July 30, 2005

NY Mets Run to Home Plate

NY Mets Run to Home Plate. 5K (3.1m). Shea stadium. 73 degrees, 90% humidity. 2,262 runners, including 3 wheelchairs.

This event had limited entry, so I signed up early. Giving some deference to my knees of late, I've chosen short qualifiers to complete. But being short, they've also given me the chance to a) see how low I can get my per-mile times, and b) complete a few races in heat that would make longer distances much more difficult.

It was really a beautiful morning, overcast and with a nice breeze. After wandering the MTA for two hours like Charlie on his Tragic and Fateful Day, Shea Stadium slid gracefully into view as the 7 train pulled into the station. I had made a new friend at the 42nd street station, a woman who was the most petite thing I've ever seen, and who was also trying to get out to Shea. With no express trains running, it just took forever. Anyway, we both made it, and I made it before they packed up the numbers pick-up table. I really must learn to get my number the day before! I had ten minutes to get my number, drop my bag, and stretch.

For less than 2500 runners, it sure looked ike a whole lot more! The starting area was narrow and we were...

[hang on, my phone's ringing....]


[...that was Mom. Have to talk to Mom when she calls! Have YOU called your mother lately?]

...all pretty tightly packed in there. Once we got started it was a pleasant run at 75-80% of all-out for the first mile, slightly for the second, and gradually faster again during the third, all the way to home plate inside the stadium. The clouds cleared at about mile one on this flat, fast course, and that left the giant Unisphere quite dazzling in the sun. (This artifact from the '64-'65 World's Fair is decidedly impressive and doesn't look run down or anything. It's been well taken care of. The three rings you see around it aren't attached by supports, they hang in position via wires held in tension between the rings and the sphere, like a tensegrity structure. Also, the continents are drawn in rough relief, with the mountainous areas stacked up. Most impressive.)

We rounded the sphere and headed back towards the stadium parking lot and thence into the arena, and around the perimeter on the dirt. I have never seen grass so green and immaculate, not even on a golf course! It was amazing. We all crossed the finish line at home plate and then slowly took the long line back around the field towards the entrance/exit to get some water and such. (Many runners bent to touch the grass on their way out, just to see if it was real.) My final time was a net 29:30, good for a fast 9:30/mile. Good run; a personal fastest per-mile time.

After the race, little Subway sandwiches were handed out and we all seemed to take extra time gathering our things and chatting and cheering on the last of the runners coming in. This was an important race for a lot of people: it was a big team event. I came across one of the older ladies I've seen at my therapist's and she's a member of the Mercury Masters team, which in the women's 60+ group is currently in first place in the points standing; we'll see how today's event affects that. Nice to see her there! (The girl I met on the subway was also on a team, the Greater New York team, I think.) Other teams heavily represented were Fleet Feet, Empire Runners NY, Central Park TC, Achilles, West Side, Central Park TC, and New York Flyers, among the dozens of teams total.

Standing in line for sammiches after the race, I got into a conversation briefly with a very attractive woman and later kicked myself for not at least exchanging names. Along with remembering to pick up my number the day before, I've GOT to remember to turn the charm on during such flirting opportunities and put my stomach on the back burner -- or else I'm going to remain single the rest of my life. And if there's one thing I'm looking for in a mate, it's a good, healthy set of lungs attention to health and exercise!

July 29, 2005


Clusters of streetlights make my shadow multiply as I dance past them in this otherwise-dark landscape. It is 5:10 a.m. and I've just crested the Slope and entered Prospect Park. I am one mile into a five-mile run.

I woke at 4:30 this morning, intent on getting in this week's long run before having to zip off to PT. After a half-hour of waking up, peeing, eating, drinking, and the like, I got out the door. The temperature was comfortable, much lower than the last few runs, and the haze and humidity had also diminished. True to the famed "darkness before the dawn", it was very dark, even for NYC. And quiet, too, I reflected as I jogged my way up the first block. The absolute serenity of the hour impressed me. Continuing up the slope, taking mini-breathers of jogging one block over for every block up I ran, I quickly made my way to the park entrance.

The loop around the park was serene and beautiful. The birds wake just before dawn around here, as the grey light of false dawn begins brightening the hidden horizon. In my first mile, I saw only one other runner and one bicyclist. By mile two, about 5:30, I began to see a lot of walkers and a few more runners. More importantly, the sun had started to rise and all the high, wispy clouds were tinged with shades of salmon and pink. Oddly enough, the lake looked exactly as it did last winter when it was frozen over. There were no ripples or waves. Maybe the ducks weren't awake yet.

I had the park to myself again as I pounded up the north hill and before I knew it I was on the west drive. I was somewhat surprised to find myself coming out of the trees at the bandshell; it didn't feel like I'd run far enough to be there already. I exited the park where I came in and had a quick, easy jog downhill towards home.

Fantastic run, all told; hardly felt like work. Getting out of bed so early wasn't even that bad, though I don't want to make a habit of it.

