Sunday, September 30, 2007

I've Got the Boogie Oogies! and Race Report!!

Let's hear it for the latest amazing people to join the Fred's Team Honor Roll:


The total thus far:


I cannot wait to get to Mile 18 this year with all of your support behind me. Simply amazing.

I wanted to hop on real quick and give y'all a couple of updates of the last Team session, and today's 18 (really twenty) miler, the Marathon Tune-Up.

Normally the Team meets Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7pm. Being that we are not in Alaska, and fall is here, it is getting darker earlier. By the time we began our Thursday night workout, the sun was already half-set. Not a problem when we're at the track, where it's well-lit. More of a problem on the steps, where the one light that would make the steps safe and easy is perpetually burned out. But dig we must, so despite my night blindness ... up the steps, down the hill, around to the water -- mix, match and repeat. The best part are the hill drills -- running up the hill backwards, and the BOOGIE-OOGIES!! What's a boogie-oogie, you ask. It's like a sideways gallop, I guess, is the way to describe it. I actually did attempt to write a whole description, but it confused me, and I know what it looks like. Suffice it to say, a sideways gallop. Chanting, "Jump, shout, boogie-oogie-oogie" is mandatory. Swinging your arms like an enthusiastic dairymaid is optional.

Thursday night was also Generic Birthday night. We've got a lot of September babies in the group (makes sense, right?) me being among them. So I figured, everyone's got a birthday at some point, rather than single out the 4 or 5 of us whose birthdays fall in September, let's just have a generic birthday party after training. So off we go to the best bar in NYC, P & G. It's on 73rd and Amsterdam. Unpretentious, unassuming, and just a great old bar. That link will take you to a NY Observer story from May about how the landlord of the building is trying to shut the place down. Yet another attempt to generify everything that's great and interesting about the city and turn it into a strip mall. Anyway, we brought in pizza and snacks (P & G doesn't serve food except for sometimes cheeseburgers and fries) and had a grand old time. Sadly I couldn't drink -- still on medication. But at this point I could barely get half a beer in me before feeling drunk. So no great loss there.

Commercial interruption number two: here's another commercial I hate. The one for Rhapsody, where the guy talks inanely about the soundtrack of his life, and then thankfully explodes before he can say any more.

And I am unashamedly excited about tonight's ROCK OF LOVE finale. That's right. Unashamed.

Today was the NYRR Marathon Tune-Up, an 18-miler -- 3 full loops of the Park. I was so not looking forward to it not because of the hills, but because of the boredom factor. The Park is lovely, and I am so grateful to have it available, but at this point I know every nook and cranny on that route. Then again, when they have the Olympic Marathon Trials on Nov. 3, the runners are doing five loops. Five! Yikes. The Team added 2 miles to the run for 20 total. I thought I'd do something novel, and listen to Jeff's advice about starting slow. Yes, even slow runners can start too fast, which is what I tend to do, I jump right into a 9:30 pace and then I'm sunk by the end. So here's how my mileage broke down:
Miles 1 & 2 (pre-race:) I decided to run from my house (well, 62nd St) to the starting line at 102nd and timed it to get there with enough time to put my bag in bag check, grab some Gatorade and get to the starting corral. Took it super-slow, plus which I had my stupid bag with me. Also decided to stuff my iPod and goo container into my RaceReady shorts instead of wearing a fuel belt, and needed to get used to the bouncing. TIME: 23 minutes, or 11:30 mile. A little slower than I thought, but I had a bag with me. Bad excuse.

Loop 1 (miles 3-8:) Felt great. Consciously pulled back and made myself not pass too many people for the first 4 miles. Water stations about every mile, with Gatorade at at least 3 of them. A close approximation of the marathon, which is the idea. The "regular" Natural Living guy wasn't there -- at the races, there's this guy who wears a singlet that says "Natural Living" (I am guessing he works for a company that promotes natural living) who runs the opposite of the race, cheering people on. If ever there was a good advertisement for your product, this man is it. He is built like a brick you-know-what and has a smile on his face that lights up the Park. I know it's race season when I see him. And Larry the Lighthouse. Alas, neither were there. But there was another Natural Living guy stationed mid-way up the Great Hill (the one at the north end of the Park) cheering people on. TIME: 58:23, or a 9:44 minute mile.

Loop 2 (miles 9-14:) Listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," one of the podcasts I enjoy listening to on long runs. Depending on my mood, I like Phedippidations (as y'all know. Oh, and yes indeed Steve did mention me at the end of the Fred Lebow story. A real honor, and completely unexpected. If any of you are here because of Fdip, thanks for stopping by, and it's been a pleasure running with you!) Also "The Extra Mile" podcast, which was created specifically for people training for the Fdip Worldwide Half Marathon and Kick the Couch 5K (aka C25K) -- more on that in Loop 3. When I need humor and distraction instead of motivation, "Wait, Wait," "Car Talk," and Garrison Keillor has his weekly News from Lake Wobegon stories (not the whole Prairie Home Companion, alas. In my pre-iPod days I'd time my weekend runs to listen to him.) And for hills -- MEAT LOAF!! Picked up the pace a little, started passing people. It's so interesting watching people's running form. Not that my own form is a model of perfection, but there are some people, I'm amazed that they manage to propel themselves forward. There was this one girl I passed, she not only had what I call "duck feet" -- when the feet flap out to the side instead of going forward -- but it looked like her legs weren't moving when she ran; in other words, that she ran from the hips without bending her knees, like there was a beach ball between her knees that she was hanging onto. Freaky. TIME: 56:18, or a 9:23 minute mile.

