February 27, 2005

Central Park Craziness!

Central Park is the shit. It's great! Great to run in, great to wander around in, and with the Gates project, great to see.

I got to NYRR at 89th street at 12:20 and was really in a hurry to stash my stuff and hit the pavement. I've already done 9.3 miles in 1 hour 38 minutes, so I figured twelve miles would take about two hours, maybe a little more. Well, it turned out to take 2 and a half hours and I barely got back to NYRR in time to retrieve my stuff.

The first six, seven miles were golden. Not easy, but definately solid. None of that 3-miles-to-warm-up stuff. My morning routine had been nearly perfect and I was feeling powerful and confident setting out. I barely even slowed down on Hearbreak Hill. As I started my seventh mile, I passed a Gates project volunteer who was handing out the last of his fabric samples, and I managed to snag one.

Unfortunately, it was downhill from there. Even though I had Gatorade and Goo with me, my energy levels kept going down. I had to walk part of Hearbreak Hill and later, especially in the last three miles, I walked quite a bit. This, however, may be more attributable to the enormous crowds of people we runners were dodging. I swear to God, if somebody had on a fur coat or was carrying one of the small, pocket-sized digital cameras, then they were an absolute IDIOT. A rude idiot, since many of them were simply standing around in the running lanes. Of course, I chose to go to Central Park today, on what will probably be officially the busiest day of the year! So. By the time I was tackling the afternoon mass in the southern end of Central Park, I was annoyed, tired, and forced to slow to a walk at times, even when I wouldn't otherwise have slowed down. If it had been a normal weekend, my time today would probably have been closer to 2:15 or even 2:10.

It was altogether a positive run, even with the fatigue and annoyances. My feet and legs held up fine. My lungs cooperated for a good eight miles before they started to close up again. I've got to ask the doctors about this and if there's something that will keep my lungs open longer.

After the run, I retrieved my stuff and spent two hours wandering Central Park taking pictures of the Gates. Got a couple good ones, including (with some help) a fine one of me. Once I was no longer dodging these people, I was feeling very comradely. Bonus: I got some hot chocolate just before the food stand at Sheep Meadow closed. :)

So. B+; A-. Given less people and warmer weather, this kind of run is going to be fantastic! 14 miles next week, then I have an official half-marathon the following weekend.

February 26, 2005

An "off" week

This week was terrible. After the trouble I had during the 11 mile run, I took two days off and went running Tuesday. That run was the worst I've ever had. After a fine job up to the park - no surprises there - the pain started to set in. Ankles, knees, hips, everywhere. By the time I got to the other end of the park, I was in so much distress I walked most of the rest of the way. Five miles total, but about three of them walking. I was very unhappy about it.

Last night, after work, I took three ibuprofen, carefully stretch out indoors and again a bit outside and went for four miles. While not as easy as they should have been, I did manage to finish them with no walking. My lungs are somewhat distressed lately and I don't know if its over-training, a new infection, a reaction to all the changes I'm putting my body through, or what. The joint pain I think was simply forestalled by the ibuprofen, as I did get a familiar warm ache for a while, but not the kind that makes me stop. That went away and my legs and feet performed well. I think it helped that I adjusted the laces of my shoes to be a little looser overall and allow my feet to move a bit within the shoe.

I have a theory that I've gained several pounds over the last three months and that recently those pounds have suprised my joints -- that my joints have to catch up and get more robust in order to keep pounding out the miles.

Twelve miles tomorrow. If I can access a locker at NYRR, I'll go to Central Park for them. I'd like to do that so I can take pictures of the Gates afterwards.

February 19, 2005

11 Miles - An Odd, Full-Course Meal

I did indeed do three runs in a row last week, and have now concluded that may have gotten me into the overtraining realm. But no matter.

Today's run was 11 miles. I found it hard to be enthused about the run before it; and remain unenthusiastic now, even though this is the longest I've run at once. It was a difficult run, though not disastrous. I'm chalking it up to lack of proper hydration, not enough stretching beforehand, my asthma kicking in, and overtraining during the previous week.

That said, there were many positive things: the day was bright and sunny; the sidewalks and park loop were clear of almost all debris of any kind; traffic didn't enter the picture; it was 30 degrees, rather than 8; and I had no doubt that I'd finish the run.

