Monday, December 31, 2007

Saying Goodbye to 2007

Remember when you were a kid, it was summertime, and you went to your favorite amusement park for the very first time? You ran from one ride to another, going from the dizzy spinning teacups to the death-defying roller coasters to the tilty wooden ship, pausing only for lunch or the bathroom. Before you knew it, it got dark, and you ran even harder, trying to fit in one last ride, daring whoever brought you there to catch up, and wishing that the day would never end.

That’s how I’ve been feeling these past few days, looking over my stats for 2007. In so many ways, this was a banner year for me in terms of running. Not only did I log in more miles than I did the previous two years combined, I also PR’d in half of the races I ran and achieved every single of the four goals I’d set for myself at the beginning of the year. Although my crowning achievement was, of course, qualifying for Boston at the New York City Marathon back in November, the accomplishment that I’m actually the most proud of, is introducing two of my friends to the wonders of the sport and coaching them from their first mile to their first marathon. Although they are both still licking their wounds from their first attempt at 26.2, and probably still haven’t forgiven me for the many painful injuries they had to endure during the training, here’s to hoping that once the weather turns nice, they’ll remember the adrenaline rush and come back out of hibernation to join me back on the roads again.

As for me, I’m still trying to hammer done some realistic goals for 2008. In the meantime, here are the rest of my running stats for your entertainment.

2007 Running Totals
Distance = 1018.9 Miles
Time = 124 Hours 50 Minutes 10 Seconds
Average Pace = 7:21 min/mile
Average Heart Rate = 155.7 BPM

PRs in 2007
4M – 24:53 [Race to Deliver: 11/18]
15K – 1:01:30 [NYRR Hot Chocolate: 12/1]
½ Mar – 1:31:16 [Fairfield: 6/24]
½ Mar – 1:28:06 [Queens: 9/23]
Marathon – 3:08:18 [NYC: 11/4]

For all my blog readers, thanks for the love in 2007. Have a very healthy and prosperous new year! Finally, don’t forget to buckle up when you come around these parts next year because if the past year was any indication, ’08 is going to be one crazy, adventurous, wonderful, hellacious, roll-your-windows-down-and-hold-on-to-the-kids kind of a joyride!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Back On The Road Again…

After taking a long hiatus to celebrate my thousand miles, Christmas, and the fact that they didn’t drag me off to jail for questioning the legitimacy of the Michell Report, I somehow got up the courage today to lace up the shoes and hit the park for a six mile run. It was a humbling experience to say the least. Nothing seemed to work as well as it did a week ago. My side stitches were flaring; there were little pebbles in my shoes, and my legs were so out of rhythm I almost tripped running up Harlem Hill. Although I was running slow, I was huffing and puffing like I was running tempo. It was not a pretty sight.

The only saving grace of my otherwise forgettable run was that I got a few “hellos” and “how are ya” s from some of the runners running in the opposite direction. I couldn’t tell if they anonymously had missed my presence in the park during the past week or whether they were strangers from out of town who didn’t know proper running etiquette in New York City. Either way, it felt sort of nice to be welcomed back.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Personal Christmas Celebration

I made it out to the park today, in the wind, and sub-freezing temps
And ran 9.25 miles, among the forests and the trees.
The effort was hard; the pace uneven and slow.
But somewhere in the back stretches of muddy reservoir road,
I completed the year long journey of running 1000 miles, and I am happy.
My own Christmas present to myself.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Running or Running Holiday?

I did an impromptu survey today. Six people who call themselves runners, one simple question. “In your estimation, which holiday do you find is the hardest to run on?” The answer, by unanimous decision, 5 out of 5, was Christmas. Why 5 out of 5? Well, the sixth guy said Thanksgiving, but since we all know about the Turkey Trot Runs that take place in practically every major city, we decided to reject his answer on the basis of his ignorance of what actually happens in the running community on Thanksgiving.

So why is it so damn hard to run during the Christmas season? Is it the weather? It does tend to get windy and cold this time of year. Is it the presents? If you’re too busy buying them, delivering them, or opening them up, you probably won’t have time to go for a run. Or maybe it’s the family obligations, it’s kind of hard to excuse yourself for a couple of hours for a long run when you’ve either visiting or entertaining them at your own place. Although all of these are legitimate excuses to neglect your running shoes over the holidays, I tend to think that the biggest contributor to our slothfulness is guiltless gluttony. Not only are we eating uninhibited at all social and family functions in the name of “refueling” after the fall marathons, but we’re also running less because most of us have nothing to train for. Training season (even for Boston) will not commence until after all the Christmas lights are down.