Loop 3 (miles 15-20:) So much better than the Palisades Run! By this point in that run, I was mentally writing my will. As I passed the 102nd Street transverse (and the elite runners were starting to come in) I still felt strong. And as we pass the transverse I see that the clock is reading 2 hours. Can I make this last loop in under an hour? Can I really and truly do a negative split? It's challenge time!

Now, here's the thing, and it will sound a little like self-sabotage, but hear me out until the end. At this point in a race I will start thinking about my exit strategy -- I let the voice in my head start saying, "You know, you've walked in races before. You can walk up the Great Hill." True enough. Every time I ignore the voice, I feel like I've won a little victory, and it motivates me. It's just knowing I can listen to that voice, somehow makes me more determined not to. It's sort of like when I quit smoking. Believe it or not, I was a smoker, up to a pack a day at my peak. I've been quit now for almost 15 years. Amazing, since I'm only 29, right? Yes, I started very, very young. Hee hee! Anyway, for the first year of my quit, I carried a pack of cigarettes with me everywhere I went. If I wanted one badly enough, I could have one. The question was, how badly did I want a cigarette, that I was willing to screw up the quit? Just knowing they were there and available kept me from panicking, and oddly enough, from smoking. Now, if only I could do that with candy...

Feeling good, pouring on the sauce when I can -- the field is still fairly crowded, and this being a race that not a lot of newbies run, I am with a lot of people who are at my pace, I'm not pushing to get around a lot of people. The highlight of loop 3: I was listening to The Extra Mile podcast. The WWHM is something that Steve Runner came up with on Fdip last year -- a weekend where everyone runs a half-marathon, either a sanctioned race or make up your own -- and it's like we all ran it together (this year he added a 5K for newbie runners.) So everyone has been training together, tracking our progress on his website, the Worldwide Half site, and the Buckeye Outdoor site (that's where I got the sidebar with my training from.) The TEM podcast came from people training for the WWH; they have people send in audio bits talking about their training. A couple of weeks ago I made an audio file while on the run, and talked about the first time we did 12 repeats of Cat Hill. Well, they used it, and that section came on just as I started up Cat Hill for the third time. Hilarious! I was smiling so broadly, people must've thought I was nuts. The Brightroom people took my picture at the top of the hill, if they post it, I'm buying it! My right hip started feeling "soft" at mile 19 -- like if I lengthened my stride, that my leg would wobble out of the joint. This happened to me a lot last year. It was disconcerting, but I did feel that my hip was tight before the run, despite extra stretches. I was glad it held off as long as it did. Because of that, I was afraid to pour on the last bit of sauce as we headed into the home stretch. And, amazingly, I had that sauce. However...TIME: 55:31, or a 9:15 minute mile. Crossed the finish line on the clock in around 2:56:00 (the chip time was 2:52:54)

So.. 18 miles in 2:53
20 miles in 3:16

Today, for the first time this season, I felt I could run a marathon.

After the race, a lovely brunch at Teammate Rich's apartment. Thanks, Rich!! The perfect end to a great day of running.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me! and other thoughts

First and foremost, the latest editions to the Fred's Team Honor Roll:




my amazing roomie and bestest friend LAURA QUINN


NOLA STUDIOS and the incomparable TUCKER HEWES

making the grand total to date:



I am honored to have so many people donate so generously to the Aubrey Fund on my behalf. Please know that I am not taking that commitment lightly. If you can dig deep into your pocket, I can dig deep into my soul and my energy reserves. And I am. Read on...

Last time I posted was the day before the 15-miler. On my Buckeye Outdoor training log for the 23rd, which may still be on the sidebar (if it's not, you can check it out by clicking on the "View My Entire Training Log" link at the bottom of the sidebar scroll. Or not. Reading a training log is as much fun as, um, reading a running blog let's move on quickly...) So anyways, I wake up Sunday morning, go to the bathroom, eat my pre-long run success meal of a bagel with honey and a banana, go to the bathroom, get my gear ready, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, go to the bathroom. Can you see a pattern here, ladies? Ladies will "get it" because ladies will get it. Give up? Keep reading...

So I head out to the meeting point at the Fred Lebow statue (where else?) at the Engineer's Gate. We're doing 15, 3 5-mile loops, an informal run because it's the day after Yom Kippur and also there was the Queens half-marathon that day. PS: I am bad, and didn't fast. Plus, I had dinner Saturday night at Peking Duck House. Then again, it was Chinese food...but I digress. The informality of the run meant we could kind of mess with the route a little. I wanted to end the run at 58th Street, so I decided to do a 6-5-4, so I could get off at my house. One full loop, one five mile of the upper loop, cutting off at 72nd, and then do the upper loop, but instead of cutting off at 72nd Street just keep going south to Columbus Circle.

The run begins, and all is well until about mile 3. Then I notice that every step sends a knife through my bladder, that immediate stinging pain that feels like you have to pee NOW. It's like (step) ow, gotta pee (step) ow, gotta pee.