The mile up to the park was pleasant enough, though I decided against picking up a Gatorade on the way up -- that was probably a mistake. Once in the park, however, I began to have pain in my feet. I had to stop several times in the first three miles to stretch again. I never did hit my stride. I think my shoes were tied too tight initially, then too loose later. More lessons learned. My asthma also kicked in, despite my careful pre-run routine, and so my jogging was slow. I had to walk twice on uphills. Doesn't matter though -- the walking was short and I finished the run!

I did come up with an interesting new visualization: that of a full-course meal. The appetizer was the run up to the park...a little difficult, but not unusual; something that has to be worked at, but ultimately pleasant. This seemed to be a bowl of edamame. I'd already decided to run the necessary three laps of the park in alternating directions - run the second lap counterclockwise. So the first lap in the normal direction really seemed to be a nice soup course -- though it turned out to be lentil soup in this case, which I hate. It wasn't bad, just not pleasant and with bits I don't like at all. Choked it down though and continued on to the main course.

Running the second lap going the other way, I didn't know what to expect. Several times, I jumped onto the dirt path to avoid runners coming my way. The whole experience seemed very much like a good hearty stew: fairly easy to do (its definitely the easier direction to run the park!) and the last portion, coming up the hill, was easily-consumed meat and potatoes lying in the bottom of the bowl.

Then I turned around again and proceeded to have desert. This desert lap turned out to be red bean ice cream -- pleasant, mild, predictable, but with a grittiness that makes it not my first choice usually. Funny how this run started and ended on Japanese foods, but with "incompatible" courses in between. An odd feast, sure... but it makes sense in running terms.

So here I sit, with ice packs on my ankles and under my left tendon, which is very sore and maybe a little swollen. I have decided to go into town to Union Square, see if I can pick up the makings for some sushi for tonight's dinner and if Paragon is still open, check out their line of stopwatches and running gear. These longer runs require hydration, which is easy if I carry a small bottle, but I don't think that's enough hydration for something with Cystic Fibrosis, so I'm going to look at the runner's belts they have. This is my reward for having completed my most difficult run since that terrible 7-miler a month ago.

February 16, 2005

Back to back...to back?

Yesterday I pounded out a surpisingly "short" 4 miles. It was a good run, almost great. Having gotten some of the missing asthma medication back into my system, my breathing was less labored.

Went out again today to knock off 5 miles. That hurt. I should perhaps have waited 'til tomorrow, but I wanted to take advantage of the good weather. I'm also thinking of running tomorrow (4 miles) so that I can have Friday off for a long run Saturday (11 miles). Should be doable. I just have to remember Advil.

I drove the route I've been running here in Jersey and found that I'd slightly underestimated some distances, so that my five mile runs have actually been 5.4. No biggie and I'm glad I'm not overestimating distances.

February 14, 2005

Al Gordon 15K - TEN MILES!

Ten miles yesterday (Sunday)! I am still feeling the effects.

The Al Gordon 15K was held on February 13th in Central Park. The route consisted of an almost full Central Park loop (cut off at the 102nd street crossover) and then a shorter 4 mile loop (cut through at the 72nd street crossover and finish at the 102nd street crossover). The total distance for the race was 9.3 miles and my warmup jogging was intended to get me up to a total of 10 miles for the run.

I very nearly didn't make it on time. After waiting for the R train for 15 minutes, I decided to skip it and hurried home, jumped on my bike, and arrived at 90th street to park with about 20 minutes to spare. 10 minutes to jog up there, shed my outer layers, drop off my stuff, 10 minutes to find the portapotties and take a leak, then just as I was headed back to the starting line, the horn sounded. No biggie, of course... with the chip system, your official time is based on when you actually cross the start and finish lines.

The warmup was great, the first three miles weren't terrible, but about as difficult as I've come to expect them to be. But I just couldn't get into that groove, where my body is finally in tune with the running. This whole run was a moderate struggle, easing up only about a mile from the finish. This was in stark contrast to last weekend's eight miles. I think part of the problem was that I'd left one of my asthma medications in NJ and didn't have it in my system...so after a few miles, my lungs closed up a bit.

Nevertheless, the day was sunny, 38 degrees, and the park was beautiful with all the orange flags of the Gates project. Truly fantastic. It was not lost on most of the runners that the orange of the Gates is the same orange as the Marathon - at least, New York's Marathon, sponsored by ING.

