Sunday, December 7, 2008

Marci Actually Runs the Marathon (part three) My Visits to MSKCC and Liam!

The longer I wait to post the remainder of my NYC Marathon 2008 experience, the harder it gets. There is just so much to say about it, it overwhelms me, and I find myself avoiding the blog altogether.

So I will be as descriptive and succinct as I can, and then we can move on to more recent events.


Before we commence, though, a HUGE shout-out to all my Honor Roll members. There have even been some more donations that came through in the last couple of weeks, bringing the total amount of money sent to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cencer Center to an astounding

$5,068

As much as I want to shout their names from the mountaintop, the donors asked to remain anonymous.

I have been running lately, I'm trying for 20 miles a week or so, but my nieces gave me a lovely Thanksgiving gift -- a cold. I tried to shake it off, and even ran through it a few times, but now that it's made its way chestwards, there's no running for a few days while it works its way out of me. Blech. I love running in the cold, and now that I've got an early Xmas gift from Laura, the Brooks Wanganui Cabrio mittens, I fear not the wind whooshing through my fingers. The only thing I don't like about winter running is my hands and ears getting cold. As long as they're warm, life's good.

But back to the topic at hand. The after-marathon.

One of the perks of being on Fred's Team is that we get to rendezvous at the Cherry Hill finishing area, where are bags are waiting for us, instead of heading out to Central Park West to retrieve our bags. We're told to stay to the right in that vast sea of people heading from the finish line to get out of the Park, where we're plucked from the line and escorted to the transverse and up to the waiting tents.

At last, right at the entrance to Cherry Hill. A porta-potty never looked so good!

Chip clipped, bag retrieved, and I head over to the Team tent to put on my warm clothes and see who's there and how folks did. There were some PRs and some BQs, some great times (Lynn ran a 3:33:33!) and a few injuries. I was surprised to see Rich without Harrie, as they were running together. Rich said Harrie was having trouble and told Rich to go on. A lot of our first-timers did great, with some really amazing finishing times. After about half an hour of stretching, warming up and catching up, I headed for home.

The hardest thing about the marathon is not running it, it's getting out of Central Park afterwards. Even though I live A BLOCK AWAY, it typically takes me over an hour to get home. First of all, the only way to get out of the Park from Cherry Hill is to cross over a bridge, over the sea of runners in their heatshields. Yeah, after you run a marathon, you have to climb two flights of stairs, and worse, down two flights. Not pretty. Then the crush of runners trying to get out of the Park meeting the friends, family and supporters trying to get in the Park. It's a madhouse. God bless the NYPD for keeping as much order as one can possibly keep. And lastly, the streets are just choked and crowded, and with all the construction in the area, there are so many detours that just getting from 59th to 58th Street is a major hike. So I decided to take the subway with Michelle two stops, and come up from the south. Turned out to be an excellent decision.

Stopped at the grocery store. There were two bags of ice left. Bought them both and went home. Dumped the ice in the tub, turned it on, made some hot chocolate, came back into the bathroom and discovered to my horror I turned the HOT water on, not the COLD. All the ice had melted! Feverishly I dumped the water from the tub, turned on the cold, and got all the ice out of the freezer. So it was a lukewarm bath instead of an ice bath. Not entirely restorative.

Cleaned up and went back over to the hotel. Another perk of being on the Team is that the Swedish Massage Institute is there to provide some post-marathon healing. I had two women working on me. Heaven. Then in for the dinner, where I got to catch up with a bunch of people, see some of the pictures that the Team photographer took of us throughout the day, and most importantly, hear speeches from some of the doctors at MSKCC, especially the doctors who work in the research department and pediatric cancer center. You've gotta love a charity that not only tells you where the money you raised goes, you get to meet the people who benefit most -- the doctors and researchers who use the money to treat the patients, and the patients themselves.

And BONUS -- guess who showed up?

Yep, my running hero, Grete Waitz!

Monday morning 6:30AM, I'm on line at Tavern on the Green for the Marathon Monday store. Yep, I'm that nuts. I want to go that early because the first batch of people there get their medal engraved on the spot. That's what I wanted. I saw Dani from Florida there, we talked for a few minutes. She finished in her goal time and was thrilled to get her name in the NY Times (as she said, who knew that 6-point type could mean so much?) I also wanted to get my usual round of Finisher gear (because it doesn't mean as much wearing it on Tuesday!) and some souvenirs for the nieces and for Liam and Ella. Alas, this year they didn't have those little stuffed animals they had the previous years. So hats and bags it was.

Which brings us to the visit to the pediatric floor at MSKCC. Unfortunately I can't show you the picture this year, they're a little stricter this time around. But I can certainly tell you about it! Harrie was there (he wasn't at the dinner.) He had a LOT of trouble during the marathon, ended up in an ambulance for a while, even. But he finished. I remember reading a conversation between an elite marathoner and a mid-pack runner. The elite runner was amazed when the mid-pack runner said it took him 4 1/2 hours. "How could you stay on your feet that long?" the elite runner said, "I could never do that. That's amazing!" For the elites it's a question of speed; for us normal people it's an endurance issue. Looking at it that way, it's harder to finish in 4 hours than 2, and harder still to finish in 6. It's pretty amazing to have that endurance.

The first place we visited was the dayroom, where the outpatients are. It's a bright, cheery room, and they had pictures of everyone from pediatrics who ran up on the wall. There were a bunch of children in there, and they were all wearing Fred's Team shirts! Even the littlest peanut of a girl was wearing a shirt that was more of a ballgown on her. We showed the kids our medals and played with them a little while. A lot of them were having a good day, especially these two boys who carted each other around in a wagon, shouting "BEEP BEEP!" as they ran around the room, bumping into everybody and everything. Eventually the nurses had to step in. And that's the amazing thing about MSKCC. Yes, these are children who are very sick, but they are CHILDREN first, and treated like children. There are rules they have to follow, and when they misbehave, they get scolded like any child would. Dr. K was there, Liam's doctor, and I got to spend a few minutes talking with him. He's got so much love for the children, you just know that they're in good hands. Dr. K also runs the marathon for the Team; he's a pretty good runner too.


We split up into groups to visit some of the in-patients. Our group met a teenage boy and his mother. He had been a big sports player (basketball, I think) but couldn't really do that. We told him about all the survivors we had on the Team and tried to talk them into joining. His mother seemed really enthusiastic -- you could tell she was a real force of nature -- and who knows, maybe one or both of them will be there next spring, lacing up.

We met a young guy for a minute or two who really wasn't feeling too good, so we didn't stay too long with him, and then the other people we were supposed to see were sleeping, so we went back to the dayroom to play with the children some more. There was a little toddler there, just maybe a hair over 1, just a little butterball, rolling around on the floor, his parents pushing his IV pole. And again, I said this last year, you think you'd cry seeing all these sick children there, but because they're being treated like children, not like patients, and because of all the love the staff has for the children there, it's just the opposite. It's just the most relentlessly positive place you could ever be, and you come away feeling so good, so lucky to be able to play a small part in making the place what it is.

And a few days later at last, my long-awaited visit to my buddy and my inspiration, Prince Liam! You might be surprised to hear, after how much I talk about him, that Liam and I have never met. I've met Gretchen, but never Liam. So I was super-excited to get to see my little champ in person.

Gretchen was at work, but the kids were home from school with their nanny. I brought little gift bags for Liam and his sister Ella, because I know what it's like when one sibling gets a toy and the other doesn't (tangent: there's an absolutely hilarious picture of my brother and I on is probably his second or third birthday. He's just been given a toy car parking garage, and there's a picture of him standing on a chair in the kitchen, holding onto the garage, and beaming from ear to ear, the happiest boy in the world. In the corner is me, literally seething, teeth bared, holding my hands out like claws, ready to pounce.) They were less interested in the gifts and more interested in taking me into their rooms and showing me all their toys. We read some books and then we started playing trucks. At one point Liam said, "Don't leave, I love you!" Oh boy. My heart melted.


Then we started getting silly. Now, there is something about me that I think little kids pick up on, I don't know what it is, but I somehow inspire children between the ages of 2-5 to get really hyperactive and nutty. Within minutes, I had Liam jumping on my back, Ella jumping on my front, and me trying to remember if I had my physical therapist's number on speed dial.


We crashed around like that literally for hours, until Gretchen and Larry came home. Turns out, we played right through dinner, and the family was getting ready to head to Jersey for the weekend, where they have a house. Gretchen and I talked for a while as the kids were getting their pjs on and eating some chicken nuggets. She updated me on Cookies for Kids Cancer and what was going on with them. She is really amazing. So many people, when something like this enters their lives, turn inwards and concentrate on the family. Gretchen is one of those rare people who can also turn out and say not just my family, what can I do to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else either? Where she gets the energy to work, run Band of Parents and Cookies for Kids Cancer, and most importantly share her life with a husband and two children, one of whom happens to be ill, is beyond me. Their whole family has really been, at the risk of sounding repetitive and sappy, a real inspiration. Every time I felt I couldn't do one more hill repeat, or take one more step, I thought about Liam and what he was going through, and I thought, if Liam could deal with something infinitely more painful and life-threatening, and do it without complaint, then so could I.

Which is why I was so proud to be able to give him this:


I may have run 26.2 miles, but he's running a much bigger race, and I know he's going to finish strong.

I have to tell y'all, at one point Liam thought it was medicine day (he was getting his second round of antibody treatments) and that he had to go to the hospital when his parents got home. Two-year-old Ella looked at him with big eyes and asked, "Liam, does it hurt?" He shook his head, said "Noooo," and waved dismissively, like it was no big deal. Contrast that with some of Gretchen's posts in her blog, talking about some of the tests and procedures Liam has had to go through, and how much he cried and how much in pain he was -- and keep in mind, this was less than a week after his most recent trip to the hospital for an infection/allergic reaction -- and is it any wonder why this four-year-old boy is my hero?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

SHOE REVIEW -- New Balance 1062s

We take another break from my race report of the NYC Marathon (oh, yes, there's more!) to do my first-ever shoe review! I have been a loyal Saucony wearer for years, but they dissed me MIGHTILY this year. I wrote them asking for sponsorship of my marathon effort, sent them pictures of Liam and of the Team and everything, and what did I get? Goose egg. No money, no shoes. Not even a "no thanks." So when I was contacted by New Balance Harrisburg and offered a pair of shoes in exchange for a review, needless to say I was very receptive.