I'm talking about a bladder infection, people. TMI, I know, but lemme tell you a fun fact or two about bladder infections. First off, women get them more than men because our urethra is much shorter, giving bacteria and other bad news a much easier way to get in. And while there are a myriad of disgusting ways to get a bladder infection, one of the more amusing ways involves a lot of bouncing up and down. Sex. Or in my case, running. That irritates the bladder and the urethra, and when you combine that with sweaty shorts or underwear, and whatever bacteria lingers after a run -- or a roll in the hay -- well, there ya go. For those lucky few who never experienced one, one of the more annoying symptoms is what I described above -- the never-ending feeling that you have to go to the bathroom, even though you really don't. And when you DO go, it doesn't provide any relief. You feel like you have to go again almost immediately.

No fun in general. Less fun when you have to run 15 miles. This has happened to me before, when I've done a long run with a bladder infection, but at least that time there were a lot of restrooms around (it was a race day, so portapotties abounded.) On Sunday, only the Loeb boathouse toilets were available, and there was only TP in one of the 4 stalls. Somehow I was able to keep my pace up until the end, when the annoyance of my bladder wore me out.

I was hoping that it was a mere bladder irritation, as the moment I stopped running, it stopped hurting. So I spent the rest of the day drinking water and cranberry juice until I became a regular fountain. No fever, nothing hurt -- when you've got an infection, you can actually feel your kidneys, it's pretty freaky.

What was more irritating than the irritation is that ever since the first infection I have been so careful about staying clean that I went to the extreme of changing my underwear right out in the open after the 16 miler in the Park a couple of weeks ago. Unashamedly dropped my drawers, covered only by my jacket. How could this happen again? So I decided it didn't.

Monday the fountain continued. Didn't help that it was the first day of school, and I was leaving class literally every 15 minutes. Again, no fever, nothing hurt -- why am I telling you all this? Who wants to know about my bathroom habits? And why am I even sharing them?

Brief intermission. You know what commercial I hate? Marie's dressing. The one where the woman daydreams about salad for dinner with Marie's bleu cheese, then her husband calls her wondering when she'll be home for dinner, and when she says after she picks up some salad dressing, he goes into his own little bleu-cheese reverie, this one about hot wings and the ball game. This commercial disturbs me on so many levels, but here are the three biggest ones. First off, the husband is sitting at home literally feet from the kitchen and he can't make dinner? Secondly, both the husband and wife's idea of a perfect evening don't involve their mate. How sad is that, the wife prefers a salad to her husband. Lastly, if you have the "pleasure" of watching this commercial, look in the background behind the husband. It's their son, staring forlornly into an open refrigerator. Why are neither of these people paying attention to this poor boy? There he is, wasting away in front of them while they indulge their selfish cheese-fueled fantasies.

Okay, Tuesday was my big old BIRTHDAY. Amazing how many times I can turn 29! How did I celebrate? With a trip to the doctor's office. If I can't get a simple toothache without it turning into a wisdom tooth extraction, why should I expect to have a simple irritation? So I gave up and called Dr. Thornton. Yes, that's her on the Honor Roll. How many people go to the doctor and walk OUT with a check? But that's because she's a great doctor, and a cool person.

Medicine in hand, I went to the evening workout. Nine repeats of Cat Hill, three sets of 3. First set easy, second medium, third set -- first repeat hard, second medium, third slow. Tonight was a big team night on the Hill, lots of running clubs there; it was a big assembly-line up and down the Hill. Kind of like the Zipper ride at the amusement park, only you don't spin upside down. I went to it with new vigor, remembering what I read in Psychology Today about learning to embrace the challenge, to love the uphill better than the downhill. I decided that for my birthday present, I wanted for my fast repeat to get up Cat Hill in less than 2 minutes. Normally I'm just over 2 minutes on my moderate-hard ones. So when it was time for that repeat, I put "Paradise By the Dashboard Lights" on the iPod (thank you, Meat Loaf!!!!) and charged up that hill like the proverbial bat out of hell (pun intended.) Three-quarters of the way up it really started getting hard to keep the pace, but as hard as I tried to convince myself to slow down, I refused to listen. I literally said, "You can do it!" and pushed even harder.

1 minute 43 seconds.

Happy birthday to me!!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fear Of the Unknown

Instead of editing the previous post, here's a brand new post, just for you!

Today's latest Fred's Team honor roll member:


bringing the Fred's Team total to


We are almost at my new official goal of $4500, and just a little further away from my idealistic goal of $5000. Won't you help me raise money for Fred's Team by making a donation to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital on my behalf? Click here for more information -- that link takes you right to my Fred's Team homepage, where you can make a secure, online donation and learn about Fred's Team, the Aubrey Fund, and MSKCC.

You can also learn about Fred Lebow by listening to Episode 115 of Phedippidations, the running podcast started by goofy little podcaster Steve "Runner," and my constant companion on long runs. I am not sure if a certain blogger is mentioned in the podcast itself (I'm saving it for tomorrow's long run) but this blog, and the link to the Fred's Team site, is in the show notes. GO FRED'S TEAM!!!

So, a little steno practice avoidance whilst I talk for a couple of minutes about, well, myself.

