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!


and the proceeds from my second bake sale

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


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, 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


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! 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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Did It!

I baked brownies! I really wanted to keep my promise to Gretchen to hold a bake sale and donate the money to pediatric cancer research. However, one of the key ingredients to a successful bake sale is edible product. Baking not being one of my many talents, I got the Chocolate Truffle w/Chocolate Chip mix from Trader Joes.

Apparently it is possible to mess up mix brownies. Witness my sad, misshapen results.
The first batch (pictured) -- the top fell off when I tried to plop them out of the tray.
The second batch never cooked right -- it was a molten mess. When I put them on the cooling rack, they melted through. Even after putting them back in the oven they never quite set up.
Frequent tastings assured me they were edible.
And I sold them all -- "regular" and "extra-fudgy" -- and made an extra $45 for Fred's Team!
Further, Cindy McMahon, the Director of Admissions, said she will do some advertising for me for next time (!) and will also try to get me some $$ from some of the organizations she belongs to.
Actual running post coming soon.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Race Report: Nike+ Human Race, Liam update, and Strange Running Rides

Hello, dear readers,

No new Honor Roll members to announce today, just some running news and other updates, including my race report for the Nike Human Race 10K. Yes, I sipped the Kool-Aid. More anon.

But no blog entry can be made without asking you to join the Honor Roll of wonderful people donating to my Fred's Team marathon effort on behalf of Liam Witt , a brave little boy undergoing treatment for neuroblastoma at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC. Over 80 percent of the money raised by Fred's Team's goes directly to research and patient care at MSKCC via the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research. Your donation directly impacts Liam, because it's your money that developed the ground-breaking treatment protocols that raised the survival rate for neuroblastoma patients from zero (yes, zero) only twenty years ago to over 55 percent today. So won't you help me honor Liam and his fight by supporting my third NYC Marathon run on his behalf? Simply click here, or on the links to the side and bottom of the page.

Liam update: he has begun his second round of high-dose chemo to hopefully eradicate the recurrence of cancer cells near the original tumor site. Liam's mother Gretchen reports:

Liam just finished throwing up for the third time in an hour. Chemo throw up for Liam is a total body experience…it sounds like his toes are throwing up and every vertebrae in his back. It comes out his nose. He makes an awful wretching sound. He spits frantically to clear the throw up from his mouth while whimpering “there’s more – don’t move the bucket!” And over and over he says, “I don’t like throwing up. I don’t like it at all.” But tonight, after his third throw up session and before I had even wiped away the combo of spit, he raised his head from the throw up bucket and said in a cautiously excited voice, “Mommy – One plus one is two! And two plus two is four!”

Children are amazing. You can read Gretchen's full blog entry here.

My training has been a little spotty these past few weeks, mostly because of pulling double duty working for the Cape Playhouse during the day and attending school at night. Now that the shows are over and I'm back in school full-time days again, one might expect my training hours to ramp up. Alas, this is not yet the case. I want to, but I'm also trying desperately to pass some steno tests and, as much as I like school, get the heck outta there. So I'm splitting my time between training and practicing, and practicing is winning. Though I have yet to pass a 190 wpm test, my fingers "feel different" and I think it's coming soon. Don't know if I can say the same thing for my running, but I still feel there is a correllation between my steno speed and my running speed. My feet also "feel different," but that's because I twisted my ankle a few weeks ago and it's still a bit twingy.

Tuesday was a hill workout. Two sets of 5 up-and-downs of Cat Hill with no rest. It was SO CROWDED on Cat Hill it was almost frightening. HUGE packs of people bearing down on me non-stop from both directions. I had my gaze down a little bit, and there were people whooshing by me on both sides, you could see the colors whizzing by. Running through them was kind of like being on a strange amusement park ride. Don't know if I want a season ticket.

