Saturday, February 28, 2009

Afraid of 5K

As runners, we often learn things about ourselves that we’d never known before. From the inspiring (Wow, I never knew I was capable of running a marathon) to the eerie (Damn, I look like I’m heading out to rob a bank when I’m all decked out in my winter gear). From the awkward (I never imagined I had a penchant for public peeing until I took up running) to the sublime (Man, I've never experienced life until I'm running and spectating at Mile 25), we are constantly finding and rediscovering bits and pieces of ourselves that we never knew existed until we started running.

This week’s discovery moment came a couple days ago when I realized I had a race this Sunday: The Coogan’s Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K. Unbeknownst to even me at the beginning of the week, apparently, I’m afraid of 5Ks, like deathly afraid. The weird part is I’m terrified of the 5K not because I’ve never raced that distance before, (Yeah, my performance at Prospect Park last week killed that argument) or because I might suck at it, which I honestly might because the race calculators have predicted a 18:29 finishing time for me in this race, which is so insanely fast. I’m afraid of 5Ks because of a phone conversation I had with a running buddy that went something along the lines of:
  • “So you’re running the 5K this weekend.”
  • “Yep. My first one.”
  • “Watch your step at the finish.”
  • “What? Why? Oh you mean because it might rain on Sunday…”
  • “NO. The puke. The finish line can get kind of slippery with all that vomit all over it!”
You see, I hadn’t thought of that specific aspect of the 5K before my friend mentioned it, but now that he did, I can’t stop thinking about it!!! For one thing, I haven’t puked in public since my very first race four years. And on some subconscious level, I take pride in the fact that I’ve never defiled the earth with my projectile vomit in all the races I’ve done since. Secondly, I think I’m scheduled to meet some new bloggy friends immediately following the race and I’d rather their first impression of me not be of the guy puking his brains out at the finish. However, because this is the first points race of the new year for bragging rights among the local running clubs, I might be tempted to approached the puke threshold just to catch or hold off one or two guys from a rival club right at the line. At the very least, I’m sure the thoughts will cross my mind as I’m passing the 3 mile marker heading for home. Is it worth it? Is it worth my puking my brains out just to end up 505th instead of 507th, nipping guys at the end who are much faster than me, stronger than me, pacing me the whole time who has done nothing to me, and don’t know my name or my business except the New York Flyers logo stuck to the front of my race jersey but who will now lose the race simply because they are unsuspecting, or should I run fast but just hold my pace and watch my step going gingerly over the finish. So what if I’ll lose a second or maybe two in the process? No one will know the difference anyway right? Hmmm…tough question. So tough in fact I wish I wouldn’t have to ask it….EVER!!! But I will, and I know I will.

And that’s why I’m afraid, so very afraid of the 5K. For those who’ve conquered the fear, or have much more experience than me (which would be NONE) racing this distance, please share your expertise as to how this situation can be rectified? Please. Maybe then I can finally catch some sleep before my race. Here’s to hoping anyway….

Have a good weekend all!

(As a reminder, be sure to sign up for the free exclusive screening of Beyond the Epic Run if you’re from NYC and are free Monday night. Just tell ‘em the Laminator sent ya…)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An NYC Exclusive Showing of “Beyond The Epic Run”

If you don’t reside in NYC, I apologize…this post isn’t quite for you.

But if you are, congratulations! You’ve just been invited to a private screening of “Beyond The Epic Run” courtesy of me, The Running Laminator. You’re welcome. You see, a short while ago, I was contacted by a member of their marketing team inviting me out for this screening. When I replied that I would be available that night, they asked if I wanted to bring my readership along. Why of course certainly, I replied. Where kind of blogger would I be if it weren’t for my loyal readers, especially those that live here in the city. (No offense to those loyal friends of mine that live beyond the city borders…if I could bring you all here, you know I would.)

Anyway, this feature film documenting the journey of a Swiss couple who took 5 years to travel on an epic journey across Europe, Africa, Middle East, Africa, and the United States, will be shown on Monday March 2nd at 7:30pm at the Anthology Film Archives at 32 2nd Avenue In New York City. If you would like to come and see this awesome and inspiring reality film with me and other likeminded NYC bloggers, please respond in the comments or drop me a line with your name and contact info at I’ll be sure to add your name to the guest list. (As if the movie itself wasn’t exciting enough, I hear we’ll be able to meet the film’s producer after the screening for a Q&A session as well! How awesome!)

Oh yeah, and did I forget to mention that this event is FREE!

Here’s a bit more about the film from the marketing department:

Beyond the Epic Run” is a feature length documentary reality film about a Swiss couple who live their dream to run around the world. Together, Serge and Nicole Roetheli leave on an epic adventure that leads them out of Europe, through Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the United States, testing their boundaries, strengthening their minds and challenging their bodies. Running the equivalent of a marathon every other day, Serge the endurance sports runner runs nearly 25,400 miles in five years while wife, Nicole, using their personal camera as she rides her Yamaha motorcycle, captures the footage used in this film. Excerpts from her personal diary reveal experiences and accomplishments throughout their journey together.

Serge ran more than 25,000 miles over five years with Nicole behind him. They traveled through 37 counties on six continents. While they were running through Africa, they both caught Malaria and almost died, but Serge and Nicole kept on tuckin’. It’s an amazing story of an athlete --and a loving wife’s--physical and mental strength. They risked everything for this experience. Very inspiring for anyone trying to overcome any challenge!

Here’s the trailer for the film:

And an interview with Dean Karnazes about the film.

For additional information about the film, please visit

If you can come out to participate in this incredible and exclusive event, please do. It promises to a fun-filled and inspiring night for all runners and bloggers! Just let me know so I can let them know. Thanks, and I hope to meet all of you on Monday night.