I've been thinking again about the parallels (can't tell you how many times I typed that word, trying to remember -- 1 "L" then 2 "L"s? Two, then one?) between steno practice and running. In May, I was having trouble getting through a steno speed -- I tested every day for 2 weeks straight with no success. I had a breakthrough about steno speed once we began Team training, and that is that steno speed is like running speed -- you need to push in order to improve, but you can't push it too hard or you will hurt yourself. You will get faster when you're ready to get faster (click here for a link to the complete post.) I mention this because this past Tuesday, when we did our speed workout at the Riverbank track, I broke an 8-minute mile not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. Now, for some of you out there, a 7-minute mile is a leisurely stroll, but for me, that's like the friggin' WIND, baby. Of course, I couldn't hold that pace for much longer than a mile, but it really boosted my confidence. I was thinking about the running-steno connection during this workout and how cool it would be if getting fast in one makes you get fast in the other. Why not? I had set a loose goal to pass my 140 speed test by the end of the trimester, so I could start the new school term in the 160-180 class.

Well, guess what I did on Wednesday? The second to last day of the trimester?

You may all worship me. Well, maybe not. Just send candy. Or donate to Fred's Team. Or donate candy to Fred's Team. I like licorice allsorts (sorry, but I do.)

So yeah, I start both the new school term and the "crunch" time of marathon training at new levels. Both will demand a lot of hard work and a lot more of a time commitment, and reaching these new levels makes the goals for both a more tangible reality -- for steno, finishing school and actually putting this training to use; and for running, my marathon time goal. I know I have it in me to do the work, but I do have some fear of the "unknown" -- what happens to you when you reach a new level. Fear may be the wrong word. Trepidation? Shpilkes? I guess just knowing what it's going to take to keep moving along the path towards the finish line of both goals is a little daunting right now.

I re-read the post I wrote in May about running my own race, and it does help, remembering where you were physically and mentally, as compared to where you are now. We were talking about that in school the last couple of days -- remembering back to when testing at 50 wpm was terrifying, and now 100 wpm sounds slow. It does help to hold onto that when you start a new speed. I need to do the same thing with my running -- remember what it was like not too long ago, when I was first coming back from foot surgery and couldn't do 20 minutes without stopping, or even when I first began running 4, 5 years ago and the idea of even running outside, let alone for more than 20 minutes, was inconceivable.

I recently read in Psychology Today a story about the benefits of exercise, and they profiled a woman who said, and I quote: "I love the challenge of powering uphill -- beating the beast; it's almost more fun than going downhill." I tend to dread our hill workouts, but love them once we begin, because being able to power up that friggin' hill so many times while pushing the speed, well, there's nothing you can't do after that (except walk, maybe!) Instead of dreading the work that will go into reaching the next level of whatever I want to achieve, I am trying to learn to embrace it as a challenge, and enjoy the journey as much as the reward of reaching the destination.

L'Shana Tovah, good Yom Tov, and a happy and healthy New Year. May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year. Much joy and naches to you and yours.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Room With a View

Remember this?

This was the hodgepile that was the view out my window last month, as the buildings on 57th Street were demolished. Look at it now:

That is Carnegie Hall out my window. Neat, huh?
The other reason it's so bright and sunny is that we removed the world's largest in-window air conditioner and had an in-wall model installed (we are doing Local 11 work on the building, so as long as we have a scaffolding and workmen, might as well take advantage.) Here's a picture of the old a/c:

That's the sleeve on top. This monster was at least 15 years old and did work, but it ate the entire window. Before, when we had no light, it didn't really matter, but now that we have a view, however briefly, having that window open really makes a difference.

The one downside is the NOISE! Not only do we have the light from 57th Street, we have the traffic noise. A lot of police and ambulance activity happens there. Who knew? As much as I appreciate the new view, part of me wants to get that new building up to block the noise again.

There was some running too, this week, but I will get to that tomorrow. I'll just edit the post.

PS: Got my wisdom tooth removed Monday, the one that lost a filling on Saturday.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

All You Can Accomplish Before 7am on a Saturday, plus a plug for Longevity Health and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!

Dear Friends,

The most recent addition to the Fred's Team Honor Roll is...

Fred Steaderman

making the grand total for the Aubrey Fund:


Don't you want to join the Honor Roll? Please click here to be taken to my Fred's Team webpage!

Today was quite a day. I had more stuff happen to me before 7am than most people have in a day. Nothing major (sort of,) just all of life's annoyances piled up at once.

Quick recap of My Week in Running (and other things, as if there is anything else in my life right now...)
Tuesday the Team did 12 more repeats of Cat Hill. Just what I wanted after Saturday's hill-a-palooza -- hills! However, it actually turned out to be a little easier than last week's. First set of 3 repeats easy, 2nd set medium, 3rd medium-hard, 4th easy. This time I actually felt that I followed directions. If you look at my times for the repeats on the sidebar, each set was about 10 seconds faster than the previous ones (as opposed to 5 seconds last week.) It was tough, but it did feel good.

Let me just take a minute to publicly thank Meat Loaf, because there's nothing like "Bat Out Of Hell" to power you up a hill.

