Saturday, July 25, 2009

Liam Update, and My Cr*ppy Long Runs

Liam update:

On Thursday, Liam goes in for his surgery. It is going to be a very invasive procedure. His dad, Larry, goes into more detail in the family's blog, Prince Liam the Brave, which I suggest you all read. I will pull out this one excerpt, because it sums up all of what makes me -- and everyone who meets him -- fall in love with this exceptional little champ, and why I will run for Fred's Team as long as I can run:

"He is an amazing little boy and has taken all that has been thrown at him in perfect stride, never complaining, and always full of love and kindness. He has every right to throw things, scream, yell, cry, and to be miserable but then we would not be talking about Prince Liam. Liam is in for a very rough couple of weeks. Our hearts ache for our precious son who deserves none of the pain and suffering he has been chosen to endure (no child does). He has had more than his fair share and what lies ahead for him over the coming month weakens my knees. I would take it all for him if it was at all possible. Take his cancer away and give it to me....As his father and his mother one of the most painful aspects of this journey for us has been the inability to protect our son from further harm. To protect him from the cancer that keeps trying to take him from us all, the toxic treatments required to keep him with us but that we know are harming him in other ways, and the uncertainty of what tomorrow holds for him...We are tired, saddened, weak, and working to muster the strength to get through the next few weeks to be strong for Liam when he will need us most. Your prayers, good thoughts, and random acts of kindness have given us added strength in the past and why I felt the need to bring everyone up to date on Liam regardless of how difficult it is to share the news above. He needs us all once again to cheer him on and to focus all of our positive energy in his direction. "

Any amount you can donate to the Aubrey Fund, which has paid for all of Liam's treatments, is amazing. If everyone who read this just gave $5, think of how much money could be raised to help fight pediatric cancer. And your money means more than a dollar sign -- it's hope for Liam, and all the children being treated at MSKCC, that there will be a day that they will not just imagine a world without cancer, but live in it as well.

So far, I have been able to raise, thanks to amazing people like you, and like the latest members of the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL:
a grand total so far of
but there's a long way to go.

Regardless of whether or not you can donate, please offer up your prayers, thoughts, good wishes, white light -- whatever positive energy you can send Liam's way, as he and his family undergo the next portion of their journey.

Thoughts of Liam have kept me going through some pretty -- there's no nice way to say it -- crappy runs. I don't know what it is, but I have lost everything, all my stamina, my strength and most distressingly, my speed. Where did it go?? I want it back!!

I had some pretty good midweek runs, so imagine my surprise when, at last Saturday's team long run (14 miles) I totally bombed. I had to do a few miles beforehand, to make to a 10:30 rehearsal, so I already had 2 1/2 miles down by the time I met the Team at 7am. The course was a simple one, and one of my faves -- from 97th Street up to the GW Bridge, then down the West Side to 40th Street, then back up to 97th. Scenic and flat, a great combo.

The trouble began almost immediately. I had to go to the bathroom. Of course, I had to go from the moment I left my house, but the park bathrooms don't open until 7am. Sigh. So I chugged along until we got to the first possible bathroom by the uptown tennis courts and there was a guy just opening them up. Teammates Ernie and V had also veered off, and we took a brief pause.

The rest stop, though needed, disrupted what little flow I had. I started falling further behind, and soon, I was dead last. Last. What the hey? I know it's not a race, but I've never ever been this slow. It was getting hotter and more humid. I kept fluids with me, because there's only one water fountain between 97th and the GW Bridge, but they weren't helping. My breathing was fine, again, it was my legs. They felt like lead. I couldn't turn them over. Worse, I started getting a shooting pain in my right knee that I couldn't shake, and I kept having to stop and rub it out. By the time I got to 97th Street (mile 8, or in my case, mile 10 1/2) I was in pain, I was dehydrated, and I was PISSED. Coach Jeff gave me a few words of encouragement, advised me to see a doctor (which yes, I am doing next Friday) and sent me on my way. I hobbled off. Just get through it. Just get through it. Got to 40th Street, turned around, came back up to 59th Street and -- as planned, because I was shorting the course, having run some beforehand -- turned off and went home. No time for an ice bath, had just enough time to shower and head over to watch the final rehearsal of the Cape show, before helping them load out and retaping the floor for my show. No nap for me...