Despite my perceived difficulties yesterday, the run seems to have turned out to be one of my best, since a) I never stopped to rest or walk, and b) the race results say I completed the 15K in an hour, 38 minutes, and change. My per-mile time was an astonishing (to me) 10:19. How in the hell have I managed to drop nearly a whole minute from my pace in one month? (The seven miler I ran in central park, my per-mile pace was 11:something. And I didn't walk during that race either. On the other hand, it was much colder then, too!) Something is screwy with these statistics. All my other runs, I have been running steady 11 minute pace; maybe a few seconds faster, but no more. I'll endeavor to run more precisely measured courses and guage my time more accurately...see what's up. Incidentally, I came in number 2224, out of 2581 runners.

I'm not obsessed with the time... but it is of interest and its a clinical indication that I'm getting better at this.

Time for a new stopwatch. I killed mine in the washer. :(

Somehow, I'm not as on-top-of-the-world about this 15K as I was about the 7-miler. If I felt like Rocky, I felt like Rocky after taking a beating. Well, maybe not that bad. But the numbers are encouraging; my breathing pattern also has changed for the better.

3 miles tomorrow, maybe 4. I have to check my calendar. As long as its not icy-slick, shouldn't be a problem.

February 11, 2005

Another short day; back to back

3 miles this morning, maybe a little over. Weather was
cold, but clear and the wind wasn't as bad. I've
decided that while I don't mind running the streets in
Brooklyn, I don't like running the local highways here.
The cars just go too fast and kick up lots of dirt.

The run wasn't very stressful; my breathing was
optimal. I even made an effort at increasing my pace
for about half a mile on a flat stretch. Unlike
yesterday, I definitely noticed the bunny hills today;
they were harder for some reason.

15K race Sunday! I'm trying not to psych myself out
about the distance, but I keep in mind that I've done
eight easily... a warmup jog plus the race (to try to
reach a full 10 miles) should be NO PROBLEM.

**A previous emailed post failed to make it in, as did this one. I had a copy of this one, but the first post, about a five mile run out in Blairstown, is lost.

February 6, 2005

The Fantastic Four (x2)!

Eight full miles today and I have to say it was probably one of the easiest, most pleasant runs ever. Combined with getting out on my bike for the rest of the afternoon, I have had a fantastic day!

I was a little psyched out at having to do eight miles -- this is the furthest I've run at one time in my life. Plus, the last long run was exquisitely bad, if you'll recall. But last night, I was starting to get into having as long as I needed to do this run today and just kept thinking about it in bed... consequently, I didn't get a very restful night's sleep. But I got up with my alarm, did my therapy, and strapped on my running shoes. I squirreled away a 12 oz Gatorade in my motorcycle's saddlebag, as my planned route would take me past my house again and I'd just been reading in the book about the importance of staying hydrated and getting some kind of fluid with simple carbohydrates.

The first mile was not bad -- tough as usual, but already I could tell this was going to be a good run. The next two were not part of the usual "three first miles"; they were considerably easier than I expected -- my breathing settled into a 2-in/3-out pattern after the first mile. Also, a lot of the snow and ice has melted, making the Redhook 3-mile loop easier than the last couple of runs.

I came past my house at the 3-mile point, picked up the Gatorade, drank a third, and left my sweatshirt, hat, and gloves behind. Now I was just in a t-shirt and running pants, on a beautiful 50-degree sunny day. I couldn't have asked for better.

The remaining five miles was the Park loop -- up the hill, around the Park once, then down the hill; a little over five miles. So on I went. The fourth mile, being mostly up hill, was challenging and at one point I found myself breathing a 2-in/2-out pattern; that's a first! My lungs haven't been able to move air out that fast before. And I couldn't sustain it once the slope leveled off a bit. I had a second third of Gatorade at the bottom of the park, somewhere around the end of mile 6, then drained the bottle as I left the park with one mile left to go. And of course, the last mile was all downhill! :)

The Park portion was extremely pleasant. Lots of people out, lots of kids, lots of pretty little things jogging along. I didn't mind having to dodge people for once. I was really taken by surprise when, on the big uphill, I was passed by a wee little woman about a foot shorter than me who was really moving. And it looked like it was easy for her! for a few minutes I matched her pace, but found that too difficult to keep up on the uphill.