Thursday I needed to work out on my own, because it was Rosh Hashanah, and also my father's birthday, and I was meeting my parents for dinner at their friends' daughter's house. So I did a stair workout on the Belvedere steps all by my lonesome. Now, last time I did a Belvedere step workout by myself was last June, and I remember this because it was a particularly disastrous one. I had eaten a big Italian lunch, featuring olives and garlic, and decided to follow it up with a step workout on one of the hotter days of the year. I only got about ten minutes in before I got sick. If you've ever been to the Belvedere steps, it's surrounded by a stone fence and there is no convenient place to, um, be discreet, especially since they were renovating underneath the transverse so half the plaza was blocked off. There are cut-outs in the stone fence, and I ended up trying desperately to barf through one of the cut-outs. Meanwhile, it being June, many bridal parties were getting their pictures taken right by the steps. I hope they checked their proof sheets carefully. Can you imagine? "Oh, look, honey, here we are by the steps, and ... what is that woman DOING over there?"

This workout was nowhere near as memorable. Managed to do 8 sets of things instead of 6, probably because I wasn't pushing myself as hard as I could have/should have.

So, dinner was lovely, there were about 25 people there, and enough food to feed 100 (welcome to the Jewish holidays, where our motto is, "we suffered, we triumphed, let's eat.") Possibly the best red cabbage salad, kasha varnishkas and carrot tsimmes I've ever had, and the organic sweet potatos were so sweet they tasted like butternut squash. And tons of other things, plus an apple cobbler that was TO DIE FOR. Good thing I run!!

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!! For his birthday I got him an acupuncture pack from Longevity Health, the place where I get my acupuncture and chiropractic from. They have the full array of services, from skin care to massage to Pilates, and the best staff in NYC. I'm telling you, check them out. Did I mention that each chiropractic session comes with a half-hour massage? They literally saved my ass last year while training for marathon #1. Click here to go to their website.

Which brings me to today, and the NYRR Long Training Run in Central Park. It's a paced run (there are pace groups from sub-7:00/mile to 10:30/mile) where you can run from 6 to 20 miles, depending on your training schedule. One full loop, 2 5-miles, and a 4-mile. On the 103rd St. transverse NYRR sets up bagels, bananas, PowerGel and Gatorade, and there are 3 water stops along the loops. You start at the transverse, do a full loop, hit the transverse, get Gatorade and such, recoup for about a minute, then back out with your pace group. It was MUCH better organized than last year's. There were people with megaphones calling out the groups that were leaving, kept the groups going in a good order so that there were very few mash-ups between slower groups and larger ones, and basically kept things running smoothly.

So I woke up bright and early. It was cool and rainy, so I had my raincoat, and my Ipod sheathed in plastic, and I thought wow, I'm so prepared.

I was on my way to the bus when I realized I had forgotten to take my AirAide, the herbal supplement that I credit with helping me get through the pollen and humidity of the summer. I know, sounds stupid, but it's a race day ritual and I haven't done a long run without them. Yet.

Then I waited for the bus for over 40 minutes. It never came. (I was trying to take the Madison Ave. bus. Shoulda gone via the West Side.) So I had to take a cab.

Getting out of the cab and walking towards the Park, I'm feeling something weird on my leg. So I look down, and voila, my compression shorts have split right at the crotch. On both sides.

So I get to the baggage area, get some extra safety pins and pinned them closed as best I could. I had an extra bandaid, which I put on one thigh, to hopefully help with the chafing that I knew would occur.

And as the coupe de grace, I put a sucking candy in my mouth as I'm heading to the start, and I feel around in my mouth and -- sure enough -- I've lost a filling. A big one. The good news is, it's in my wisdom tooth (they were never removed, they came in with no problems) so I guess the tooth can just be removed. The bad news is, it's Saturday morning. I've got to wait until Monday to get it taken care of. It doesn't hurt, it's just annoying.

Like I said, nothing major, just all of these little things -- and all before 7am. Come on!!

HOWEVER, the run was great. It was sprinkly out, and if it's possible to be both cold AND humid, it was. I stuck with the 9:30 group. I tend to start out a little too fast (like around 9:15) and then by mile 10 I'm running out of gas. I wanted to really stick with the group and see how I could do. After last week's 20, this week was 16.

First loop -- six miles, felt great. Had to stop at mile 3 for the bathroom, but managed to pick up another 9:30 group when I got out (there were 4 pace groups for that speed, so I went from #1 to #4.) Time for miles 1-6: 58:00.

Second loop -- five miles. Started running with a guy named Mark who is also on the Team (he wasn't wearing one of our shirts, though.) He's a doctor at MSKCC. We talked a lot, which was great, but I'm not so good at talking when I run. So it was a new experience for me, and it kept the second loop fresh. It also started getting less humid, but still cool and drizzly. Perfect!! Mark and I ended up passing our pace group at the 2nd water station and getting up to the tail end of the #3 9:30 pace group, so we went out for loop #3 with them. Time for miles 7-11: 47:30.