New Balance was the first running shoe I bought when I realized I was actually going to be a runner. I didn't really understand the concept of discontinuing lines, so when they stopped manufacturing the one I liked, and the improvement didn't fit as well, I abandoned NBs for Adidas Supernovas (which felt like running on marshmallows) to Avias, then Reebok, then Saucony, where I've been for the past three years. So it was kind of nice to return home.


Since I'm unfamiliar with their current lines, I went to a NB store and tested a number of their shoes. I wear neutral-cushioned shoes, having been somehow cured of my pronation with my bunion surgery. One thing I will say about NB shoes in general, at least the ones I tested, was that they tend to run a little narrow. I am hyper-aware of my toes, and they will find a way to scrape against air molecules and blister. I prefer a shoe with a wider toe box, and the 1062s fit the bill. What was most exciting to me about the 1062 was the Abzorb cushioning. After my bursitis, I was looking for a shoe that would adequately cushion the ball of my foot and help prevent a recurrence.

I've been wearing the 1062s for about three weeks now, and ran one race in them. I have both good and not-so-good things to say about them, but I have good things to say about the not-so-good things. Huh? Read on.


They are extremely comfortable (they do run small, you must get at least 1/2 size up!) and fit snugly without being tight. They also have SureLace shoelaces, which are the most amazing laces I've ever had. They stay put without me having to double-knot them. My orthotics fit inside them with no trouble. The Abzorb cushion works really well. They're cushioned without being pillowy, my bursitis hasn't returned, and they feel extremely stable and sturdy, like they're going to last more towards the upper end of the mileage spectrum.


There are two things about the shoe that I found troublesome. The first is the sole is rather inflexible. Though my form is not the stuff of legend, one of the things I am normally proud of is my soft footfall. In the 1062s I can hear my footfall even while wearing an iPod. I notice that these shoes change my form a little. I'm a heel striker, and I roll my foot down from the heel to the ball and push off. In the 1062s I can't roll my foot. I strike, then my foot slaps down. Slap slap slap. A lot more flatfooted. It hasn't hurt me -- thanks to the Abzorb technology, I don't physically notice the pounding -- but I notice that they make my stride a little more inefficient (as if it could get more inefficient.)


The other thing about this shoe is that it's heavy. 10.2 ounces. That's heavy? you non-runners who read this ask. The other shoes I wear are 9.6 oz, and believe it or not, those 6 ounces make a difference. Just ask anyone who's been to Weight Watchers. I have, and they do. I'm not such an advanced runner that I race in lightweight racing shoes, but I don't think I will race in these shoes again. Between the slight extra weight and the inflexible sole, they make it hard to reach and maintain top speed, and they make my legs tired. Not hurt, tired.


Ultimately I think the weight and sturdiness of the 1062s are best suited for a heavier runner. That being said, I think the 1062s can be a really good winter running shoe for someone like me. Here in NYC, the roads get snowy and slushy, but nothing so bad that I'd need a trail shoe. I think the extra stability the shoe provides will give the 1062 an advantage over my other shoes. Also, even though the upper is mesh (the bane of wearing old running shoes in the winter -- the wind blows right through them) it feels slightly thicker than my other shoes and my feet do feel a little bit warmer in them. So I'm not getting rid of them just yet.


Come to think of it, they'd also be good shoes to train in before a race, much like the principle of taking practice swings with two bats before heading up to the plate with one. Wear the heavy shoes the day before, and lighter shoes on race day.


So, to sum up: a good, sturdy well-cushioned shoe with a roomy toebox. Best suited for heavier runners looking for a stable shoe that's not a stability shoe.

The 1062s no longer appear on the NB Harrisburg site -- another shoe site says these are on the endangered list -- but their predecessor, the 1061s are extremely similar (in fact, they appear be the exact same shoe, with some slight difference that I cannot see), or look at the 1062 itself on the NB website.


Two more things: first, my opinion of NB shoes has changed as a result of my shoe testing. They are definitely a better quality running shoe than I recall. I don't think I could wear the 1062s as my regular shoe, but I wouldn't be unopposed to finding an NB shoe that COULD replace my current shoe.

Also, my hats off to the folks at New Balance Harrisburg. Their customer service is phenomenal. I originally asked them for a odd-size shoe, which they had to special order for me, and they felt so bad about the "wait" for my shoes (three days) that they overnighted them. When they turned out to be the wrong size (I swear they fit perfectly in the store) the turnaround time to send me the correct size was less than a week. If you are a New Balance wearer, or want to be one, New Balance Harrisburg is the website for you. Click here or on the link to the right of the page.

Next time, for real, I wrap up my marathon experience, including my visit to MSKCC and my playdate with Prince Liam!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Complete Tangent

Many of you know (many? as if more than my mom read this blog!) I'm training to be a court reporter. Part of that training involves going to court and sitting in, and writing along with the court reporter. This past week and a half I've been at 60 Centre Street, NYC's Supreme Court. It's the courthouse they use for Law and Order exteriors, and many of the interior courthouse sets are modeled after the rooms at 60 Centre. There's a giant rotunda with a huge mural on the ceiling, and a gorgeous floor.

So yesterday, I'm sitting in on a case, and we hear applause. And again. And again. And then samba music. Huh? We head out at the break and look down into the rotunda and lo and behold, there's a samba band, and Vera Wang, Nathan Lane, Joel Gray, Kathleen Turner, Dick Cavett, Uma Thurman and Katie Couric are doing the samba, along with about another 150 or so people. Turns out, yesterday was Juror Appreciation Day, and these celebs were recently serving as jurors. So the courts decided to hold a celebrity samba party in the rotunda!

Oh, here's a quick Dick Cavett story. Every year I work an event called "Broadway Bares," which I've mentioned on this blog. It's basically a strip show for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, performed by Broadway dancers. Dick Cavett was in "Rocky Horror" when it was on Broadway, and he was a special guest at Bares that year. he came backstage during the post-show fiesta, when the dancers literally go-go-dance for tips on the runways (all $$ goes to the charity) looking for one of his castmates. I pointed his friend out, who was on the runway, go-go dancing away, and jokingly said that if he goes out there, he'll have to start dancing. Dick Cavett thanked me and headed onstage to his friend. I went about my business. Five minutes later, I look out, and there's Dick, in his underwear, shaking it for all it's worth!!

Dick remained fully clothed yesterday.

Never a dull moment.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Marci Actually Runs the Marathon (part two)

Aren't they the best cheering squad ever?

That's my parents, sister-in-law, and my three nieces.

This was QUEENS; specifically Long Island City. My parents wait for me right on the bend of Vernon Avenue, where the hay bales are. For the past two years, my brother, sister-in-law and their little girls have joined them. I couldn't wait to get there, and one short trip over the Pulaski Bridge and there they were! Brooklyn is an amazing part of the race -- flat, fast and energetic -- but Queens is where my folks are at! PS: I, too, was born in Queens, just like Kara Goucher, but did you hear the newscaster talk about MY story? Unfair, I tells ya!


Funny story --After I kissed everyone and went on my way, Chamie, the two-year-old (the one holding the "That's My Tante" sign) became upset because I didn't come back and get in the car with them to go home. This is from my sister-in-law's blog:


The girls were so excited to see her when she passed by and gave everyone a
kiss. Not suprisingly, she didn’t have time to stop and chat, though, and Chamie
was really upset over this. She cried and had a “mini-tantrum” after Marci ran
away, demanding that Marci should come with us in our car. Mommy explained to
her that Marci had to keep running because she was doing a big mitzvah because
her running was earning money so that she could buy medicine for sick kinderlach
so that they could feel better. Chamie especially understood when I explained
that Marci was going to buy them SODA so that they could feel better, just like
Chamie got when she had a sick tummy. I’m not sure if she thought that Marci was
on her way to the store, RIGHT THEN, to get the soda (and that that’s why she
couldn’t come with us), but anyway she calmed down after that.

I'm running for soda!! Hee hee!

Here comes the most interesting part of the race, going over the Queensborough Bridge. Everyone knows what awaits on the other side of that bridge -- First Avenue and the World's Largest Cheering Section. There are no spectators on the bridge, and because we're on the lower roadway, it's dark and very quiet. You can really only hear footfalls and breathing. There's very little talking, at least there was with the group I was running with. After 15 miles of cheering, bands and high-fives, it's almost a welcome respite that gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and get ready for the final ten miles.

MANHATTAN. You can hear First Avenue long before you can see it, and coming down off the bridge and turning the corner is like Dorothy stepping out of the house and seeing Technicolor Oz. The noise, the cheering, the banners and bands -- a friend has said it's the closest you'll ever be to being a rock star, and it's true.

I make my way over to the right side of the road for the best part of the marathon, getting to MSKCC, home of Fred's Team! They decorate the building with orange and blue balloons, there's a big banner on the building, and best of all, all the kids who are feeling well enough to come out and cheer are there -- IV poles and all. Cheering US. It's the most amazing sight ever, and being a part of it, well, words fail.
Aubrey Barr's father (Aubrey, namesake of the fund that we raise money for, is an accomplished marathoner and has run it, I think, a dozen times) and other volunteers wave the Fred's Team runners over to high-five the crowd.

And here I am!

It's hard after MSKCC not to sprint up the rest of First Ave, but you have to control yourself, you still have ten more miles to go!