I did have some pain in my left achilles; it came and went. I stretched when I got home, showered, and iced my tendon and ankles. Right after stretching, I realized I hadn't checked the time. I had started at noon and it was now 1:36. I had been stretching for the last six minutes at least, probably more like eight or ten. Basically, I think I did my regular 11-minute pace or maybe even shaved it to 10:something. Certainly much of my run was quicker than usual.

Well, what a fantastic run all around; all the elements came together. Next week is a 3-5-3-10 week. I'm supposed to be doing the 10 miles at Central Park, as part of a 15K run. I figure to make it the requisite 10 miles, I'll put in a mile just before the start of the race as warm-up. This may also make the beginning of the race easier.

February 4, 2005

Two in a row! Days that is.

For the first time since Christmas, I ran for the second day in a row. The book has a schedule that has a two-day lineup every week, but I suspect a lot of people skip one every other week so that the remaining seven runs are spread out every other day.

Well, I looked at the calendar and was shocked to see that I was supposed to do three miles today! I'd already been into town and everything and have a rehearsal later tonight. But for the moment...why not? So I pulled my running clothes out of the dryer and strapped on my shoes.

I found the run to be difficult, but not hard. My lungs had a hard time of it and my left ankle, especially, wasn't happy; but it wasn't the kind of pain you stop for...it was the "it doesn't matter" kind of pain. So I've got icepacks on my ankles as I type this. I think had I been preparing to run today, I'd have been better off. I HAVE to remember to drink more water! I do pretty well in the off days, but didn't hydrate enough last night or this morning...consequently I had a headache while running today. Another lesson learned. Again.

So now my 8-miler will have to be Sunday. If I want to go to this thing in New Jersey, I'll have to be up extra early Sunday to get the run in first.

February 3, 2005

Oh, the pleasures of balmy breezes...

It actually got above 40 degrees today, though in the shade you could still see your breath. It was clouds and sun all day and really quite perfect running weather. The schedule called for five miles and I put in a solid five. I spent the first three-ish running in Cobble Hill -- my regular flat loop northwest of my house, then headed Southeast up the Slope towards Prospect Park and over to its entrance at Pritchard Square and ran a short ways clockwise to the 11th street exit, then back home.

In stark contrast to the 4-miler of a week ago, this was almost pure pleasure. Maybe not quite as perfect as Tuesday's 3 miles, but close. As is usually the case, the first three were harder than the last two. This might be purely subjective and even wrong... but it seems to me it takes a good three miles to get my breathing to settle into a pattern that supplies enough oxygen and not causing anymore coughing. Going up the hill during mile 4 today was difficult, of course, but not the worst I've dealt with.

I do think I need to start making sure all my runs end up somewhere positive -- a downhill if possible. After .7 or .8 miles of downhill, I ended the run at my house feeling super! Not too tired, not gasping, just pleasantly tired.

I think for Saturday's planned 8 miles I will again start with the flat 3-mile loop, then head up to the park and around. Maybe I'll even do the sidewalks outside the park, which makes the run about .15 miles more.

Tonight I'm feeling like this whole marathon thing may just actually be possible and not just some unrealistic dream.

February 2, 2005

Like Night and Day!

My last two runs could not have been more different.

Sunday, I was supposed to do seven miles and intended to do eight. But I had a terrible terrible run -- couldn't breath, body hurt, nothing was cooperating and I wound up running maybe three miles, walking the other four. Really, I was pretty down afterwards.

I'm thinking now that I'm forgetting to use some of the mental techniques in the book, particularly the "it doesn't matter" trick. This isn't to say it was all mental; I really felt like crap, like I was right back at square one in my running and hadn't gained any ground at all. I think I had stretched properly after my last couple of runs, didn't stretch enough before the run, didn't take any ibuprofen... I mean, it really sucked.

I tried to let it go as I did my run yesterday, which was only three miles. I headed out not to the park, but on a flatter route that takes me in grungy street territory. It also takes me over the Gowanus Canal a couple of times and it was interesting to see that parts of it were frozen over, but not other parts.

The run turned out to be remarkably good! Probably one of the best I've had so far, even if it was only three miles. But I pounded out those miles at a good pace, kept it up for 35 minutes, and the blocks feel away beneath my feet much faster than I remember them going before. I was actually surprised, at one point, how far out I was already.

So tomorrow's run -- five miles -- I think I will again make absolutely sure I stretch out well, take Advil beforehand, and spend the first mile or mile and a half out in the streets over the Gowanus, THEN head up hill and do one loop of the park.