Third loop -- five miles. Getting tired. Breathing was fine, legs were getting leaden. I noticed that I flex my foot when I run uphill, which makes the back of my leg hurt. Concentrated on keeping my feet relaxed on the uphills. Mark and I were still running together. He was still strong, so I had to push to keep up with him. I really wanted to walk a little bit, but no way, not when I'm running with Mark!! So for consolation I stopped at all the water stations on this loop, for a few precious seconds of walk time. Also, the Team newsletter this week was about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to find your true race pace, so I wanted to push (and yet I totally didn't want to push.) After last week, 16 miles was like chump change. Still, it was some pretty exhausting change. AND...miles 12-16: 46 minutes! The first time this season I did a negative split (running faster the second half than the first.) Jeff would be so proud!!

Grand total: 2:31:33!

The only negative thing I'll say about the run is that I thought there'd be Gatorade out on the course, and not just on the transverse. I had eaten breakfast, but not enough, and I only had a PowerGel at the second pit stop. A Gatorade at one of those stops would've been nice.

No post-run ice bath today, odd after last post's tribute, but I just wanted to get clean and nap. Which I did. And now, here we are, avoiding steno practice and watching "Design Star." PS: I'm testing for 140 now. Passed all my 130s! But just can't get that last burst of speed for a solid 140. Gee, she said, admitting to blowing off her practice, I wonder why? I will get to it. If this week of good running has taught me anything, it's that you have to push outside your comfort zone to make progress. I've been practicing this week, but I haven't been pushing. I'm remaining at my steno comfort level. It's time to push. After this next episode!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ode to an Ice Bath

Why, Marci, why are you sitting fully dressed in a bathtub of water, drinking coffee?

Ah, the ice bath. Friend to distance runners everywhere.

For the uninitiated, an ice bath is one of the recovery tools athletes use after a strenuous workout. It helps to reduce inflammation and speed recovery.

It is exactly what the title suggests. You get bags of ice, dump them in a tub, add cold water, and get in. Keep your shorts on if you know what's good for you. Your legs and nether regions will turn to blocks of frozen sausage in seconds; the rest of you will be more comfortable if you wear a sweatshirt and hat and drink a hot beverage. The first few seconds are the worst. Once the shock wears off and the numbness sets in, it's actually not too terrible. Ten, fifteen minutes is all you need.

HINT: add warm water before you actually start bathing.

Athletes use ice baths.
I am in an ice bath.
Therefore, I am an athlete.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tuesday's Triumph, and the 20-Mile Palisades Run

Two more names for the Fred's Team honor roll today:

Total to date:


Thank you to all my wonderful supporters. I definitely earned your support today.

I have returned from the annual Fred's Team/NY Flyers Palisades run. Rather, I survived the annual Fred's Team/NY Flyers Palisades run. OK, I exaggerate a little, but let me tell you: 20 miles, 80+ degree heat, high humidity, and did I mention the hills?

I had heard tale of this run. I didn't do it last year because I had already signed up for the Fitness Games in Central Park, which was good ultimately because I had a bladder infection and went to the bathroom (no exaggeration) 7 times over 11 miles (just under two hours) before doing the actual 4-mile race. It's a 20 mile out and back across the George Washington Bridge and into Fort Lee Park. The Park's got a lot of rolling hills, the most notorious being mile 9, a straight uphill. There's a restroom and a water fountain at the top of the hill, plus there were aid stations at miles 5 and 9. I had originally signed up to do 18 but after Tuesday's training triumph I decided to go for the full 20. Wimp no more!

Tuesday's triumph: we did an "easy" speed workout at the Riverbank track. Three one mile repeats with a quarter-mile recovery in between. Run the mile at 30-45 seconds under your normal mile pace. My normal mile is about a 9:30. My miles Tuesday -- 7:50, 8:06, and 8:10. 7:50! I've never run under an 8-minute mile!!

Today's run, not so much. I was the first arrival. I figured I'd get there too early or too late, I opted for too early. I showed up at 6:45am for a 7:45am start, and we didn't really get rolling until 8:00. Good lawd. There was a really nice guy there, a guy named Dan who was with the Flyers (the Flyers, btw, are a running club, not a charity fundraising team like Fred's Team. There are a lot of running clubs in NYC. A number of Fred's Team members are also Flyers.) He pegged me for a runner on the train (the Fred's Team shirt and Fuel Belt was a giveaway) and we kept each other company while we waited for more people to show -- over 100 people were doing the run.

One of the things he asked was if I really needed to use my Camelbak. That's a water carrier you wear around your waist or on your back. I got one for this summer, knowing I'd have to do a couple of runs with not a lot of water accessible. I sweat like a moose when I run (and people wonder why I'm not dating men I meet while running) and I like to have water with me. I only have a 2-bottle Fuel Belt, and knowing it was going to be a hot day, I knew I'd need more than that in order to make it between fuel stops. A word about the Camelbak, it is a faux Camelbak, I'll admit, and I can't believe that you couldn't get by with an off-brand water carrier, and yet, it's kind of true. The bag I got had no instructions (and believe it or not, you need instructions, because I didn't realize you need to slit the mouthpiece open. When I first tried drinking out of it, I sucked so hard I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head,) you can't fully clean the insides, and because the pack itself sits directly on your back (the Camelbak is a bladder inside a pack) it tends to get smelly. PS: I was the only person running who had a Camelbak, faux or otherwise.

