Is that Grete Waitz, nine time -- let's say that again -- NINE TIME winner of the NYC Marathon? In Central Park?
Why, yes it is!
Let me tell you about my day!
But first, and most imprtantly, as promised, the latest and greatest members of the Fred's Team Honor Roll:
The total you have all donated so far for the Aubrey Fund is an astounding
It is an honor to have this much support, and I promise not to let you down.
Quick medical update: On Thursday, after I posted my blog, I Googled "pain in the back of the knee" and "tendonitis." The results scared the poops out of me, so on Friday I found a sports physician near my house (one of the people there is the medical director for NYRR, so I felt confident that they'd know what they were doing) and went for an evaluation. Over the course of the morning the pain left the back of my knee and migrated up to my groin. That was interesting.
Dr. Michael Neely at CPW Integrative Medicine examined me, and after a lot of bending, stretching, poking and pushing, the diagnosis: medial hamstring tendonitis. In other words, a pain in my ass. This is the same thing I had last year. No surprise, I guess, given the higher mileage I'm running. And I probably haven't been as vigilant with the pre- and post-stretching of the hips as I should have been. Slightly disconcerting was his wondering if the back-of-the-knee pain might be sciatica as well as general tendon irritation. Most of you know that 2 years ago I had back surgery for a herniated disk. It's all cleared up, I've had no pain since, but when it was at its worst, I never felt pain in my lower back -- it was all down my left leg. I admit to also not being as vigilant about my posture as I should be, and not doing my back exercises as religiously as I should. The pain in my knee, though, was tangible; it hurt to the touch, unlike my problems of '05. But I won't rule anything out. Of course the best treatment for tendonitis is to stop running, but since we both knew that wasn't going to happen, he said ice a lot, stretch a lot, and call if it gets worse and he'll set me up with some cortisone or a steroid pack.
Side note before we get into the race report: more than a few Teammates told me, when I mentioned tendonitis, to get a cortisone shot right away. Since at least two of these people were doctors, I made an appointment to get a shot on Monday.
OK, enough medical trauma, on to the RACE!!
Today was the Norwegian Festival, capped off by FOUR, count 'em, races -- a Troll Stroll, kid's races, a 1.7 mile run, and the Grete's Great Gallop Half-Marathon. Okay, the stroll isn't a race, but you know, to have four events in one day, it was cool. Headlining the Festival was Grete Waitz, NINE-TIME WINNER of the NYC Marathon. Wow. Grete is a very good friend of Fred's Team, having been a very good friend of Fred Lebow's. She ran NYC with Fred Lebow in 1992, when he was battling brain cancer, ran it alongside him instead of shooting for a marathon win.
This was also my half for the Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon Challenge, aka WWH. Fdip is my favorite running podcast to listen to on a long run. Fdip profiles running legends, discusses running issues, offers training advice, reports on running equipment and fun gadgets, shares race reports, and provides more than a few laughs, courtesy of self-proclaimed "goofy little podcaster" Steve Runner. The World Wide Half was an idea some of his listeners came up with last year. I wrote about this during a previous post, so briefly: everyone runs a half-marathon, either a sanctioned race or create their own route, on a specific weekend, and it's kind of like we're all running it together. People have been sharing their progress online and on podcasts. Since the WWH was during Grete's Gallop last year, I wanted to run it this weekend, also because next weekend we're adding miles to the Staten Island Half, and I wanted my half to be, well, a half. I was also going to bring my recorder and try to do some audio on the run, but it was so humid I was afraid that I'd damage it in the swamp that would become my running shorts.
The shorter races started on the west side of the Park; the half on the east side. I went into the Park on the west side just in time for the start of the 1.7 miler. I watched them go off, then headed across Dead Road to the east side, when who did I see in front of me but GRETE WAITZ herself, heading off to the start of the Half. So I caught up with her, introduced myself, and then -- starstruck. I had the biggest women's running legend in the world at my disposal and I FROZE UP. I work in the theater, and I've handled all sorts of celebs with ease, but for some reason, around Grete, I dried up. Can you believe it? So as we walked east we talked about the weather, and I asked her about tips for running in hot weather (don't go out too fast, stay hydrated) and those poor folks in Chicago who will be running their marathon tomorrow in 84 degree heat and high humidity. Such a dope I am!!
