Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend Wrap-Up

First of all, thanks everyone for all the Philly race report compliments! I apologize for long delay in getting it done. It’s funny how I always end up having too much to say about my races and not enough time to write it all down. I sometimes wonder whether my photographic race memory and novel-ish writing style are blessings or really curses in disguise! Haha! I am only kidding of course because I doubt I’d have it any other way.
Speaking of blessings, I hope everyone had a wonderful time giving thanks and spending quality time with family and friends during the holiday weekend. I myself had a great time hanging out with the family, getting my butt handed to me in ping pong and Guitar Hero, and eating way too much food for way too many days. I also managed to run a tougher-than-expected 20 miler over the weekend on a hilly trail that left me hanging on for dear life at the end of it. My pace was relatively slow (7:30-ish), it was windy and cold, and I was cramping in places that hadn’t been heard from since before NYCM. Ugh! I wonder if it’s a sign of lost fitness or the extra serving or two (or three) of turkey, chocolate cheesecake and sweet potato pie I helped myself to over the preceding three days. Hmmm…
But the highlight of my long weekend was definitely the Garden City Turkey Trot 5 miler I did on Thanksgiving morning. It was a great race not only because I ran well, finishing in 30:17 with a 6:03 avg pace, which is a course PR for me and a 29 second improvement from last year, but it was also the first race ever for my little bro! Before the race, I was so nervous for him (the only 5-miler he’s ever done before was on a treadmill a week before this race!) that I offered to run him in for the last 1.5 miles after I finished if he needed it. It turned out he didn’t need my help at all as he ran pretty conservatively for the first four miles and surged ahead of a lot of people in the last mile! I credit myself for prepping him well. Haha! He finished in the vicinity of 46 minutes and had so much fun that he’s now asking me to enter him in a few more races in the next several months. Will do, little bro, will do!
I’m not going to write a whole long report on my race because it wasn’t a big deal race for me (and I don’t want to overwhelm you all!) but I will share five bullet points from my race experience that I found somewhat interesting:
  1. Mile-by-mile splits: M1-5:57, M2-5:55, M3-6:12, M4-6:18, M5-5:51. Wow, look how I died in miles 3 & 4 and yet recovered to run my fastest in M5!
  2. If you took the time to add up the splits, you’ll get 30:14, not the 30:17 I was credited with. That’s because this turned out to be a gun-time and not a chip-time race. According to my Garmin time, I came in just one second over my overall 5-mile PR time. So I’ve been wondering, if I happened to have run 2 seconds faster and squeaked in a PR by a second according to my Garmin time (but not gun time), does that still count as a PR for me?
  3. Last year, I finished in 30:46 and was 9th out of 268 males in the 30-39 age group. This year, I finished in 30:17 and was 5th out of 334 males in the 30-39 age group. It’s too bad that age group awards go to the top 3, and the 3rd place guy ran 27:47. In other words, I have no shot!
  4. I ran this race 4 days after a fast Philly half marathon and did considerably better than I expected. If it was a week later and I had a chance to rest, could I have run an even better time or would I have slowed because of some lost fitness and/or speed? I never felt terribly tired or fatigued during the race so I wonder if it would have even made a difference.
  5. Turkey trots should be mandatory as an appetizer to the Thanksgiving feast! 'Nuff said.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What “Running Means”
Race Report from the Philly Half Marathon
Part II – Race Day

It was a cool crisp 40 degrees when BS and I escaped the comfy confines of our hotel room and began the walk over to the race start. Although it was still completely dark at 6AM and I was still shivering a little when we began our walk, I could already tell we were going to have perfect running weather for this race. I had slept well, ate well, and hydrated a ton the night before. Dressed in my race-ready NY Flyers shirt and shorts underneath my running jacket and tights, I felt more ready than ever to have a strong race.
The spirited raspy voice of Bart Yasso over the loud speaker welcomed me to the pre-race staging area. Despite the chaos of runners, volunteers, and race officials scurrying in every direction around me, I was calm and relaxed walking around the starting area and finding my way around. At around 6:30 or so, I said goodbye to BS as we went to look for our respective UPS trucks to drop off our bags. It wasn’t until I had stripped off my layers down to my racing shirt and shorts that I realized that my baggage tag was missing from my bag! Since it was only attached via an adhesive (and not pinned – their idea, not mine), it must have fallen off during the transit from my hotel room to hear. I didn’t think it was such a big deal until the baggage volunteers insisted that they could not take my bag until it was tagged! I complained vehemently to a nearby race official who told me that my bag cannot be checked and that my only option was to go to the registration area all the way on the opposite side of the staging area to get a blank sticker. It was now 6:45. I started to panic. I made a feeble attempt to get over to the registration area, but gave up when I couldn’t find my way around the port-a-john lines that were blocking my way. I went back to my UPS truck and begged the volunteers to take my bag so I could run my race. They said no. Right there and then, I wanted to scream because I was pretty certain my race was over. It was now 6:50. Right at that moment, out of the corner of my ear, I hear my name being called. “L, can I help hold your bag?” It was BH, one of my Flyer friends from back home who had traveled down to watch the race and take pictures after running a 60K in Central Park the day before! It was surreal. I thanked him profusely, gave him my bag, and sprinted like hell to find the maroon corral and get into place. I reached the designated area just as the national anthem was finishing and they were about to send the lone wheelchair racer off onto the course. A slight delay gave me a couple of minutes to catch my breath and reflect on what had just happened. It the mad dash to get over to the starting line, I had forgotten to take my bandanna out of my bad. So it looks like I’d have to run this one with a naked head! I chuckled at my own joke as I heard the final race instructions being given one last time. I was just glad I made it over so I wouldn’t have to be stuck in the back of the crowd. A few minutes later, somewhat unannounced, the starting horn sounded, and we were off!

Running means fresh and new beginnings –
For every race, every day, and every life.
Mile 1 – 6:19; Mile 2 – 6:15
It was a crowded start right out of the gate. Although I was in the second corral right behind the elites and everyone around me was running strong and fast, it felt as if it still took me a good chunk of the first mile to settle into my pace. I didn’t mind though. Running through the streets of downtown Philadelphia with all its historical tall buildings next to enthusiastic crowds cheering us on was a true runner’s delight. I took my time and space and fought hard not to weave or squeeze by the congestion in the early going. There were a lot of speedy runners out on these narrow streets today and the last thing I wanted to do was cause an accident.
The sun was starting to rise off the horizon as we turned off Ben Franklin Pkwy onto Arch Street near the end of the first mile. Along the way, we passed by the Reading Terminal where I had lunch the day before and the Convention Center where the race expo was held. It was eerie to think that I was running here in Philadelphia when 24 hours ago I was still in bed in NYC! I had a mental flashback of the emotional rollercoaster I endured the previous day (and this morning) just to get to this point that I felt extremely lucky and privileged just to be able to run this race. Because of all that I went through, I really wanted to run well here, more as a confirmation to myself that I was meant to run this race than as an exhibition or testament for others.
Although the mile pace for the opening miles was a little more brisk than I’d imagined, I didn’t react and hold back, but allowed my body and legs to dictate the pace. After all, I had run the Staten Island Half a month ago for a big PR by adopting that same philosophy and since this course is supposedly faster than any of the ones back home, I figured my best chance of success is to stick to what works for me.

