Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Race Report: More Marathon, Half -- wait. More Half-Marath -- wait, the More 13.1 Mile Fun Run

This past Sunday was the More Marathon/Half Marathon/Health Walk. Sort of.

My training has not been consistent the past couple of weeks. I went into this a little concerned about being undertrained. But I was only doing the half, and had managed to get a 10 and 11 miler in the weeks prior, so I figured it would be okay, as long as I went slow (um, no problems there) and didn't try to set any records.

A few words about this race. This is a woman-only race sponsored by More Magazine, which is geared towards women over 40. Therefore, the marathon was only open to women over 40. The way it USED to be, you could only run the half marathon if you were either over 40, or paired with one. So all my young whippersnapper Teammates wanted to be Grandma's best friend, to get that coveted entry. Alas, this year they opened the half up to all age groups, so my fleeting popularity, well, fleeted.

The course: Marathon -- 4+ clockwise loops of Central Park (the original NYC marathon route), Half Marathon and Health Walk -- 2+ loops.

The expo was nice. A little cramped, but all the products were women-oriented, and you know, I NEEDED that pair of MBT shoes -- those are the ones that mimic the Add ImageMasai, with a curved sole. They're odd, but comfortable, and they purport to help the wearer stand in alignment (they also say they'll tone you up, but I'm not buying that.) I must say, having worn them a few days now, they do help with the posture.

I also got to meet Kathrine Switzer, who was there with copies of her book, "Marathon Woman." For those who don't know, Kathrine is the first woman to semi-officially run the Boston Marathon -- she entered as "K. Switzer" in 1967, when it was still a men's only race. The race director, Jock Semple, discovered her four miles in and, as you can see here in this photo, tried to physically throw her out of the race. Her boyfriend Tom, who ran with her, pushed Jock Semple off her, and she finished the race with an unofficial time of 4:20. Her effort inspired other women, who began running the course unofficially, and by 1972, the first women were welcomed to participate as athletes. In many ways, Kathrine's the First Lady of female marathoners. It was great to meet her. She told us that she does the television commentaries for the major marathons -- NY, Boston, etc. -- but nobody knows it, because we're all out running the races and never hear that it's her!

Sunday morning, 6 a.m. Woke up, ate, got dressed. A little stomach distress -- there are some foods one should avoid even looking at the night before a long run or race, and I fear I may have looked at some of them. Used the bathroom three times before heading out at 7:15. The race started at 8:00, and I'm not far from the start line.

Used the Hecksher playground bathroom on my way to the start line. It's going to be one of those days.

Did I mention it was 90 degrees?

As I'm walking to the half marathon starting corrals, I see three women with marathon bibs pass me. Hmm. The marathon doesn't start for another ten minutes, and surely they're not trying to get more miles in. Even if they were, for some reason, they would've had too many miles to go to get back to the start line in time for the marathon to begin.

Find my corral and hop in. Start chatting with the women around me, who've come in from Connecticut. This is their first half marathon. They tell me that NYRR just cancelled the marathon, halved the distance of the health walk, and weren't going to time the half marathon. Wow. NYRR has turned winter races into fun runs when the roads were too icy to safely race, but I don't recall them ever actually cancelling a race.

I will go on record to say it was the right call to make. Better to deal with pissed-off runners than dead ones. Four loops of the Park is brutal under ideal weather conditions. To do a race that long in this heat practically begs for disaster to happen. NYRR has held races in this degree of heat before -- I know, I ran a lot of them -- but not at marathon distance. Even with the two spray stations and extra water and Gatorade on the course, it would have been too dangerous. So kudos to NYRR for making the tough, yet right call.

So now I'm doing a 13.1 mile "fun run." Someone needs to define "fun" in this context a little better.

The run begins. And, of course, the minute we start, I have to use the bathroom.

Pass Teammate Lynn around mile 1. She's got a Gatorade/water/sunscreen station set out for runners. She ran Boston last week, finished in well under four hours. Kiss her, and head forward.

As we hit the first set of porta-potties, I think -- why not? No one's timing it. All the women in line, me included, went through the same thing -- momentary anxiety from waiting to use a bathroom mid-race, and realizing that there was, in fact, no race.

Much better. Onwards. Pass Teammate David at some point on the East Side, and Teammate Yan is volunteering during this race, handing out water at the 72nd Street Transverse.

Complete the first loop feeling relatively okay. I think I have another loop in me. Teammates Erica, Ashley and Leanne are at Tavern on the Green, the halfway point/ finish line.

Stop at Lynn's homemade water station for water, and take a gel and an electrolyte capsule. Onwards.

At the water stations along the course, I drink 2/3 of the cup and pour the last third on my head. It steams.

At the water station at the top of the North Hill, there are salt packets. I am feeling a little over-Gatoraded, so I take one. Gives me the boost I need. I've taken salt during a race before, but never actually felt it working the way I did there. It's like I could actually feel it hit my bloodstream.