Boston Marathon Training Update - Week 9

Once again, I allowed my overly sensationalized saga surrounding a weekend race to prevent me from delivering this training update in a timely fashion. Be that as it may, I did a really good job of holding myself back this week mileage-wise. I’m somewhat proud of the fact that even though I did half the distance I had planned for the entire week in the first two days, I didn’t blindly follow through with the rest of the workouts, but instead locked up my shoes for a few days to prevent myself from overtraining. Of course, it was an extremely busy work week for me as well, so the extra rest really came in handy. Perhaps that’s why I went out like gangbusters right from the opening guy and almost ran the race of my life. I said almost because there’s a space on my mantelpiece that looks a little empty right now, but I digress…

Week #9 (2/16-2/22)
What I Planned:

[Speed Intervals: 6 total miles with 3 x 1M at 5:58 pace]
Tempo Run: 9 total miles with 7 tempo miles at 6:34 pace
Recovery Run: 8 total miles at easy pace
General Aerobic Run: 14 miles at 7:05 pace
Hill Sprint Workout: 6 miles
Cherry Tree Ten Miler: 10 miles at race pace
Total week 9 distance: 44 miles

What I Ran:

Monday Flyers Group Run: 12.4 miles at 7:39 pace [Avg HR 132]
Treadmill Tempo Run: 8.3 miles with 7 miles at 6:25 pace
General Aerobic Run: 14.3 miles at 7:00 pace [Avg HR 153]
Cherry Tree Ten Miler: 10 miles at 6:20 pace [Avg HR 153]
Total week 9 distance: 45.0 miles; avg pace – 6:58 min/mi

How I Ran:

After an enjoyable 21.6 miler last Saturday, I took Sunday off in preparation for a series of speedy workouts this week. I had planned my Monday run to only be about 6 miles, but due to some laughable miscalculations, ran more than double that distance. I was a little tentative about speedwork the next day (given that I’d just ran 34 miles in less than 3 days) but was pleasantly surprised when my legs didn’t feel as sore as I had anticipated. Sweet!

For speedwork this week, I was staring at a bunch of interval miles while a long tempo run was scheduled for the follow week. However, since I was planning for a ten-miler this weekend and a 5-K the following weekend, I decided it would more appropriate to flip flop workouts so that I’d be prepping for the 10-miler with a long tempo run this week and prepping for the 5-K with short intervals the following week. Truth be told, I was exhausted in the middle of the tempo miles due to the substantial volume of training the last few days, but was able to hold on for a stellar 6:25 min/mi average pace for the entire 7 miles.

After a much needed rest day, I fought a tough windy battle with the West Side Highway for 14 miles. The pace was a bit fast but gave me extra confidence heading into the Cherry Tree race. Still, because my legs were sore and I could almost feel the beginnings of some Achilles’ tendonitis, I took two days off, which would have been unheard of in a marathon training cycle just as mine. But because I had done that, I was able to run my 10-mile race a bit faster than I anticipated. The rest, as they say, is history.


Oh and just in case you thought this past week was all about me, surprise, surprise, it was not. I’m happy to announce that I’ve been recruited by two new runners (one a blogger and the other a friend) to be their new running coach. One of them will be running her very first half-marathon in April while the other will be running her second half-marathon in May in preparation for her first full marathon in October. They are both so very excited to have spanking new training plans designed by me to play with. Little do they both know just exactly what they’d sign up for. Poor souls.

So, fellow runners, if you have any advice for these hapless individuals about to embark on their own journeys toward becoming half and full marathoners, please be sure to leave some nuggets of wisdom for them in the comments. I’ll be sure to pass them along. God knows how they’ll be hanging on to your every word like they’ve doing to mine.

Have a good rest of the week all!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Welcome Back To Reality:
My Cherry Tree 10 Miler Race Result Update

Well, an update I promised the world, and an update you all will get.

So about that little ten-mile race I ran on Sunday, you know, the one where I activated my superpowers and ended up with 1:03:00 and thought for all the world that I would get an age group award for my speediness because last year’s winner in my age group ran a 1:03:42 and so obviously at the very least I should be in line for third place. Yeah, about that. The results were finally released today and well, I’ll let you all see for yourselves…

Yeah, as you can see, NOT…EVEN…CLOSE. I’m a little embarrassed for all the hoopla I caused everyone, especially my friends who had to hear me ranting and raving the past couple of days on Facebook. Oops! I guess my consecutive streak of running fast enough to just miss out on the podium will continue onward for a few more races. I know I’m not suppose to care about such things but when you allow the possibilities to percolate in that little brain that hmmm, maybe 1:03 is kinda fast, and hmm, maybe I do deserve an award for being awesome and then find out the harsh reality that no, you're still kinda just average, it’s just a little bit disappointing to say the least. (It’s like when you score digits for a hot date one lucky night out on the town…only to find out a day later that the number was the hotline to the local DA's office...)

Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. Thanks for all the congratulatory comments in the last post anyway. I am so not deserving. I’ll be back later to post a more positive running update. I just wanted everyone to know, in the spirit of full disclosure, that guess what, I am definitely not as speedy as I or anyone else would like to think that I am.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to take my frustrations out on the track for some hard intervals. At least there, I can still pretend that I’m all Kenyan on the inside!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Welcome to Racing, Brooklyn Style!
Race Report From Cherry Tree 10 Miler

So THAT’s what it feels like for the rest of the country who run races outside of New York City…

This three-loop race around Prospect Park piqued my interest because it represented a bunch of firsts for me. For starters, it was the first time I’d ever run a ten-miler. Secondly, it was the first time I’d ever run in the Brooklyn, and by extension, Prospect Park. Thirdly, until today, I’d never participated in a race within the five boroughs that wasn’t sponsored by New York Road Runners (this one was set up locally by the Prospect Park Track Club). Given all of these unknowns, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I boarded the 6 and then the F train when my Flyer friend BS over to the race this morning.