As I hit the plaza, I saw the infamous WAFFLES!!!! Okay, last year we were told that there would be waffles at the finish line. Well, last year's run was misery -- it rained the whole time, it was cold, everyone got injured, and to add insult to injury -- NO WAFFLES. They had run out. There was no way I was missing out on waffles this year, even if it was a pre-race waffle. They were good -- not too sweet. A good omen.
Met the Team at baggage claim. Lots of stretching. Here's a couple of photos:
The race course: 2 loops (clockwise) of Central Park and a third pass through the lower loop to the finish line at Tavern on the Green. Clockwise is easier, I think. The clockwise run of the Great Hill is longer, but less steep, and Cat Hill is downhill, hooray!! The finish line, alas, uphill.
The temperature: 70 degrees and 90 percent humidity, and that's at 9:00am. I hate humidity!!
Loop 1, miles 1-6: Listened to Jeff and Grete and held back. Didn't push at all, just ran. Let myself be held back for the first three miles. After the third mile, I started picking up the pace just a little, all I did was pass some people and put a little oomph into the downhills. I started playing a game, trying to catch up to each Fred's Teamer I saw ahead of me, and when there wasn't a Team member, people wearing orange. Not really pushing too much just yet, I was being conservative with the hip and with the heat. TIME: 56:23
Loop 2, miles 7-12: Started pouring on the sauce, but again, hip and humidity, I was careful about when and how much I poured. My hip didn't actually cause me any real pain; in fact, the running did make it feel a little better, I guess it was warmed up and stretched and all. But it did ache the whole time, and I didn't want to risk aggravating it more by really pounding. But I picked up the pace in general, and started powering down hills and keeping my pace up on the uphills, esp. right towards the tops of the hills, I pushed over them. Saw some of the lead runners coming in as I was at around mile 6 1/2. That is one of the cool things about multi-loop races, seeing the top finishers in action. I kept my focus on maintaining my form, using my arms (thank you, Annie!) and fooling myself into thinking that my wet singlet would be a natural source of air-conditioning if I ran faster (no fooling, it was!) Saw the Natural Living guy on the course, he was actually racing it, too, and booming out encouragement. Some people near me commented on how much they love seeing him during a race and it made me smile. I had a couple of sub-9:00 miles, great for me, and amazing in this heat. TIME: 53:32
Mile 13.1: Sauce time! Although it was hard to get really saucy; it was still very crowded on the lower loop. Well, not so much crowded as people running 3-4 abreast, making it hard to get by. This mile does feature the only thing I hate about clockwise racing in Central Park, the big uphill finish. I saw the official clock for the first time as I passed mile 13 -- I had been studiously avoiding it -- and it was at 2:04:20. Could I run a 10th of a mile in 40 seconds? No, but great impetus for a big finish. It wouldn't my official time anyway, since I started so far back, but it was fun to try. TIME: 9:20 (for the mile and a tenth)
TOTAL TIME: 2 hours and 29 seconds.
My second best half-marathon ever (the first being my first half, Brooklyn, in 2006,) and the best I've ever run in the heat. This being the second time I've really committed to a negative split and have it work in my favor, I'm now a believer. Who knew that when you listen to your coaches and people who know better, it works?
After the race, our Team and Team for Kids received a special honor: we met Grete for a post-race q&a. Grete is the chairwoman of the NYRR Foundation, which is who TFK runs for, as well as being a friend of Fred's Team. She gave us some advice, really stressing taking the first half easy. The second half of the NYC course is a lot hillier, and you can really wear yourself out if you push too hard through Brooklyn, which is pretty much the first half of the race. She said that NYC is a tough course, no place to run a PR, unless, of course, it's your first race or NYC is your only marathon. Mary Wittenberg, president of NYRR, was there as well, to talk about how important Team for Kids was to her, and to thank us all. If I could give just one sour grape, I felt that the event was really for TFK, and we were tagging along. Still, it was nice to be included. Here's Grete:
The woman to the left is Mary Wittenberg.
And a couple of shots of the Team post-q&a!