That’s really sad for me because I’m only 12 miles away from 1000 for the year but haven’t run since Sunday. In case I have any Secret Santa’s out there, all I want for Christmas is a good weather day so I can go run! If you can all just box that up and stick it under the tree for me to find on Christmas morning, that’d be so great.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why I Should Have Been Named in the Mitchell Report

Before going forward, understand that this is NOT a running-related post, although it’s sports-related, unless you consider things I think about while running which has nothing to do with running running-related…if that’s the case, then you need to head out the door and go running yourself so you can come up with your own things to think about, like what all the random numbers on top of the Circuit City at Union Square actually mean or how our much maligned NBA basketball team, the New York Knickerbockers got its name. (I hope you weren’t expecting me to answer any of that…but drop me a line if you really want to know and I’ll see what I can do.) Anyway, you’ve been forewarned.

On December 13th 2007, in the midst of a Northeastern storm in the local area, the Mitchell Report was released. For those of you who were living under a rock for the past few days, are living in a foreign country or a foreign planet, or just don’t follow sports in general or baseball specifically (have I missed anyone?), the Mitchell Report was the result of an investigation untaken by former Senate majority leader George Mitchell into the use of performance-enhancing substances (namely anabolic steroids and hGH, or human growth hormone) in Major League Baseball. All together, 88 players were named in this report as having used one of these substances at one time or another during their career. Among them were some major perennial All-Stars like Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejeda, Jason Giambi, and Eric Gagne, just to name a few. And as I have spent the majority of my weekend reading the 409 page report, listening to lawyers and baseball writers discuss the legal ramifications of this document, and watching the named players one-by-one either admit or deny these allegations, I am left with only one sentiment.

I am saddened, no, angered, no, downright insulted by this report. I am that way not because the Mitchell Report threatens the integrity of the game; no, I’m not much worried about that because come Opening Day, I, along with 50,000 of my neighbors will still be at Shea to cheer for our Mets. After all, we’re baseball fans, and it takes much more than some congressional report on some allegations of steroid use made by an ex-trainer on the team to keep us away from the game we love. It’s not even that I am forced by this report to reevaluate my love and admiration for players old and new that I have grown up with. I am hopping mad today because the Mitchell Report is grossly incomplete. It is missing the accounts of the one person who knew the most about hGH, androstenedione, and testosterone; the one who’ve spent countless days and nights in the laboratory perfecting the purification technique for all these hormones, and the one who had the connections and the means for the distribution and administration of these substances. That person might even have been subject 0, the one who lit the spark that started the fire. I don’t like to brag, folks, but that person they’re missing is me.

“Why you Laminator?” you may ask. “What have you done to deserve a mention?” Well, under the pretenses of a crock medical degree and fellowship training at an institution you might have never heard off, I have used, abused, modified, designed, purified, isolated, sniffed, and otherwise played with all of these “performance enhancing substances” during the past four years. Okay, granted, most of this work was done only for bench research and was injected only into mice and rats in carefully designed and control experiments, but that’s beside the point. In addition, I’ve written more than a hundred prescriptions for hGH for short stature, testosterone and “The Clear” to increase willie size (yes that willie) and DHEA to help grow out bush hair, and I’m sure more than a few of those might have fallen into the wrong hands and ended up in the bodies of some of those people who were actually named in the report. Okay, it’s not likely because the prescriptions for controlled substances, which all of those are, require certificates of authenticity and are carefully monitored and tracked which means I’d be in deep do-do if any ever gets lost, but it is at least possible, and so should be thoroughly investigated.