Due to some unusual luck with the NY subway system, we arrived at the 14th Street station about an hour ahead of the scheduled start. It was fortuitous too because it took us about half that time to find the appropriate entrance to the park. On the way, we met a group of Flyers who had driven there and realized that this was going to be a much bigger showing for our club than what we had expected. Once we located the park and found the staging area, I quickly realized how different this race was going to be then any of the NY road races I’d been accustomed to running in. First, the baggage area was located only in a small tent a few steps away from the 2 port-a-potties that were located at the start. Second, instead of giant displays signifying the start and end of the race, there was but lines drawn on the pavement with chalk and one digital clock next to the finish line. Finally, we didn’t even receive a timing chip for this race, just a bib with a race number on it. Although none of these minor inconveniences affected my race for better or worse (except maybe for the chip thing), it made me realize just what running smaller races was all about.

After exchanging pleasantries with other Flyers who had shown up for the race (there were in excess of 20), we moved over to the starting line, awaited the brief race instructions announced over a megaphone too softly for anybody to hear, heard the race director shout “Go!” and we were off!

It was drizzling ever so slightly by the time I started running. The temperature was a seasonable 42° and although it felt about five degrees colder in the early morning dampness and humidity, I was actually quite comfortable racing in my bandana, two thin technical layers and thicker tights. I had warned myself not to start too fast given my unfamiliarity with the race distance, the park course, and the voluminous hills that I had heard so much about the night before (thanks Irish), but given all the pre-race excitement, my secret desire to leave a good mark in Brooklyn, and the fact that the first mile was entirely downhill, it was really more than I can do to contain myself as I blistered through Mile 1 in 5:51.

Omigosh, I told myself, we’re doing a 10-miler not a 5-K, slow down! I listened to myself, but more out of necessity than discipline as we made the first ascension into the hilly section of the park (I’m posting the elevation profile of the race so you can follow along…) I move through Mile 2 slowly and cautiously, not knowing what lies behind the next turn. In my mind, I’m picturing myself moving through the bottom of Harlem Hill in Central Park, which put my mind a bit more at ease. Mile 2 (in 6:26) ended just as the hill crests and the course moves into a series of smaller rollers. I surge forward and extend my stride to reclaim some of my speed. After holding off a relay-er (there was a 3-team relay option for this race) who would purposely slow down during the uphill and speed up again on the downhill, I pass Mile 3 in 6:16. Loop 1 almost done.

I was pretty excited when I passed by the staging area, signifying the end of Loop 1. My expectations for this race was predicated on what the various race calculators predicted I’d do based on my half-marathon result from 2 weeks ago. McMillian, Runner’s World, Riegel, Cameron, Purdy all predicted I’d run 1:04:09-1:04:54 for the 10 miles, so I arbitrarily set my goal for this race at 1:40:30. Since that comes out to 6:27 average pace, I had made up my mind before the race to marry myself to that pace. Now that Loop 1 was over and I was comfortably below my target pace, I relaxed a bit and dialed in mentally to the tougher middle portions of the race.

Because Mile 4 was straight downhill, almost in a complete contrast to Mile 2, I took it easy and still found myself passing the marker at 6:12. Mile 5 and 6 were exactly the opposite and it took all my focus and concentration to power through in 6:28 and 6:32 respectively. At times during this long uphill climb, when I’d find my thoughts gradually succumbing to the pain, I’d imagine myself at the Newton Hills battling through the toughest stretches of the Boston Marathon, and telling myself that this was my test, my chance to prove that I’m worthy of the challenge that will surely await in miles 17-20 less than 2 months away. Will I be able to handle it…the pace, the climb, the pain? I didn’t dare answer myself but it did the trick as I emerged somewhat victoriously, passing through a handful of runners during this stretch.

After surviving the tough climbs, I took the next downhill mile as recovery. I glanced at the surrounding scenery and suddenly remembered how thoroughly excited I was to be racing and doing well again. You see, I had locked my running shoes in the closet the past few days sort of as a punishment for running too many miles earlier in the week. I had a lot of hospital work to catch up on in the interim and took the rest time to rededicate myself to patient care. As a result of my self-imposed sabbatical, I developed a deep yearning to run and run really fast! For almost the entire mile, I was able to separate myself mentally from the race and just enjoy the fact that I was running again. It was completely exhilarating, so much so that I almost forgot to hit the lap button when I passed by all the people and the Mile 7 marker at 6:10.

Wow, another unbelievably fast mile. By this time, I knew 1:04:30 was pretty much in the bag and dared to wonder if I’d be able to do sub 1:04:00. But of course just like in any life situation when your sentiments of luck and good fortune rise to the level of consciousness, they quickly disappear and you’re stuck like I was, on the foot of another mountainous climb with no end in sight. Might 8 and 9 were just complete struggles for me, as my feelings of good will and redemption dissipated and gave way to fatigue and exhaustion. Plus I was getting passed left and right by runners surging through the anchor legs of their relay race! It was completely demoralizing to say the least as I huffed and puffed through every foot of elevation, not daring to look at my Garmin again until I had crested the final hill. Mile 8 in 6:22 and Mile 9 in 6:34 weren’t reminiscent of how awful I felt during those final miles. Not only did I feel extremely slow running next to the relay racers pushing to the finish, but I felt as if I had given all my cushion time back for even a 1:04:30 finish. Almost instinctively, during the last mile through rolling hills, I got really annoyed and forced myself to increase my stride and turnover as if I were approaching the end of a 5K. Eventually, I surged through the last downhill portion of the course and redeemed myself with a 6:04 final mile for a (unconfirmed) finishing time of 1:03:00 (6:20 pace)!

Since it was the first time I’d done the distance, I can’t clam this as a PR for me. Still, I’m pretty excited that I exceeded my own expectations for this race. I didn’t go to Brooklyn today thinking I’d be any good, given that I knew the course was hilly and I was totally unfamiliar with the terrain and the course layout. Considering all of that, I’m ecstatic that I was able to run so well and set myself up for a good run at Boston!