I convinced Bill, my new roomie, to come with me, as it was a nice day and he is training for the Avon Walk, so a hill workout would be good. He even managed to keep up with me for the first mile or so, but as he is not a runner, he got winded and switched to walking. At the end of my repeats I would catch him and run with him/make him run with me. It was nice to have him there. He says he wants to start running...

Thursday was steps, and Jeff found a new and more torturous set of stairs than the ones we've been on. They are the twin of the long, low steps, but they are longer and not as low. We also used the hill next to the steps to do some bounding, some frogging -- which is basically walking like a tree frog across the ground. Ordinarily hard, as you have to keep low to the ground, made harder by the rocky/branch-y/glassy terrain. Also a round of f*ing buckets. Amazingly, my ankle didn't feel too bad after this workout, so I decided that Saturday's run I'd wear the pull-on white Ace brace instead of the more intense velcro-strap number.

Speaking of Saturday's long run...

We didn't have a group run planned, it being Labor Day weekend and all, but someone on the Team, I won't mention names Jill, said, "You should get people together for a long run on Saturday anyway." I am somewhat of a social director, and frequently use the Fred's Team Yahoo group link to plan informal post-workout get-togethers and such. So I sent out the email. Saturday morning, woke up at 5:15am to a torrential downpour. Grrr! But I figured Jeff and Ann would make us run in the rain, and I did tell Jill I'd be there, so I got ready. The heavy rain did clear up around 6:30, and lo and behold, there were people there waiting for me! But not Jill! Why, you... Anyways, turns out the people who came were all at a faster pace than I, so they all ended up running together. I putt-putted behind them. A boring course, just loops in the Park. Just like with the NYC Half, the Park was more like a rainforest. Superhumid. I decided to do two complete loops, then start a third complete loop and cut off at my house. Turns out that's 17, not 16. Oh, well. My breathing was suprisingly good for it being so humid. I did run out of juice near the end -- I forgot to bring a gel, and I didn't have enough Gatorade on me, so the last 2-3 miles were on fumes.

More disconcerting, around mile 9 I started experiencing the same ball-of-the-foot pain in my right foot that I felt prior to my bunion surgery. I had to pull over and stretch my foot out. It did make the initial pain go away, but it remained sore for the remainder of the run. What gives? I am guessing (hoping?) that I have been compensating for the left ankle by doing something strange with the right foot, which is leading to the pain. This happened a few weeks ago as well, but only for a couple of minutes. Since both episodes happened after the ankle twist, I am going to give it a week or so, now that the ankle is feeling a bit better, to see if it clears up on its own, before running back to Dr. Rock.

Yesterday, August 31, was the Nike+ Human Race. For those who haven't followed this, Nike set up 10K races all around the world, and if you weren't running in a race city, if you had a Nike+ you committed to running a 10K on August 31 and be a part of the experience. I signed up for it because it was going to be on Randall's Island, where I had never been before, and I was looking for a new place to run. Also, I thought it would be neat to do something huge like this, even though it's the corporate version of the Phedippidations Worldwide Festival of Races, formerly known as the World Wide Half. The WWH was started by Steve Runnner and some of the people who listen to his Phedippidations podcast (which I highly recommend!!) three years ago. They picked a weekend in October, and listeners to the podcast committed to running a half-marathon that weekend, either on their own or as part of an organized run. Steve put together a podcast of cheers and encouragement sent in from fellow listeners, and it was like we were all running together. Last year a Kick the Couch 5K was added, and this year a Zen Run 10K, so now it's more than just a Half, it's a Festival of Races, but the same principles apply. Did I mention that participating is free? A whole bunch of other podcasts have sprung up out of the WWH, like The Extra Mile, which was originally people calling in their WWH training progress but is now a full-fledged running podcast. So running a global running event is something I respond to.