Running means finding the inner peace and confidence
To be your own animal and travel at your own pace
Mile 3 – 6:16; Mile 4 – 6:28
Mile 2 ends with a Gumby-like cartoon character standing on the corner slapping high-fives to all the runners as we made the turn onto Delaware Avenue which overlooks onto the Delaware River. I can’t remember what he was advertising but I remember feeling so pumped after verifying my fast pace in the early going with my Garmin that I gave him a harder slap than I intended to as I passed by, causing him to fall back a step or two. Woops! I’m sure I got quite a few quizzical looks from my neighbors after that exchange.
Mile 3 was a little windy and quiet and there wasn’t as much crowd support here as in the previous miles. I was dialed into my pace now and was slowly settling in with a pack of veteran runners who looked like they’ve done this before. It irked me that from the back, I couldn’t tell who were halfers and who were fullers. I wanted this information to gauge whether I should consider sticking with them for the long haul or whether I would be better off setting my own pace and running my own race. I struggled with this decision for almost the full mile.
As it turns out, it was a completely speculative debate because by the time I left Delaware Avenue on a mild accent up to South Street, it became evident that I would not be holding on to this ridiculously brisk pace. I tempered my own expectations and drifted back as I allowed the pack to surge on ahead. I perused the window decorations on the surrounding small town shops to recalibrate my system and return to a state of relaxed running where I had been before I got myself tangled up with the elite pack from mile 3. I was slightly disappointed at my significantly slower mile time for mile 4, but figured that this was about the pace I expected myself to keep right from the outset, so in essence, I was back on track!

Running means love, community and support –
Even when you don’t think you are so deserving.
Mile 5 – 6:29; Mile 6 – 6:29
I settled into a groove at miles 5 and 6. Running through South Street and then Chestnut with crowds bursting out of shops, coffee houses and stores was simply exhilarating! I heard my name called out several times as I ran through here and it made me completely smile every time. I had to fight back the urge to turn back and acknowledge the crowd even as I knew I would have no way of identifying who was shouting what.
We also passed by Independence Hall and a group of guys dressed up as Patriots standing on the side. Some were handing out water, some were singing songs. All were cheering and clapping for each runner as we passed by. From my vantage point, it made me feel somewhat patriotic just to be running this race.

Running means challenging yourself
To be better than you think you can be.
Mile 7 – 6:30; Mile 8 – 6:43; Mile 9 – 6:32
These middle miles were the toughest miles for me today for several reasons. For starters, there were hills and steep climbs in each of these miles that I was not expecting. For the most part, I tackled each one the best that I could, by keeping my strides short, increasing my turnover and powering through with a consistent effort. This was a good strategy for me as I would pass by many runners on all my uphill climbs. The problem was that once I crested the hills, it took quite a while for my heart rate to recover and settle down. As a result, my pace and heart rate drifted erratically during this stretch and I really had to fight some demons here to prevent a midway meltdown.
Incidentally, this was also the part of the course with the least number of spectators. Emerging from the boisterous crowds in downtown Philly, I was surprised to find so many dead areas in these miles. I remember seeing lots of lawns and trees on my way through and wishing that I could just lie down there with a bottle of sunscreen!
Finally, the middle miles was demoralizing on me because I was fighting my pace the whole way. For some reason, I had it in my mind that I should be running faster than 6:30 miles so to see my pace hovering at 6:29-6:30 was a frustrating and disconcerting. At times, I experimented by throwing a few speed surges but still found that I was married to a 6:30 paces at the end of them. It was a bit depressing. I can’t even explain why I felt so bad about it, since prior to a month ago, 6:30 was my half marathon PR pace, but to be doing it here, in this race, so consistently mile-after-mile after starting out at a blistering fast pace just felt like a copout to me.

Running means living a passionate life
And inspiring others to do the same.
Mile 10 – 6:36; Mile 11 – 6:31
The final and the toughest hill climb came at the end of mile 10 next to Memorial Hall in Fairmont Park. This was a nasty ascent not only because it was long and steep, but also because you could see the entire length of the uphill trail all the way from the bottom as it winds itself up through the grassy field onto the overpass ahead. Although I had advanced notice of this section of the course from friends who’ve run here before, I still felt very intimidated by this hill when I happened upon it toward the latter stages of mile 10. I saw a couple of demoralized runners walking off to the side as I approached the ascent gingerly and relaxed my pace. I ran methodically with short quick strides and followed the procession up the hill. At the crest, I had to stop for a few seconds to settle my breathing and drink my water at the fluid station before continuing on.
After vanquishing the hill and crossing the 10 mile mark, I knew all that stood between me and the finish was a short 5K. Although I wanted to begin gradually increasing my speed, I didn’t know how much I had left at the tank after the brutal climb a half mile before. So I bid my time and waited until my breathing was less labored before considering a push towards the finish. We were at a short out-and-back now and I could see a few friends and Flyers coming up from behind me about a half-mile to a mile away. I gave each a wave and a cheer of encouragement. Just about everyone I saw looked like they were running really fast and heading for big PRs in their race. This was very inspiring to see. At the end of this mile, we left the out and back and I knew it was time for me to get down to business.

Running means breaking down limits and barriers
And discovering a better me
Mile 12 – 6:21; Mile 13 – 5:58; Last 0.1 – 0:42
My mile 11 time was both comforting and frustrating to me at the same time. On the one hand, I was glad to see that I recovered from the monstrous climb at mile 10 to reclaim my previous running pace. However, this pace was again 6:31. At this point, I had an internal debate with myself regarding how I should handle the last two miles of this half marathon. The safe, conservative approach would be to maintain 6:30-6:32 pace and come in at a respectable 1:25 or so. This result wouldn’t stand out but be commendable and respectable to everyone. Or, I could push the envelope, go for broke, and maybe secure a new PR. In the few seconds it took me to deliberate these possibilities, I thought about the events of yesterday and this morning. I thought about how close I was to not even running this race. I thought about all my half marathons of this past year and how I wanted this last one to be something special, to stand out. Once I realized what I must do, I started picking up my pace slowly and steadily. One by one, I began passing runners. This gave me fuel and energy to run even faster. At the one mile mark, I checked my pace and realized that I was now running 6:20 and right on par for a PR. I close my eyes and continue to push the pace. I’m now passing people in droves. They are all looking at me wondering how it could be that I’m running so fast. I don’t ask, I don’t try. In my mind, I’m running mile intervals around the Central Park reservoir by myself. When I’m a half-mile away from the finish, I crank it up another notch and begin my push to the finish line. I’m counting steps and watching the clock at the same time. At last, I see the sign for the finish and start my final kick. Upon seeing 1:24:XX as I crossed the finish line, I knew I had done it. Another half-marathon complete, another PR!