So everyone gathers and we head out. The first five miles are getting over the GWB and down the road to get to the Park, then into the Park and to the first stop at mile 5. There are a lot of small rolling hills in the Park, and I also didn't really notice that the roadway from the Bridge to the Park was downhill. Alls I thought was, this isn't too bad. I was keeping a steady pace, I felt great. The Park is beautiful, there's lots of shade, and the water is gorgeous. One enormous hill, and we were at mile 5.

Still feeling good, four miles to the next stop. The views are getting more majestic, the hills are getting tougher. I figure, up now, down later. Rolling hills go up AND down, and I was only noticing the uphills.

Mile 9. Still feeling good, I get some Gatorade and water. I ask, "Which way is the last mile?" The volunteer points at the hill going straight up. We had been warned beforehand that mile 9 is a killer, don't do it unless you're really feeling good because it will wear you out. However, the only thing separating me from the bathroom and cold water was that hill. And nothing keeps me from a bathroom.

Alls I have to say is, mile 9 was exactly as advertised. The bathroom and cold water fountain were worth the trip. My time for miles 1-10: 1 hour 43 minutes

Going back, mile 11 was, of course, delightful, straight downhill. After that, it was all downhill, but in a different way. Going out, you don't really notice how many hills there are because you're fresh and at the beginning of a run. Coming back, you notice every single hill. By this time, it was really humid, and I was beginning to slow down. Nothing was hurting too much, I was just worn out. Had I not done the hill, I probably would've had a lot more energy left, but you know, I had to do the hill. Getting to the 5 mile (now the 15 mile) rest stop was the longest 4 miles I had ever run. Honestly, the only thing I was thinking about was -- I didn't want to be the last person back. Sad, but true. That was the only thing I could think of. I know I wasn't running to beat anybody, it was all about me enjoying myself and getting a good run in, but by God, I ran a sub-8:00 mile on Tuesday and this is the best I can do? I went from "I'm going to finish this strong" to "I hope I can finish this."

I was never happier to see the "pit crew" and get some Gatorade and water. A couple of people pulled in behind me, sweating really hard. I refilled my Fuel Belt and headed out for the last five miles. I was so glad I had my faux Camelbak. Looking back on it, maybe I would've run faster without it, possibly out of desperation to get to a water stop, or because I wouldn't have had the extra weight on me, even though it weighed barely a pound. But it's my security blanket on long runs, and maybe I did run a little slower because I had it, but I wanted to enjoy the run and not be worrying about water.

Again, I had completely not realized how friggin' hilly the first few miles of this course was, and now that it was the last few miles I was really suffering. I had to take a few walk breaks to get a little energy back, and I went through all of my Gatorade. When I finally hit the end of the Park, I realized to my horror that the road leading back to the Bridge was uphill. However, there were about 6 runners right outside the mouth of the Park, drinking Gatorade from a beverage truck. Even though I still had water in my pack, I bought water, because I needed the cold. I guzzled some, gave some to Gina, poured the rest over my head, and we all said, hell no, and walked up the street to the Bridge. Then over the Bridge, and there we were. 20 miles.

Time for miles 11-20: 1 hour 47 minutes. Total time: 3 hours, 30 minutes. It was probably a little more, but I did stop the clock at the water stops, the restroom stop, and I confess, for some of the time we walked to the Bridge.

One ice bath and six hours later, here I am.

It was a lovely run, and despite the exhaustion I did have a good time. I was grateful to get out of Central Park and Riverside Park, and see some beautiful scenery. The only blotch on the day was my time. I'm not sure if I could've gone much faster, and I've been told by many people who've done the run that it is a brutal run. It was also humid and hot, and the marathon will be cooler. I should take comfort in that, and know that my time today will probably not be an indicator of my time in the marathon. But geez, I was one of the last people to finish. That's just a little demoralizing when I was just starting to believe that I was really faster this year. I'm sure I'll get over it; I'll talk to the Team and get some encouragement and words of wisdom. Or if you have any to share, please do, I could sure use them. You can post a comment right here on this blog.

Until next time...

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Good Training Week, and Proof that Great Minds Do Indeed Think Alike

Hi, y'all!

First off, HAPPY LABOR DAY! Here's to another year of, well, labor.

No names for the Fred's Team Honor Roll this week. I meant to do a mailing this weekend but got a little lazy and didn't get around to it. Don't you worry, if I have your email address you'll be hearing from me this week! And if I don't have your email address and you would like to support my marathon effort by donating to Fred's Team on my behalf, please click here.

It's been a good week of training. Monday I got in a nice, breezy loop of the Park -- clockwise, to avoid going up Cat Hill, knowing we had a hill workout the next day.

And what a hill workout it was. Twelve repeats of Cat Hill, done in sets of three. The first set was supposed to be easy (define "easy!") the second and third moderate, the last easy. The trick was to make each set consistent -- in other words, to try to get up the hill at the same pace each time (downhill was recovery.) I may not be the fastest runner, but I am a remarkably consistent one. Each set, I was within 1 second of the time each time. The third set was a killer -- I tried to charge up the hill, but my charge wouldn't have stopped a light bulb, let alone the Light Brigade. Because we only stopped to rest three times, the workout flew by and was surprisingly invigorating, even though it was possibly one of the hardest workouts I've done. And I technically ran 6 miles (since the hill is a quarter mile each way) in 50 minutes, for me an astounding time.

