Monday, January 17, 2011

I've Moved!

Hi Everyone! This is quick post to let you know that I've officially moved! From now on I'll be posting at my new domain located at:

Please update your bookmarks and feeds and check me out at my new digs. Thanks =)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Wonder*

(*This post was inspired by IronBrandon who asked me this provocative question - What do you wonder about when you run? Here's my response...)

...If I'll run another sub-3 marathon this year.

...If my brother will finish his first marathon in May

...if my mom will win an age group award before me.

...if the snowstorms will ever end.

...if the new blog will take off like the old one did.

...if i can trust myself to know when to say when (in terms of racing).

...if i'll ever find love in running and running in love.

...if i can run a sub-5 minute mile.

...when we'll find a cure for cancer or diabetes.

...if i can blog and write like I used to.

...if my running brings me closer to friends and family who don't run.

...if i can ever be a consistent pre-dawn runner.

...if the obesity epidemic will ever end.

...if our healthcare system will ever be fixed.

...if my sister is proud of me.

...if i'll ever learn to use Wordpress.

...if i am living up to my potential.

...if i can log 2500 miles this year or if i'll even want to.

...if medicine and running can ever coexist.

...if i'll ever find peace despite the social injustices i see around me everyday.

...if we'll ever find out how he met his mother.

...if i can keep paying it forward without asking/expecting to be paid back.

...if the Mets and Knicks will win another championship in my lifetime.

...if Flushing Meadows will ever be home base for a running club.

...if i can ever run another sub-7 min mile at Mile 25.

...if i'll retire from blogging or running first.

...if I can teach as much as I have learned from others.

...if i'll ever wear black magic marker digits on my bicep. many kids died because of of the Wakefield paper.

...when i'll write another poem.

...if it's easier to run clockwise or counterclockwise around Central Park.

...if Seattle Greys will ever admit an endocrine case they can't treat surgically.

...when we'll stop selling guns to criminals.

...if i'll see a fully operational 2nd Avenue subway in my lifetime.

...if anyone is still reading this list.

...if we'll ever win the war against tyranny and terror.

...why the marathon course runs through the worst part of Queens.

...if there's such a thing as a healthy addiction.

...if i'll ever enjoy red wine.

...when i'll find my 3rd slice of heaven.

...if the 2hr marathon barrier will be broken in my lifetime.

...when the time comes, if I can actually stop, not look back...and just walk away.

What do YOU wonder about?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lam Clan Become Road Runners
Race Report from the Fred Lebow Classic 5M

I have a confession to make.

Racing, January, and me just don't mix.

Never mind the fact that I've traditionally taken the first part of the winter off to snowboard, travel, or goof off in the name of rest and recovery, even during the years when I've been forced to start training early in preparation for a spring marathon, I've just never found much success racing in January. The weather is extremely variable, the roads are slippery and slick, and the treadmills at the gym are overtaken by newbies trying to make good on their New Year's Resolutions. Finding both time and space to train is a difficult challenge when you're at the mercy of the road conditions and mother nature. For these reasons and others, I make it a point never to schedule a race until at least late January.

Imagine my surprise then when I found myself pinning my bib and lacing my racing flats at 5:30AM this morning. At multiple points during this procedure, I asked myself just exactly what I was doing and where I was going. Outside, it was 23F with a windchill in the teens, was I sure I was heading in the right direction? If I closed my eyes, I could have sworn I was just walking in my sleep! But as I stopped to look at the three multi-colored racing bibs I held in my hand, I knew I had no other choice but to open the door and go.

A couple of weeks ago, somewhat unbeknownst to me, my parents and my brother had registered for today's race, the Fred Lebow 5M. Ever since they ran the Turkey Trot with my brother and me on Thanksgiving, mom and dad have been itching at the chance to run a race in Central Park. Despite my warning that this would likely be a frigid and cold race, they signed up for this, their first NYRR race, almost as soon as online registration opened. My brother went along soon after. I hawed and hummed but ultimately decided that if my whole family was going to race, I should at least showed some respect and run even if it meant totally going against my principle of no racing in January.

The train ride over to the race start was surprisingly efficient. For once, we arrived at our destination about 20 minutes ahead of scheduled. Because of the extreme cold and wind, we even waited in the station for about 10-15 before we ambled over to Central Park to start our race. We checked our bags, visited the portapotties one last time, changed and bid each other farewell as we went to our respective corrals. (For this race, I was in blue, my brother in red, and mom and dad were running together from pink).

I got into my corral with about ten minutes to spare. Because this race was so sparsely attended, I found room to run a few short sprints to warm up. It wasn't so effectively though because as soon as I was done, I'd be shivering again. As the corral filled up, I found a few Flyers and exchanged pleasantries with them as I waited for the start of the race. I also saw and spoke to DN, a fellow DailyMiler, who like me, was not so prepared for this race. We both lamented how we might have been better off had NYRR stuck with the original plan of going with yesterday as the race day. It would have been about 10 degrees warmer! As it was, this stands to be the coldest race that either of us has ever run in. We were both very eager to get this over with and get back to our warm clothes! Haha! Pretty soon afterwards, the national anthem was sung and we were off.