Yet, there’s a third reason why my name should have been included in that report. Consider these numbers:
2005 – Miles Ran: 419; Half Marathon – 1:40:26; Marathon – 3:26:42
2006 – Miles Ran: 545; Half Marathon – 1:35:59; Marathon – 3:11:33
2007 – Miles Ran: 963; Half Marathon – 1:28:06; Marathon – 3:08:18

In case you haven’t figured it out, those are my running stats for the past three years, and clearly you can see a dramatic improvement in both times and distances over the past two years. Conventional wisdom says I’ve just been running more and training harder, but isn’t it just a little suspicious how the miles have doubled since 2005 and all my race times have increased by more than 10 minutes in the interim at a time when my body is supposed to be breaking down and not functioning as well as it used to. In my estimation, my rate of performance enhancement makes the pre- and post- BALCO Barry Bonds numbers look rather putrid in comparison. (It’s not his fault though, he just didn’t know how to use ‘em right.) How come I didn’t get investigated and invited to speak with Senator Mitchell? Instead he asks some ex-clubhouse employee (Kirk Radomski) and a former Yankees personal trainer (Brian McNamee) for information in exchange for immunity. I think I could have been enveloped in a shroud of controversy and yet still make a more credible witness than either of those bums.

“But he’s not interesting in running, only baseball.” You might argue. Well, if he’d ask me, and offered me a chance to speak, without the risk of future litigation or prosecution, I’d tell him how running might have been just a front I use to distribute my goodies amongst the constituents, or how when I go to the ballpark, I might actually enter via a separate gate for MDs that gives me exclusive access to the trainers and bat boys who sees to it that the candies goes to those who have a sweet tooth. It was all a carefully designed, well-orchestrated process that the rest of the world now won’t get to see because Senator Mitchell didn’t bother to ask me to participate in his investigation. His lack of judgment is a shame honestly because I would’ve done just about anything and told him everything to clean up the game I loved as a kid growing up. All I’m saying is, he should’ve asked.

I’m so angry right now that I ought to write a letter to Congress to complain. No, better yet, maybe I should just do what O.J. did and write a book, “If I Were To Be A hGH Distributor…”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How To Finish A Race: A Grimace or A Smile? (An Expert Opinion)

It’s not often that you find answers to one of life’s great mysteries just flipping through a magazine, but that’s exactly what happened on the subway this morning on my way to work.

As you may or may not know, for the past several days since my Sunday race, I’ve been stuck in a running-related philosophical dilemma. I’ve been wondering whether slower runners are actually having more fun and therefore smiling more at the end of races than faster runners. And if so, whether I’d have a more satisfying roadrace experience if I took it slow and coasted to the finish rather than gutting it out in the end to save a few seconds. I’ve gotten quite a slew of comments and responses arguing both sides and it has been difficult for me to determine which is actually the “correct” race strategy.

I was perusing my latest issue of Running Times on the train this morning, when I found an enlightening editorial written by Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Beverly that dealt with the issue at hand. He described in very elegant terms, why crying is more preferable than smiling at the end of races. (Please go there and read it for yourself – I highly recommended if you’re even remotely interested in the discussion. He seemed a little miffed at the suggestion that “slower runners enjoy themselves more than fasters runners.”) Not only was the article satisfying to read, restoring my belief in the duel-to-the-death, take-no-prisoners mentality that gives purpose to the racing experience, but I found it downright inspiring, daring me personally not to be satisfied with anything less than my best performance on race day. I especially found the following passage especially poignant:

(…And in, all cases, even the negative ones, I’d have to say that tears trump smiles. Tears mean you cared about something. Tears mean you felt something. Even tears of loss mean that you know what it is to win. As Graham Greene wrote in Journey Without Maps, “You don’t weep unless you’ve been happy first; tears always mean something enviable.”)

I guess I’d never felt the urge to cry at the end of a race before. (Well, I may have almost cried when I ran across the finish line at the NYC marathon, but that’s a different set of circumstances than what we’re talking about here…) Yet, I can still relate to the frustration and disappointment that comes at the end of a poor race performance. I think it’s apt that he mentions that “you can’t draw a line at either a place or time to divide the front from the back…” because in the end, there are always going to be runners in front and behind us, and the way we perceive our race results is subjective and personal. That’s why I think we can all use this approach to run and train for our races. The message is clear: Race to be the best, but prepared to be humbled.

Okay, maybe there can be a more inspiring interpretation. I’m just glad he legitimized my feelings of misery and disappointment at not running a kick-ass time at the last race.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How To Finish A Race: A Grimace or A Smile?