Took Sunday and Monday off, trying to really refresh my legs. I did the first Team track workout on Tuesday. We were up at Riverbank, as always, and there was a light rain throughout the majority of the workout, which made things feel better, but didn't cool it down much.

The workout -- a one mile warmup, and five repeats of one fast lap, one slow lap. Finish up with 3 extra slow laps cooldown. Four miles total. The fast laps were meant to be about a minute over your normal pace, so if your normal pace is a 9:00 mile, push the lap for an 8:00 minute mile. Before the workout, Coach Ann pulled me aside and told me that she noticed my form was shot. She had really helped me last year getting my arms in the right position, but now they were even worse than last year. I wouldn't doubt it. That's probably part of the reason I'm running so badly. She also said that the one things that would help me a lot is ... getting rid of the iPod. For a number of reasons, it is bad for you, and I know this, but I use it for motivation and rhythm. She said that ditching it would help my form. So I agreed to give it up (sniff), and really concentrate on my arms. I think by the end of the workout, I was getting the hang of it. I could feel what Ann was talking about in both my arms and my hips, and it was, I dare say, helpful to hear my own breathing through the fast laps. It helped me get in a good rhythm, as demonstrated by my times for the fast laps, in order: 2:14, 2:15, 2:13, 2:08 and 2:05.

Took Wednesday off, to finish some transcripts.

Thursday was supposed to be a step workout, but because it was raining heavily, Jeff cancelled it. Did I go to the gym and work out instead? No. I thought, why don't I just do my long run on Friday morning instead, before rehearsal. My thinking was this -- I had taken Wednesday off already. Why not take the rest of Thursday off and do the long run on Friday, with somewhat fresher legs? Even though I had mentally blocked out Thursday night as Team time, I could use that time to finish up the rest of my transcripts instead -- so in theory, it made sense. Otherwise, I'd either have to drag myself to the gym on Thursday night in the rain, or do something on Friday, which I didn't want to do prior to the 15-miler. And since I was ready for bed by 8pm, it seemed the logical choice.

So at 5:30am Friday morning, I set out for a 15-miler. Decided to keep it in Central Park, where I felt safer -- yes, there are a LOT of people in the Park then, and it was already getting light out. The plan was a 6-mile loop, a 5-mile loop, and breaking up the five-mile loop by getting two loops of the Rez (1.7ish miles a pop) in, heading down the west side towards home, and then crossing the transverse at 72nd Street and heading down the east side for the extra half mile.

First six miles felt pretty good. I must say, and I'm going to hold to this, that I do pretty well on hills. That being said, I was debating two 6-mile loops, with the Rez loops in there, and ixnayed it after I hit Cat Hill the second time. Didn't feel like testing that theory with a second loop of the Great Hill.

Had the iPod (sorry, Ann!) but spent a lot of time really concentrating on my arms, and I figured out a couple of things. First off, I realized that when my arms were in what I believe to be correct form, I felt lighter, like weight had shifted off my hips. I also realized that having my arms in correct form pulled my back up into correct alignment (you can slouch when you run.)

So while it was not 100 percent there the whole run, I finally became aware of the difference between proper and improper form, and every time I felt myself falling out of form I would snap myself back in. And even though my time wasn't great -- averaged just over 10 minute miles for the 15 -- I physically felt better about the run. A couple of times I was tempted to short the course, just run down the west side instead of cutting over the transverse, but I thought about Liam, and as corny as it sounds, it gave me the strength to keep going.

Of course, spending the rest of the day in rehearsal, aching and desperate for a nap wasn't pretty. Oh, well. I'm in rehearsal right now for SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE, and we work on Saturday, so I'd be saying the same thing if I waited until Saturday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On My Soapbox, More Lessons Learned, NYRR Long Training Run, and What is a Fartlek?