Now that it's over I must say that I was not particularly impressed by the NY branch of the Human Race 10K. It's not that I thought it was bad, it just wasn't that good. Here's why:

First off, Nike claims 10,000 participants in NYC. I can believe that. And they were stressing over and over to take public transportation to Randall's Island. Okay, great. So 10,000 people show up at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue to take the M80 bus over to Randall's Island...and there's one city bus. ONE. The line to get on this one bus stretched literally over 4 city blocks. The end of the line was five feet from the beginning of the line. I arrived there just before 5pm, thinking I'd have plenty of time. Guess not. So I ended up walking across the Triborough Bridge with a bunch of other people. Got to Icahn Stadium at 5:20pm.

There was a baggage check, but if you wanted to use it, you apparently had to get a wristband from someone at the front entrance to the stadium. One person. Handing out wristbands to 10,000 people. Somewhere near the front gate. Now we're at 5:30pm.

Not enough toilets. 5:50.

The barricades to the start line had closed by the time I was able to get there, and the people closing the barricades were yelling at us that we should have gotten there earlier. Um, yeah. So I had to go in at the 12 minute mile mark and snake my way down to what I hoped was around the 8:30 mark. 5:58.

And then we waited for 30 minutes. Apparently they were having problems closing the streets.

Did Nike maybe forget to let NYC know they were putting on an event? If you're going to put on a shindig of this size, and encourage 10,000 people to take public transportation to come, maybe you'd want to let the MTA know, so there would be MORE THAN ONE BUS there? Or let the Police Department know to close down the streets? Not encouraging.

Also, where I was standing was right by a speaker that was SO LOUD that all of us were covering our hears and cringing, and the poor announcer was gamely vamping away, but every time he shouted into the mic, our whole section went deaf. It was supremely unpleasant.

At long last the horn went off and we were off. At this point a lot of the wind had gone out of my sails, and a lot of other people's too. It took a bit to crank up. Now, I had made a point of not looking at the course map. This was a new course for me and I wanted to be surprised. Well, imagine my suprise when I realized it was a two-loop course. For a 10k? Surely Randall's Island is large enough to have a 6.2 mile single course. And the roads we were on were back roads -- service ramps and running behind construction walls for a majority of the race. These are the streets they're having trouble closing? Abandoned service roads?

Even worse, there were narrow spots made narrower by the need to have two lanes, for Loops 1 & 2, and there were points during those narrow spots when people had to stop and walk, or stop dead, or slipped down into the ravine off the left side of the road. Very few scenic points on a place with a large park and on the water. And finally, the finish line at Icahn Stadium was on the opposite end of the track from where the spectators were. That kinda sucked.

That, plus a super-crowded race (no surprise) and it being the day after a 17-miler made for a meh run. I never really opened up, but I didn't really want to. However, here are some stats:

I finished either in 53:52 (Nike+) or 54:03 (Nike website time)

Nike website stats:

From all the runners in NYC, I was 1,967 overall, 485 female. Don't know exactly how many participated.

By race city (not NYC itself but of all the participating race cities) I was 50,614 overall, and 6689 overall female. Again, don't know exactly how many people participated.

At the finish line we were given Gatorade, inexplicably boiling hot Poland Spring water bottles, Power Bars and Bear Naked yogurt sundaes. There were also some Starbucks Vivanno samples and Power Bar was giving away samples of their new chewy gels -- they're like a combination of Shot Blox and that gum that had that gel inside, I can't remember the name. Not too bad, though. I will actually try them next time.

In my opinion, this is not a bad idea and could potentially be a lot of fun (and of course, line Nike's pockets with even more money.) But they are going to have to do a MUCH better job of organizing the NYC race, because that was a mess. They need a better course, and ten times the transportation support. One runner's opinion.

I didn't stick around for the post-race concert, as I had a birthday party to attend (which I did in my stinky glory.) It took over two hours to get from Randall's Island to W.11th and the West Side Highway. Managed to get on the Ferry heading off the island, which was nice, and landed on 34th and 1st. But everything else was a struggle, being that it was Sunday night.

So there ya are. I'm now off to a BBQ at a friend's house who has that rarity of rarities, a NYC apartment with a backyard. Happy Labor Day!