Sunday, January 27, 2008

Race Report: Manhattan Half

One of the hardest parts of running races is the planning. I'm not a planner by nature, for better or worse, but running demands a fair amount of it. When I picked up my number, I got a very adimant notice from the New York Road Runners: baggage trucks would leave at 8am. This seemed curious for an 8:30am race. After all, the finish was a mere mile away. I'm not sure why the bags weren't just kept between the start on 84th and the finish on 102nd. Anyway, the prospect of freezing my nuts off for a half hour made me just skip the bag and go in running attire. That made for a tough start to the race: a good 50 minutes in 29-degree weather without much in the way of clothing. Ouch.

Once the race started, I settled into a pretty brisk pace. The outside goal was to break 1:30. According to my running books, a 3:00 marathoner should do a 1:25 half. Yikes. I'm not there yet, but I did run what might be my fastest half marathon, despite an absolute lack of strategy. The numbers tell the ugly path to 1:28:10:

Mile 1: 6:46
2: 6:54 (Great Hill)
3: 6:36
4: 6:35
5: 6:29
6: 6:40
7: 6:39
8: 6:53 (Great Hill, Part Deux)
9: 6:59 (forgot to hit my watch for about 10 seconds b/c I was struggling)
10: 6:35
11: 6:44
12: 6:56
13: 7:20 (with the extra .1)

Looking at the numbers and remembering how I felt, it's clear to me that I'm a long way off in terms of stamina. I was fine at the end of the race -- I even jogged home -- but the last couple miles were terrible. Mentally, I got content, thinking I'd break 1:28, and I ended up not doing it, because of the extra .1. Overall, I got 199th out of 4,900 or so. Not so bad. I want to go under 1:27 in the Bronx.

13.1 miles, 1:28:11

Friday, January 18, 2008

Running Cold

There are always reasons not to run. Long day at work. Hangover. Social obligation. Rain. Snow. Hot or cold weather. The truth is, there's a choice. If you look hard enough, you'll find an excuse. Sometimes, people express alarm that I run outside year round. What about when it's really cold? I like it. My body produces a lot of heat, so it's actually much more pleasant than slogging through hot, humid runs. Gina Kolata does a nice job demolishing the myth that running in cold weather is bad for you, particularly the dumb notion that breathing in cold air is bad for your lungs. (I've heard that several times.) So far, it's been a mild winter. I've run in shorts every time but maybe a handful. The weather is supposed to turn much colder this weekend, but I find the Craft second-skin base layer, another long-sleeved shirt, hat and gloves does the trick.

5.2 miles, 34:54

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bad Things About Running in NYC

At the request of TunaTacoGrande, I'm giving equal time to the annoying parts of running in New York. I should say that the good outweighs the bad, although sometimes it doesn't seem that way. In no particular order, the stuff that makes it hard to be a runner here: icy sidewalks, sudden-turning cars, horse shit in Central Park because tourists think it's cool to torture a beast into hauling them a half mile, homeless people who shave in water fountains, the rats that take over Riverside Park in the 70s after dark, petulant cyclists in their Euro garb, people that walk three and four abreast, charity runners, weaving runners, joggers with iPods who don't pay attention, dog owners, unleashed dogs, NY Road Runners Club group runs that hog the travel lanes, bus exhaust, waste treatment plants along the river, raccoons, marauding youths who chase after me, the Parks Dept not plowing all of Riverside Park, people who line up at 7-minute-per-mile pace but really run 9, Team In Training, trying to maneuver by trash-bag mountains on the sidewalk, smokers, vending machines that only take perfect bills, all taxis, vendors who charge $3 for Gatorade, the marathon lottery, the guy with the bullhorn who screams at runners during NYRR races, sucking in helicopter exhaust along the Hudson so a rich person can escape Manhattan traffic, cars that try to intimidate me by acting like they'll really run me over at intersections, the super-long dog leashes that have the effect of creating a six-foot long barricade, cops who speed in Central Park, the bodega owners who don't like sweaty bills, the summer heat and humidity, the East Side Promenade, the dearth of trails, unpredictable small humans wandering into the running path in Riverside, and rollerbladers who think their Anton Apollo Ohno with the swinging-arm style.

6.2 miles, 42:47

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Great Things About NYC Running

During my long run today, I started thinking of all the annoying things about running in NYC. Then, because I had a lot of time on my hands, I turned the thought over to come up with the best things. Here's my partial list: Central Park, Riverside Park, Battery Park, freeze-proof water fountains, the Nike Runner Station, vending machines that take sweaty dollars, the Bridle Path, the cat statue that says you're almost up Cat Hill, the Great Hill, seeing people skate at Wollman and Lasker while doing loops in the winter, running after a snowfall in a near-empty Central Park, passing Dominican families barbecuing in north Riverside Park, reaching the Tubby Hook Cafe, seeing the GW Bridge come into view when coming north along the Hudson, the dirt path near the dog runs in Riverside, the bird sanctuary at 120th Street, that 3,000 people get up at 7am to do 20 miles during the long-training runs, coming off the 59th Street Bridge to the roar during the marathon, pretty girls who run in Central Park, the Broadway Ultra Society, Hash runs, exploring the boroughs 13.1 miles at a time, Los Compadres, the power-walking drill saergent guy urging people on in Central Park races, seeing outdoor movies in Riverside three seconds at a time during the summer, spying the Statue of Liberty during a long run, the Eleanor Roosevelt statue on 72nd Street, the Sri Chinmoy 3,100-mile run, knowing the light at 95th and Riverside has a 7-second delay, making the turn for home at the Staten Island Ferry and knowing there's just another hour more.

10.5 miles, 1:16:37

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Sister vs Pigdog

The incomparable (and mustachioed) Steve Prefontaine owns one of the best running quotes: "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more." That's what make running so great. But there are tougher challenges I'll never face. I'm proud to say my sister Jean really faced down the Pigdog this week in a 24-hour ordeal. But as the picture shows, the outcome was worth it: my newest nephew, Jack Stamatis. Awesome job. I also expect his genes mean he'll be an endurance athlete.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

When Pigs Fly

I made the commitment: I'm running the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. It was hard to decide which Spring marathon to run -- or even whether to do one -- but a few things made the Pig a good place to face down the Internal Pigdog. 1) My friend Tom is running the race with me. After nearly two years of visiting Indiana but not going to see him in Kentucky, I'll see this nirvana that goes by the name of Lexington. 2) The date. The Pig is on May 4, pretty late in the Spring marathon season. Other races I mulled took place in late March. My training is just not there yet. 3) Early start. The race starts at an eye-popping 6:30am. I might have to get up at 4am to eat, but I probably won't crumple that early.

Training is going well. This week, I ran 36+ miles. My back and ITB are both sore. Guess it's inevitable.

4.75 miles, 33:30