A few weeks ago, Liam's mom Gretchen asked everyone if they knew a way to get a hold of Mike Rowe, as "Dirty Jobs" is one of Liam's favorite shows. She hoped Mike would be able to come and visit Liam. I know a few friends who work in TV, and they gave me a number, who led me to someone, who led me to someone, who led me to someone, who led me to someone...anyway, I gave the info to Gretchen, and I don't know if the following picture is the result of those phone calls or something else, but does it matter?

Look at that smile!!

I haven't been receiving any donations lately, so the amount I've raised so far for the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research in honor of my little friend Liam Witt remains at
which is a great number, but I want to double it! Triple it! Nay, TENFOLD it!!

Can you help me reach that goal?

Remember, the ultimate goal is to eradicate cancer. But we can't do it just by wanting it. It takes money. And the way I raise money is by doing stuff like running marathons for Fred's Team and having amazing people like you donate money to the Aubrey Fund, either because they believe in the cause, or support me no matter what stunts I pull (thanks, Mom and Dad!) or just think it's funny that a former pack-a-day smoker who would drive a car from the bedroom to the bathroom if she could fit one through the front door is running marathons. (PS: I don't "buy" my marathon entry through Fred's Team, I run the races to earn it, so that someone else can use the guaranteed entry and raise additional $$ for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. )

Almost off the soapbox. Here's how you can help:
-you can click here and make your secure donation via credit card.
-if you'd rather send a check, just leave me a comment and I'll be happy to email you my address and the check info.

Regardless of whether or not you can donate, please please please pass my blogsite (or merely my donation page if you find my blitherings dull) around to all your friends and family -- make me a viral sensation!! The more people get involved, the closer we get to a cure.

Onto the running portion of the show!!

Being the good little runner that I am (not,) I realized that I do need to get my arse back into the gym and start weight training again. Two years ago, the combination of weight training and biking on some of my days off from running led me to my PR marathon, and since my mom says I have to run 3:53, I thought it prudent to train like I did two years ago.

The day to pick weight training back up is not, however, the day before a 14-mile run.

Why must I learn every lesson the hard way?!?!?!

Saturday was the Long Training Run #1, an untimed run (not a race) in Central Park, where you can run between 6-20 miles, depending on where you are in your training. All loops start and end at the 102 Street transverse. You start with a six-mile loop (the full Park,) two five-mile loops (cutting off the Great Hill) and one four-mile loop (cutting off at the 72nd Street transverse.) It's broken down into pace groups, each group led by a member of the NY Flyers running club, and they do an excellent job of carving order out of the running chaos.

Walked up to the transverse and met my Teammates at bag check at 6:30am. Coach Ann advises me that where I am in my training, 13 or 14 would be good. I decide I'll do 14 -- start the third loop and walk it back once I hit Cat Hill. Or something like that. Was teased about bringing a Fuel Belt, but if you recall from this run last year -- and really, why wouldn't you? -- my only complaint last year was that there wasn't enough fl;uid on the course, and Gatorade was only available on the transverse. I sweat like a moose, and need all the electrolytes I can get.

Get into my 9:30 pace group and set my Nike+. I've got a few episode of Phedippidations saved up (an excellent running podcast, check it out!!) And we're off!

Sort of.

I had no hint of soreness as I was walking to the start -- and you'd think that in those two miles, I might have felt something -- but as soon as I started running, I knew I was in trouble. This was not the soreness of legs that just needed a few minutes to warm up. These were legs that were done for the day. Though I had only done two sets of the leg machines on the Nautilus circuit, and with barely any weight on them, just enough to recognize that there was weight, it took its toll. The correct term, as I stated previously, is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. The term I prefer is Holy Sh*t. Or Oh, Crap. Any fecal-related term, actually.

First loop -- spent most of that time fervently hoping that the soreness would, in fact, go away. No such luck. Fell behind the pace group fairly quickly. Also, the pace leaders don't walk the water stations, which dropped me further back. Decided during the first loop that I had runner's knee, even though I'm not exactly sure what it is.