To top it off, I had a great session afterwards at physical therapy and then had a great checkup at my doctor's. My lung function is up! I have better numbers than I've had for a couple of years. I had a chance to check the accuracy of my pulse oxymeter with my doctor's and it's good. What surprised me, though, is that my resting heartrate hovers around 60! (I haven't checked resting heartrate since before the marathon and back then it was around 70 just after waking.)

And there's the Met's Run tomorrow morning, too, which should be a glorious, fast, exciting 5K!

July 27, 2005

Red Hook Detour

Hot again, this morning, and hazy. 80 degrees, 70 percent humidity. I extended my run this morning a little bit, going over a pedestrian bridge across the BQE and into Red Hook. I crossed Ft. Hamilton at the McDonald's a few minutes later. I think perhaps I extended the route by a 1/2 mile. So... 3 miles and change for the run. Not too bad. Felt pretty good; didn't have time after to ice my knees, unfortunately, and I didn't get it done at PT, either.

I'll have to look more in Red Hook. It's way off the beaten path, but seems interesting. This, after all, is where Arthur Miller set A View From The Bridge and is thus a touchstone location for American theatre.

BTW, I shaved my beard off after the run. I look very strange to myself!

July 23, 2005

Run for Central Park Conservancy (4M)

Woo-hoo! What a day; what a run! For the first time in two months, I ran an organized race today and really had a blast. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the whole atmosphere of a race, even a small one like this (3,251 runners).

To start off with, the weather cooperated nicely. Highs were predicted to stay under 90 and the humidity finally broke, too. So the morning was cool-ish and pleasant. I got up at 5 a.m., thinking I needed to aim for a 7:15 check-in for an 8 a.m. race. Well... I managed to get there at 7:00 and was one of the first to check in -- and then found out the race wasn't 'til 8:30! No problem. I walked around a lot and got in a good 1/2-mile warmup when the time was right. I made sure to drink plenty of water, for as the time crept on, it was already getting uncomfortably warm in the sun. I also choked down some energy goo. I wasn't particularly aiming for a fast race, but the course was a "fast" one and I figured I might as well get in a run at faster-than-marathon pace as long as I was feeling like it.

Once the pre-race was done with and the air horn sounded, I just hung out to the side, not with the rest of the pack on the road. Experience has taught me I might as well wait. I wanted to get a running start at the starting line, and my recorded time is a net figure anyway. Curious about how long it really takes for the 10+ milers (the group I usually line up with) to actually reach the starting line, I watched the clock. By the time I hopped over the wooden railings and started running and got over the start line, the clock was past 5 minutes already.

The first mile was a fast one, no doubt. I didn't exactly feel like I was flying - not like some of my cross-city long runs I'd done before - but I was definitely moving. I passed all kinds of people for the first couple of miles. I realized I was in danger of doing a newbie mistake, starting too fast and not being able to keep up the pace, so after finding myself with some elbow room, I took it down a notch to cruising speed, meaning I was still moving pretty well and pleased with my progress, but not aiming to pass a lot of people and not feeling like I'd burn up before the end.

I skipped the first water station. By the second, I knew I'd have to grab some water. I grabbed a cup at the second table and took three large mouthfuls of water before tossing it aside and getting on with my pace. Not too long after, somewhere towards mile marker 3, I had a moment of definite over-heating and for a bit thought I might have to slow to a trot and cool down. Fortunately, though, the hill I was on ended soon and the slight downhill was in the shade. That returned me to normal and I didn't have the over-heated feeling again. No way was I aiming to be THAT GUY who the paramedics have to pull off the ground.

I had found the race challenging to this point. I was having mild asthma at the time and was regretting not having brought along an inhaler. I should have trusted my body though: as before, right around the third mile marker, something changed and my body got used to all the conditions and the fourth mile could almost be described as pleasant. It was certainly the easiest mile of the race. I didn't up my pace again until the last 1/2 mile, and then I tried to ratchet back up to where I began the race.

Now, I'd been keeping an eye on the split clocks. No way they were accurate. At my best, I am a 10-minute-per-mile runner, and the first clock (taking into account my five-minute start time) had read 14:something. So I didn't trust the clocks. However, as I came up on the finish line I was astounded by my time - 44:something. Taking off the five minutes, that means I'd been doing slightly less than 10-minute miles. Could that be right?? I put it out of my mind and proceeded to get some water and a bagel and retrieve my bag.

As I ate and drank, and sucked down some no-longer-frozen Gatorade I'd brought, I cheered on the later finishers and waited for the kids' races to start. I spied Dr. Maharam strolling between the aid station and the staff port-a-johns and hailed him. He recognized me right away and asked me how I did. All I could get out was a breathless, "Pretty good I think and thank you! Thank you!" I wanted to impress upon him that I couldn't have done even this little 4 mile race without his attention (and of course my therapist Amy, too).

They had heats for ages 2, 3-5, 7-9, and 10-13. I was very impressed! The 2-year-olds' racing was just downright cute. No way they knew what the hell was going on, but some of them were quite game and really pushed those little legs the whole 150 feet. (Some of them arrived at the finish in mommy or daddy's arms. Some got confused or scared by the cheering crowd and were crying. One spectator near me quipped that he sometimes finishes races crying, too!) Same story with the 3-5 year olds. I was impressed with how fast some of those kids could move! The other two groups had a little more self-discipline and awareness of what was going on. Each older group had a longer distance to run, with the oldest kids running a half-mile out-and-back course. Really very nice to see.