Off I go up First, and I'm starting to feel some stomach distress. I still had to go to the bathroom. At this point I thought that if I stopped and sat down, I would not be getting back up, and they wouldn't find me until they started carting away the porta-potties. But it wasn't the bathroom woe that was getting to me. I was starting to feel nauseous. Why? Don't know. I was being careful with gels and Gatorade, but I had that "carbs sitting in the stomach" feeling. Grr. Took some extra salt (I had some restaurant packets with me) and hoped things would pass.

After passing Teammate Abby, sidelined with a stress fracture in her hip but still coming out to breakfast and then cheering at 89th Street, things got a little quiet. I couldn't figure out if I was cold or hot, and finally got rid of my arm socks just before we headed over the Willis Point Bridge. Farewell, lovely socks. I'll be doing that again next year. At this point I was also finally realizing just how windy it was, and how much it was affecting me. First Avenue was a real wind tunnel, and I saw my times getting slower, even though I could've sworn I was running faster. And it was starting to wear me out.

We pass the Powergel station, and I pass them up (I still have 4 on me, more than enough) and the Poland Spring Hydration Station. Following that came the Slip-and-Slide Zone, also known as the sponge station (one year it was Spongebob sponges, now it's Poland Spring, I think.) The last thing I needed was a cooling sponge. No, the second-to-last thing I needed was a cooling sponge. The LAST thing I needed was to STEP on 30,000 wet, slippery sponges.

The Willis Point Bridge. Last year I had a lot of problems here. I was caught behind hundreds of people walking, and I couldn't get around them. Asking them to move to the right didn't work because nobody spoke English, the perils of running with an international field! This year, smooth sailing. Again, thanks to all those hills, I rarely felt the hill of the bridge.

Over the bridge into

DA BRONX, and once again the Bronx was hopping! Though we're in the Bronx for less than a mile, they have two large DJ booths set up, dancing, and bands. This is the part where people traditionally hit the wall, but I was not feeling like that at all. Thanks to Jeff and Ann and all the good training they lead us through, I never felt I hit the wall, I was strong all the way through.

Over the Manhattan Bridge, where I passed Teammate Seth and ribbed him about needing to go into "time-out."

And back into MANHATTAN, for the final round.

Run down 5th Avenue to Mount Morris Park, and as I'm rounding Mount Morris Park I see my first real casualty -- man down, with two medics helping him. By down I mean DOWN -- laying on the ground, motionless. Eesh. I was reading the night before the article in Runner's World about why people die during marathons (as we know by now, there were three here in NY this year.) Not to get into too much detail, it had to do with cholesterol levels. This guy looked young and fit. But who knows?

I hear the choir for the first time (I missed them my other years) and see my friend Erin at 115th. Then I pass my friends Bruce and Jonathan's apartment, hoping that this will be the year that Bruce is out there watching, as he promises he will do every year, and then every time I pass he's gone back inside for some reason. Well, this year was just the same -- no Bruce. I really wanted to take an extra gel at this point, but I was still feeling queasy and didn't want to chance it, so I stuck with Gatorade.

Now, once you get to 110th and Central Park, 5th Avenue starts sloping uphill. It can be really rough at this point of the race. The way I dealt with it last year was to keep my head down. If I can't see the hill, it doesn't exist. This year was just the same. However, this was also the point last year where I really started to get frustrated by people walking, and this year was also just the same. Last year I started an hour late, and ended up running with people who are at a much slower pace. They were all walking by the time I reached the entrance to the Park, and I had to fight my way around them. This year I ran with people more at my pace, but I think it was a combo of two things. One, the windy weather, and two, I'm at the kind of pace where a lot of people tend to go out too fast or think they have a faster marathon in them than they do, and they crash and burn. Either way, once again I find myself weaving around packs of people walking. Fred's Team set up a bonus cheering section just outside the entrance to the Park, and it was great to see them there for the extra boost for those last couple of miles. Teammates Lucy and Martin were there -- they were also in Brooklyn.

Into the Park, and man was it crowded! At this point, I went into a strange place. I wasn't hurting or out of gas (just nauseous.) I both needed to hear the cheering and get the support, but I also couldn't bear the thought of having to acknowledge the crowd. So I kind of pulled into myself, moved towards the center of the pack, and charged ahead. I saw Teammate Jen just before the water station, it was great to see her smiling face. Apparently I also passed Coach Ann, who told me I was motoring, and looked like I should be saying, "Get out of my way!" What was going through my mind was probably more like "Get me to a toilet!!"

Down Cat Hill (how I love going down Cat Hill) and up the little speed bump at the transverse that I have learned to love. Out of the Park at 69th Street and up Central Park South. It sounds funny, but I could barely hear the crowd, I was so in the zone. I could see them cheering off to my side, but I was just focused straight ahead. I want to finish strong. Around Columbus Circle and back into the Park, where I didn't trip, for once, and actually saw myself on the giant screen, and up that last infernal hill, and I see India off to my left cheering her head off, and the sound is starting to come back and I see the bleachers are all cheering and ...

DONE!

4:15:25.

The wrap-up in the next few days, including my visit to MSKCC, my visit with Liam, and unrelated to the marathon, my race report for the Race to Deliver and my review of the New Balance 1062 sneaker.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Marci Actually Runs the Marathon (part one)

Did you hear? I ran a marathon last week!



The medal is a picture of Grete Waitz, nine-time NYC Marathon winner and one of my running inspirations.

And some of my OTHER running inspirations are the latest members of the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL:

SHARON McMENAMIN
JONATHAN ARAK
KIM RUSSELL
PAMELA HUNT

bringing the total to date going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research in honor of Liam Witt to an incredible


$4868

Even though the NYC Marathon is over, the phone lines are open until the end of December. It's not too late to join the Honor Roll! Just click here to donate, or on the links to the side and bottom of the page.

Of course, no time is too late to donate to the Aubrey Fund or MSKCC. Pharmaceutical companies don't spend time or $$ on developing pediatric cancer treatments because there's no profit in it for them. The goverment doesn't fund it because there's no established track record of success. So who's left? Hospitals like MSKCC, who are constantly in the forefront of developing new treatment protocols. And people like you, who donate to the Aubrey Fund and other pediatric cancer organizations, and enable them to do the work that enables the cure rate percentages for childrens' cancers to climb every year.

Of course, my BIGGEST running inspiration is THIS little guy:



Liam spent the days before Halloween extremely ill at MSKCC, and yet went from the hospital -- in costume -- to a Halloween party, and is home again. I think there was never a more appropriate costume, don't you?


Oh, yes, the marathon.
Let's get the suspense out of the way. 4:15:25.

A little over three minutes slower than last year, but unlike last year, when I set a 30-minute PR, I was not upset. There were a few factors going into the race that didn't help, chief among them...how do I put this delicately? I guess I don't. Guys, you may want to skip ahead a few paragraphs. I have never been more pre-menstrual in my LIFE. I started feeling PMS symptoms the weekend before, which meant "any day now." I even went to my acupuncturist the Tuesday before the race and said, "It's coming, I can feel it, and I want it to be here NOW. Can you do that?" He tried, but to no avail. So between the bloating from the PMS, where I naturally retain fluids, to my extra salt consumption in preparation for the big day, my boobs were the size of melons and I thought they were going to explode (gents, I TOLD you to skip a few paragraphs.)

Weather concerns, clothing concerns, all paled in comparison to the biggest concern of all -- WHAT IF? Because -- and gents, skip to the next paragraph, this time I mean it -- I'm peri-menopausal, and what that means for me is that my periods are not only irregular in their schedule, they are irregular in all respects. Sometimes my heavy day is day one, sometimes day three. Sometimes the whole thing is heavy and over with in two days. Be that as it may, my concern was that I'd be on a heavy day, where I can go through a super-plus in an hour or less. For up to eight hours. See, SOME parts of me are speedy!

Men, you can come back now!


Anyway, despite my best efforts, it didn't happen. My body kindly waited until Monday. However, I have found that with the onset of peri-menopause, I find myself a little weaker during the build-up to the actual event, plus it affects my sleeping, which was a big minus. I was counteracting it with iron supplements, but it was still a factor.

Another factor against me was that I had to take a national court reporting certification exam on Saturday morning. The day before the marathon. The good part about it was, that stressing about the test kept my mind off the marathon, and vice-versa. It goes without saying that I bombed the test. That's okay. It's one of those tests where you can take it a dozen times. Still, it was an added pressure, and didn't help with the sleeping.

Finally, there was the mental factor. Last year I went from a 10-minute miler to a 8:30 miler, and I never felt readier for a race than I did last year. This year, I didn't make that drastic of an improvement (can you imagine if I did? Holy cow!) and even though I know I shouldn't be comparing it, I was, and I just didn't feel as ready. Not that I thought I wasn't going to finish -- no chance of not finishing, even if I had to crawl -- but I wanted to finish as strong. And I really wanted to finish in under four hours, but I knew it wasn't realistic.


So this is what I was going into the race with.


Before I get any further about the race itself, here's why I'm not too upset about it. First, I DVRed the elite race (okay, I admit it. I'm a running geek) and in watching it, I can see how they all were struggling with the wind and the temperature -- briefly, high 40s and very windy at the start, getting a little warmer but still very windy later on. I got sweaty through the race, but I never really got warm, and it was so windy I got windburn on my legs, even though I wore capris. If the elites were posting slower times, then it's no wonder I was also slower. I am amazed that some of my Teammates set PRs, but then again, my Teammates are amazing. There were times during the race that I thought I was cruising, only to look at my watch and recoil in horror at my slowitude. I must have looked like an orange-and-blue mime act, running into the wind!

Secondly, the next day I was feeling pretty good. Only some residual soreness, and I was able to get down the stairs without hanging onto a bannister for dear life. I realized I was indeed physically ready, and it was the factors of the weather and my cycle that contributed to my slower time, not anything I did "wrong." In fact, in some ways I think I was stronger this year thanks to my new and improved running form. Everyone who saw me along the route, including Coach Ann, who I passed at Mile 24, said I was motoring, and looked very strong. And as we all know, looks are everything...