Second loop -- After a slug of Gatorade and a stop in the loo, decided to drop back to the 10:00 group, but instead of waiting for them to come in, I went out at the tail end of a 9:30 group. My own 9:45 group. Funny, even though cutting off the Great Hill and running the lower loop makes for an easier five-miler, I prefer it the other way -- keeping the Great Hill and cutting off the lower loop. Don't know why. Masochist? Spent most of this loop trying to decide what I was going to do. I was fully ready to stop after 11 and call it done, but that nagging voice in my head kept saying no. I figured as long as I didn't have to run Cat Hill a third time, I would be okay to keep going, and spent much brain time devising a route. I would go out for the third loop and cut off at the transverse instead of continuing down the West Side -- no, that means I have to run Cat Hill again to get the 14 miles in. Okay, how about we do this? Or this? All that time, my body was saying, "Shut up and just stop at 11." And I was starting to listen. Decided to take a bit of a break at the 102 Street transverse and see how that made me feel...

...until I got there, and saw a group going out, and before I could realize what I was doing, I went out with them for #3.

I think my mind knew that if I took a break, that would be it for the day.

I started out loop #3, and decided to just make it 1 1/2 miles out-and-back, for 14 total. However, as I approached the mile 12 marker at the south end of the Reservoir, legs said, "done," mind agreed, and I stopped. I stood there, panting, for a minute or two. I saw the hill just past the Res and decided that I didn't want to go down it if it meant I'd have to go back up it. I could either cut across the Res and continue back up the east side to the finish (which I should have done) or simply go to just before the hill, then turn around and go back from whence I came (which I did do, because it was more downhilly than the other way.)

Thirteen miles in 2:10. A ten-minute pace. And a mile shorter than I wanted.

Not a great day, but I'm glad I did it.

Still sore now, but managed to get a speed workout in yesterday morning. When not with the Team (we haven't started Tuesday-Thursday workouts yet -- next week!) I do fartleks of the lower loop, using lampposts as the markers. "Fartlek" translates to "speed play," and it's a loose kind of speed workout where you use whatever markers you choose, and you go fast from marker 1 to marker 2, then recover to marker 3, then fast to marker 4, etc. etc. There are enough lampposts on the lower loop to get a good speed workout in, and I highly recommend fartleks as a great speed workout, and the lower loop of Central Park as a great place for NY runners to do them.

I did two loops. I started by doing the fast sections at barely pushing the pace, and by the middle of the second loop I was running them at an all-out sprint. I had to keep stopping for water, because I was panting so much my throat kept getting dry, and I also needed the extra recovery time between fast bits. I think this is a good thing -- Coach Jeff said that I would need to push past my comfort zone, and that might wear me out to the point where I'd have to stop and rest. While that wasn't such a triumph with the long run, for this workout, I felt good about having to stop.

Speaking of pushing past comfort zones, I don't have to be at work until 1pm today, so it's off to the gym for further punishment. More anon!

Monday, July 13, 2009

DOMS of Doom

Remember what you learned about DOMS? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness? Which you get after a new workout routine, or when you first start working out?

I didn't.

No wonder I crapped out on yesterday's long run. As light and easy as my weight workout was, it snuck up on me with a vengeance.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Latest Honor Roll Inductees, Liam Update, The Straw Hat Circuit and Running on the Cape

Hello, everyone!

We begin, of course, with the latest and greatest members of the Fred's Team Honor Roll:




(where all the cool people rehearse!!)

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


which is a terrific amount, but we've got a ways to go.

Don't you want to be the one who brings me over the $2000 mark? A prize to that person! I say, a prize!! Just click here, or on the links to the side and bottom of the page.

Let me just say that any amount you can donate to my marathon effort is amazing. Even if it's only $5, that's more than they had before. That $5 could buy the test tube that the medication that finally eradicates neuroblastoma is mixed in. Or it could buy decorations for the MSKCC pediatric prom. Over 80 percent of your donation goes directly to research and patient care. That $5 adds up in more ways than one.

