but I felt we kept everything around 7 minutes through the first two miles.

At mile three, there was quite a freaking hill (Mountain?  what makes a hill a mountain?), and I really had to struggle to hold on.  Jin opened it up a little bit and I fell off the back.  I was fine with it — my friend and awesome runner Gregg Diamond had texted me before the race “Run your own race,” and there’s no question my own race had nothing to do with Jin’s!

That being said, I held on to him, falling back 100 meters or so (see, meters!  Like the track!), but then catching up around mile 5 or so.  I think we ran together until mile 9, and then I just felt slow.

With the first half uphill, the second half is  net downhill, and it was fun to open it up. At mile 9, there was a smiling volunteer who said “Ok, turn here onto the trail!  Up the hill!!!!”.

Trail?  Hill?  WTF!!!!  

At first I was like “trail, this is great.  I love running on trails.”  But I fall apart racing on trails because I have no freaking confidence.  Also: hill.  And it wasn’t a packed dirt trail.  It was a brick path.  Then a dirt trail.  It blew.  7:51.  Suck it trails.

After that, it pretty much continued to blow.  There was a nice downhill, but then some rolling hills at the end.  I just didn’t have it.  There was a crazy out and back which sucked.  And then back up a hill at the end.  In mile 13.

Towards the end, so many people were passing me I felt like I was standing still as a bunch of people got off the subway with my back to them.

But I knew I was pushing hard — looking at the stats my heart rate stayed up the whole time.  I was working.  Just wasn’t loving the results.

As I was falling apart after mile 9, I kept thinking to myself “self, there is a lesson here.”  I’m not sure what it is.  Oh, yeah, sometimes racing sucks.  Also: lose some freaking weight.  I think with this training plan it’s really the best thing I can do for myself.  I get back from these runs and I just want to eat everything.  And I do.

This was a tough run, but it’s a great course.  The only thing that broke up the pain was that things changed again and again.

 

Greg Cohen on February 18th, 2014
This is as much running as I did today.

This is as much running as I did today.

I love running. Really. Hauling my ass out of bed in the middle of the night to dodge traffic in a strange city  whose design seemingly includes no concern for pedestrian traffic flow generally or my life specifically  Dream come true.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to get up. Maybe it’s dark and cold and rainy and I’m tired and the bed is comfortable and I don’t want to run and I ran yesterday and I’ll run tomorrow extra long and sleep is important and I am a much better sleeper than I am a runner.

Really, it’s a constant battle between RunningGreg and SleepingGreg. Or xBox Greg. Or Netflix Greg. There are many Gregs.

One of the things that helps keep SleepingGreg at bay is having a plan.  And one of the things that guarantees a plan is running a marathon.  I’ve got one coming up.  And now I have a plan.

Really, it’s not that far of a leap. I’m running the Run for the Red Marathon on May 18th and I really want to shake up my training. It will have been 18 months since Philly and I need some way to push myself.

For previous marathons I’ve both “designed” my own plan (by basically dog eating a copy of ‘The Competitive Runner’s Handbook’) and bought 16 week plans where you get a one time download of an excel sheet or PDF.  I’ve had great experience with Greg McMillian, who is a well known elite coach, has an amazing website where you can get a lot of free training information as well as order a custom training plan.

This time I’ve opted to actually for a plan where I get to actually interact with a coach at McMillian. I’ve got my first month of training and I’m thrilled.  

Today is my first day of training and I’m taking the day off. Cause that’s what the training says. SleepingGreg wins.  But that’s OK.  Cause it’s on the plan.

Tomorrow, I’m doing a progressive thirds run where, according to the fanatic McMillian site:

For the first third, you run at a relatively slow, comfortable pace. As you progress to the second third of the run, your pace will have gradually increased to your normal steady running pace. Over the last third of the run, you increase your speed so that you’re running a strong, comfortably hard pace.

I’m on for a 60 minute workout tomorrow.  I’ll report back.  Or sleep through it.  Can’t sleep through it.  It’s on the plan.

Greg Cohen on January 18th, 2014

As well as plenty of time in Las Vegas, I seem to find myself in Orlando, and it’s hard to complain about being here in January.  This year especially, the weather has been great, and I’m lucky enough to get out and run in it more than I deserve.