After the race, a bunch of Flyers and I went to a local restaurant for brunch. We had a delicious meal and I for one replenished all the calories I had expended and then some. As I’m sitting in the subway on the way home, it finally dawned on me that I should have stuck around or at least asked to see the list of the age group award winners. Now, as I’m sitting at my computer and looking over the results of last year’s race, I see that my time today would’ve earned me first place in my age group! Damn! I should’ve checked. It’s just that I’ve never run in a small enough race where the potential of winning something, anything, was even a possibility. Now, I’m resorting to clicking and refreshing the race results website hoping to find out if I had placed and wondering if they would hold the award for me or if they’d just chuck it in the garbage. I really am an idiot, aren’t I?

Well, at least I’m an idiot that for one day ran pretty fast! Hope everyone had a nice running weekend as well.

(Will give an update once the race result and my idiot status is confirmed!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monday Night Adventures – A Runner’s Dichotomy

n the middle of our 21-mile journey from the Lower West Side to Central Park this weekend, my Flyer friend BH and I passed by the usual running grounds of the famed Monday Night Group Run. I had heard extensively about this weekly run from many Flyers over the passed year, but since it was held in the opposite corner of Manhattan from where I lived and Mondays tend to be my busiest clinic day in the hospital, I never had the chance to run with this particular group before. It was too bad really as many of the faster guys in the club usually run with the Monday group and I would relish the opportunity to get to know them better. Before we left that day, BH extended an open invitation for me to join their run and I promised I would make it out sometime during the year, as my schedule and time permits.

Of course it didn’t dawn on me until the next day (Sunday) that Monday was a holiday this week, which meant I could actually come out for my first ever Monday night run! I contacted BH to confirm the time and meeting place and made arrangements to run with them the next day.

Unfortunately, BH didn’t make it to the run today. He got stuck at work and couldn’t make it downtown in time to join us. So instead, I ran with a couple of new Flyers. (There was a bunch of people at this run that I didn’t get to meet. Such is life when you’re fast and you come late.) Well, actually it was one new Flyer (GG) and one old Flyer (ES) that was new to me. We lead the pack and ran together for the duration of the run. Apparently all the speedsters bailed on the run today which allow ES and I to dictate a relaxed and manageable pace for the run. It was cold and at times windy but it truly was a beautiful night for running. Underneath a sky so clear you can see stars, with the bright lights of city life on one side and the serenity of the black Hudson on the other, we had the West Side bike path all to ourselves as we made our way down through Battery Park to the tippy tip of Manhattan Island before doubling back to where we had started.

Along the way, we talked on and on, sharing stories of marathons past and training philosophies of marathons to come. It’s been such a long time since I’ve run with anyone new that I forgot how fun it was just to hear about running from a different perspective than my own. Although I’m often hesitant to run with a group for fear that my easy pace is faster than what any of the other runners can maintain, I do enjoy running with others when the timing is right and opportunity presents itself. As I was trying to explain to my friend over the weekend, life in the fast line is not as glamorous as it would seem to the outside world. When no one can keep up with you, guess what, you’re always going to be running by yourself.

I thought a lot about this “fast runners’ dichotomy” on the subway ride home that night – that as I’m getting faster and stronger from marathon training, I’m also separating myself more and more from friends in the middle of the pack. This can be advantageous in a race, but may not be so in a planned group activity. Does anyone else ever feel that way? ANYONE? (And in case you’re wondering…no, this wasn’t a ploy to elicit any congratulatory comments on my speed, but a real concern I have!)

Needless to say, I discovered a bit about others and myself after that run. I finally realized what I miss out on when I’m out there pounding the pavement on my own day after day. And even though I ended up running many more miles (12+) than expected that night, I think I gained a lot more than I lost in terms of training. Believe it or not, it has also renewed my interest and enjoyment for my own individual running as well. Hopefully, I can incorporate more social running on a consistent basis in the rest of marathon training.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Boston Marathon Training Update - Week 8

So this was kind of a strange week for me…with some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I completed my longest training run ever this weekend and finally cracked 40 miles for the first time all season. Wahoo! The bad, well, let’s just say my pace was just a bit haphazard and my motivation has been waxing and waning all week. That’s why I decided towards the latter part of the week to join up with Flyer friends for a group run and ask another to be my pacing buddy for my long run. I went in knowing full well that my overall speed would suffer a bit but thought the social support I’d gain would be well worth it.

Week #8 (2/9-2/15)

What I Planned:
Tempo Run: 8 total miles with 6 tempo miles at 6:30 pace
General Aerobic Run: 8 miles at 7:05 pace
Weekend Long Run: 18 miles at long run pace
Recovery Run: 5 miles at easy pace
Total week 8 distance: 39 miles

What I Ran:
Tempo Run: 8.7 miles with 6.1 tempo miles at 6:25 pace [Avg HR 163]
General Aerobic Run: 5.2 miles at 6:52 pace [Avg HR 147]
Recovery Group Run: 6.1 miles at 8:29 min/mi pace [Avg HR 132]
Weekend Long Run: 21.6 miles at 7:29 pace [Avg HR 143]
Total week 8 distance: 41.6 miles; avg pace – 7:23 min/mi