They've even removed the clocks at the mile markers, so unless you're personally timing yourself, there's no way to know your time until you hit the end. Without that reminder of time, I was definitely pacing myself properly for the heat. I felt leaden-legged from being undertrained, but otherwise physically fine.

Around the East Side of the reservoir is when I started running past the health walkers, and it got a little crowded. I don't mean this to sound awful, but it seemed like everyone doing the health walk was clinically obese. I've never seen so many big women in a race before. I am hoping that this race was their first step towards a healthier lifestyle. Everyone's got to start somewhere.

At long last, rounding the turn off Central Park South and heading up towards Tavern. I find myself with enough left for a finishing kick. Through the finish line, at a time of around 2:10. Definitely not my best, but that wasn't the goal.

Although I can't help thinking, if I can do that undertrained, what am I going to be like in a few months, with all that Fred's Team training under my belt? And you know, my half marathon PR was set in the heat...


Friday, April 24, 2009

And How Was YOUR Day?

This post will have nothing to do with running, and will explain why I've been so lax about posting, and getting my fundraising for Fred's Team in gear.

Last week was an assortment of holidays -- Passover, Easter -- and schools in NYC had the week off. Since a lot of reporters are either (or both) the head of a single-parent household, or religiously observant, I had a lot of steno work. I wasn't even calling in for work, as my beloved roomie Laura was in town for three days, and I wanted to spend time with her. However, I am a low enough man on the steno totem pole at the agencies I work for, that if they call with an emergency, I don't want to say no.

Here was a typical day:

Get a call at 10am --"How fast can you get to 45th and Park Avenue?"
"Oh, half an hour."
"Go! I'll text you the details in a few minutes."

Did you know, it is not only possible to shower and dress in two minutes, but to add blow-drying your hair to that?

Get to Park Avenue, take the deposition. Done at 11:30. Call the office. They say thanks. I start heading home. Stop in a takeout place to pick up some lunch to take home.

I am within two blocks of the house. Phone rings. Different agency.

"Can you do a 3:00 in Astoria?"

Get to the house. Phone rings.

"They cancelled."
"Okay, no problem."

Good, because I have two mammoth jobs to finish proofing.

Phone rings. It's Agency One calling again.

"How fast can you get to the Upper East Side?"
"91st and 1st. Can you be there by 1:00?"

For those non-NYers, a shlep from anywhere. There's no subway line close, and buses in midday traffic are super-slow.

Chirashi bowl goes in the fridge. Grab a granola bar and head out the door.

Take job #2 of the day. It's fun. The witness loves to talk. Doesn't love to answer the questions he's asked, but he loves to talk. The attorneys are laughing, he's laughing. Eventually everyone gets what they need.

Walk west to 5th Avenue to catch the bus home. Stop at Road Runners to pick up my race stuff for the Run as One.

4:15pm on the bus, within 5 blocks of my house, the phone rings.

"How fast can you get to Hudson Street? Can you be there by 5:00?"

Get off the bus, start walking up to the 1 train. I am again within a block of my house. Call Laura and apologize. We're having dinner with my parents and a friend at 7:00. Describe my day so far. I'm literally steps from home. I tell Laura I may be late for dinner.

Get to Hudson Street by 5:00. Take job #3 of the day. Done at 6:30.

Make it to the restaurant by 7:00. Order a large drink.

And THAT'S why I haven't been posting!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Splish-Splash: Scotland Run 10K Race Report

Saturday was the Homecoming Scotland 10K in Central Park.

I've always wanted to run this race, but haven't been in the city for the past couple of years to run it. It's not like anything special happens for this race-- it's just a loop of the Park -- but we've got a few Scots on our team, and I thought it would be fun to borrow a kilt and some of those devastatingly sweet Scottish candies (but no Irn-Bru!!) and celebrate.

Tangent -- if you've never had Irn-Bru, it's a Scottish energy drink that tastes like carbonated bubble gum. Kid you not.

Alas, the weather on Saturday was soggy and cold, and our resident Scots were not about (Lynn, at least -- resting up for Boston!) But I signed up for it, and the race sponsors thoughtfully included a rain poncho in the swag bag. They also included a full-sized Scottish flag. Not quite so useful.

I needed to get a few extra miles in, to prepare for the More Half-Marathon in a few weeks. So an hour early, beponchoed and ready to get wet, off I went.

The thing about the poncho is, the parts that are in the poncho get rather warm, while the rest of the body got cold. It wasn't raining especially hard, but it was steady, and kind of windy. Blech. The conditions reminded me of the Norwegian Run three years ago, where we all got injured because the rain made everyone slip, and my hair (which at the time was halfway down my back) got so waterlogged it pulled my head back and gave me a neckache. Wounds still fresh, I kept it slow, not like there's much speed to be had, and decided definitively to only do 5 beforehand, not 6.