After my disappointing run on New Year’s day, I was thrilled to find a 5k to run here.  I figured I could sneak in a race, and if it went well, I could tell my friends.  And if it went poorly, I could just keep it to myself.  A friend Michelle found a 5k in the lovely town of Mineola which was someplace I’ve never been.  My friend and colleague Clinton had never raced before, so it was awesome to bring someone along who was going to PR no matter what.  We headed out to make the best of the race.

It was pretty clear right from the outset that this race was super informal.  I noticed when we registered they handed out numbers without noting names on the registration form.  So that means no published results.  Or awards.  What could be better?

The race was the same weekend as the Disney half and full marathons, and there weren’t a lot of crazy looking runners out at this event.  There were plenty of strollers and enthusiastic high schoolers, but we were crazy early.  Clinton and I ran about a mile and a half, and still had about 25 minutes before the start.

I really wanted to go under 20 minutes. I felt like trying to do the first mile at 6:20, as per my friend fast Greg’s advice, would be a good start.  6:18.  Right on target.  But in the hellish second mile, I faded to a miserable 6:39.  And I felt like I was giving it all I had.  In the final mile, I had no more to give.  Came in and hit the watch.  19:30.  Whoa!  Sub 20.  But then I looked at the distance.  3.0 miles.  THE COURSE WAS SHORT.

Ug.  I guess I wasn’t so upset because I’d rather come up short than get another 20:08 or whatever.  But it was painful.  I did come in 4th or 5th overall.  Which is as close to the front as I’ve ever been.

Not a lot more to say.  I was glad to get out for a race.  I wish they had measured the course correctly.  I also wish I had run faster!

It was great to be running with Clinton, who came in 6th or 7th overal — which is amazing.  I expect great things in the future from him. Next time, we’ll run a certified course.

 

Greg Cohen on January 3rd, 2014

One thing that is making me even more nuts than usual is when someone says something horrible and then puts “happy new year” on the end of it.  Like “hey, wow, we didn’t tell you?  You’re not doing that gig.  Happy New Year!”  or “Your hotel room won’t be ready for three hours.  Happy New Year!”  or “I really had a shitty race.  Happy New Year!”

I’ve been coming to Phoenix for years. I have family there, and honestly I think it’s a great place. I’m sure it’s a great place for a lot of things, but it’s an awesome place for running. For example, it’s really flat. Also, in the winter, the weather is outstanding (I understand that’s not the case in the summer. But let’s ignore that.). And there are great places to run. Like the Arizona Canal, which is a packed dirt trail next to water that goes seemingly forever. Sure, sometimes you have do dodge through four or five lanes of traffic screaming “DON’T HIT ME! I’M A RUNNER!!!” but you can get that in any city.

I have a great running friend here, Terri, who is always up for a jog with her slower visiting friend. I’ve hung her with and her husband Mark (from whom you should buy your Phoenix home, by the way) and she’s introduced me to a few other running buddies here. It’s a great community, and people seem really supportive of each other. We get that in New York, too, of course, but everyone just seems happier here. I’m sure I’m just reacting to not being cold or snowed in, but I find there is a warmed optimism that tints life here. Like cheese on a bagel. Which is gross. By the way.

I reached out to Terri and asked if there were any New Year’s day races that were worth doing. Last year I ran a four miler which I kind of enjoyed, mostly because I did a little better than I had any right to expect. She found a couple of 5ks, and although she didn’t want to run it (because she is smart) she agreed to get me in the last mile.

The race was super mellow. To this day, I’m not 100% sure what the name of the event is.  It was pretty clear that the race was informal, for example, they took down my home address and said they were going to mail tee shirts. Which seems highly unlikely, but maybe my cynicism is misplaced. I will blog more about my tee shirt when I get it.  But it pretty much started on time, they had food afterwards, so what could be better?  Marked miles, I guess.  But I’ll appreciate them more next time.

We met around 8 for a 9 start which was great. The sun was just coming up and it was about 45°.  The air was clear, the morning was fresh.  Everything was great.  Except for my running.  I felt like absolute dogshit even from the start.   My breathing was hard, and even the tiny little hill (incline? hill seems to not describe it well). I really have no idea why, but I couldn’t really get it in gear.