Or are they?
Hee hee!

Can you believe they let me out in public dressed like this? Well, I guess it beats some other outfits, which are pictured a little farther down the post.

Sunday morning, up bright and early at 4:15. Set three alarms, just in case. Didn't need any of them. Bag was packed and unpacked and packed again.


Oh, tangent -- the fireworks Saturday night -- they were great, but what is the deal with the soundtrack? It was worse than last year. With all the songs about New York, running, winning, and inspiration out there, it was like they forgot the CD they were going to use and said, "Quick, who's got an iPod?" because the soundtrack was a bunch of morose reggae-esque R & B songs about heartbreak. HUH???


Another tangent -- My uniform shirt. I wanted to put a picture of Liam on the back of my shirt. Bill, my roommate, had some iron-ons left from when he did the Avon Walk, and said I could use them. So Saturday afternoon I print the iron-on, put it on my shirt -- and the whole thing came out orange. What? So I did it again, cut out the picture of Liam and ironed just that onto the first picture -- and again, it was orange. I inspected the package, and apparently there are different iron-ons for dark and light shirts. Good to know. Now. I went to Staples, got another packet, and third time was the charm. Of course by that point I had melted part of the MSKCC logo and ironed the picture on a little crooked, so I had to draw a big frame around the picture. Who knew that a simple iron-on would be so much work!!!! Anyway, here's the ultimate result:




The base outfit was the t-shirt, uniform shorts over capris, the arm socks from last year (yes, I saved them!) and the keep-warm layer was a scarf, hat, gloves, and the world's largest and ugliest sweatsuit courtesy of Modells. Why was my UPS bag so freakishly heavy and packed? Aside from my post-marathon clothes, water, gel, extra hat, socks, gloves, blister stuff, band-aids, Tylenol, tampons, toilet paper, Purell, tissues, candy...I mean, why was it heavy?


Went to breakfast at 5:15 and choked down a bowl of oatmeal with banana and honey, and made myself a bagel with banana and honey for later. I had a couple of sips of coffee at home, but that's it -- you know how paranoid I am about using the bathroom, and I didn't need any help with coffee's diuretic properties. However, I'm always out to break at least one record, and that's the amount of times I can go to the bathroom before the marathon, not counting the first one upon arising. Total before boarding the bus: one.

At 6:15 we take the Team picture on the island out in Times Square and board the bus. I'm on the first bus with the core Team and the elite runners, and get to watch the police escort us down the FDR and through the Battery Tunnel to Staten Island. This year it was a police car. Not as fun as a motorcycle, but who's complaining?

We get to Fort Wadsworth and right away we notice that things have changed. There are "special" UPS trucks that take our gear and the Team For Kids' gear directly to the finisher's area in Cherry Hill, and we normally camp out by these trucks, which are normally parked in the parking lot right inside the Fort. The trucks are no longer there. Where to go? Jeff goes on a field trip to find somebody who can tell us where our trucks are, and we decide to set up camp pretty much where we always do, only without the trucks nearby. I start my never-ending journey to the porta-potties, and almost right away I'm having some gastric issues. I don't know why. Normally that's how I internalize stress, but I'm not stressed. Am I? Anyway, between a failed attempt with Teammate Sara to find the Brightroom photo booth and my eventual trip to our UPS trucks to get rid of my stuff, I managed to tie last year's record of seven pre-race porta-potty trips -- and I still had 30 minutes to go! PS: Team for Kids has a HEATED TENT. What the...? Unfair. I want in!! It was COLD in SI, the coldest of the three I've been in. I can't believe that some people were walking around in shorts. We huddled in the parking lot under blankets and coats. Some people had heat shields from other races. That's a good idea, I need to remember that next time I have to wait around like this.

This year the race went off in three waves, with the better runners as part of the first wave at 9:40am, which included the elite men (the elite women go earlier, so they get their own finish.) So our Team started splitting off, and those of us in the 10:00 and 10:20 waves took our final trips to the bathroom -- yes, I shattered my old record! -- and went to our corrals to watch the first wave go out. One of the advantages to being in the green start is that you can clearly see the bridge and the starting line from the corral. Sara, Leanne and I stood together and listened as the National Anthem was sung and the cannons boomed, and we watched the first wave of runners head out. After a few minutes we started heading towards the start line. So much better than last year!!! I took off the sweat suit and gloves (I had a second pair with me for the run) and after a brief announcement -- BOOM! We got the cannon and "New York, New York" and we're off!!

Leanne is slower than Sara and I and dropped away almost immediately. Sara and I were together on most of the bridge, but she said her shin splints started acting up almost immediately and she dropped away about halfway across.

The bummer about the green start (besides the threat of "rain") is that you're on the side of the bridge away from the boats, so the view's not as nice. Also, once off the bridge, you're on a service road for about another half-mile, so you're not getting any crowd support for a while. And the second we got off the bridge, a ton of people peeled off to the side of the road to go to the bathroom.

And you know what? I needed to go again.

Here's the thing -- I always threaten to poo and pee in public during the race, or worse yet, go in my pants. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. One, it's gross. And two, it would get cold in there! And it was already pretty cold out. The other thing was, at this stage of the game, I was still somewhat optimistic about a 4-hour finish, but it would be a squeaker, with no room for a toilet break. So I soldiered on. In retrospect, stupid, because I spent a lot of time on the road thinking about the bathroom. But then again, it kept me distracted, and ultimately motivated for a fast finish!!

BROOKLYN is over half the race, and clearly the party people are here! The most bands, the loudest people, and best of all, the churches sometimes have their choirs out singing. I passed one church right at the real inspirational point of a song, right before it goes into the key change -- YEAH!! It was great!! I was meeting two people in Brooklyn, my teacher Victoria, and my friend Tim. Semi-funny story: Tim and I worked closely together in the late '90s, but Tim left the theater a number of years ago and we drifted apart. Last year I remember running through the Fort Greene section and seeing someone who looked just like him and thinking, God, that looks just like Tim. Tim and I have since reconnected, and a few weeks ago he e-mailed me to say he'd be watching for me in Brooklyn, in Fort Greene, right after the band that plays the "Rocky" theme nonstop for hours. So it WAS him! Brooklyn is also very flat, so it's a good warm-up for what lies ahead.

Ran into Teammate Kat, and we were together for a little bit. She was already getting sick of hearing people call her name, and I advised her to stay near the middle of the pack, away from the crowds, to get a little bit of a break. But "Kat" is easy to yell, and there was no escaping for her. She's faster than I am, and soon blew past me.

Teammate Michelle came up to me next and asked "Did you see the naked guy?" No. One of the bonuses of being a little further back is that you get the more amusingly costumed runners. But a naked guy? I think I would've noticed. Michelle took off (she set a PR, by the way) and soon I saw THIS:


He was in front of me for a few miles. It was funny for about a second. Then it was just gross. The people around me were all saying, "Would you like to run in front of me? Please?" I made my move at a water stop. Best reason for speed I ever had -- stay in front of HIM! (lordy that must have chafed!)

This view ain't much better:



Other costumes I saw were two guys dressed as barbarians, complete with swords and shields, Nippleman (don't ask) and the usual array of superheroes. Didn't see Larry the Lighthouse, but I know he was there; don't know if his pal Wendy the Windmill was there with him. Also missed Mr. Testicles this year. Yes, you read right. Don't believe me? Click here.

Saw Tim, Teammate Yan (not running this year) taking pictures, and Victoria. Brooklyn was great! Now, over the Pulaski bridge and into Queens, to see my family!

This one's getting long, and since you know how it ends, I'm going to stop here. More in the next day or so.

PS: I'm doing the Race to Deliver next Sunday, and I've started testing my New Balance 1062s today for my first post-marathon run. I'll wear them for the race and give you my review. So far, so good. I can tell you right now that, shoe aside, the customer service for New Balance Harrisburg is terrific. Click on the link either right here to the right of the post (under my training log) and check them out!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Last Minute News

Expo time!

Unlike last year, I did not go camera-crazy. However, I did bring my camera, because we were having a NYC Phedippidation meet-up at the Team Boomer booth!


That's Cris, Franz, Dani and me. Okay, okay, I'm wearing the SAME THING I WORE LAST YEAR to the expo. Sad. We were hoping "Carboman" Jamie would show up as well, but alas, he didn't.

Holy crap, I spent a lot of $$ there. Of course, the requisite souvenir shirt...and visor...and socks...and some Fred's Team shirts that I needed...and some PowerGel...and some BodyGlide...and some sweatbands...and a race belt...and the Brightroom Photo CD package...

But my favorite booth was the marathon pin booth. They had a collector's edition 5-pin set of the five bridges, which was really nice. However, there was another pin there that caught my eye, and THAT was the one I had to have. See for yourself...




Can I break my record this year? Not my marathon time -- the amount of times I hit the porta-potty prior to the race! I do believe 7 is the record.



A few more members to add to the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL:


DAN KLEIN
MARC ISAACS



bringing the total amount to date going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in honor of Liam Witt to


$4508


Just because the marathon is this Sunday doesn't mean you can't join the Honor Roll! If you would like to donate to my marathon effort, just click here, or on the links to the side and bottom of the page.


Liam update: my little guy is back at MSKCC, after a double whomp of a bacterial infection and an allergic reaction to one of his medications. Gretchen and Liam asked me to send love and thanks to all of my wonderful Honor Roll members.


The positive side, if there is one, is that they will be at MSKCC to be part of the Fred's Team cheering section, clearly the best part of the marathon experience! And if they are still there on Monday, I will be able to visit and give Liam some marathon gifties!