Final Time – 1:24:14 (PR by 0:11)

Final Thoughts
I know it wasn’t a big PR, but I’m really proud of how I ran this race. I allowed my legs to set the pace in the early miles, kept and maintained an even effort on the middle miles and fought complacency, inattentiveness and fatigue to run my fastest mile in the last mile of the race en-route to a half-marathon PR in the final race of the 13.1 mile distance this calendar year. It is shocking to realize that in just one short year, I have set 3 PRs and improved by more than a minute in the half-marathon. I’m excited to experience all of this again as I begin the chase to 1:23 next year!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What “Running Means”
Race Report from the Philly Half Marathon
Part I – The Day Before The Race

The theme from this year’s Philadelphia Marathon/Half Marathon running series was “Running Means…” which was a peculiar question to ask, I thought, because if anyone really wanted to know, they could’ve just consulted Webster’s, Oxford, Google, Wikipedia, or any of an assortment of on-line and off-line resources to find the answer. (BTW, if you had to look it up, all it really means is to put one foot in front of the other in some sort of coordinated fashion that is faster than walking!) Haha!
All kidding aside, one of the main reasons I wanted to run this race was to define running for myself. What does it mean to me? What does it mean to others? Is this something I do, or is this something I am? I not only wanted to know the answer to this riddle, I wanted to experience it firsthand. I wanted to see it with my own eyes, feel it with my own feet, and hear it with my own ears, so that if a non-runner asks, I can accurately describe what running personally means to me.

Arrival in Philly, The Expo, Pasta Dinner, and The Night Before
The Saturday bus trip to Philly from NYC was pleasant and uneventful as we entertained ourselves with stories, gossips, and of course, facebook updates and race day forecasts every 5 minutes. I was traveling down with Flyers JT, JB, and BS and each of us had our own expectations and reservations about the race. JT and JB were running their goal marathon while JS and I were just running the half as an excuse to bask in the race atmosphere and cheer on friends. We made a pact that we’d keep ourselves to half the food and half the drinks this weekend because unlike everyone else, “we weren’t the real runners; we’re just running the half!” That would become our rallying cry for the rest of the trip.
We arrived at Philly in the early afternoon after a faster-than-average two hour ride. Although the bus trip was short, it was still over our lunch hour, so we were starving for some food by the time we got into town. Since none of us were too familiar with Philly, there was a lot of humming and hawing about where exactly we should eat. During this little confusion over which location seemed most appropriate for a pre-marathon lunchtime meal, I excused myself to use the restroom in the visitor’s center across the street. When I got back, they were still at the same point in the discussion as when I had left! This prompted the funniest comment of the weekend from BS who said “Yeah, in case you all didn’t know, he pees at a 6 minute pace too!” Absolutely hilarious! After some iPhone consulting and JT suddenly remembering that she went to UPenn and things don’t change that much in six or seven years, we headed over to the Reading Terminal which was situated right next to the convention center where the race expo was. This was the perfect choice because we all wanted to save our legs as much as possible for race day.
Although the servicing was a bit more delayed than we were used to back home, we got a table quickly, ordered, relaxed, and chowed down our meals (when it finally came) at race pace. I had my first Philly Cheese Steak in well over a year and savored every bite. The others were a little suspicious of my meal choice until I reminded them again that “I was just running a half!” the next day, so no double-decker club sandwiches for me!
After we ate, we went to the race expo to pick up numbers and bibs. Upon reaching the race area, I felt so excited just to be in the vicinity of marathoners and running gear that I literally jumped and knocked my head on top of one of the fixtures. Ouch! Now, it was time for me to remind myself not to get overly excited myself because again, “I’m just running the half!” We all splitted up at this point to get our own numbers and race gear. I felt all sorts of weird looking around for the “kid’s table” to grab my bib. I half-heartedly expected some race official to jump out in the middle of my search and say “Excuse me, Sir, we couldn’t help but noticed your application for the half and given your times and veteran marathoner’s status, thought you were probably better suited to run the full, so we made the switch on your behalf. There’s a marathon race bib with your name on it waiting for you on the opposite side.” But no that didn’t happen. Instead, I walked over, picked up my half-marathon bib, asked the overly enthusiastically lady working the gear area whether it was too late to ask about the full marathon option (she said there wasn’t such a thing) and I left it at that. The only solace I got was that the gear bag and race shirt both looked pretty sweet and definitely useable for future races. What was even nicer was the pair of technical running gloves I found later hidden within the gear bag. Sweet! I’d never gotten running gloves as a souvenir from a race before so finding those instantly lifted my spirits about the race.
After checking out the rest of the race expo, saying hi to Bart Yasso for about the fifth time this year and successfully pulling myself away from signing up for five spring marathons that all seemed so enticing from the race ads, I left the convention center with BS to find our hotel where we’d be staying that night. We were staying within walking distance of both the expo and the start so it didn’t take too long for us to find the place. Once we did, we quickly checked in, unpacked, changed, showered, and laid out all our race gear for the next day. We chilled a little bit in the room and before we knew it, it was already time to head out to meet the rest of the Flyer crew for the obligatory pre-marathon pasta dinner.
There were roughly about 15 Flyers who showed up for dinner that night at a homely family-style Italian restaurant that rivaled Sambuca or Tony’s DiNapoli in NYC. DK, our master dinner planner extraordinaire, had picked the setting and called ahead for reservations so we got seated almost as soon as we got in. By the time BS and I arrived at the festivities, JT was already seated at a table with a bunch of her relatives, so was runner26 with her husband and parents seeming as nervous as I’d ever seen her. BS show to sit with a bunch of other Flyer contingent at the far end of a long table while I chose to sit at a new one with DK and JB who had shown up just as we were able to order and eat. Because we were all split up into different tables, we ordered individually according to table size. Being I was in the smallest table and running the shortest distance (both DK and JB were running the full despite having done NYCM 3 weeks ago just like me), I really didn’t eat all that much since I was sticking to my guns that halfers should only carb up half as much as fullers! (I had to look over to my half partner BS to make sure we weren’t cheating!) But what I did eat was pretty delicious and actually quite filling so I had no complaints.
After dinner, we all gathered for some quick pictures before scattering off to our individual hotels to prepare for an early wakeup call the next day. Before I left, I was able to catch up a bit with runner26 who told me about her pre-race anxiety and nervousness and phantom ankle pains she was having all week. I responded by telling her to use her past marathon experiences to channel her nervous energies to running a good race. I also told her that I never believe in phantom pains that crop up only on race week. From what I know about the way the body works, phantom pains is just a misrepresentation of recovery mechanisms that the body isn’t used to and don’t know how to interpret. They will invariably disappear once the race starts. I don’t know if she quite believed me but I was pretty confident that my diagnosis was accurate and my impromptu treatment plan would work wonders for her race. As we parted, I wished her good luck, even as I knew she only had to trust herself to run a great race. (As an aside, she took my advice and ran an amazing PR sub-4 race the next day! Big ups to runner26!)
As for me, I trampled back to my hotel room, checked and double checked all that I would need for the next day and went to sleep. As I laid quietly in bed, I thought a lot about all my Flyer friends who rocked their 60Ks in Central Park earlier in the day and those that were about to run the full marathon in the morning. I wrestled with my own feelings of inadequacy even as I know I am in no way prepared to race a full marathon even if permitted to so soon after NYCM. Yet, I also knew I had to ultimately forgive myself and focus on my own race if I was going to have any chance of success the next day. This proved to be a harder task than I imagined as I fell asleep subconsciously still scheming of possible ways to escape my fate of “only” running the half-marathon on race morning. Little did I know something unexpected would happen just prior to the race start that would make me ever so thankful just to be able to compete in the half marathon distance.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Running Philly Means Half Marathon PR