Thursday was our step workout, at the Riverside Park Steps. Unfortunately, when we got there, there was some strange photo shoot happening. The photographer was setting up all these giant mylar mirrors on the steps, effectively killing any chance for us to do a step workout. Grrr. So we moved to the steps that are a few blocks south -- a policeman told us about them last year during a training session. They are, of the three sets of stairs we train on, the most evil of the three, because they are the steepest. There is also a hill attached to these steps, it's twice as long as the 72nd Street steps and also twice as narrow. We did the usual drills, then we did a variation on a swimming drill: we were given 45 seconds. In that time, we ran up the stairs, down the stairs, and rested. After 45 seconds, back up the steps, even if it took you 44 seconds to get up and down the steps. We did this a bunch of times. I was pretty good on these drills, if I do say so myself.

There is also a grassy section next to the stairs, with a nearly vertical hill (also grassy and overgrown.) We moved to the grass and did a whole bunch of drills up and down the hill, including attempting to run up the hill backwards. It was actually harder going down the hill than up, because the grass was wet and we were all slipping, and for some reason, nobody rolled down the hill, although a bunch of people said they were going to. Not me. I get motion sick on a rocking chair. Who knows what a roll down a vertical hill would've done?

Friday I had planned to stay home all day because we were getting a new refrigerator. The old one had finally given up the ghost. It was the original fridge when we moved in 12 years ago. It had started leaking a couple of weeks earlier; we thought it was something in the fridge, turns out it was the fridge itself. Getting appliances for the kitchen is tricky because there's only 25 inches of clearance to get into the kitchen, so we needed a counter-depth model. This means, of course, that the available models are either off-brand, mini-fridges like the one we had (it was only 5 1/2 feet tall) or ultra-expensive ones designed to fit in seamlessly with the rest of the kitchen. We just need it to fit through the door. Fortunately, Home Depot had a good compromise, which I bought. The delivery people were supposed to come between 10am and 2pm. Guess what time they showed up? Go on, guess. Give up? 8:30am. They called at 8:30am and said they were half-an-hour away, and not two minutes later they were in the lobby. So now Laura and I are the proud owners of a bottom-freezer LG counter-depth fridge.

Anyway, I had planned to spend the day indoors, practicing my steno, and thus I did. So by 3pm, I was starting to get antsy. I figured, why not do the long run now, it's a beautiful day and I'm itching to get out. So I did my 15 -- okay, 14.75 -- Friday afternoon. I went over to Riverside Park, went up to 125th, back down, around a little bit where the dog park is, then down to Chelsea Piers and back, heading down some of the piers to see what's going on -- the sole advantage of running by myself instead of with the team. I love seeing the big water wheel, it's really cool.

Took the weekend off, though I did act as the bag lady for the unofficial Team workout Saturday morning. I brought my steno machine to the Park and practiced, it was a great practice session (except for the wind blowing the paper around -- I had to use a rock to hold the paper in the tray!) I was feeling a little shin-splinty after Tuesday's workout, and it was still bugging me, so I thought an extra day off would be good.

Sunday my roomie Laura and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was immensely crowded, and you know why, it's beautiful, and the perfect day for it. The only thing that spoiled it was that my bionic foot started aching and my right calf was tight. Granted, I wasn't wearing my orthotics, but I've not worn them before in my other shoes and didn't have a problem. So I was concerned. I did wear shoes Saturday night (going out for Coach Annie's birthday) but they were KITTEN HEELS for pity's sake. Could they have been the cause? Dunno. But putting my feet up for a while helped.

Monday (today) was a clockwise loop of the Park. My right calf started bothering me during the run, right at the back of the knee heading down. This is a new and distressing development. I was trying to do a tempo run, but couldn't because of the pain. Slowing to a cruising pace kept it in check. I must be allergic to speed. Laura and I met my parents in the Village for lunch and a walk around the Village Art Show. That art show used to be HUGE -- took up most of the Village, from 11th St. or so down to Washington Square Park, all around the Park (but not in it) down Bleecker and LaGuardia -- it was at least 20 blocks long and 5 blocks wide. A big crafts section (my favorite was the guy with the leather bracelets that he could burn your name in.) Now it's just a shadow of its former self, barely ten blocks long and only on two sides of the street. Maybe 3 craft booths, and no more leather bracelets (eh, they never had my name anyway) but the stuff that remains is by and large really nice stuff. I remember back in the day, when you could do these things, there was an apartment building on LaGuardia that my friend and I would sneak under the fence and play in their playground while our parents went browsing. There's only so much art a kid can take.

I leave you with this: Laura was out of town last weekend, Friday to Tuesday, visiting family in VA. I decided on Monday to go to Century 21 and get new sheets and a new quilt comforter, since my old ones were really getting ratty. So Laura comes home on Tuesday, comes into my room, I'm telling her about cleaning the bathroom, and she's just looking disapprovingly at me. "What did I do?"

Turns out, she had bought me sheets and a comforter for my birthday (end of September,) and, if that wasn't enough, she had bought me the EXACT SAME SHEETS I bought and the SECOND CHOICE comforter. AND, the comforter I bought was HER second choice.

Sort of Gift of the Magi, huh? Sort of.