I had run a 19:35 in May, and a pretty good half in September. I’ve also got a friend who has taken me under his wing for coaching and he — who is also named Greg of course — has been getting me through a pretty good tempo run or two. He’s an awesome runner, and he has a great first name. I’ll call him “the other Greg” because to call him “the faster Greg” is a little depressing.

In talking to the faster other Greg, he suggested getting in under 20 minutes. I thought to myself — and unfortunately said out loud — that I could do well in this race. The weather is perfect. The community is supportive. And Terri was going to get me in the last mile. What could go wrong?

Terry asked me how quickly I wanted to run the last mile. I said a bunch of stuff that I’ve tried to block out of my head as they were clearly the ravings of a lunatic. Words like “six ten”. Or maybe even “around 6.” Insanity.

The other Greg had suggested going out in a 6:20 and taking it easy for the first mile and then seeing how I did. Terri agreed. 6:20 sounded great to me. It would be a great chance for for me to really hold back. See what it was like to leave something in the tank.
At the first mile, I was lapped at 6:24. And the only thing I was keeping in my tank was the powerbar I had for breakfast. And I wasn’t sure I it was staying there. Or anything else. Maybe I’m not being clear. I felt like dogshit. Slow dogshit. Dogshit that had gone out seemingly too fast but apparently too slow based on my watch. D-o-g-s-h-i-t.

The other Greg pointed out that the second mile in a 5k is the worst. It’s the worst mile in running. It shouldn’t be hard. Only one mile in! But one mile after pushing as hard as a distance runner can push. And you’re not half way through. I did the second mile in 6:32. How freaking depressing.

Smiling because it's almost over

Smiling because it’s almost over

Mile 3 Terri was there waiting for me. Any initial relief I had by seeing her was followed by the crushing realization that she was going to make me run faster. She was encouraging (“you’re doing great.” “it’s totally fine to throw up.”  ”no one has noticed you’re crying.”).  What blew is that despite the encouragement I felt like I had no more to give. I picked it up a little bit every once in a while, but in the end I was having trouble pushing it even realizing that the end was near. With less than a half mile to go Mark got a bunch of pictures of us which are universally indicative of how crappy I felt.

I finished in 20:06. Which is 7 seconds slower than I time I would have been thrilled with. So right next to thrilling is misery. What an awesome hobby.

That being said, I did learn a lot. I feel, once again, that losing ten pounds would do an amazing amount for my running. I really need to stop eating everything I see. Also, I need to keep training with (the other) Greg. And I need to keep racing to see how I can better control how I feel at the start. It’s not like I’ve been doing anything that different in terms of what I eat or how I train, but I feel like if I make some positive changes I can have a better chance of putting in some better times.

There is some icing on the cake. I did wind up coming in first in my division, which is amazing and did give me a big emotional lift. I really do only race against myself, but when I am so unhappy with myself it helps to beat everyone else. That sounds a little less charitable that I’d like.

I’ve picked a spring marathon — I’ll be running the Pocono Mountain Run For The Red marathon on May 18th. It’s a little late in the year for the weather to be anything other than risky, but it’s got some great reviews online and (the other) Greg will run the second half with me. So that’ll be great.

I’m now in Vegas for a few days. The weather is still great, but it’s not nearly as good for running as Phoenix. That being said, I’m happy to get out a few more days before I return home to the cold.

So I guess I’d summarize by saying I had the best time possible running a crappy time in a race. Hopefully it’ll lead to better things in the future and won’t be a harbinger of a miserable year of running. But if it is, rest assured I will bitch about it both in person and via the internet. Because that’s what the internet is for. No?  Happy New Year.

 

Greg Cohen on September 25th, 2013

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.

 

Your 2014 Boston Marathon Application Submission - gregory.d.cohen@gmail.com - Gmail

Greg Cohen on September 17th, 2013
Greg Cohen Dutchess

$39 sun glasses

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.

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The pace team running

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.

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Post Race Pace Team

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'd like to thank the Academy.

I’d like to thank the Academy.

 

Greg Cohen on August 7th, 2013

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.

9436632419_6a62b5e168_zOur 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.

 

 

 

Greg Cohen on June 16th, 2013
Look!  It's Me!

Look! It’s Me!

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.

 

 

Greg Cohen on May 19th, 2013
Good looking 5k

Good looking 5k

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.

Places I felt like quitting

Places I felt like quitting

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.