Liam update -- he's been in MSKCC for the last couple of weeks with a fever that finally broke as of today, the writing of this entry, so he's on his way home! Hooray! For those who don't know, when you're in chemo and develop a fever, you have to go to the hospital, because chances are it could be something other than the flu.

Here are some pix from mom Gretchen's Facebook page:

His hair may be gone, but not his spirit. The second picture is him making snow in a throw-up bucket, which they then stuffed into latex gloves and passed around to people who, as Gretchen put it, "needed a hand."

Is it any wonder why I run the marathon in his honor? Please, once again, I ask you to click here and make a donation, whatever you can, in honor of this brave little guy.

Onto the what-the-heck-have-I-been-up-to portion of the show.

Firstly, my annual stint with Broadway Bares, the theater community's annual strip show for charity. The link will take you to the site, where there are a LOT of pictures to look at, like this one:

This is from the Living Art of Armando, a Las Vegas act that comes every year to perform in Bares. Bares is both beautiful and naughty, a really fun evening of dance and striptease, all to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the organization founded by the theatrical community that provides both grants for AIDS organizations and direct assistance to PWAs worldwide. There's a little something for everyone in the show. And I have a lot of fun working it -- it's my 8th year, I think. This year we raised over $800,000.

Can you see me in that photo? Hope not. I'm behind the panel to the far left of the photo.

After that (literally, the next day, or in my case, four hours later) I began rehearsals for SLEUTH, one of the productions for the Cape Playhouse. Even though I have somewhat bowed out of theater for the moment to concentrate on my steno, the Cape is something I love to do. Alas, no, we don't get to rehearse at the Cape, we rehearse in NYC.

The Cape Playhouse is literally the last remnant of the "straw hat circuit," where there used to be tons of theaters across the US that shared shows. In a nutshell, it went something like this: All the shows had a stage manager, who was responsible for the maintenance of the show, and each theater had its own stage manager, who was responsible for the running of the show. All the shows would rehearse at the same time, then fan out to their respective first stops on a Friday, and add all the technical elements (lights, sound, props, etc.) on Saturday and Sunday. The show would open on Monday. The show's SM, called the "advance" would take all of the information about the show, including how the show is run (the "calling script," which has all the sound and light cues, and the crew's sheets -- how the props are set, what the crew does during the show, etc.) and travels to the show's next stop. See, the only things that traveled with the show -- besides the actors -- are the costumes, the sound tapes, and any specialty props that would be hard to replicate at other venues. While Show A is playing at Theater 1, the advance is at Theater 2, looking at the set they're building, picking the props for the show,teaching the theater's SM how to call the new show, etc. On Saturday night, all the shows do their last performance. All the theaters strike the show Saturday night. Sunday, the actors all travel to their new locale, as the theaters install the new sets. Sunday night, the advance techs through the show with the crew. Monday afternoon, the actors tech through the show in the new locale, and Monday night, the show opens in its new locale. Repeat until every show has played in every theater.

When I first started SMing on the circuit, there were still three theaters doing this -- the Cape Playhouse, the Ogunquit Playhouse (in Maine) and the Westport Playhouse (in CT.) I was the resident at the Ogunquit Playhouse for four years, before switching over to advancing for the Cape. Now, the only theater still on this contract is the Cape, and they still use the advance/resident SM system.

One of the reasons I love working at the Cape -- and ultimately the reason I left the OP -- are traditions. It's corny and hokey, but I love it. For example, Gertrude Lawrence was a great friend of the Playhouse's, appearing numerous times on the stage and eventually settling in Dennis. Her ghost lives at the theater, and has been known to create havoc when disrespected. July 3rd is her birthday, and as her favorite flowers are hydrangeas, it's imperative that they are delivered to the Playhouse and put in "her" dressing room, under her picture. This year, the flowers were coming from the driveway of her house, which was extra-special, and everyone was hyped up about the flower delivery. It's stuff like that. I love that deference to tradition. When the Ogunquit traditions were paved over -- literally (long and dull story) -- I left.

Anyways, SLEUTH, the comedy murder mystery. Starring Malcolm Gets and Peter Frechette, two of the nicest and finest actors one could ever hope to work with. Go see them!!