How I Ran:
The week started well with a fast six mile tempo run in the park. Because I cleared my target paces for my last few tempo runs by a fairly wide margin, I recalibrated my training paces for speedwork with my race result from the Bronx Half Marathon. Although this adjustment produced numbers that looked more appropriate for racing rather than pacing, I surprisingly still managed to complete my first tempo session under these new guidelines by a comfortable margin. Five the next day was a delight as the temps reached upwards of 50 degrees. I kept it at a light pace and didn’t dare push the mileage as I ran with a recovery mindset throughout. I got home late from work the next day, but still managed to meet up with the Flyer group for the Thursday night run. The six miler with old familiar faces was nice, fun, and relaxing even if the wind was gusting and threatening to blow us over with every step. After a much needed rest day, I met up with BH at Union Square for the feature presentation this week – the dreaded weekend LSD. I had 18 on the schedule while BH had 20. I had never run long with BH before, but since he has already run a marathon this year, the ING Miami Marathon in a spectacular time of 3:01:18, and had run Boston the year before, I was delighted to just be tagging along. We ended up having a great run, touring through sections of town I’d never traveled through before. We went down the East Side, over and back on the Brooklyn Bridge, over to Wall Street, then down around the Ferry Terminal to Battery Park, and back up through the West Side and over to Columbus Circle until we reached Central Park once again. My favorite part of the run was when we ran through the cobblestone roads of the financial district amidst city folk and tourists walking leisurely by. As we ran from street to street, dodging cars, pedestrians, and the occasional bike, it felt more like we were filming action sequences for the silver screen than out and about on a weekend long run! Eventually, we parted ways once we finished the loop and made it back over to Engineers’ Gate. He left to stretch and refuel while I did another loop around the reservoir. The effort felt easy the entire way to the point that I was sure I could’ve run another 4 miles and finished a marathon. My friend had other ideas however, as he told me a little later that I ran a bit faster than he had anticipated and he hit a wall and struggled after mile 18. I didn’t really notice as I developed a sense of tunnel vision for the finish after reaching the park. I really need to learn to pay more attention to others when I’m running, especially when they’re running with me! (Run), Live and Learn.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! I’m looking forward to the myriad of races I’ve got coming up in the next several weeks. It all kicks off with a 10-miler in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park next Sunday. I’m getting excited just thinking about the race. Let’s hope this enthusiasm lasts me for the entire week.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Reader Responses and Upcoming Races

I am not a selfish person, at least I like to pretend I’m not; which is why from time to time, I like to take the pulse of my readership, a poll if you will, just to hear what it is on their mind and what concerns them because ultimately what concerns them should be what concerns me.
I thought a lot about how this should be done. I could throw out a bunch of questions and ask for responses but then I remembered back to grade school when the teacher asked you to put you head down and throw up your hand to pick door monitor from the three kids standing in the front of the class and you’d cheat by sneaking a peek at who the cool kids were picking and so I’m thinking that wasn’t a very democratic process. Then I thought maybe I could just publish a poll and ask people to pick from a list of choices, but then again, I’d be limiting myself to the kind of responses I could get, so that wouldn’t solve my problem either. Eventually, I settled on this. Just throwing a list of 25 Random Running Facts about Me out into the blogosphere with no introduction or instructions and seeing what random feedback I’d get. I figured people would volunteer their opinions on the few things on that list that the was most personal, emotional, distressing, or poignant to them. (Oh, for you commenters: What?! You didn’t know you were part of my social experiments…woops, sorry! Thanks for playing!)

Now that it’s been about 48 hours, I’m ready to close the polls and count the votes…

In the end, thirteen people took the plunge and commented. The results are rather shocking and unexpected, at least to me. Out of the twenty five items that I’ve listed, only five items received more than a single comment. In 3rd place, with three comments, was item #10, which I thought would be the clear favorite coming in. In 2nd place, with four comments, was #14, which I’ll admit is kind of random and interesting, but the winner, with a whopping NINE comments, was item #20. Number 20? You mean to tell me, that out of a list of 25 running facts about me, some inspiring, some foolish, and some downright quirky, it is the absence of a 5K from my running resume’ that concerns all of you? Wow. That really wasn’t what I was expecting.
But, since I am a runner of the people, and must be accountable to all my readers, I’ve amended my list of upcoming races to include a 5K. If you take a look at the bottom right corner of the blog, you can see the list of races I’ve signed up for right up until the Boston Marathon. I’ll be running a variety of distances in order to explore different parts of my game. There’s a 10 miler, a 15K, a 10K, and yes, even a 5K for me to test the limits of my speed and the puke threshold. After all, that IS what you all want to see, isn’t it? (As an aside, I’m holding out hope that another half-marathon will just pop up locally in March so I can test out my marathon pacing strategy…if anyone knows anything, please let me know.)

Finally, for anyone who feels jealous and wants to challenge their own puke threshold in a 5K this weekend, there’s this going on…

Go sign up over at JogAmericaBlog! It’s virtual, it’s fun, it’s free, and it’s for a great cause. What more could you ask for? I’ll be doing mine as part of my long run tomorrow. My schedule is mocking me. It says 18 miles at a pace I don’t recognize. My legs might disagree since it bailed on me last time. We’ll see what happens.
In any case, have a great weekend, everyone. (And remember to run your 5K!)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

25 Random RUNNING Facts About Me

1. My first race EVER was the Nike Run Hit Wonder 5 Miler in Central Park. Yeah, it was fun. Too bad it no longer exists!

2. I crossed the finish line in 32:54 and puked a few seconds later. It was first and last time I’ve ever crossed the puke threshold in a race.

3. I’ve yet to run a race without a bandana – I believe it’s what gives me my mojo.

4. I ran my first marathon – the 2005 New York City Marathon – in 3:28:26...after crawling 4 blocks on Fifth Avenue.

5. I am kind of a late bloomer – I never ran in high school, college, or even in medical school.

6. I always run with music, but have never raced with it.

7. In every race I run, I try and remember something unique about every single mile. That way, I make each race more memorable and personal.

8. I started running only because my friend M was, and I so wanted to beat him in one-on-one basketball.

9. My favorite race distance is the half-marathon...which is why the race I’m most proud of is last year’s Staten Island Half, which I finished in 1:25:44.

10. Yet I run a few marathons a year because it brings me closer to people who are far away, especially my sister who I share a conversation with every time at Mile 23.

11. I run because it keeps me sane, healthy, and at peace with myself

12. I keep a running blog because one day I know I will have to give this sport up and I want to remember what it once felt like to run well.

13. Even though I don’t know how to swim…yet, I’m pretty sure I’ll participate in a triathlon before I’ll run an ultramarathon.

14. I own a collection of bandanas in 56 distinct colors…and am always looking for more!

15. My best marathon finish so far is the 2008 version of the New York City Marathon – 3:02:20. That was also the race where I had the most friends/fans in attendance. Coincidence? I think not.