I love running in the Park this week. All the marathon stuff is up, the finish line is cordoned off, Fred is at his post. But it's the energy in the Park that's the draw. Everyone is smiling, everyone is psyched. Thursday night Teammate Jenn and I went for a 4-miler -- to NYRR and back down the marathon course, finishing at the finish line. The Park was super-crowded, even after dark. I wish it could be like this all year round. Not crowded, but upbeat.


A busy weekend for me! I have a dinner tonight with friends I haven't seen in a few years, then tomorrow morning I have the skills portion of the national certification test for the NCRA (court reporting association.) I do not expect to pass any of the three legs of the skills test, which is fine. It's more for the experience of taking the tests (it's the kind of test you can take a dozen times if you want, so I don't lose anything by taking it now, except for the registration $$.) The bad news is, not only do I need to take my steno machine, I also need to take my laptop AND PRINTER. My printer is the size of a house, and I'm not buying a portable one to use once (besides, I spent all my $$ on marathon crap!) And the test is being given AT MY SCHOOL, where I have access to a computer and printer. So I have to shlep all that crap around town tomorrow. Sigh. The good news is, taking the RPR is keeping my mind off my marathon jitters, and the marathon is keeping my mind off the RPR. Then our pasta dinner time is the ridiculous 3:30 to 5:00 slot (special for Fred's Team, we get to cut the line and get in early if we go then,) followed by the fireworks, and then on Sunday is a little road race. Who needs sleep?


But my real question is, how am I supposed to make progress in steno when I'm trying to take dictation from a man dressed in a gorilla suit? Witness some of my teachers, dressed up for Halloween:


Okay, folks, wish me luck!
xoxo,
#33252


Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Countdown Begins...

Last year, around this time, I was so much less busy. I apologize for not blogging more. I'll try to make it up...

First and foremost, the latest and greatest additions to the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL,


LAURA QUINN (the bestest roomie in the world, even if she isn't my roomie anymore!)

and

RUSSELL TREYZ


making the total going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research in honor of Liam Witt to an astounding


$4,388


Wow.


Liam update: he is on an antibody regimen right now. It is not easy on him, but he is doing well.


We've got one week to go until the NYC Marathon. Here's the scoop:


I am number 33252. I am in the 3rd corral of the 2nd wave of the Green start. Make sense? Nah, didn't think so. As long as it's not like last year, when I didn't start until 11:00, I'm okay, even if I did manage to get the green start two years in a row. The green start is on the lower level of the Verrazano, which is not as scenic, and -- as I've mentioned before -- there's always a chance of, um, showers.


I realize that I haven't had any contests, which I totally promised to do, and I was thinking about doing another "guess the pace" contest, and perhaps I should. But I'm not all that confident about my pace this year. You can look at my Buckeye Outdoors log and see all my paces and see that I'm actually a little faster than last year. And it's my fervent hope to break 4 hours. But I'm just not sure that I have it in me. Here's the thing: last year, I made HUGE strides in my running. This year, not so much. I mean, I improved, but not to the degree that I did last year. So last year I was really psyched. This year, I'm more nervous. It just doesn't feel like it did last year. I know I shouldn't compare, but I can't help it. I'm not worried about not finishing, because I'll finish if I have to crawl. I just want to finish strong and well. I guess we'll know in a week, huh?


So, my prediction is somewhere between 3:58 (ideal) and 4:15 (real) and I'm hoping it's more towards the 3:58.


Oh -- passed my 190 q & a in steno! And I am a firm believer in the connection between steno and running speed. How that affects the above prediction -- well, I'm holding to it, and I'll be hanging onto my good-luck charm, too!


Two runs to tell you about. The first was the running of the last ten miles of the marathon course. We met on the corner of 60th and 1st at 7am. One of the first cold days of the year. I was undecided about what to wear for the run, so dragged a long and short sleeve Team shirt with me. There was an NBC camera crew there. They're doing a show called "My First Time," and no, it's not what it sounds like, it's about people doing the marathon. They're featuring three people, and one of our Teammates is one of them. I think her name is Arlene. She's a breast cancer survivor, and to make things more complicated, she's had lymphedema in her legs since childhood. She's super-slow, but she doesn't care.


Last-minute instructions from Jeff, and we're off. We run the course on the sidewalk (obviously,) but we were a little cavalier about traffic, I'd say. We passed MSKCC almost immediately, and I got a chill thinking about passing the hospital during the marathon. I was with a bunch of first-timers, and I was pointing out a couple of things to them. It's funny how I run this route only twice a year, and yet I remember exactly where to go. To be honest, it's not complicated, but it does get a little twisty in the Bronx. The whole run felt pretty good. I stayed off the sidewalk once we got to the cobblestone part of 5th Ave, and that helped a lot.


So we're on the last 400 or so yards, and up ahead, we see a real finish line, with balloons and a clock. I don't wear my glasses when I run, so I can't read too well, but I could just make out the words "Cancer Research." And I thought, wow, India (Fred's Team coordinator) really went all out for us, but really, all this fuss for a ten-miler? Turns out, we were running into the front end of the yearly Terry Fox 5K Run for Cancer Research. Very cool, and to make it better, all their proceeds from their NY race benefit MSKCC!! Some folks were running longer. I ran an extra 2 with Teammate Ernie, who didn't realize she was supposed to leave the Park at 69th Street, so I ran the lower loop with her with the marathon exit. Of course I felt guilty for not running more. Oh, well. By the time we got back, they were starting the Terry Fox Run, so we stuck around for that (some folks ran it) and also to cheer on Arlene, who had not yet arrived. The NBC camera crew was there and everything. So we're watching the course, and cheering on the runners, and somehow Arlene managed to slip in behind us and was hanging out talking with some of the other Teammates. She had to go around and pretend to finish so the cameras could catch it! It was pretty funny.


Today was the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff, a 5-miler that kicks off, well, marathon week. The plan was to take it slow. I wasn't out to prove anything. However, I still had last year's run in my mind, because I remember how good I felt running it. We were all wearing our Bakst Brothers t-shirts, celebrating Rich and Harrie Bakst and Harrie's amazing story. For Harrie, I will run in a cotton shirt!


I lined up in the corral. I was by myself, no Teammates, but that was okay, I don't like running with other people. Well, I do like running with other people, but I'm not a talker or anything. I prefer to listen to my music or be in my own head. But I confess I was a little lonely. The race begins and we're off. Mile 1 - 9:03. Alls well.


I see Rich, Harrie and Lynn up ahead. They're not that far away, but I'm not going to push to catch them at this stage of the race. Mile 2 - 8:25.


Heading up the East Side, and I realize that I'm right behind them. I tag Harrie and tell him I'm his bodyguard, to keep his fans away. There's another Teammate with us to our right, don't know her name, but she's blond, with a ponytail, and wearing a black headband. I mention this because a few minutes later another blond Teammate with a ponytail and a black headband flanks us to our left. Bookends! It was cool! Mile 3 - 8:31.


I kept up pretty well with the bunch, even though they're normally a little faster than me. Well, Rich and Lynn are much faster, but they're holding back. Harrie's been injured a lot these past few months, but at the final ten-miler he smoked me. So I'm feeling pretty good. Mile 4 - 8:18.


Harrie, Rich and Lynn pull over for water, and I keep going, along with the other Teammate. I say to her, "They're faster than me, I know they'll catch up." Bonus -- seeing Teammate Abby cheering us on! She suffered a stress fracture in her hip, so no marathon for her this year. It was so good to see her! We get to the turn around the East Side, and are passed by coach Jeff. The other girl turns to me and says, "Here they come," and indeed, Rich, Harrie and Lynn come roaring past with about 400 yards to go. Oh, man! So I pick up the pace and charge up that final hill to keep up with them. I really pushed it. I was thinking -- I remember last year the last mile was under 8:00. As I passed the finish line, I looked down.


7:59!


For a grand total of 42:19.


Am I ready for the marathon?

After the race we went to City Grill for our annual Team brunch. It was great. You can check out the photos from the race and brunch on my Facebook site!

PS: if you're in Long Island City, you'll see my nieces wearing these hats that I made them, being modeled here by my cat, Spot.



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kicking Assphalt: Two Race Reports, And...

...what the hell is THIS?

More on that in a moment.

Could a post begin without the latest additions to the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL? I think not!

Here they are:

ROBERT DION
JEFFREY WONDERS
DAVID SACHS
MICHAEL COLTON
GRACE GONGLEWSKI
BILL IRWIN
TOBY COBRIN
JAY FISCHLER
and
KERRY O'MALLEY


bringing the total to date going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research in honor of Liam Witt to an incredible
$4088

I said this before, but it bears repeating: for all my family and friends, but especially for those of you who donated after hearing my plea on Phedippidations, or The Extra Mile, my deepest and sincerest thanks. What can I say to people I don't know, who felt so moved by my story that they contributed either to my marathon effort or to Band of Parents? And what can I say to my friends, family and co-workers who give so generously year after year, regardless of the cause, just because it's me? "Thank you" just seems so inadequate. I'm a little overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit of all you wonderful people who are helping to not just imagine a world without cancer, but through your donations are making it a reality. There's an old Jewish expression, "bei mir bist du schoen." (sounds pretty, huh? like you can set it to music?) It means, "To me, you're beautiful."

Speaking of overwhelming and beautiful:


Liam has been adopted by the firemen at the firehouse near their NYC apartment, and they have been a source of comfort and happiness to him and his whole family. They showed up to volunteer at the original Cookies With Kids Cancer bake-a-thon, take Liam on endless tours of the firehouse, and have even given him his own locker at the station. This photo was taken two days after Liam's surgery this past July. The "guys" are like family, says Gretchen, and you can see it.

You may have noticed a few new links to the right. In my next post, I'm going to talk about some of those links, but I want to point out the link for New Balance Athletic Shoes. I got an email about a week ago from New Balance Harrisburg, saying they read and enjoyed my blog (!) and wanted to send me a pair of shoes to test. Since Saucony has given me the cold shoulder -- not even a "thanks but no thanks" note to my asking for sponsorship -- I agreed. I loves me my ProGrid Triumphs (even if they no longer come in green) but my mind can be changed. After the marathon, of course. Ain't gonna mess with it now. I've already got my marathon sneakers, and they're already broken in. But I will check the NBs out and let y'all know what I think.