One of the things that fascinate me about the racing experience is that no matter how many times you may have run the exact same course at the exact same date every year with the exact same people, there is always something unique about each race that makes it unlike any of the others you may have run before. Sometimes it is a new sight you’ve never seen, or maybe just a new perspective on something you’ve always known. Other times, it’s a feeling you’ve never felt or a thought you’ve never had while running a course at a speed that you’ve not been accustomed to. And then there are times, few and far between, when you see, feel, or hear something in a race that is so truly scintillating or inspiring, you can’t help but be changed by it. And then you wonder for a while long after the race has past why you’ve never noticed it before. I call these my “A-hah” moments, and I believed I had one while running arguably my worst race of the year Sunday (Please see my race report in my last post if you need a recap).

As I mentioned previously, during the latter part of the 10K race while I was running fast past many of the slower runners to reclaim some of the time I had lost in the port-a-potty, I saw more than a few disparities in the shoes, attire and form between the middle-of-the-pack runners and the frontrunners that I generally run with. One of the more interesting differences I noticed was the fashion by which both parties approach the finish line. Usually, when I come across the final mile or half mile marker of a race, I am gearing up for the final sprint toward the finish line. As a result, if anyone has ever seen me in the last 0.2 or 0.1 mile in a road race, I am biting my lip and have a strained and menacing grimace on my face. (Maybe that’s why Brightroom has never offered to capture me crossing the finish line…Their camera would probably break from the sheer hideousness of the photo!) And judging by the extreme competition, painful grunts and heavy breathing I see and hear all around me at the end of every road race, my competitors and fellow runners all share in my philosophy as well. So imagine my surprise when, at the end of the 10K race on Sunday, I see people jogging slowly across the finish line, with perfect smiles on their faces and their hands raised high in the air like they have just completed a marathon. Even the announcer guy at the end commented how the smiles coming across the finish line were so pretty they could be used for a toothpaste commercial! I was flabbergasted. Smiles? Hands in air? What? I just never see that in the crowd that I usually finish with. We’re usually too busy sucking air or trying not to fall over to care how we look crossing the finish line. Maybe that’s why no one sped up with me towards the end of this race. Instead, people were moving to one side and letting me through like I was a tailgater on the left lane of a major highway. I felt bad, but maybe shouldn’t have. They were all busy preparing for their photo op!

After I recovered from the exhaustion of running the last 0.2 mile at a 5:45 pace and grabbed two cups of hot chocolate from the Gatorade dispenser (weird…) I walked back toward the finish line partly to reflect on my poor performance and partly to survey whether runners were actually finishing the race with more smiles than grimaces. And sure enough, healthy teeth and victory signs dominated the end of the contest. Wasn’t even close.

As I walked slowly in the cold back to my humble abode after the race, I thought about why I was so miserable about one bad performance in one race that I’ve run maybe ten times before, and why these people who are so much slower than me, are perfectly content to just finish. (I hope I don’t sound too facetious, because I am not good enough to pull that off..) But maybe I’m running with the wrong crowd. Maybe I need to just not care about running fast anymore and just jog my races so I can too smile and be victorious at the finish. How come no one has ever mentioned this to me before; the fact that the back-of-the-pack have so much more fun than the front-of-the-pack? I like to have fun while I’m racing too. Maybe a shift in perspective is in order here…A-hah!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Race Report for 8/8 and Joe Kleinerman 10K

I believe in karma. I believe that no good deed every goes unpunished, which translated to running terms, means that after several better-than-expected race performances, you’re bound to have one that is less than desirable. Perhaps that’s the best way I can explain why I ran an anti-PR today.

Of course, there’s a more logical explanation, which is that I have been suffering from a nasty diarrheal illness for the past three days, making other activities besides laying in bed and sitting on the can utterly impossible; but that would be just a convenient excuse, and as a runner, I can’t allow myself to subscribe to such apparent reason. So I’m ditching common sense and invoking karma to explain my ails on the road. I should have seen it coming after setting PRs in my last three races. I was doomed from the beginning.