Did a counter-clockwise loop and got to the finish line with a little under ten minutes before the start. Saw John in the first corral, and headed on down to the slowpoke corrals. Actually, I am set to be in a faster corral, because my best mile time was 7:54. This was two years ago, granted, but they still have me there. As an honest person, I usually head a few corrals back from mine, because I like to start slow (unfortunately, I tend to then stay slow and finish slow, but that's another story!) I saw Teammate Ashley in one of the corrals as I was heading back, and ducked in to hang with her. She had just done 16 miles, this was her last long run before the NJ Marathon. She's much faster than I am, even after 16 miles, but we started together.

The race itself -- nothing exciting to report about it. Got passed by Teammates David and Nicole (who I believe were also getting their last long runs in, in prep for the Flying Pig.) David was wearing his Irn-Bru racing shirt. Also, loved seeing men in kilts doing the run. Don't know why, I think kilts are sexy.

The only goal I had for this race was to finish in under an hour. I am slow, slow. slow to begin with, plus the weather, plus I was also wearing a Race Belt with Gatorade in it (because of the 5 beforehand) which slowed me even more. Last year I trained myself out of wearing the Race Belt at races, and it's a little hard to wear now. I hate how slow I've become, but I said to Ashley before the race, when she asked me about the More Half, that my goal was to finish, and I'll worry about speed when the Team starts training. And I think I believe that.

Crossed the finish line in just under 59 minutes, about 3 minutes slower than I'd like.

Hoofed through a mud field to get a soggy bagel. Once I stopped moving, the wind and rain began to take its toll and I got really cold, so I didn't stick around for the raffle and the festivities.

All in all, a good day. The afternoon nap felt well-deserved.

PS: By the next post, I will have my Fred's Team act together and then LET THE FUNDRAISING BEGIN!

PPS: Interesting conversation I overheard by two runners leaving the Park. they were complaining that NYRR has said they're trying to "green up" the races, yet they're giving out plastic ponchos and there were plastic water bottles at the end of the race instead of the customary cups (this is not the norm -- sometimes the sponsors give bottled water. This was a special brand of Scottish bottled water.) Good point. How can NYRR green up the races, and what can we as individual runners do to help that process along?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Poem, Running is a Contact Sport, and Sneakers for Sale on eBay

Central Park is beautiful. A few weeks ago, sprinklings of yellow, blue and white flowers started popping up along the roadway. Now they're in full flower.

And to celebrate, a poem.

I call it "To The Person Who Stole My Water Bottle"

I left my bottle
nestled in the tree trunk
at the bottom of Cat Hill
where it awaited me
as I did hill repeats.

Why did you take it?

You suck.

What makes it suck was that it was my MSKCC bottle. Who the heck would want my bottle? And also, everyone knows that the bottles left there are left by people training on Cat Hill. I did two sets of three easy repeats, by the way. I could've maybe done one more set, but talked myself out of it, knowing it was just a little too early in the season to push it. And I'm glad I stopped, because I'm really sore today.
Ah, the bottle leaked anyways. And if you, oh stealer of my bottle, want to promote MSKCC, please -- by all means.

As you can see by the Cat Hill training, I've started getting a little more serious about my running, considering that I've got a half-marathon coming up in a few weeks (the More Half-Marathon.) So even though this past week was a KILLER in terms of transcriptions -- not complaining, the more, the merrier! -- I did manage to squeeze a few runs and gym workouts in.

So this past Sunday, I go for a 10-miler, along Riverside Park. It's a gorgeous day. I love this run, more so than Central Park, even though it's usually way more crowded. It's flatter, for one thing. And I love the scenery, getting to look out over the Hudson.

It was a great run. I could have kept going. I'm literally about three blocks from finishing, turning off of the Park onto 59th Street, under the overpass, when I trip over a piece of chain-link fencing sticking out into the sidewalk, and --
NOOOOOO! (say that in slow motion)
Of course I do the dumb thing and start speeding up, thinking I can run it out.
Then comes the slow-motion falling. And I'm thinking -- NOT MY MARATHON FEET! NOT MY STENO FINGERS!
Too late!

Witness the damage, and keep in mind these were taken three days later, with a cell phone camera. They don't begin to do justice to the pretty colors:

Plus my left hand hurt for two days, like I overstretched the fingers.

Who said running isn't a contact sport?
The kicker is, as I'm heading back to my house -- both legs caked with dirt and blood, and my hand bleeding, who do I run into but my doctor, who takes one look at me and says, "Eww!"
This is the same doctor who laughed in my face when I told her I needed my vaccinations for school. Kidding aside, she's great.
In other news...

I have the New Balance sneakers I tested up on eBay. I only wore them twice. And all the money from their sale is going to MSKCC! Check out the listing by clicking on that.
I need to revamp my Fred's Team homepage, but you can visit it now if you want, by clicking right here!! Can you beat Howard and be the first person to donate?
Happy Pesach, Happy Easter, and any other holiday I may have missed!!