Wow, what a weekend! I just got back from Philly and had so much fun running and following everyone else who ran that I had a hard time coming home. The long and short of it was that I didn’t get my AG award, but got great weather, a good race, and an 11 second PR to boot! “Ain’t Catchin’ Me” goal achieved! Woohoo!
I’m quite pooped now, but here are the stats from today’s race.

Official Statistics from the Philadelphia Half Marathon
Finishing Time – 1:24:14 (11 second PR!)
Average Pace – 6:25 min/mi
Overall Place – 70/7188 (1.0%)
Gender Place – 63/2533 (2.5%)
Age Group Place – 8/421 (1.9%)
Age Graded % – 70.6%

As usual, full report to follow. Hope everyone also enjoyed their weekend!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Little Table, Big Table

If you’ve ever been to dinner party at the Lams, you’d know that we like to separate our guests into two tables – a big table where the adults sit with their beer and wine, and a smaller table for the youngsters with their cokes and iPods. As one of the ‘tweeners in our extended family, I often have to make a tough decision as to which table I should grace with my presence. Although I ultimately almost always side with the younger crowd (because honestly, there’s only so much news, politics, and economics I can stand in one sitting), I often wonder whether I would ever feel welcomed at the big table and if I’d ever fit in.
In much the same way, I’m feeling a bit lame right now, getting my clothes, my shoes and my gear ready for the trip to Philly. This weekend, so many of my friends are either running the 60K race in Central Park or the marathon in Philly that traveling so far and getting so excited to run a measely half marathon feels a lot like sitting in the kiddie table for dinner to me. Never mind that I have no desire whatsoever to be an ultra distance runner or to kill myself in another marathon so soon after NYCM, I still feel somewhat inadequate racing that distance while so many I know are running for so much longer. Am I being crazy or is everyone else somewhat nuts (especially the ones who are doing NYC and Philly back-to-back)? I just can’t decide.
On the one hand, I salute everything they are doing and admire them for their persistence and passion for running, but on the other hand, I feel as if I’m doing just as good and will be running just as hard in my half marathon too. So why do I feel as if I don’t deserve the same level of respect for my PR attempt at the half as others do in their full marathons? Is this an example of the runner brain going haywire on me or is there some truth to this accusation?
To be completely honest, I actually think the half marathon may be the ideal race distance for me. On the one hand, it is still an endurance test, which I love, but on the other hand, you still get to run tempo pace or faster for much of the race without having to worry about bonking or hitting the wall at some point later on. Half marathons are also so much simpler to run and train for than their older brother counterparts that may require 4 or 5 months of rigorous preparation. I often feel fine enough to run the day after racing a half-marathon, while just walking to the subway the day after running a full qualifies as a Herculean feat. There is also no tapering required leading up to a half marathon while the tapering crazies in the last week before marathon day can sometimes be the toughest part of the race to deal with.
Looking back at all my races in 2009, I can’t believe this will be my 8th 13.1 mile adventure of the year. In all the previous years combined, I’ve ran a total of 9 (and never more than 3 in one year), so I'm thinking this running year will be remembered more for the half marathons that I crushed (PR’d in 2) then for the marathons I didn’t (O PR’s this year).
What a perfect way to celebrate my best half-marathon year of all time than by running the last one for a PR! Yes, Philly I am ready for you! You and your marathon cronies who will inevitably look down on me with disdain better watch out, ‘cause me and my little table of half-marathoners are coming down to represent. Game on folks! Let’s get ready to rock this town!
(As an aside, please don’t get offended if you’re a marathoner or a 60Ker this weekend. You guys all still rock in my book…Congrats to everyone out there who are racing! Let the games begin!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Celebrating Sesame Street and
3 Things Wednesday

Welcome to the neighborhood! In honor of Sesame Street turning 40 years young this week, today’s post is brought to you by the number 3. Okay kids, let’s count how many total 3’s we can find in what I have to say today…(If you need help, play this song and sing along as you read)

3 Things Wednesday
Leaving CSI (NYCM) – Now that I’m done with the written account and have shown the visual evidence for all the world to see, I think it’s time we officially put away the file on this marathon investigation. Before I do, let me say that 3 things that may not have been immediately clear from my description of this race. First, I don’t in any way consider this race as a failure for me. In as far as not meeting a time goal, yes it was disappointing, but it was not like it was a complete waste of time (as some may have suggested). I learned so much about the course and about myself that I know I’ll be a better and stronger runner for having gone through that. To me, NYCM was just one step of a process in my transformation to become a sub-3 marathon runner. In my book, as long as you haven’t given up on your goals, you haven’t failed. Second, I am not sad, depressed or giving up on running just because I didn’t run my time that day. In fact, I’ve been as happy and giddy and excited about running as I’ve ever been. Since the marathon ended, I’ve been running and training and speedworking like mad and really really enjoying it. If I could somehow bottle this post marathon glow that I’ve been feeling and distribute it, I’d have no doubt it’d light up the entire city. Third, let’s pretend the almost-sub-3 Marathon Club operates like Fight Club from now on, okay?

The Half Philly & Me – In case you haven’t heard, I’m heading down to enemy territory this weekend to participate in the Philadelphia Half Marathon. This will be my first race in PA and I’m already nervous. Originally, my plan was to run 13.1 easy and use the race as an excuse to head to Philly town to watch and cheer for friends running the full marathon, but ever since I inadvertently peeked at last year’s race results and found that the fifth place guy (top five get awards) in my age group ran a 1:27:27, I’ve worked myself into a frenzy thinking I’ve got a chance at hardware this weekend since I’ve beaten that time in 5 out of my last 7 races at the half marathon distance. Never mind that last year was a fluky year weather-wise (29 degrees at the start) and the race this year has already been sold out for weeks, once the idea and the wheels of the facebook machine start percolating, there’s no way to keep the racing thoughts at bay. So I’ll be going for it, even if it kills me, even if I end up failing miserably again. (Hey, don’t they say that it’s better to run hard and lose than not to have run at all? I’m adopting that philosphy as my mantra for this race…)

Race Goals – Speaking of the race, I’ve thought about and came up with 2 x 3 or 6 time goals for this half marathon. This is something I neglected to do in preparation for NYCM and it really showed when things got hairy at mile 22. Six might be a bit extreme but hey, no one ever complains about having too many goals to shoot for, do they? In order of reality to fantasy, they are:

1. My “Don’t Go There and Choke” Goal - Below 1:27:00
2. My “Doin’ My Thing and Representin’” Goal - Below 1:26:00
3. My “Away Game Tailgaiting” Goal - Below 1:25:16 (out of NY PR)
4. My “You Ain’t Catching Me” Goal - Below 1:24:25 (overall PR)
5. My “David Tyree Super Bowl MVP” Goal - Below 1:24:00
6. My “Omigosh That Trophy’s For Me?” Goal – An AG Award

P.S. Someone asked me if I’d be willing to wear NY gear during the race. I told her only if I’m preparing to run all the way home.