It was such a shame too because I was feeling better than I had in days this morning when I got up. I was relieved that the persistent dizziness and the stomach cramps had gone away and excited that I would get to run two races today. Well, it’s not exactly two different races, but two races none-the-less. I planned to run 1.8 miles on the reservoir, which is a little more than one lap around, then after a short break, I’d run the 10K race with NYRR around the park. By the time I finished, I would have run another 10K for NYRR, and 8 miles for Nancy and the 8/8 virtual race she had set up. I fixed myself some good old chicken noodle soup for breakfast, gathered up my running gear and was out the door within a half hour of getting out of bed. Because I had to do the 1.8 miles before the start of the race, I wanted to start early and make sure I had enough time to complete this first portion of my race without having to rush through the preparatory stretching and warmup.

The morning was damp and cold, but not as cold as it was last weekend. I decided to wear a tech long-sleeve shirt, thin sweatpants, a do-rag under a wool hat, and running gloves for my race. By the time I got to the reservoir at 8:15 there were already a few running clubs sprinting and prepping for the race. Were they there to do 1.8 miles for the 8/8 too? That’d be cool, but I doubt that’s why they were occupying the track 1.5 hours before the start of the 10K race. They were quite menacing with their matching uniforms and racing shorts. Little did I know until after my 1.8 that the Joe Kleinerman 10K was the final race that would count toward running club standings. So there was a logical explanation for why they were busting their freezing butts in the cold when the volunteers for the race hadn’t even shown up yet. Here I was thinking they were either participating in the virtual 8 with me, or I’d finally found myself some cold weather runners who were freakier (or more dedicated) than I.

I ran my 1.8 in 13:28 and felt good to be running again after my sickness. As I jogged over to the start of the 10K a short distance away, I had a fleeting thought that I should visit the port-a-potty again before the race. But because the field was crowded and I only had ~10 minutes to spare before the start, I felt I wouldn’t have enough time to go there, come back and still expect to line up toward the front of the pack. So I winged it and decided to hold it in, even though my stomach was making weird gurgling noises even as the race directors were giving us last minute instructions for the race. I was regretting not having relieved my bowels prior to leaving the apartment in the morning, but felt assured that since I have never had to use a port-a-potty mid-race, I’d be fine once the race start.

I managed to squeeze into the pack close to the front so I’d have a good start. However, because the field was so packed, after the horn sounded and we were off, there was still a tremendous amount of twisting and weaving for the first half mile. Because the race starts in the north end of the park, the first mile of the race is actually the toughest. The fast drop in elevation at the start followed right after with the biggest hill of the course all in the first mile makes it very enticing to lose focus, run too fast either downhill or uphill, and be fatigued for the rest of the race. As the road started to dip into the descent, I reminded myself to run my own race at my own pace instead of jostling with other people for position. I ran well that first mile, passing the mile marker at 6:24. The second mile was only slightly slower, at 6:31. However, towards the end of the second mile, I started to develop sudden intestinal cramps. They were similar to the ones I had had during the marathon, so I thought I’d be able to run with them. However, by the middle of the second mile, it was apparent that the cramping wasn’t going away and was growing more intense with each step. So finally, after climbing a small hill on the West side, I did something I had never done before during a race. I used a port-a-potty. Although I felt instantly better after I relieved myself, the two minutes I spent inside were the most psychologically confusing time I had ever spent in a race. On the one hand, I could hearing the crowds yelling and cheering for the runners and wanted very much to join them, on the other hand, I was confined to sit and not move until I was certain the cramps were completely gone.

By the time I was done and got back to the road, I had lost more than two minutes on my time was destined to run my slowest 10K ever in my life. Most importantly, since this was going to my last race of the year. I’d have to spend the holidays and the next month thinking about my poor performance in the context of a year of otherwise great running. I almost wanted to walk home and take a DNF for this race just to save my pride, but knew that I’d feel even worse if I didn’t finish what I started. So despite the time lost and the inevitable bad outcome, I ran the rest of the race as hard as I could, running mile 4 at 6:33, mile 5 at 6:42, and mile 6 at 6:20. During this stretch of the run, I felt guilty that I was feeling good and passing a lot of runners along the way. For the little while that I was able to remove myself from my pity party, I actually enjoyed running with the slower runners because it gave me some perspective on how it feels to be a middle-of-the-pack runner in a crowded race. It was interesting to note the differences in running attire, equipment, shoes, and even noises (or grunting and moaning) between the slower and faster runners. I even met Mary Wittenberg, the president of New York Road Runners, as I was making my way up Cat Hill on the East Side. I didn’t really introduce myself, but ran beside her for a short while. I was amazed that she looked just as preppy during the race as she does pre-race. It was a great sight to see, and I was glad I personally saw her in action.

