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!

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