P.P.S. There are a total of 8 3’s in the post today from beginning to end. If you counted correctly, congratulations to you! Big Bird would have been proud!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Streak Is Broken, A Sub-3 Not To Be
Race Report from the 2009 New York City Marathon
Part V – The Different Phases of Lam in NYCM (in Photos)

Congrats and thanks everyone for getting through another one of my extremely long marathon race report! Although it was the toughest race recap I’ve ever had to write, knowing I have the encouragement and support of so many real, virtual, and bloggy friends definitely helped to make the job a little easier. As a reward for putting up with me (and as a final bookend to my race report), I’m going to present a little photographic montage of my running of the 2009 NYC Marathon for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

The Different Phases of Lam in The 2009 NYCM

The Chaos Begins Outside Fort Wadsworth

The Before Lam

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

The View from the Verazzano

The Lam at Mile 10 or
The Lam after a GU?

Why Is Lam so Happy Here?

‘Cause these Flyer gals (nyflygirl & runner26) are
cheering and handing out PowerGels
at Mile 18! Thanks Ladies!

Lam Not Looking So Good Now

Lam in Central Park

Lam winning the race…at 40K?

Lam Fighting For The Finish

The After Lam with Medal and Friends

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Streak Is Broken, A Sub-3 Not To Be
Race Report from the 2009 New York City Marathon
Part IV – The Worst 10K, Miles 21-26.2

Mile 21 – 7:09; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:49 min/mi
In my experience, the race story of the NYC marathon doesn’t officially begin until you reach the Bronx in Mile 21. Prior to this point, the marathon resembles more of a twenty mile block party through the five boroughs than an actual competitive race. There are spectators and dancers, music players and banners, and costumes and of course beer everywhere until everything suddenly disappears after the Willis Avenue Bridge. Almost concurrently, gone too is the fun, the joy, and the general euphoria that accompanied us during the preceding miles. I become acutely aware of my physical surroundings as I feel my energy and effort fade ever so slightly. More and more people are breaking down and walking now and I start to wonder whether I will be joining their procession soon. We make six right-angle turns on our way over to the Madison Ave Bridge and out of this wasteland that inexplicably sapped my energy today.

Mile 22 – 7:06; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:50 min/mi
Back in Manhattan, I check my last mile time as we run through the 21 mile marker. For reasons that seemed completely rational at the time, I was physically and emotionally devastated by the 7:09 I ran during the preceding mile. Even though my overall pace was still significantly below my goal time for this race, I was unable to fathom how I could have just ran 20 seconds above pace. In my mind, I was unable to justify that momentary lapse in speed and doubted if I could even maintain seven minute miles for the rest of the race. All I could see were the obstacles coming--the vaunted uphill battle on Fifth Ave, the rolling hills in Central Park and the last steep climb near the finish at Tavern on the Green—and I start to lose faith in myself. I take a gel, hoping it would help and speed up some when I see some good Flyers (LG, DL, and JT) clapping and cheering on the sidelines

Mile 23 – 7:16; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:51 min/mi
Mile 22 ends next to Marcus Garvey Memorial Park and I tell myself that I’ve just 4 measely miles to go. Although I figure I still have about a minute or so of bank time left, judging from my horrendous times for the last few miles, it was fairly evident that sub-3 would be in serious jeopardy today. My legs are fatiguing and complaining now. The purple magic carpet ride that I’ve been riding for the last two and a half hours is now nowhere to be found. I take the turn onto 5th Ave and stare down my destiny. I knew right there and then that these thirty blocks, from 120th Street right up to the Central Park entrance at 90th would hold the key to sub-3 for me. For all the weeks of hard training, all the high mileage I’ve endured, and all the aches and pains and muscle strains I’ve had to fight through, all of it will come down to this next mile and a half. Suddenly, I remember that these are the heart miles. My heart is supposed to take over now that the legs have dropped off. So I ask my heart what it’s got left. Do we really want this or are we not so ready to be elite? I push onward as I search within for an appropriate response.

Mile 24 – 8:08; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:54 min/mi
I continue to ask, but all I hear is just silence in return. I search the skies, the trees, and the spectators, waiting for a reason to keep this fight alive. My legs are sore and my body aches as I climb further and further along Fifth Avenue. The race slows down and each block feels as if it’s a mile all onto itself. More and more people have slowed to a walk now and despite the crowds enthusiastically urging us runners to go on, the marathon starts to resemble a funeral procession more and more. I go through the motions for another half block but quickly realize that my race has come to an end. I’ve lost all hope for sub-3 and I feel defeated, fatigued, and too emotionally drained to care anymore. I give up on myself and take my first steps halfway up the Fifth Avenue mile. The truth becomes incredibly evident to me immediately upon taking that first step. Although my physical body was equipped and trained to handle 20 miles at sub-3 pace, I did not equip my mind emotionally to do the same for the last six. I forgot to give myself more than one goal. I did not mentally acknowledge the implications of THIS marathon THIS time around. I failed to think about my own reasons why sub-3 is so important to me. It’s just an arbitrary time standard that sounds cool but has no real-life merit, isn’t it? The absolute worst was as I was walking mid-race and self-diagnosing myself, I quickly realized that I wasn’t cramping, wasn’t in pain, wasn’t even exhausted or feeling particularly hungry or thirsty. I felt fine which ashamed and frustrated me to no end. I have no justification for walking right now. Fueled by rage and anger over my epic fail as a marathon runner, I increase my gait to a steady shuffle.
When I finally do make it out of the abyss and reach the park entrance on 90th, I had every intention of turning left instead of right to drop out and head home. Unfortunately right at that moment, I saw a few folks that recognized me, and I was too embarrassed to quit. So I smile, continue on, and wonder how I could even think about not finishing a marathon with less than a 5K to go.