Last Sunday was Grete's Great Gallop, a half marathon that's the highlight of the Norwegian Festival (that's right!) and my entry into the Phedippidations Worldwide Festival of Races. It was a week early for the PWWFOR, but I traditionally run the Worldwide Half on Grete's Gallop (if two times a tradition makes) and I wanted to hang onto that tradition. I was really nervous about this race. My hips had been sore all week, and I haven't been having the best distance runs. I was really starting to wonder if I had what it takes to get across the finish line comfortably this year. Please note that I said "comfortably." Making it across the finish line is not the issue.

I got there fairly early, but was disappointed to learn that my hero Grete Waitz had already met with the Team prior to the race. I didn't know about the change (I thought she'd meet us after) because I wasn't at the Team practice that Thursday (it was my niece's 5th birthday party!) But I did not get there too late for the WAFFLES!! I am obsessed with these freaking Belgian, er, Norwegian waffles that they serve at this race. The first year I ran this race, it rained the whole time, I hurt my leg, and I missed out on the waffles. Last year I got one before the race, and even in 80+ degree heat and humidity, I ran my second-fastest time. This year, pre-race waffle!!

The Team was doing an extra two miles prior to the race, but I just didn't have it in me. I wanted to race the half, and at that moment I felt that even two more miles would do me in. I was still sore from last week's 20-miler, and besides, I don't think I even had a drop-down week. The week I was supposed to do 13 I ended up doing 18. Besides, Jeff said it was okay not to add the two. So I lined up with Jeff, and we were soon joined by Karen, who had run 7 beforehand. The others came back, the gun went off, and we were off, for two and a half clockwise loops of Central Park, finishing at the marathon finishing line at Tavern on the Green.

Right away, big mistake. I was running with Jeff and Karen. Jeff and Karen are both MUCH faster than I am. Didn't I make this mistake last year in Staten Island? DON'T START OUT TOO FAST!! I noticed that my time for the first two miles was something like 18:30. I had to stop, but I couldn't. The competitive side of me started kicking in, and as much as I wanted to just let Jeff and Karen get ahead, there was something inside me that wouldn't let them get too far. I unfortunately erased my watch before I recorded my split times, so I don't know what my first loop time was, but I think it was somewhere in the 53 minute range. A good time for me -- for a 10K. A little too fast for me for a half, unless I was going to PR in the second half. Stranger things have happened...

Second loop, and it starts to drizzle. I love it! It was cool and drizzly and the weather was just perfect. I like doing the loop clockwise. The Great Hill is longer this way, but slightly less steep. Besides, I like the Great Hill. It's Cat Hill I could do without, and for a clockwise loop we go downhill. Yee haw! I've finally shaken Jeff and Karen, and by that I mean they're far enough ahead of me that they no longer are tempting me to go too fast too soon, when lo and behold, just as I get to the start of the downhill part of the Great Hill, there's Jeff and Karen. They're walking, and Karen doesn't look happy. She had been complaining earlier of hamstring pain. Wow. I say hello and head past them and down the hill.

I tend to psyche myself OUT during races instead of psyching myself UP. For some reason I find it hard to say things like, "Good job! You can do it! You're strong!" What I do instead is say things to myself like, "You can walk this section, you know." Then when I don't listen to myself, I feel triumphant. Is that nuts? I say this because once I passed Jeff and Karen, I all of a sudden flipped it around. I know that Karen was hurting and Jeff was walking with her and that under normal circumstances the two of them could run me into the ground and have room left over for dessert, but there's something about being faster than my coach, even under these conditions, that has always inspired me. During the first loop, there were points where I'd actually pull ahead of him and say, "Looka me! Looka me!" as I passed. Jeff knows I'm a doofus so he just laughed (and pulled ahead.) But when I pulled away for real, I fooled myself into thinking I was really and truly faster than him and Karen and used that adrenaline to get me up over the Hill. I wasn't feeling all that great (I was burping up the Gatorade) but I kept pushing it.

And, without any further ado, I crossed the finish line in 1:56:45 -- a half-marathon PR by over a minute.

The thing is, it wasn't a smart race. It was a good race, but not a smart one. I don't like NOT running a smart race. I didn't feel good, I was a little too achy for the distance covered, and had I run a smarter race, I might have finished faster, or at least feeling better. And sorry, Jeff and Karen, for using your misfortune to my advantage. Such as it was.

This week in training it was all about marathon pace. Before Grete's Gallop, our Team speed workout was doing four 1-mile repeats, with the miles starting 40 seconds BELOW marathon pace and moving up to marathon pace by the last one. So for me, it was about anti-speed. Really anti. I thought I should maybe walk some of those miles! I did a 9:50, 9:40, 9:30, and .... 9:00.

Then this week, the Cat Hill workout was again about marathon speed. 3 sets of 4. First set, slower than marathon pace, second set slightly faster, and third set at marathon pace. Cat Hill is half a mile up and down. So I did my first set at about a 9:10 pace, the second at a 9:00 and the third at 8:40. Not that THAT's my marathon pace...I think...(it's not.)

I missed the final Team stair workout this week because of the Jewish holidays, so I did my own workout on my old friend the Bethesda steps. However, it was in the high 70s and after a half-mile warm-up and 2 sets of six 2-at-a-time, 1-at-a-time, 3-at-a-time, 1-2-3-2-1s, I was feeling ill, so I cut it a little short. However, I did JUMP up the steps one at a time as my big finish, and I am normally allergic to jumping. It knocks my hips out of alignment faster than popcorn pops. But one set wasn't so bad.

Today was my revenge on Staten Island, at the Staten Island Half Marathon. Not to belabor the point, and there's already a link in this post to last year's debacle, but I was really looking forward to this race and the chance to redeem myself. In brief: last year we added 7 beforehand. I ran it with Teammates David and Ashley, both of whom are much faster than I, and I kept up with them the whole time. I asked them, "Should I be elated or concerned?" Turns out, concerned. I crashed and burned big time by mile 6 of the actual race. I drank so much Gatorade to get through the rest of the race I made myself sick, and I had to walk long stretches, the first time I needed to do that all last year. I wept as I crossed the finish line because I was so mad at myself.

This year I wanted REVENGE!!

We arrived in SI at 7:00am, and pretended it was the marathon by waiting over an hour before we started our pre-race running. I did the pre-race 7 much slower, at between a 9:30 and a 10:00 pace. I also carried 1/2 a bottle of Gatorade with me and drank it during this part, and took water and Gatorade from the 2 aid stations as well. I ran with Tricia, Anastasia, and Corinne (who I never met before, but she was really nice.) We even took a porta-potty break around mile 5 of the 7, which turned out to be more like a 7.6 (I mapped it on Buckeye Outdoors.) It's hard to figure out the half-way point. I had a feeling it was a little further back.

We pulled back into the Richmond Terrace ballfield parking lot in 1:13, with about five minutes to spare, and headed into our corrals. We are assigned corrals according to our pace time from our best mile from any race over four miles, or something like that. Nothing else can explain my 7:53 pace corral. Yes, you saw correct. No way in hell could I hold a pace like that for a half, and not after 7 miles. So I ducked into the corral two colors behind me. While I waited, I decided to pretend that this was a new race. I zeroed out my watch, I reset my iPod, I took a gel.

Annnnd, we're off!

My first two miles were 9:30s. Felt good. Mile 3 was 9:23 and mile 4 -- 9:09. Whoops, too fast. Mile 5 -- 9:28. Stayed full of Gatorade and water, and gelled again at mile 5.

Now we're heading to my crash and burn site from last year -- mile 6. The genius of this course is that even though it's an out-and-back course, miles 5-9 are not a repeat. The course hits a divided roadway, and we run on one side of the roadway from 5 to 6 1/2, then up the other side of the roadway to about mile 8, then the race diverts to the right for a trip through Fort Wadsworth (!!!! that's the start of the marathon) before hitting the first section of the course for the return. That way, there's no congestion between the faster returning runners and the slower runners.

I could feel my legs burning when I hit mile 6, as if they remembered. And I looked at my split -- 9:02. HA HA HA, AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN THIS TIME!! So, 56:03 for the first 6.

The other thing that's nice about this course is that you get to see people on both sides of the roadway. Checked in with a bunch of Teammates passing me as I went down the hill, and passing them as I went up.

Mile 7, my iPod stopped playing music, right as I got to the huge hill. While I will not use it during the marathon, ain't no way I'm not using it now. I reset it, giving up on the Nike+ (it was way off anyway, which confounds me. Why is it accurate one day and completely inaccurate the next?) So, no music up the giant hill (what goes down must go up) and I forgot to hit my watch at the right time, so I have a 10:10 mile 7 and an 8:45 mile 8. Er, no.

Through a little residential section, and then Fort Wadsworth (see you in three weeks) and then we hit the section where I remember having to walk the year before. I was a little sore, but I felt terrific. Not stopping now!! Mile 9: 9:10

Now we're back on the first part of the course, and there are two hills left, the bridge up Hannah Street, and the uphill that takes us back to Richmond Terrace. Basically, miles 11 and 12 are uphill, but 12 to the end is downhill and a straightaway. Take a gel at mile 10 (9:09) and walk a little extra to get it all in. Head to the Hannah St. bridge. 9:24.

Up the bridge, up Bay Street, up ot Richmond Terrace. Get my last Gatorade for a final boost of energy. Mile 12: 9:40. Slow, I thought, but I remember barely making up that hill last year, and this year, no problem.

Heading down Richmond Terrace, down the little hill to the access road, which seems to stretch on forever (you can't see the finish line until you make the turn into the parking lot. I hate that you can't see the finish until you're almost on it.) Mile 13, and .... for mile 13.1 - 9:37 and DONE.

