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:


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


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!

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!)



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



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.


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:


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

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.


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:

DR. GREGG ROCK (my podiatrist!)

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


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,

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