Mile 25 – 8:35; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:58 min/mi
The park looks splendid today with the autumn foliage highlighting the course in different shades of orange, yellow and brown. The crowds are lined four to five deep on either side and the excitement is palpable as we approach closer and closer to the finish. If my mind wasn’t so trapped in my own negativity, I could imagine how this would have been the perfect day to run. As is, I’m reduced to walking and shuffling as best I can. At around the back of the Met, I see familiar faces from the Flyers and I force myself to pick up the pace again for a little bit. I say hi to the Cat, roll down the Hill and wish that I was an inanimate object so I wouldn’t have to move any further. Each step becomes psychological warfare as I force my legs to become my slave even as it’s firing back with pangs of pain. After the hill, my mind becomes blank and I no longer even have the strength to acknowledge or hide from the crowd. All I did, until the park mile was over was recite a villanelle I memorized for poetry class way back when which seemed oddly appropriate given the circumstance. It begins “The art of losing isn’t hard to master…

Mile 26 – 8:12; Avg Marathon Pace – 7:01 min/mi
The park is behind me now as I make the turn onto W59th to begin the final mile. In the distance I can faintly see Columbus Circle, my destination. Although the sign on the lamp post clearly state that the distance separating us are less than 800 meters, to my tired and feeble mind, it seemed like forever and a mile away. I am overwhelmed by fatigue and I take my final walk break less than 800m from the finish. I sneak a peak at the crowds gathered on the south side of the street and hear them start to chant my name. How pathetic it must seem to those who know me to be seeing me now moving at a snail’s pace so damn close to the finish. I start running again and am determined not to stop until I either cross that finish line or death consumes me, whichever was going to happen first.

The Last 0.2 – 1:36
Columbus Circle finally comes as I make the last right hand turn towards the finish. I start to relax and gather my thoughts one final time. Well, at least I finished another NYCM and didn’t die. At least I didn’t take a wrong turn and quit two miles back. I am utterly disappointed that I ran the last 10K so poorly yet am slightly relieved that the pressure to PR in this race is finally over. I can claim a moral victory knowing that I finished what I started even though I gave myself every reason not to go on. I climbed the last hill and silence my inner critic to hear the roar of the crowd one last time. I blow kisses to the spectators and race volunteers nearby as I approach the finish. The course may have gotten the best of me today, but I take solace in knowing that NYC has not yet seen the last of me, and I’ll be back again, better and stronger than I was today, to claim the prize in this city on this course one day!

Official Marathon Time – 3:04:20; Avg Marathon Pace – 7:02 min/mi

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Streak Is Broken, A Sub-3 Not To Be
Race Report from the 2009 New York City Marathon
Part III – The Better Miles 11-20

Mile 11 – 6:55; Mile 12 – 6:47; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:46
Having conquered the first ten miles with prime efficiency and dead-on consistency as orchestrated by the head (Nice job Head!), I turn the task of managing the next ten miles over to the legs. We are pushing onward on Bedford Ave which used to be notoriously known as the quietest mile in Brooklyn to all the runners who’s ever come through here. This is due to the fact that this road runs right through the heart of the Orthodox Jewish community where runners were once looked upon as objects of disdain rather than subjects of admiration. Back in the days of Fred Lebow, who organized the first five-borough version of this race, running was frowned upon in this sector of town and he really had to use his political and religious connections to negotiate and get special permission from all the rabbis of the synagogues just to run the marathon course through here. We were clearly not welcomed back then and it’s debatable whether this race, in the public spectacle it has become, is any more tolerable to the locals now. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how scary it must have been to be one of those first marathoners who raced through these streets. I probably would have picked up my pace significantly for these two miles fearing for my life! Luckily, nothing did happen to them and I can pass by these streets with nothing to worry about except for my pace, which has become slightly erratic since I released the mental reins early in the tenth mile.
At some point during the 11th mile, someone taps me on the shoulder. It’s J, the boyfriend of one of my good friends who I’d been coaching to run this race. He says hi. I say hi. He tells me he’s trying to break 3 and sprints ahead. I wish him good luck and slide back. I pondered for a second whether to use him as my rabbit but after a quick consultation with the Garmin decide that I’m doing quite all right running to the rhythm of my own two feet.

Mile 13 – 6:46; Mile 14 – 6:51; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:47
For most people, the sight of the Pulaski Bridge brings them joy because it means half the marathon is now over. (As an aside, I passed 13.1 in 1:28:41, which is exactly where I wanted to be. Success!) For me, this architectural benchmark has special significance because it signals a return home to Queens. Even before I moved here in early July, I have always identified myself as a native of this borough because this is where I spent nearly all of my childhood and teenage years. It is unfortunate that the marathon course winds through arguably the most deserted and unattractive parts of town because the rest of the borough is really ethnic, festive and scenic. Although an official marathon cheering zone and countless neighbors and spectators are out today doing the best they can to generate as much applause and cheers for us runners, I could never quite identify with the facetious sideline gestures running through these vacant alleyways and uninspiring streets. Instead, my mind was totally entrenched in a conversation my younger brother and I shared the night before. “So you think you’re ready? You ready for sub-3?” “I don’t know. I thought I knew six months ago. I thought in Boston…” “Forget Boston. This is New York. We don’t talk about Boston when we’re in New York. Just like Johnny Damon.“ (My brother is a big Yankee fan if you can’t tell…Yeah, major life FAIL on my part!) “JD?” “Look, you’re gonna do your thing and the Yankees are going to do theirs. This is the year!” “I hope so…” “You’re ready Bro! You’re ready to be elite…” I pondered what exactly he meant by elite as I ran through the final little stretch of Queens and prepared myself mentally for my grand entrance into the abyss.

Mile 15 – 6:48; Mile 16 – 6:53; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:47
On one level, the Queensboro Bridge can be merely thought of as the conduit by which the marathon course finds its way back to Manhattan after a scenic tour through the best parts of Brooklyn and the worse parts of Queens. But on a deeper and more personal level, running this bridge is a little like suffering through hell on earth and anticipating a figurative and spiritual redemption on the other side. During the long climb up, there are no smiles, there is no talk. Lights are turned dim. Breaths and footfalls, our only companion. This is the place where I usually say a quick eulogy to my pace as it slips effortlessly into the 7 minute range with no chance of recovery. But today I find my legs not following the script. I’m moving with the same consistent effort I was moving before but somehow I’m moving faster. I can tell this because I’m passing through the crowd in waves. First I pass by J who didn’t have the energy to reciprocate my friendly wave (He eventually finished in 3:14). Then I pass by Italian guy who almost ran me over to get his water at Mile 10.5. It was a bit exhilarating as I silently claimed victory over this bridge that had given me trouble for so many times years before. Pretty soon, almost as quickly as it had started, it was over, I was done. I had crested the bridge and was now on my way down. As I feel my legs increase their turnover and stride, my body is shaking and I am overcome by giddiness for the welcome that awaits me in Manhattan.