16. I strive to be a better coach than I am a runner, and a better doctor than I am a coach. But I really think I can be equally good in all three.

17. My goal this year is run a sub 3 hour marathon, because me and my brother once thought that 2:59 was like Kenyan speed!

18. My biggest fear is being caught in the middle of a marathon with a medical emergency and having to decide what to do.

19. I like tempo runs…intervals and long runs not so much.

20. I’ve run 6 marathons and 13 half marathons but still have yet to run my first 5K.

21. On my bucket list of running is to run the Great Wall Marathon and the Hong Kong Marathon. I heard you get prize money if you can run the latter in sub-3:00.

22. The more I run, the more I realize that speed is so personal and relative.

23. I run fast because I was once picked last in a relay race in elementary school.

24. My favorite blog post(s) was my four-part race report from last year’s New York City Marathon…complete with excepts from Liz Robbin’s book describing the state of the course.

25. My favorite part of the run is the shower and the meal after.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Boston Marathon Training Update - Week 7

Wow, what a difference a week makes! After complaining in my last training update about running slow and falling short on distance, I ended up having my best training week ever this week. Not only was my average pace 15 seconds per mile faster than any week of training I’ve ever had, I also ended up running almost five miles longer than I had planned. (It was originally supposed to be a step-back week this week – Oops!) The best part of all of this is that I still have had no injuries to report. Sweet!

Week #7 (2/2-2/8)

What I Planned:

Tempo Run: 7 total miles with 5 tempo miles at 6:37 pace
General Aerobic Run: 6 miles at 7:15 pace
Recovery Run: 4 miles at easy pace
Bronx Half Marathon: 13.1 miles at race pace
Total week 7 distance: 30 miles

What I Ran:

Tempo Treadmill Run: 7.5 miles; 5 miles at 6:26 pace [Avg HR 169]
General Aerobic Treadmill Run: 8.7 miles at 6:54 pace [Avg HR 156]
Recovery Run: 5.2 miles at 6:21 pace [Avg HR 163]
Bronx Half Marathon: 13.1 miles at 6:34 pace [Avg HR 165]
Total week 7 distance: 34.5 miles; avg pace – 6:39 min/mi

How I Ran:

My week of training began with a tough treadmill tempo run. I was looking for a more challenging workout than last week’s tempo run, when despite my internal struggles, the heart rate never rose into my target training zone. So I cranked the incline up to 5% for this attempt. Five miles later, I was done and happy with the fast distance I hammered out on the treadmill. The next day, in what was scheduled to be an easy treadmill recovery run, I was encouraged by the music/podcasts and ran 8.68 miles in exactly an hour. Recovery was not to be found even in the following day’s workout when I ran the Central Park’s Lower Loop and ended with 5.17 miles in 32:53. All these fast training runs culminated in a spectacular race yesterday when I ran the Bronx Half Marathon in 1:26:10, my second best time ever.
I’m encouraged knowing that I’m running and racing almost in mid-season form, and yet I still have not yet reach the pinnacle of this training cycle and have the whole rest of the year to improve on my racing as well. How much faster can I get? Currently, I’m scheduled to run at least 4 more half-marathons this year, so I’ll get that many more cracks at breaking 1:25, which unofficially is my 2009 goal for the 13.1 mile race distance.
If I don't say this enough, thanks to all of you for reading and supporting me through this crazy adventure. Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Running Gift:
Race Report for the 2009 Bronx Half Marathon

The Bronx Half Marathon is the second of a five-part grand prix series of half-marathon races held annually in each of the boroughs of New York City. The first installment occurred two weeks ago in Central Park, where I finished the 13.1 mile torture test in 1:29:06. (You can revisit that race report here.) I call it a torture test because the temperature that day was in the teens with wind chill in the single digits, and it was all I could do to move my body so it wouldn’t freeze until after the finish. Although I was satisfied with my time for that race given the brutal conditions, I felt exhausted and winded less than halfway into the race, which I took as a sign that I was not as prepared to tackle the distance as I thought I was.

Fast forward to this morning.

After a couple more speedwork sessions and a longish tempo run mid-week, I felt somewhat more prepared to have a good race. My objectives for the race were twofold. First, I wanted to improve upon my Manhattan Half time by a minute. This would put me somewhere in line with where I was at the middle of marathon training last season. Second, I wanted to make sure I run well and strong because I was dedicating this race to a friend who was celebrating her 26th birthday. And since I couldn’t celebrate with her since she lives in an island far far away in the middle of nowhere, I told her I’d think of her as I run half her age in miles to commemorate her special day.

We were blessed today with exceptionally good weather as runners from all over the city packed subway cars and migrated like nomads on the annual pilgrimage to the Bronx. Although there was still the occasional gusts of wind that brought a chill to the early morning air, none of us were complaining with the 54° F temperatures and clear skies that greeted us at the starting line. After some NYRR announcements, the singing of our national anthem, and the shortest race directions I’d ever heard – “Umm, people, just follow the guy in front of you…”, the starting horn sounded, and we were off!

I started the race thinking I really should use the first few miles as a warmup. There were three good reasons for this: First, this was a brand new course for me. Second, I was told to expect a lot of hills. And third, because my last go-around through Central Park inadvertently turned into a limbo run - with each successive mile faster than the last - in which I felt unexpectedly strong throughout and so thought that there was a small chance I might be able to run this half in a negative split. Well, that theory went straight out the backdoor in a hurry when I passed the first 3 miles in 6:13, 6:14, and 6:18 respectively. What the heck! At the time, I was quite surprised by those times because I felt I was still running easy. Hmm…could it be that I’d just been underestimating my racing abilities all along? In retrospect, this was a dumb thought at mile 3 because it was still too early to have grandiose illusions of yourself and because any novice runner would have realized that we’ve been losing altitude since we started, which meant that all those numbers don’t really count because they were gravity-assisted and only serve as appetizers for the steady diet of hills waiting in the wings.