I eventually crossed the finish line at 43:43 for the 10K, which meant a 55:53 for the 8 miler. Like I predicted, it was my worse finishing time in my running career for that distance, in other words, an anti-PR. But instead of blaming it all on myself or my physically ailments, I’m chalking it up to karma, and we’ll leave it at that.

Thanks Nancy for coming up with the 8/8 idea. I’m inclined to think I’d still be in bed if I hadn’t signed up for that race.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Winter Running

December 21st is considered by most people to be the first day of winter. According to astronomers and meteorologists however, December 21st is actually the winter solstice or midwinter, because the shortest day and the longest night of the year always falls on or around this date every year. Therefore, the arrival of the winter season occurs much earlier.

As a runner in New York City, I always know when winter is officially here. As far as I’m concerned, winter starts when I see, for the first time all year, more pedestrians on the roadways of Central Park than runners. More than the sight of barren trees stripped naked of their autumn foliage, or the absence of water from the fountains that line the park, it’s the sudden disappearance of the running masses training for fall marathons that signal the arrival of the winter season.

I’ve had some quiet and eerie runs in the park this week. Instead of dodging the slower runners and aggressive bikers all competing for the same two inch rec lane, I have had the whole park all to myself these few days. Even bikers have been far and few between. I was disappointed that I didn’t see a single soul running on my six-miler today. Maybe it’s a sign of the bad weather we’ve been having (we had some strong winds and rain at the beginning of the week, and now snow towards the end of the week). Maybe everyone already had their run earlier in the day before I got there, or maybe it’s just the way the world elects to convey the message that I’m a total freak. I’m not sure. I just want the stormy weather to ease up a bit so I can have some company on my long runs, even if everyone I see running will be anonymous to me. That way I can point to them and say, “See, those people are just as crazy as I am!” Freakiness loves company too…Who knew?!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15K

After returning from my brief excursions to funny funny land and nostalgia, I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve talked about my running. And since this IS a running blog, and as you can see from my training log, I am still running, I am going to share a race report of the fun run that took place in Central Park today…

The name of today’s race was the Hot Chocolate 15K. Although this an annual event takes place in the park at the same time every year, this was the first time for me. To be honest, I had signed up for this about three weeks ago and had forgotten all about it until three days ago when I got a reminder e-mail from NYRR. I spent the past couple of days trying to remember why I originally signed up for this race. Maybe I wanted extra incentive to make sure I would keep running after Thanksgiving. Maybe I thought it’d be cool to do 15K and set an instant PR since I’d never raced that distance before. Or maybe I was suffering from post-marathon running withdrawal when I haphazardly signed up for 3 races in 4 weeks. Whatever the reason, I was regretting my decision when I dragged myself out of bed early this morning only to find that the air temperature outside was 31° with a wind chill of 19°. Are you serious?! I know it’s called the Hot Chocolate 15K but racing in below freezing temps is utterly ridiculous. I wanted to close up shop and climb back into bed, but I knew if I was even remotely serious about training for Boston, I’d have to learn to run in cold weather. Once I made the decision to run, I got dressed as quickly as I could and headed out the door.

Actually, I don’t think I’d made it out the door if NYRR hadn’t given me extra incentive to get out there today. Yesterday, when I took out my race packet, I was tickled silly when I found out that they had assigned me the number 2131 for today’s race. What’s so special about 2131, you ask? Well, if you take out the 1s, which don’t really need to be there anyways if you ask me, you get 23, and we all know who number 23 is right? That’s right…MJ. And if you read my last post, you know how much man-love I have for MJ. So I spent all last night decorating my race bib, blackening in the 23 and writing Jordan on top of it like a uniform. So yeah, in actuality, there was no way I’d miss my first “real” opportunity to “Be Like Mike” even if it was in colder temperatures than they have in Chicago.