Mile 17 – 6:52; Mile 18 – 6:44; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:47
I reach a new state of running nirvana whenever I emerge through the shadows of the Queensboro bridge onto the east side of Manhattan in the New York City Marathon, and today is no exception. Thousands of friends and fans piled ten deep populate the slidelines and yell like hell upon my arrival. I pump my fist and wave to the crowd to show my appreciation. I don’t know if any of them was cheering specifically for me but I felt loved as a New Yorker anyway.
I make the turn onto First Avenue and focus my thoughts on who I was supposed to see. Although this particular race lacked the fanfare of yesteryear, I was excited to see my friend EW stationed at 68th St on the east side of First Avenue. Although he is not a marathoner himself (yet?), he has never failed to make an appearance to cheer me on at every single NYC marathon I’ve done. I point to him, give a big wave and thumbs up and he starts jumping up and down. What a swell guy! I only wish I will get to be there when he finally decides to run his first. I thank him profusely for coming (even though he’s post-call from an overnight hospital ER shift!) and continue on my way.
At Mile 18, I pass by the Powergel station manned by all the Flyers who weren’t running this race. This was without a doubt my favorite part of the course. I’d been waiting and anticipating this moment ever since crossing the bridge. I see runner26, nyflygirl, and jb24 and couldn’t help but give them all big hi-fives in rapid succession as I did a fly-by with my hand. I also waved, smiled and say hi to all those who recognized me (or my Flyers shirt). Although I didn’t take any Powergels from them (I was operating on my own GU schedule at miles 10,16 & 22), all the Flyers gave me such a psychological boost heading into the last 8 miles that I found myself questioning if I had inadvertently fueled myself. My quickened pace in Mile 18 is a reflection of how I felt during that mile.

Mile 19 – 6:54; Mile 20 – 7:02; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:48
After the exhilaration of the previous miles, reality sets in at Mile 19. You’re still in Manhattan; there’s still 2 more bridges and 1 more borough to go, but somehow your body knows that the fun is over. There is minimal to no crowds here, and cheering from the singular spectators is miniscule at best. Physically, you convince yourself that you still feel fine, but mentally, you brace yourself knowing that the last 10K is going to be a drag. The crampers and walkers (those damn walkers) make their first appearance here at this stretch and you do your best to ignore them, avoid them, pretend they don’t exist. You let your legs dictate the pace but they are growing wearier with each passing step. You get nervous but try hard to calm your nerves. All you can see, all you want to see, is the Willis Ave Bridge. Just make it there, make it over, and then you’re there. So you climb, with a deliberate pace you climb. You allow the pace to slip. It feels like it’s taking forever. Eventually though, you’re there. Where? In the Bronx. Da Bronx, like the sign says. Might as well say Welcome to Hell, you tell yourself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Streak Is Broken, A Sub-3 Not To Be
Race Report from the 2009 New York City Marathon
Part II – The Start and The Good Miles 1-10

The Start
Something just isn’t quite right…
I am staring at the head of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge just moments away from the start of the 40th running of the New York City Marathon. On my left is a Grey Line double-decker tour bus which is being used today as a spectator station for VIPs. On my right, a couple of Italian runners are taking pictures of themselves with a throwaway camera. Although I’ve been exactly here for three consecutive years (and 4 out of the last 5), here feels somewhat awkward and uncomfortable to me this morning. A part of me wonders why. Maybe it’s the warm and wet air that is not agreeing with me. Or maybe I’m just not used to marathon day without pain. Or I’m missing my teammates and friends who are almost all starting in the later waves. Or I’m just anxious to find out if my 16 wk, 50 mpw training plan will translate to a sub-3 today. I haven’t got a clue. Luckily, there’s that whole other part of me that just don’t care. All it wants to do is just run and let the anxieties take care of themselves.
Against this back drop of minor insecurity, I hear the Howitzer fire, old Frank (Sinatra) in the air, follow the masses across the starting lines and begin my epic journey into the streets of New York City.

Mile 1 – 7:23; Mile 2 – 6:20; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:51
I was eager to stretch out my legs and start running once I crossed the starting mats. Unfortunately, some of my neighbors were not. I had not run more than 5 feet before I found myself behind a slew of older folks moving at slower than a walking pace. I had to literally turn my body sideways in order to avoid slamming into them. A few seconds later, I find myself again behind a trio of heavy-set ladies walking (yes, walking) side-by-side onto the bridge, waving to the cameras and themselves as if they had not a care in the world. Although I am one for taking things slow at the beginning of a marathon, walking in mile 0.25 is utterly ridiculous. Not only so, but weren’t colors, corrals and waves instituted to avoid such disasters? What are these walkers and slow joggers doing here anyway? I feel my pulse and blood pressure start to rise as I fought the urge to weave and bob climbing the Verrazano. Calm yourself Lam, calm yourself, I told myself as I patiently waited for opportunities to pass folks who obviously did not have the same agenda for this race as me. You can’t claim victory in a marathon in mile 1, but you can definitely blow your chances and lose it! Things continued in the same manner for much of that first mile for me. I was a bit frustrated but not overly concerned when I checked my split at the end of mile one. Although the time was more than thirty seconds off my goal pace (6:50), it was still eight seconds faster than last year when I started with a 7:30 mile one and finished with a 6:57 final pace. I decide that given the scope of disasters that can happen in mile one, if this can be considered the worst part of the marathon for me, this will be one helluva race! (I didn’t find out until long after that race that some of the charity runners got preferred starts and began the race right behind the elites and professional runners. Again, utterly ridiculous!)
Mile two was all about finding space, running fast, controlling speed, and making up time as my neighbors and I make the long downhill entrance off the bridge into the borough of Brooklyn. It was opening up some now and I was scared that I was running a bit too fast. I didn’t dare to check the Garmin mid-mile for fear it would growl back angrily. Instead, I bargained with my body to allow gravity to do as much of the work as possible and just rolled off the bridge as fast and as effortless as I could.

Mile 3 – 6:42; Mile 4 – 6:42; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:47
A sign hung on the first telephone pole off the Verrazano welcomes me to Brooklyn. This is unofficially officially the start of the race for me. An early crowd is already forming along the streets, trying to cheer as enthusiastically as they can. Most of the spectators here are trying to juggle their signs, their props, and their early morning coffee as they await the arrival of their runner. After registering the split from the last downhill mile and realizing now that I’m back on pace, I measure out my stride and begin to run in earnest.
My game plan for this race is to build about 1:00-1:30 cushion at the half way point by running steady 6:45s, or about 5 seconds faster than goal pace (6:50), then aim to maintain goal pace until mile 20-22, and then coast to the finish with whatever I got left. Since I’ve never been a negative-splitter and this course is notoriously difficult to negative split anyway, due to the all the bridges and hills populating the second half of the race, I figured aiming for an even effort run would give me the my greatest chance of success. Now, as I carefully and purposefully slow a bit to establish a comfortable and relaxed pace that I would carry for the first half of the race, I suddenly realize that my strategy for sub-3 is strikingly similar to my race plan from last year, when I had no specific time goal in mind – Run first ten miles with your head, the next ten miles with your legs, and the last 10K with your heart! I decide right then I will once again adopt that mantra as my strategy for this marathon.