No sooner after having such thoughts did I turn the corner onto the Mosholu Parkway and was greeted immediately by one giant uphill, and then another, and then another. Over the next successive four miles, I just remember climbing and climbing, not knowing when the end was in sight. (I'm including the elevation profile from the race so you can see what I mean.) My mile times reflected this too, as they inflated to 6:33, 6:38, 6:46, and 6:45 respectively. I remember hurting so bad and feeling so miserable during mile 5 and 6 that I wanted so bad just to stop and walk. But then I thought again about why I’m running this race and what kind of “gift” I’d be sending my friend if I couldn’t put in a respectable performance. Luckily, for me, much of this course consisted of long out-and-back roadways, which allowed runners to see each other coming back on the opposite side. It was all I could do to draw inspiration from my fellow Flyer teammates to push through the monotony and the pain.

After mile 7, we made another hairpin turn onto the Grand Concourse. Here, we were greeted not only with more rolling hills, but also a strong headwind blowing directly at us. The two miles leading to the turnaround was downright brutal. I don’t remember anything from that section of the course other than inaudible voices from the deeper recesses of my memory reminding me when my friend use to say “From where I from, we eat hills like these for breakfast!” So I pushed, pushed, and pushed (Mile 8 at 6:43) until I finally passed the Mile 9 marker at the turnaround point at 6:44.

At this point, I decided to take the next mile a bit slower for recovery. I was exhausted from the long climb and needed to cruise a bit before the final push toward the finish. Besides, we were heading back now and I wanted to catch as many of my Flyer teammates coming up the other side as possible. It was so great to see so many familiar faces as I ran by. It made this race feel so much more of a communal affair than any of the others that I had participated in recently. And even though I was struggling internally, I waved and smiled at everyone I recognized because I think they absorb as much positive energy from me as I do from them. My respite caused me only a few second as I passed the Mile 10 marker at 6:49, but it was all I needed to recharge my batteries for the final stretch.

After 10, I knew that all that stood between me and the finish line was a short 5K. I didn’t know what my average pace was or what my projected finishing time was, nor did I care. Absolute time wasn’t going to be a goal for me today, as I just wanted to keep my time around 1:28. I knew I had lost some time in the debacle on the Concourse but told myself that I’d be in the clear if I can keep my last three miles under 6:40 pace. Conveniently, mile 11 and 12 were net downhills, so I dared myself to open my stride and recover some of the time I had lost in the preceding miles. During these miles, I passed by more than a dozen runners that had so rudely passed me by in the earlier miles. Mile 11 came and went at 6:30 while Mile 12 lingered for a few seconds longer at 6:38. Finally, on the final mile and .1, I thought about how fortunate I feel not to have given up at mile 5, how beautiful this 55 degree day in the middle of February was, how blessed I feel to be able to run this race with so many Flyer teammates, how wonderful my friend will feel after I tell her about my “gift” run and picked up the pace exponentially towards the finish. As I approached the final .1 mile, I didn’t dare look up at the clock as I found myself in a dead sprint with two other guys. I was able to nick both of them just in the last moments as the announcer declared me the winner in the little group. Time for final 1.1 mile was 7:11, good for 6:32 pace.

It wasn’t even until minutes later when I recovered my senses again and checked my Garmin did I find out the awesome truth. My final finishing time for my half marathon was 1:26:11!!! How funny is that? Such perfect symmetry. Needless to say, I was tickled silly.

So there it is. A Bronx tale of how I ran 13.1 miles in 1:26 to celebrate, in spirit, with my runner blogger friend on her 26th birthday!

Happy Birthday, F.L.!

Final Statistics
Finishing Time – 1:26:11
Average Pace – 6:34; Age Graded % - 68.8
Overall Place – 103/3668 (2.8%)
Age Place – 25
Flyers Place – 2

Thursday, February 5, 2009

To B.Q. or not B.Q.

This is my contribution to Take It and Run Thursdays which this week asks the question: What is The Secret of How To Qualify for the Boston Marathon? This is a bittersweet topic for me because God knows how many times I’ve asked myself the same question for an entire year between the heartbreak of the 2006 Hartford Marathon (3:11:33) and the victorious 2007 NYC Marathon (3:08:18), when I finally captured my first B.Q. Now that I’ve done it several times and have even trained others to do the same, I believe I owe it to the running community to dispense some of my trusted B.Q. tips. But instead of telling you all what you should do, which isn’t really my style, I’ll just leave you a list of things to avoid. Hopefully, this can be of some use to you in your training. Good Luck

Ten Things You Can’t Do If You Wanna B.Q.