Time for the half: 2:02 on the nose. Time for 20.7 -- 3:15. Not the actual time I want (I always want to be five minutes faster!) but I'm happy to take it. And I felt, for the first time this season, that I could've run six more.

VENGEANCE IS MINE!!!

PS: that thing in the picture? I don't know what it is. We saw it in the parking lot while waiting to start our pre-race 7, and someone said pick it up, maybe it's a good luck charm. I'm superstitious about that kind of stuff, so I put it in my pocket. Guess what'll be there during the marathon?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Honor Roll Hoedown; Liam Update, Shameless Promo for "A Race Like No Other," Why Aren't I Getting Faster? and Tune-Up Race Report

Wow. Did all this time pass? Have y'all been as busy as me?
Cannot begin without a HUGE addition to the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL!!!!!
Let's welcome:

LAURENCE HELFER
SETH RUDETSKY
CHRISTOPHER CAPPER
HOWARD AND EDYTHE SCHAERF
PHIL AND IRENE KUTHER
JAMES SMITH
SCOTT TAYLOR
DR. GREGG ROCK (my podiatrist!)
SUELLEN ESTEY
CANDACE POTEMPA
JEFFREY MARCUS
LINDA EDWARDS
JACQUELINE BRONER
JILL DUBOFF
SAM AND MARION FREED
THERESE EISENHAUER

bringing the total amount raised for the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research in honor of Liam Witt to an amazing

$3808

Many of these people kindly donated after listening to Steve Runner's impassioned plea on Phedippidations, or from The Extra Mile podcast. For those of you visiting from those sites, I cannot thank you enough. Thatyou, who only know me from a podcast, would think highly enough of my noble purpose to donate money either to my marathon effort, directly to MSKCC, or to Band of Parents, who also support pediatric cancer research at MSKCC -- well, what words are adequate? "Thank you" just doesn't suffice. And I apologize for blitzing you with two podcasts in the same week. This is a cause that's so important to me, I'm willing to be annoying. Just ask my friends and family.

I don't run for Fred's Team because they give me a marathon entry. They don't. I earn my entry by being a member of NY Road Runners and completing the requisite amount of races. So I don't HAVE to run for Fred's Team. Raising money for the Aubrey Fund and helping children like Liam is what I MUST do. And if you've ever visited MSKCC and seen the pediatric cancer ward, and watched how the nurses and the staff interact with the children -- to know that you have played some small role in this, it's the best feeling in the world.

If you would like to donate to my marathon effort and be a part of the Honor Roll, just click here, or on the links to the side and bottom of the page.

Liam update: he is home again, after two rounds of chemo, intensive antibiotics, and rounds of scans and tests that ranged from scary to painful; and only missed the first day of school! And, according to Gretchen, none of his classmates seemed to care that he was bald. Hooray!

Shameless promo: Liz Robbins' book, "A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York" comes out October 7th, featuring many Fred's Teammates, including Yours Truly. Pre-order your copy today!!

I want to crab for a minute or two about the same thing I crabbed about last time. I am feeling frustrated about my progression -- or lack thereof -- in the speed department, both in stenography and in running. I don't know why I said last week that I thought my running was improving, because I'm not having great long runs, and I am still not able to get beyond my 190s in steno. After last weekend's 18 mile Tune Up, I checked my Buckeye Outdoors log to see how I did last year -- and it was the same time, approximately, and I apparently felt a whole lot better (more on this year's run in a minute.) I feel like I've been struggling more this year, not training as much and needing more recovery time between workouts. Now, that could be the case, or it could be that last year was the real breakthrough year for me, and this year, not so much a breakthrough year. I'm afraid that I've undertrained, even though I've done all my long runs, made nearly every Team practice, and more. But not as much as last year, I fear. Here's how I'm trying to talk myself down from this. First, it doesn't mean I'm having a bad year, only that this year was more about maintenance than breaking through. Second, if I look carefully, it wasn't until the Tune-Up that I felt good about a long run -- and the following week I crashed and burned in Staten Island. And that isn't happening this year. I'm no psychic, but I can predict that with confidence. But I don't know, and I won't know until I cross the finish line on November 2nd, and that's the thing that sucks.

As for steno, last week in school, I know I got the 225 and the 200, but couldn't get the 190, which is the one I need. The teacher said, "You have the speed, you're thinking too much." Hmm. He's right. Too boring to explain what that means for steno, but since I equate running speed and steno speed, how can I apply "not thinking" to my running as well as my steno?

One thing that HAS improved is my arms. Apparently when I run I don't swing them loosely and I hold them behind me. I don't feel that they are, but why would Jeff and Ann both lie to me? I'm a visually-oriented person; I need to see something as much as I need to feel it in order to know that it's right. My posture, for example; it's not enough for me to know what standing truly straight feels like, I also need to see it in the mirror from many sides. It takes me a while to incorporate things physically that I can only feel and not really see. At a Team workout a couple weeks ago -- the hill workout we were supposed to have two days after the ten Cat Hill repeats was replaced by a lighter workout concentrating on form (thank goodness!!) Jeff stuck with me and made me work my arms until I got it., And this time, finally, I think it stuck.

I put my arms to the test this past weekend, at the 18-Mile Tune-Up. Sadly (and I use the term loosely) the Tune-Up fell the day after both the Urbanathlon, which I wanted to do, and the infamous NY Flyers Palisades Run. This year we were not, as a Team, officially invited to the Palisades run (don't know why) but they were okay with us signing up for it. I was seriously considering doing the Palisades run, after having such a crappy time of it last year, but to be honest, I've been beating myself up so much about my running, as you can see, that I couldn't stomach the thought of having one more potentially bad long run. As boring as the Tune-Up is (3 loops of the Park,) I know it's one I can do. I just read my posts last year from both runs. Wow. What a difference a year makes. You can't see the pause, but I went and read some of my reports from this year, too. Am I running well or badly?? I'm so conflicted!!

So anyways, the Tune-Up. I added two miles to the front, because there weren't no way I was doing them after. And apologies beforehand, I erased my splits from my watch before I recorded them, but I know the generics, and here they be: first, I did negative split, but not by much. I was definitely slower the first four-five miles -- my first two "official" miles were 10:00, that I remember -- which was exactly what I wanted. The good thing about the first eight miles was that they were EASY, and except for the fact that I had to stop at mile 3 (or 5, depending) to remove the bursitis pad, because it was rubbing against the blister pad and making things worse, it was a great loop. I didn't start getting really tired until about mid-way through the second loop. And it's not that I was out of breath, my breathing was great the whole time. It's my legs. They just get all rock-like and heavy. Grr. The other thing is, it was very humid on Sunday, even though it was a little cooler. 93 percent humidity. So not easy. I spent most of the second loop really concentrating on my arms. After the first two miles, I hovered in the mid-to-high 9's in mileage. Not thrilled, but not going to make myself crazy.

The third loop was difficult. I decided as I finished loop 2 that if I had reached the point where I knew I would finish in under three hours, I would let myself walk up Cat Hill. Now, if you haven't read my blog a lot, this is one of the mind games I play with myself. I love to let myself off the hook, as it were, but I rarely do. For some reason, the more I give myself permission to stop, the less I will. Sort of the same twisted psychology that made me walk around with a pack of cigarettes for a year and a half after I quit. If I wanted one badly enough, I was allowed to have one, but just knowing that I could made me not want to. PS: as far as walking goes, I walk all the water stations.

Rounding the south end of the Park during loop 3, I knew we were getting close to the finish, and I started speeding up. My third trip up Cat Hill -- not walking -- was on pace, and my final mile was my fastest.

Finished the 18 miles in 2:55, and adding the two and a half beforehand, that 20.5 in 3:19. Didn't feel as chipper as I did after last year's Tune-Up, but not too bad. Had it been cooler out, maybe it would have felt a little better. It's not a question of finishing the marathon -- that I will do -- it's a question of time. That's all. I just want to finish strong.

Okay, off to NYRR to pick up my chip for this year's Grete's Gallop -- my entry in the Phedippidations Worldwide Festival of Races!! A week early, I know, but I traditionally run this race for the WWF, if two years a tradition makes. I am looking forward to meeting my running idol Grete Waitz again, and I am also looking forward to the WAFFLES!!

much love,
MG

PS: Wednesday in the Park, I saw someone walking a dog, and the dog had a pacifier in its mouth. Bizarre.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Good News, Bad News; Running vs. Steno Part II, Fdip and TEM, and A Brutal Long Run that I'm Sad (?) to Miss

Today's post features good news and bad news (and back to good news again.)

First, some good news -- we have more people to add to the Fred's Team Honor Roll!

ELLEN HORAITIS
SUE AND OWEN GROSSBLATT
ISABEL AND HAL ROSENSTEIN

and the proceeds from my second bake sale

bringing the total going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research to...

$3018

which is terrific! But we still have a long way to go! Even though my official site says I'm raising $3500, I'd really like to raise $6,000. It doesn't go into my pocket, of course, it goes to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC. Over 80 percent of the money raised for the Aubrey Fund goes directly to research and patient care. Plus, I'm running in honor of Liam Witt, an amazing little boy who just turned four, and who has been battling neuroblastoma for the past year. I really would like to raise $6000 in Liam's honor. Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer, and pharmaceutical companies aren't spending time working on cures and treatments for it, because there's not enough of a patient base for it to be profitable. Government support is also limited. That's why it's so important that the Aubrey Fund gets the support it needs, to fund MSKCC's development of new treatment protocols to treat neuroblastoma, and other childrens cancer.

And with the marathon just over a month away, now is the time. Won't you help me honor Liam's fight, by making a donation to Fred's Team on my behalf? Please click on the links to the side and bottom of the page, or right here.