Mile 5 – 6:45; Mile 6 – 6:44; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:46
Further along in 4th Avenue, the atmosphere is beginning to turn more festive. A pair of little kids still dressed in their leftover fairy clothes from a Halloween party last night are holding out their hands, expecting acknowledgement from the sideline runners while an older couple is busy distributing cups of water and paper towels to all who will oblige. A high school band is playing the Rocky theme song in the background while the conductor is urging the crowd to cheer on the runners. I’ve been hearing a smattering of “Looking good, Lam!” and “Way to go, Lam!” since my first steps off the bridge but the accents seem to have acquired a more international flavor the further along I travel into Brooklyn. I have never run a race with my name printed so prominently on my race shirt before so this marathoning above obscurity is new and completely foreign to me. I reciprocated the shouts of encouragement with a wave or a thanks until they became so constant that I was unable to keep up. Somewhere along the fifth mile, I see a “Go Flyers!” sign off to the side and I couldn’t help but pump my fist in acknowledgment. In the sixth mile, someone shouts “Go Laminator” and I almost pull a neck muscle turning my head back fast to find the paparazzi who’s identified me. Although I was trying hard to run within myself and maintain even mile splits and an even effort through this early section of the course, the jubilant cheers from the crowd and the sideline watch for fans and friends made things a bit tougher than I had anticipated.

Mile 7 – 6:42; Mile 8 – 6:45; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:45
The journey up Fourth Avenue is nearing it’s end. I can see the Williamsburg Savings Bank now not so far off in the distance. I pass by a couple of Flyer guys who compliment me on my quick pace and relaxed form as I run by. I wish them a good race and reestablish my seemingly effortless cadence and stride. No doubt I was feeling good and had to fight hard to keep my exuberance in check. In my mind, I was making a mental checklist of all my bodily parts and functions as if I was a diagnostician in the hospital. Physically, my legs feel relaxed and strong. There was no semblance of the hamstring issues that I had in the middle of my training. My feet were comfortable in the new shoes I had bought just for this occasion - a renewed version of the Brooks Defyance 2 that I had used in Boston. My gut was comfortable with the pasta dinner the night before and the early breakfast of pastries and fruits I had this morning. My energy and hydration also seemed adequate as I took care to alternate a cup of Gatorade and water at every aid station. The only hint of trouble as far as I could see was that my mind was just a little bit off today. For some reason, it didn’t seem like it was ready for a race. Was it fatigue from the long training or was it the leftover from the intensely stressful work week I had? Mentally, I feel as if I’m on a fast paced training run instead of a goal race that I had been preparing for all summer. I turn my thoughts to the excellent pace I have already established, my good physical conditioning and the intense high mileage training I’ve done and prayed to the marathon gods that the combination will be enough to carry me across the finish line in less than 3 hours.

Mile 9 - 6:46; Mile 10 – 6:45; Avg Marathon Pace – 6:45
Fourth Avenue has come and gone. So far so good. A series of twists and turns and I’m scaling up Lafayette Ave and rolling down Bedford Ave. The change in scenery is good for me as it forces me out of the mental funk I had been in during the previous mile. It is quite loud and boisterous here with music and spectators lining the streets on both sides. I’m searching for a friend who had pre-arranged plans to meet me here. Alas, I don’t find her. Instead, my thoughts are on a couple others who were out here last year but won’t be cheering me today because they are somewhere behind me running in this race! It was a year long struggle trying to be a good coach and helping them train for their first marathons even as I’m preparing myself to run a good race. As I watch family and friends celebrate and congratulate their runners with multi-colored flags, tee-shirts and signs, I smile a bit knowing eventually there probably won’t be anyone left out here to cheer specifically for me if I keep motivating everyone I know to jump over the sidelines and join me in this running bonanza! Haha! Inspired by this happy revelation, I march through the ten mile marker and eagerly await what’s to come next.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Meb – Fast; Race Report - Not so much…

Don’t worry folks, I haven’t jumped off the Verrazano (is it even possible to jump off the Verrazano?) or donated all my running shoes to Shoes4Africa or the Salvation Army (although I did give them both an old pair) as a result of my latest disappointment in the NYC marathon. Truthfully, I’m more disturbed by the Yankees winning the World Series for the 27th time than anything that went down on Sunday. (Yeah, congrats to those bozos, I guess…) My blogosphere absence the last few days is more work related than anything, and although I’m still a bit torn between accepting congratulations for completing another NYCM all week and expressing my personal disappointment on my own time, I have already begun the monumental task of compiling a multi-part race report (complete with pictures!) to share with the rest of the running world. It will not be easy and probably slightly embarrassing to actually described what actually happened in the last 10K of the marathon but I’m hoping it will be a bit cathartic, therapeutic and inspire everyone who will read it not to make similar mistakes going forward.

In the meantime, thanks for all the condolesences and kind words. Although the thoughts were very much appreciated, the tremendous public outcry was a bit embarrassing. I felt as if I was in a funeral procession or retiring from the sport of running! Okay, maybe I was a bit too poignant and melodramatic in posting my time and describing my emotions right after the race. We’ll call it even. I truly, truly enjoyed reading all the comments though, especially those who’ve been readers but never said hi before. Thanks for de-lurking!

Finally, congratulations to Meb Keflezighi for winning the NYC marathon and bringing the title back to the U.S. for the first time in 27 years! It was completely awesome to watch the race on DVR and see him surge ahead entering Central Park and finish so strong in the end. His last mile was run in 4:45? Omigosh. If I can do that for just one stand-alone mile I’d be in running heaven. I am in awe, thoroughly and completely. Oh, and his performance on Letterman dishing out the Top Ten was spot on and completely hilarious as well. (I just wonder how many of those thoughts he actually had while running through the streets of New York City…maybe #5 and #1 ? )

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Streak Is Broken, A Sub-3 Not To Be
Race Report from the 2009 New York City Marathon
Part I – The Aftermath

I had every reason to run well today. The weather was perfect, the fans were great, and I no injuries to speak off. But unfortunately, sub-3 was just not in the cards for me today as I saw my consecutive PR streak in my hometown marathon come to an abrupt end.

I have lots to say, but I can’t talk about my disappointing race right now. It’s too soon; it’s too raw; and it frankly hurts too much. What I can do is share with you my race results. They tell the entire story, mostly.

Again, thanks for those who tracked, followed, cheered and spectated today. Although I did not run my best time, I really felt and appreciated all the support out on the course today!

Final Statistics
Official Time – 3:04:20; Pace -7:03 min/mile
Overall Place – 1311
Gender Place – 1241
Age Place – 257

5K Splits
5K – 00:21:08 (Avg Pace - 6:49)
10K – 00:42:04 (Avg Pace – 6:47)
15K – 1:03:01 (Avg Pace – 6:46)
20K – 1:24:15 (Avg Pace – 6:47)
25K – 1:45:34 (Avg Pace – 6:48)
30K – 2:06:45 (Avg Pace – 6:48)
35K – 2:28:51 (Avg Pace – 6:51)
40K – 2:53:05 (Avg Pace – 6:58)

It's Go Time...NYC !!!

It's Race Day...Game On!
It's time for me to see what it takes...
Catch you all on the other side...

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