  1. You can’t B.Q. if you don’t have a plan. This is rather obvious for anyone who’s ever been “in training” for something. In training for a big goal, there are always a series of smaller goals that once completed makes the overall goal a little bit easier and a bit more fathomable to accomplish. To design a series of smaller goals that lead you to your destination involves planning. A better plan leads to better training which ultimately leads to a better race. Everything starts with the plan.
  2. You can’t B.Q. if you don’t train long and fast. Speedwork and the long run are key workouts for a B.Q. marathon runner. If you’re not willing/able to do either, maybe Boston just isn’t for you.
  3. You can’t B.Q. if you don’t have patience and diligence. I've spoken about this in a previous post, but recognize there will be some setbacks and failures in training. During those times, it is essential that you don’t become overly frustrated but remain patient with yourselves. Keep the faith and remain focus on the goal. Chances are you have made tremendous strides in the running, but for one reason or another, the results just haven’t reflected that—yet!
  4. You can’t B.Q. if you don’t train smart. Always know what workout you are doing and for what specific purpose. This will help you determine the appropriate pace/parameters for each particular run.
  5. You can’t B.Q. if you don’t eat and sleep right. We all know that eating the right foods can boost training, but it’s a little known fact that most of muscle recovery/regeneration occurs during shut-eye time. If you’re not catching enough Z’s at night, the running will suffer during the day.
  6. You can’t B.Q. if you’re afraid of the pain. Like Kara and Benard said in their Q&A…Running is hard. Its hard to push yourself when you’re in pain. But that’s what separates the winner and the losers. It’s the ability to harness the pain and make it work for you instead of against you. I love that quote because it’s so true. Part of B.Q. marathon training is learning to embrace the pain instead of fearing it. Making that psychological transition is one of the toughest parts of the training.
  7. You can’t B.Q. if you can’t see yourself doing it. This is in my opinion the least talked about but most important lesson to learn when training to run a B.Q. No matter how fast you run in your training or in your races leading up to your goal marathon, if you can’t see yourself running your B.Q. time for whatever reason, it is highly unlikely that you will suddenly find that confidence to run well at mile 20.
  8. You can’t B.Q. if you don’t got “ammo”. “Ammo” is what I call the things that you will use to fight off the marathon demons that inevitably will make an appearance sometime during the race, particularly in the last 6.2 miles. They could be mantras, inspirational quotes, names of people, reasons to run, riddles and/or brain teasers. The more you have, the better chance you have of winning the battles. That’s why I call them “ammo”.
  9. You can’t B.Q. if the race gods don’t want you to. Sometimes you can train perfectly, prepare adequately, run a good race and still fall short of your goal because of inclement weather, wind, or other distractions. The key is to recognize that there are always going to be external forces beyond your control that will make or break your marathon, and that one single race does not define you as a runner unless you allow it to be.
  10. You can’t B.Q. if you’re standing on the sideline when the race starts. In order words, you can’t run if you’re injured no matter how fast or long you were running prior to the injury. So make plans, but always listen to your body first.

Have fun in your training, and I’ll see you in Boston!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lessons Learned: Patience and Diligence

At the conclusion of last week’s Q&A with Bernard Lagat and Kara Goucher, they were both asked for one piece of advice to give to any up-and-coming runners. Be diligent in training, set goals, but don’t think of yourself as a failure if you don’t completely reach your goals. Just because you didn’t get there doesn’t mean you didn’t improve as a runner. You did, you totally did. You just have to be patient and have faith. One day you’ll get there if you train hard, train smart and have patience.
I’m paraphrasing a bit because I don’t remember their exact words, but that was the gist of their message. As I was walking home that night, I thought about how ironic it was that in a sport that celebrates speed, competition, and beating your fellow man to the finish line, the most important lesson to be learned was how to slow down and be patient with yourself. A part of me (albeit a slight part) wondered if that were all a ploy to discourage any aspiring racers from training as hard as they do. Maybe it was all a big USATF marketing campaign to thwart off the competition!
Frankly though, I totally dig their message because I tell myself the same thing after every run that didn’t go as well as planned. So even if I don’t run as fast, as far, or as well as I thought I was capable of, the training itself was still valuable because it is all a process of getting “there”, no matter what or where “there” is. Even though most of my loyal fan base will probably not agree, I am much more lenient and forgiving of myself than I used to be. With knowledge gained through experience, I’ve learned not to let one DNF, DNS, or a particularly bad workout ruin my confidence in my own running. I trust my training and my body enough not to worry about what will happen to me at mile 20 of the Boston Marathon if I couldn’t finish a long run or two a few months before the race. As long as I train hard but smart, and within my own abilities, and not get injured, the sky’s the limit for what can happen in the race. I am certain of that.
As with all good things in life, everything comes to those who wait. Patience and diligence. I believe these are the essential characteristics of a successful miler and marathoner…as best exemplified by Bernard and Kara in the Millrose Games. By their dominant performances, I’m inclined to believe that one day in the way distant future, in a race no one cares about, I can be just as perfect too. Well, here’s to hoping anyway.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Boston Marathon Training Update - Week 6

For those who didn’t catch the Millrose Games on TV, both Bernard Lagat and Kara Goucher won their respected mile events. Kara won her event pretty handedly while Bernard used his powerful late kick to win his race in the last lap. (You can read a short recap in Runners’ World.) Both of them looked so fast and majestic on TV that I could hardly believe they were the same people I was chatting with just a day ago. Wow. I would’ve thought that just by hanging with them for a little while on Thursday night, some of their speed, wisdom, and strength would have naturally passed onto me, propelling me to an awesome weekend of running. Ummm…apparently, not so much.

Week #6 (1/26-2/1)

What I Planned:

Interval Training: 6 total miles with 3 x 1 mile repeats at 6:04 pace
Recovery Run: 5 miles at easy pace
General Aerobic Run: 6 miles at 7:15 pace
Weekend Long Run: 16 miles at long run pace
Recovery Run: 4 miles at easy pace
Total week 6 distance: 37 miles

What I Ran:

Interval Training Run: 5.5 total miles with 3 x 1 miles (5:55/5:59/6:04)
General Aerobic Treadmill Run: 6.5 miles at 7:02 pace
Recovery Run: 2.2 miles at 7:07 pace
General Aerobic Run: 6.1 miles at 6:57 pace
Weekend Long Run: 14.1 miles at 7:31 pace
*Make-Up Short Run: 2.3 miles at 7:21 pace
Total week 6 distance: 36.9 miles; avg pace – 7:12 min/mi

How I Ran:

As you can see, my running this week was pretty haphazard and random. I ran shorter than expected on a number of runs and even had to put in a “makeup” run this weekend. In total I ran on five days for the past week which was a bit more than I’m used to. My mileage is up a bit, which didn’t have any discernable effects in the beginning of the week, but by the end of the week, I was sore and slowing down. My long run this weekend was also sataboged by the Flyers Awards Gala which had an open bar and lots of drinking and merrymaking. By the time I woke up this morning, I had a splitting heachache and thought about ditching the run. But then I thought about Bernard and Kara’s performance two days prior and make it a point to get as many miles done as possible. I ended the trip with 14 miles. Not only was it a couple miles short of my goal, but the pace was much slower too. In fact, the average pace this week was the slowest of this marathon training season for me. That’s alright. I know I must take one step back in order to move two steps ahead. We’ll try to do better next week.
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