Some other good news, is that I've recorded segments promoting Fred's Team that will air on two of my favorite podcasts, The Extra Mile and Phedippidations. In fact, I am the Featured Blog on Phedip this week!Steve Runner was a great supporter last year; he mentioned this humble little blog three times, and so many runners pitched in that I was able to raise over $6,000 last year. Runners are amazing. Thanks, Steve!

And now, the bad news.

Can you say BURSITIS?

That's the pain on the bottom of my foot that was mimicking the awful burning bunion pain I had two years ago, according to Dr. Rock. He also says it's curable, and gave me some pads to wear on the bottom of my foot, just under the ball, to take pressure off the bursitis. I actually drew a circle around the pad, so I could hit the right spot every time I change out the pads. Here's the good news part of it -- not only is the pad helping the bottom of my foot, it's actually making my piriformis pain go away. Huh? Am I fooling myself? Or is my right leg shorter than my left, and the extra boost with the pad is all it takes? I am so confused. I must call my beloved PT Miri Ingwer and find out what the deal is; if anyone can answer that question, it is she.

However, the one thing that is NOT going away is my continual non-passing of my steno tests. I am getting very frustrated, this not moving forward. I need to graduate already! Up until just now, my running speed and my steno speed have gone hand-in-hand. As one improved, so did the other. Well, the running is getting better...where's my steno speed? It's a cycle, I've been through this before, I think it was last year, when I was stuck at 120-130. I took 14 tests in a row and didn't pass one. I'm there again. I know that I'll get through this and get that last burst of speed I need to pass those last few tests and get out, but each day it doesn't happen is adding to the frustration amd making me not want to practice, which of course doesn't do any good, and the cycle continues. I am taking a CaseCAT weekend workshop to learn all about the software, and it's helping me get a little more excited about practicing.

The one bad thing about the workshop is, I'll be sadly missing ten repeats of the Great Hill in Central Park Saturday morning. It's bound to be brutal. I say sad because I'm truly sad to be missing this one. My first year with the Team, one of our evening workouts was 8 repeats of the Great Hill. Jeff says to us, "It's a mile." Turns out, it's more like 1.4 miles. By the time we finished, it was pitch black out, the Park was deserted, and we could barely move. We all collapsed on this splintery trailer bed that was parked on the transverse and just laid there. But that run really turned us into a team. I really do wish I could be there. Alas, I will have to do the run on my own on Sunday. Sigh.

So, good news, bad news, good news. etc.

Off to the gym!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Week of Running Ups and Downs, "A Race Like No Other" Hits Amazon.com, and My Continuing Paranoia

The latest honored members of the Fred's Team Honor Roll:

Jamie "Carboman" Pang
Jim Semmelman
and the money I got from the bake sale

making the total to date for the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research

$2595

I'm not shy. I want your money. Not for me, though. For donations to my Fred's Team marathon effort. I'm running on behalf of an amazing cause, and even more importantly, for an amazing little boy, Liam Witt, who is battling neuroblastoma at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. I really would like to raise $6000 in honor of Liam, who is such an inspiration to me and to the people around him. And with the marathon just over a month away, now is the time. Please click on the links to the side and bottom of the page, and even here. Go on, click.

This has been a pretty good week of running, although it did end on a bit of a downer. After last Saturday's brutal 18-miler -- not brutal because of the mileage, but because of the super-humid soupy weather that we ran it in -- I was really looking forward to stepping it up a notch and proving that bad run a fluke.

Monday I decided to run down in Battery Park City after school. I left my stuff at the gym and took off west down to the park. I went up to about 28th Street and back down, going down a few piers along the way to see what's going on (my favorite thing about running on the west side.) My time was a little slow, which surprised me, as it didn't feel especially slow. Also, Nike+ is completely misbehaving again. It was fine for the 15 miler we did up and down Park Avenue as part of the Summer Streets program, but now it's at least two miles off either too many or too few. I don't get it!!!!!!

Tuesday was a hill workout on Cat Hill. Eight repeats in a row, no stopping. Tough. The key was consistency, and I was pretty consistent. My ups were all between 2:10 and 2:13 (except for one slower and one faster) and my downs were all 2:00 - 2:05.

Wednesday was too nice a day to cross-train. It was cool and windy. So I went for one of my favorite runs, the loop around the Rez in the early evening, as the sun was starting to set. I have to say, if you ever have the chance to run around the Rez in the early morning with the sun rise, or the early evening with the sun set, do it. It's so beautiful. The sky turns this brilliant, rich dark blue, and it's reflected on the water, and the buildings are sillhouetted against the sky and the water -- it's almost worth waking up early for. Here's the thing -- on the way back, I felt my "fast legs" returning. It was like how I felt just before and after the marathon last year, that all of a sudden I had speed without putting out extra effort. It didn't reflect in my run time, but it felt right.

Thursday was a step workout in Riverside Park. When I realized Coach Ann was going to lead it, I (half-jokingly) announced I was leaving, scaring all the newbies to the step workout. Underneath that pretty, mild-mannered exterior lurks the heart of a drill sergeant. She promised she wouldn't be brutal on us, and then proceeded to be just that. I exaggerate. She was half-brutal. Lots of "up the steps, up the hill, up the other hill," which is good for us. And, not to brag but I will, I was leading most of the drills. Yes, I was pushing the effort a little and maybe everyone else was holding back. But still.

So going into Saturday's run, I was feeling pretty good. Jeff had said on Tuesday that this should be a drop-down week, and only do 13. But as we were waiting to begin, Ann told me to try to do 20. (Jeff wasn't at the Thursday or Saturday run.) We were running alongside the NYRR Long Training Run, which was between 6-20 miles, depending on how many loops you wanted to do. Hmmm, what to do. I had mentally and physically prepared for 13. I didn't bring any gels, nor extra Gatorade. I knew that this run would have Gatorade or gels only at the 102nd Street Transverse, or every 5 or 6 miles, depending on what loop you're on (the first loop is 6 miles, the second and third are 5, the last is 4, all starting and ending at the transverse, and it's the one thing I hate about this run.) But I gamely set out for 20.

Liz Robbins, who wrote the book about the NYC marathon that I told you all about, A Race Like No Other, was at the start line, plugging her book -- and so will I! It's available for pre-order on Amazon.com! Get yours today by clicking on the link! Exclamation point!

First six, no problem. It was a little toasty. Stopped at fountains as well as the water stations, which were not as numerous as one would hope (the other thing I hate about this run -- the water stations are primarily on the lower loop of the park, with only one station on the west side and none on the east side after Cat Hill. ) No gels available until after the second loop.

First five mile loop, still feeling okay. My foot was starting to ache (okay, I'm calling Dr. Rock on Monday, this isn't right) and I was starting to feel the effects of not enough Gatorade or water. I drank at all the water stops, but still, I needed some carbs. It was still too early for the vendors to be out, so no extra Gatorade yet.

At the Transverse at the 11 mile (actually, the 11.5-mile mark for me, since we started at the Fred statue) I saw Liz again and she showed me the part of the book I'm in. I'm called "Glotzer," which always makes me giggle. She did one of the five-mile loops, but she's been injured and hasn't been able to run for a while, which sucks. She got to go to Beijing and report on the Olympics, and I'm psyched to hear about that. Drank two cups of Gatorade and took two gels with me. Saw someone from my Team (she was wearing Team shorts) taking a gel with Gatorade. I said "Stop, you'll make yourself sick doing that." She said she did it all the time with no problem. Urgh. To each his own.

Start of loop 3, and I was not happy. My foot was bugging me, and my legs felt like rocks. At the first water stop I took the first gel, and I noticed it was not going down well. I didn't feel sick, but I was burping it up (mmmm, yummy TMI!) which meant it wasn't getting into my system. For the uninitiated: when you run long distances, the body tends to shut down systems you don't need at the moment, like your digestive system, to focus blood and energy resources to your legs and heart. That's why they have these specialty gels and drinks that are simple to break down, so that your barely-working digestive system can process it.

Just before Cat Hill, I developed an urgent need for, as they say on "Car Talk," a haircut. So I headed to the facilities -- no chairs available. And then when one did open up, turns out I didn't need one after all. However, those first familiar pangs of a bladder infection started (as long as we're going for the TMI title, might as well go all the way) which, no pun intended, pissed me off. I was really hoping to make it through the season without one. Alas.

Headed up Cat Hill -- rather, shuffled up Cat Hill, and made it back to the Team spot, mile 16. I was wiped. Didn't want to quit, but the thought of tackling Cat Hill one more time gave me the twinges, so after I finished drinking the watered-down bottle of Gatorade that would've set me up fine for a 13-miler, I set out around the bridle path. Maybe I could finish up the 20 miles this way.

About 30 feet into this loop I realized it was a bad idea. I could barely pick up my legs, and I was dumping so many rocks into my sneakers I might as well have been running barefoot (speaking of which, there was a barefoot runner at the Long Training Run. Ouch.) I barely made it around the loop and called it quits.

Here's the thing. I could've done 20. I could've stopped, rested, bought Gatorade once the vendors came out, taken walk breaks. But I didn't. I ran until I wore down. For no reason. And I'm really disappointed in myself that I only managed to get 18 in, and it was in all honesty probably a little less than that. And slow, to boot. Where did my fast legs go? Where did my endurance go? I did 18 last week too, and wasn't even planning on 20, why should I be disappointed? But I am, because I didn't think it through better, and I knew I could've, and should've. As stupid as it sounds, I've let myself down. And it worries me, because the marathon is only seven weeks away, and I haven't run any 20-milers yet (though I'll have the chance to do three in the coming weeks, before the big taper -- the Tune-Up, the Palisades Run and adding miles to the Staten Island Half in what will be my revenge run for the miserable time I had last year.)

Wow, I just read my post from last year's Long Training Run. I had a much better time, even though that was the day I not only split my compression shorts down both sides of my crotch, I lost a major filling and ended up spending the rest of the weekend obsessing about it so much I went to the emergency room, convinced I was poisoning my brain. PS: I wasn't. I think.