As I jogged over to the start, I formulated a game plan for today’s race. On the surface, it was a simple two-loop run in the park, nothing I hadn’t done before, but for me, it was a challenge, both physically and mentally, to run a long distance race with sweatshirt, sweatpants, gloves, and a whole hat. To all the elites heading over in their singlet and shorts, I must have looked like I was dressed more appropriately for snowshoeing than racing. I didn’t care though. I was warm and was fully prepared to just run my own race. At the finish line, waiting for me at whatever time I get there, will be two brand new PRs…one for the new distance of 15K, and one for the sub-freezing temps. Since I had no expectations for a finishing time, I was just hoping to average something better than 7:00 min/mile for the duration of the 15K.

By the time I made over to the park, I barely had enough time to remove my sweatshirt, put my bag away, and head over to the start before the gun sounded and we were off. Despite the lack of time for adequate stretching, I was feeling good as the race got underway. Because I didn’t really know what to expect, I told myself to not worry about the clock as much and just run as comfortably fast as possible. That was the game plan anyway…but then something happened during the first mile that brought out my MJ and made the race personal. As I was running up the west side at about the first mile marker, some guy in a bandana clipped my leg from behind as he ran past me, causing me to stumble. I regained my balance just as I was about to do a face plant on the gravel. I was annoyed that he hit me, yes, but whatever, accidental bumps is nothing unusual in a road race with 4000+ runners, but the fact that he didn’t even have the courtesy to glance back to see what he had clipped or to apologize was inexcusable.

At the speed we were going, the crowd had gotten sparse by the time we hit the first mile, so it wasn’t difficult for me to spot the perpetrator. And because guy with a bandana probably did his speedwork only on the treadmill with a 0 setting, he slowed down significantly after the first set of hills, and I was able to catch up to him before mile 2. I purposely ran right next him and shot him an evil glance just to let him know I acknowledged but didn’t appreciate his running me off the road a little while ago. He returned my stare, glanced down at my number 23, sneered, and took off as the course dipped downhill. That was the last straw, ladies and gentleman. Roughing me up and insulting my running, I can handle (hey, I do it to myself here all the time!) but when you openly denigrate this jersey that has been blessed with the number and spirit of #23, Mr. Bandana Man, that is an open declaration of war! All of a sudden, the music, the song, and the man appears before me, and it is on…poor running man, he has no idea who he’s just offended.
Although he was sprinting down the down side of the hill at a pretty good pace, judging by how he struggled uphill, I knew I would catch up to him again. Besides, its only mile 2 of a 9 mile race, why was he running so fast now that he’s offended me…doesn’t he know that the bigger hills haven’t even yet arrived and he’ll have to do them twice before it’s said and done? I allow him to sprint off momentarily as I assessed my own situation. Mile 1 was ran in 6:33; mile 2 in 6:23. I was once again setting a blistering pace despite my intentions to run this race easy. Oh well, I was still feeling well, not hot or cold, but knew that I’d be slowing down once we moved back over to the East side. I made sure to hit all the water stops to maintain adequate hydration.

I ran the next four miles at the same level of exertion I had for the first two miles. Although the mile times became progressively slower (6:30 for Mile 3, 6:44 for Mile 4, 6:37 for Mile 5, and 6:45 for Mile 6) the further along in the race I was, I was still running much faster than anticipated and in the meantime was passing many runners who had similar difficulties maintaining a fast pace. One of these was Mr. Bandana Man who I caught up to and past at Mile 7 during the second tough uphill portion of the course. As I passed him by, I sang aloud the refrain “I dream I move like Mike, if I could be like Mike!” He had a look of bewilderment as I slowly ran beside and eventually past him. He was devastated, as if he never figured me to be able to catch up. After I past him, I was estatic, and cruised the rest of the way to the finish...even pushing the last 1.3 miles at 6:31 min/mile pace, which was faster than the pace I had started with at mile 1.

I finished the 15K race with an official time of 1:01:30, which is an average pace of 6:36 min/mile. By the time I picked up my bag and headed for home, my fingers were so numb I couldn’t even turn the key to open the door to my apartment! I proceeded to spend the next half hour at the corner Starbucks with a grande Vanilla Latte in hand, listening to Christmas music. My heart was warm though, knowing I had run an excellent race, established two PRs, and play the role of my childhood hero, if only for one day. Thanks, Mr. Bandana Man for spurning me on to “Be Like Mike!”
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