Right off the bat, I approached this race mentally as a tempo effort more than as a race. My feet were numb, my left knee was still hurting from a couple of nasty falls I had taken on hard ice a few days ago and i had not done a good long tempo run since sometime in November. I allowed my effort to ease gradually to a pace that I thought I could maintain. Lots of runners wearing lots of heavier clothes were passing me initially which felt odd but I did not get distracted and cruised around the 102nd St Tranverse and along the West Side Hills. I passed the first mile at around 6:20 by the course clock but noticed that my Garmin had somehow died. Since I was not aiming for a PR anyway, I figured I shouldn't try to fix my watch but just run "naked" instead, which is what I did for the rest of the race.

Mile 2 and mile 3 felt really steady. I was maintaining a good hard effort and passing people who had taken it too hard in the first few miles. I felt warm at the core but still numb on my fingers and toes. I pressed on the downhills and eased on the uphills, using my own perceived effort to maintain a steady pace. It was actually a little liberating not to know exactly what pace I was running so that I couldn't get down on myself at the end of every mile. There was a water stop at every mile marker but neither I nor the rest of my neighbors took up the offer to drink. Everyone just seemed too inconvenienced to deal with water at that point.

Mile 4 and Mile 5 were the hardest for me. I was tired, I was cold, and I didn't have my Garmin to gauge my effort. My left knee which had been achy was really starting to bother me and my effort over Cat Hill was suboptimal at best. I still managed to hold my position in the loose pack that I was in until the last mile when I allowed a 15 year old boy to pass me and another guy who I had been jostling back and forth with since Mile 2 to surge through with a quarter mile left. It was a good fight though as I didn't let up and sprinted the last half mile at my interval effort. I had the finish line all to myself as I heard the MC announced my name twice as I ran through.

As I regained my breath and allowed my finish time to sink in, I acquiesced to the reality that I ran a mediocre race today. I am disappointed that my five mile pace is the slowest it's been for a couple of years. However, I also know that racing this early in a calendar year is a rarity for me. I remain confident that my speed will improve once the sun returns, the temperature warms, the ice melts, and I can run and train without the threat of ice and snow tripping me up and making me fall. For now, I will continue to build my endurance and stamina slowly and carefully as I deal with the harsh reality of winter in New York.

Afterwards, I met up my brother who had his own troubles battling the Cat at Mile 4 and my parents who both PR'd by two minutes in their respective races. Everyone seemed to have a great time and had fun despite the unbearable cold temperatures and gusting winds. It was the first NYRR Lam Clan run and from the looks of it, there probably will be plenty more!

Official Time - 0:31:10; Average Pace - 6:18 min/mi
Weather - Temp 27F, Humid 67%, Frigid, Wind SE 14.2, WC 23
Finished 65th out of 2383 overall
Finished 11th out of 237 in my AG
Age-graded percentile - 69.1%

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Running Beyond 26.2

For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a versatile runner. In my mind, the mark of a great runner was someone who was as equally proficient in short distance races as he or she is in the long ones. (Think Haile and Kara, who both excelled on the track before becoming world class marathoners). Indeed, one of the crowning achievements of the past year for me was getting PRs in the shortest of road races (5K, 4M) as well as in the longest, the marathon, in the same calendar year. To see some measure of success in both arenas in 2010 was thrilling and motivating and gave me hope that with some degree of dedication, passion, hard work, and luck, I may achieve even better results in the short and long distances in 2011.

Then December came, and with it, some rest and recovery, and slower long runs with friends and family and a laid-back trailish 10K on Christmas morning until suddenly I woke up one day a couple of weeks ago and found myself registering for a 50K...on trails no less! I'm not exactly sure why I decided to register for my first ultra that day. Maybe I was desperate for adventure. Maybe I was getting bored with base building and maintenance running. Maybe I just wanted to prove something to myself in a way that even a sub-3 marathon can't. Whatever the reason, I am scheduled to run the longest race of my life in the 50K version of the New Jersey Ultra Festival in mid-March. Holy crap, did I just admit to myself that I am crossing beyond the 26.2 threshold in hopes of becoming an ultramarathoner?

To many, what I call a "baby ultra" is nothing more than five miles beyond 26.2. To me though, it's a huge mental challenge as well as a physical one just to learn how to train properly for one of these. From what little I know so far, drawn from the knowledge and experience of those who've done a plethora of these and longer, I can already say that preparing for an ultra will be nothing like preparing for a marathon. For example,

In marathons, we eat gels and shot blocks.
In ultras, they eat chicken soup and PB&J sandwiches.
In marathons, we run on pavement and roads with thousands.
In ultras, they run on trails, mostly alone and cross rivers/streams.
In marathons, we run according to pace & measure training in miles.
In ultras, there is no set pace and training is measured in hours.

As you can see, I've got a lot to learn and practice in the next two months if I want to do well in this race. Biggest problem for me will be finding some longer distance trails to practice on. I see a lot of visits to the Central Park Bridle Path and Van Cortlandt Trails in my future!