One of my other favorite things about the Cape Playhouse is getting to run on Cape Cod. They actually brought us up to the Cape a few days early to rehearse on the set, which was erected in the shop, because there's so much action on the stairs and the second level, neither of which we had in the rehearsal hall. That gave me the chance to get in both a short run and a long run in the five days we had there (normally I'm only there three days, and only get the chance for a long run.)

For the short run, my favorite destination -- Chapin Beach. I tried taking some pictures with my phone, but it just doesn't do it justice. It's just so darn blue and gorgeous. It's about a six-mile trip from either the motel I stay in, or the theater, perfect for an outing. The only thing that's a problem is the complete lack of sidewalks, and the shoulder of the road is graded, to allow for run-off from storms. There's no safe place to run along route 6A except on the road itself, which is the major route to get from wherever one is to wherever one wants to go (if that makes sense.) And as for Massachusetts drivers, they don't call them "Massholes" for nothing.

Rant -- why are there no sidewalks anywhere? We lament about how fat America is getting, but how can they exercise if there are no sidewalks for them to walk on safely? No wonder we've become a car culture.

Once off 6A, it's onto smaller local roads to get down to the beach area. No sidewalks, but much safer. Chapin and Mayflower Beaches are right next to each other, with Corporation Beach just a little further south. I love all three, but Chapin is also next to some protected greenland, and there's a winding path from one end of the beach to about the middle that has dunes on one side and the preserve on the other that's such a treat to be on.

As for my long run, I decided to play it safe, especially as it was the 4th of July weekend, and stick to the one sidewalk I know -- Setucket Road. It's about a mile up to Setucket, then I stuck to the sidewalk all the way down to Rte 134, then up 134 until Bob Crowell Road, then up that until Old Bass River Road. I didn't follow that to its length, as I was only doing 12, and did it by time rather than distance -- turned around at the 1 hour mark, knowing I was doing about 9:30s, so finished a little more than 12 by the time I got back. Not as scenic a route, but there's a lot of good house porn. I love these gorgeous houses. I wish I could own one. Sigh.

The other thing I notice on these runs: I like to be hydrated. And for a long run, I need a sports drink. There are no water fountains on these roads, and the one time I tried to leave water bottles -- since they're all on private property and everyone at the Cape apparently wakes up at 5am -- they were all thrown away. So when I do a long run at the Cape, I wear my knockoff Camelbak with water AND a Feul Belt with sports drink (PowerAde rules! Hey, watch the commercial on the right side of my blog. It don't cost you anything, and it makes the Coca-Cola people -- Fred's Team sponsors -- happy!) I basically look like a friggin' astronaut instead of a distance runner. And there are other runners out there, and yet NONE of them have any water on them. None. Am I a wimp? Are Massachusetts runners made of hardier stock, or are they camels, or just fools? What's going on?

Twelve good miles and change, in just under two hours. Felt good.

I'll repeat that run next time I'm up there, probably adding a few miles.

Tomorrow's the first NYRR Marathon Long Training Run. Don't know how many miles we're supposed to do. Guess I'll find out in the AM. The longest Team run we've done is 12 miles, but I've already done two half marathons. The loops are 6-5-5-4. So are we doing 11, or 16? Hmm...

Lastly, because this is running quite long, I've taken the next podcast step, by getting hosting space at godaddy. The good folks from the second NYC Runners Who Blog and Podcast meetup, some of whom both blog and podcast, gave me some great advice at our last outing. I've got some transcripts to do this weekend, but I'm also going to try to put together podcast #1(!) and get it out there by the end of the week. Eek! I hate the way my voice sounds, and I'm a rotten interviewer, but I'm trying to be Zen about it. It will be what it will be. That's the main reason I haven't put one out yet -- I try writing it and recording it and I'm just too picky. I tried for the better part of two months just to put together a five-minute thing. No dice. This time -- damn the torpedoes!!

Okay, 'nuff chat. Out for a short something before tomorrow's long something.

Talk soon!!