I find it funny that a friend/teammate of mine thought I would be in danger of underestimating the distance when I first mentioned this race on a facebook post. In actuality, I'm been freaked out and scared and stressed beyond belief for the past week about this March trail run. I was so preoccupied with my race prep that I even had a vivid dream about it in my sleep a few nights back. In it, I was taking a PB&J break at an aid station during the race when Scott Jurek comes flying by from out of nowhere, whispers in my ear that "50Ks are A LOT of Ks" and takes off again. With the help of several friends, I was able to decipher the hidden dream message: Ditch the PB&J and go with Special K for the race!

Finally, I want to leave you all with this excerpt of a typical conversation between an ultramarathoner and his wife. Let's just say I'm glad I'm not married as I train for this 50K =)

Are you an ultramarathoner? If so, what are your secrets? Any good tips to share with a newbie like me? If not, why not? Has it enter piqued your interest? Is it a no for life or no just for now? As always, thanks in advance for all your tips, advice and suggestions.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

A couple of days ago, I gave you all a blow-by-blow month-by-month account of how 2010 went for me in terms of running. To be sure, there were things I did which I am quite proud of (4 mile PR, sub-3 marathon, inspiring parents/brother to take up running) and other things I did which I am decidedly NOT (marathon DNS in NJM, medical DNF in 4-miler, no half marathon/10K PR). Nevertheless, if I were to be completely objective and disregard my emotional attachment to speed and faster times, I'd have to say that 2010 was overall a successful running year because I finally discovered how to embrace running as a lifestyle and not just a hobbie and/or a sport. I (finally) learned that performance gains on the road doesn't necessarily come in a perfect sequential order. I learned that taking a step back, or two or even a DNF or DNS, is sometimes necessary to prevent unnecessary physical damage and allow the body to heal quicker and stronger. I learned about the importance of social running and of moderation and of active recovery. I learned how to inspire others by allowing others to inspire me with their struggles, their dedication and their triumphs regardless of speed, sex, race or background. I learned how to be an active member of the running community while still remaining true to my identity. In short, I became a more complete runner, not just in any individual pursuit, but as it relates to my life, my family, my friends, and the virtually running world.

Before I close the chapter on last year, let's take a look at how I fared in my ten 2010 running goals as set forth last January 2nd. (Feel free to cover your eyes 'cause I know it ain't pretty...)

Ten Running Goals for 2010
  1. I will enter my first ever triathlon, ultramarathon, or overnight relay race - CHECK [Ragnar NY - It was a really fun time. May I have another please...]
  2. Train two newbies for their first long distance race - CHECK [Madame E in Philly Marathon and My brother in 15K - There were others...but less epic.]
  3. Sub 3 - CHECK [Chicago Marathon - 2:59:55 - Need I say more?]
  4. PR in 4 races - FAIL [Only 3 PRs - 5K, 4M, Marathon - Sigh.]
  5. Finish Pentathlon (missing sub 24min 5K, sub 3hr Marathon) - CHECK [I had forgotten about this quirky wannabe running quest I had designed myself...glad to have completed it even if unintentionally]
  6. Six out-of-town races - FAIL [Only did 4. Yes, I seriously need to get out more!]
  7. Volunteer to be 7-min pacer for LTR - FAIL [Stuck to my safe 7:30 pace on both occasions. No excuses.]
  8. Run in 8 different city parks - CHECK [Not that you should care, but the list includes Riverside, Central, Morningside, Flushing Meadows, Kissena, Cunningham, Forest and the exotic Balboa Park in San Diego]
  9. Run in 9 different race distances - FAIL [Did 5K, 4M, 5M, 10K, 10M, 13.1M, 26.2, but neglected 1M, 15K. So many races, so little time.]
  10. Run 2010 miles - CHECK [Ran 2304 miles. For those scoring at home that's 44 mpw on average!]
Final Grade - C+; 6/10 Goals completed (At least I passed! Barely...)

Meh, so last year wasn't exactly the best for me. I think we already know that. Maybe if I actually took the time to look at my goals from time to time, I could've done a better job. Anyway, moving on. Because I'm a bit narcissistic and frustrated that I barely missed out on some of my 2010 goals, I'm requesting a do-over on the items I missed and adding some newer challenges to the mix for my list of running goals for 2011. I'm not sure how many of these I will get done by year's end, but I'm throwing them all out there just to keep myself honest and accountable and because that's we all do on January 2nd. Right? Here goes.

Eleven Running Goals for 2011
  1. Complete one (or two) ultramarathons.
  2. Cut 2 minutes off my NYCM PR - in other words - sub 3 in NYCM
  3. Coach 3 new runners to first half marathon or longer.
  4. PRs in 4 races - including 10k and the half marathon.
  5. Run 2500 miles.
  6. Compete in 6 out-of-town races.
  7. Volunteer for 7-min/mi pacer for LTR.
  8. Complete at least one 80 mile training week.
  9. Finish 9 different race distances goal from 2010 - Run 1M, 15K race
  10. Do 10 different trail runs (majority of the run has to be on a trail!)
  11. Run at least a mile with 11 different friends/family...individually
So what do you all think? Too challenging? Piece of cake? All I know is: Stick around, my dear friends! 2011 is going to be an interesting year. Oy...I mean Yay!

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