Got home, showered, put ice on my knees for 20 minutes. Looked up my race stats on NYRR website. My net time was 38:47 for the race! I ran 9:41 miles! I really didn't think I could do better than a ten-minute mile. Next weekend, for the Mets Run Home thing, I'll bring my running belt and my own hydration - I know I can get that time down to 9:30 at least for a 5K. ;) Of course, I'm planning on doing two miles before the race as a warm-up, so as to have a 5-mile day, so we'll see how I feel by the time that race starts!

July 17, 2005

4 mile run

Got in a decent 4-mile run this evening about 7. Just went up and around Prospect Park, so that was fine. I did find it a little difficult; I really wanted to slow to a walk, but I toughed through it. I took the "easy" direction around the park, because I didn't want to totally expire on the finishing hill. However, the 4th mile was tough, even on the flat bits. At the end, leaving the park, I was tempted to run downhill to home, because that would be easy, but I restrained myself. I'm trying to have patience and build the running up just a bit at a time. The knees need time to rebuild. The muscles, the ankles, the feet, all need time to rebuild. And it may have to start all over once the permanent orthotics happen.

But still...4 miles! Haven't done that since the Healthy Kidney run that hurt my knees so bad. I'm ready for next Saturday's 4-miler in Central Park, and hope that the weather and humidity cooperate to help me do at least 10K pace, though I'll be satisfied just finishing.

Weather today was not too warm at 7 p.m., but humidity was up. Lots of runners, mostly going in the "correct" direction. I passed my neighbor, even, who noticed me before I noticed him. I also had to dodge a lot -- a LOT -- of rude, low-class (and probably low-income) teens and twenty-somethings who feel that it is their god-given right to stand in the middle of the biking/jogging lanes and gab at each other. There's a whole couple hundred acres of park they could dawdle in, but no... they've got to stand RIGHT. IN. THE. WAY. I also have issues with groups that walk abreast -- slowly. Goddamn people, learn to have some awareness of what's going on around you!

Here's an observation that doesn't belong in this blog, or written down anywhere, yet -- because I'm self-destructive by nature and invite conflict -- I'm going to make: as I was crossing the top of the park, past the bandshell, it struck me at the racially segregated nature of the park and the people in it. A concert was getting ready to start in half-hour or so and people were assembling. Outside the gates and fences, off to the side, it was all black people. INSIDE the gates it looked to be all white people, particularly the center section. Right BEHIND the center section, but outside the gates and across the road where you could still see the stage pretty well...more white people, but of the variety that look like students, artists, and others who can't spare the admission price to get in the gates. Now, maybe I'm assuming things. Could just be that the only people who didn't bring picnic baskets (which aren't allowed inside I don't think) were a handful of well-dressed white folk. But still...

And then, of course, one can easily notice that Prospect Park is mostly white towards the top (west) side, almost exclusively populated by blacks on the north side, and becomes mostly hispanic on the southeast portion. There isn't a whole lot of mixing.

Somehow this makes me sad, because, as a runner, I see a lot of mixing on the jogging paths. Like anthropologists on rails, we runners - no matter the race - zip through these sections of the park equally, rarely looking left or right, but noticing all the same the makeup of the people around us. And this extends to the neighborhoods I run through, too. Same deal.

You know who I really admire? The boxers. Those guys run backwards.

July 16, 2005

Things are looking up

I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since I posted; such is life, I guess.

The gout eventually went away and I went to the doctor and he took some blood and did an x-ray. I do have gout; he gave me indomethicin in case the gout should come back. He's also getting me on something to lower the urea levels in my blood and I'm supposed to see a nutrionist about my diet, try to eliminate anything heping cause the gout.

After the gout episode, I was able to get out...what, four runs ago?...and did 2 and a half miles without pain. Now THERE's a relief! I've taken to running in Central Park right after my physical therapy appointments. (If I had the motivation to get out of bed an hour earlier, I'd run BEFORE the appointments!) It's been very pleasant.

Picking up where my memory allows...

Last Monday, after allowing the requisite half-hour for my knees to thaw after PT, I did a pleasant run from 59th street to the top of Central Park. I found the day a trifle warm and a trifle too humid, but such is summer in NY. I believe I'll never quite get used to it...yet also believe at the same time that I AM getting used to the weather. Anyway, the distance was three miles and I ran it at a slow, steady marathon pace, not pushing it at all, because of the heat/humidity. When I made it to the top of the park and ran around to the pond's boathouse to see if the bathroom was open (it wasn't), I felt absolutely GREAT. I mean top-notch WONDERFUL. It wasn't so much physical as mental. After all these weeks of being unable to get a mile without pain...it was such a relief and an elation to knock out three miles. In fact, I felt as thrilled by that run as I did by my first six-mile run!

Wednesday was similar, though the run was delayed by rain. It found it ironic that the rain had held off all morning, throughout my PT, and the second I stepped foot in the park, the skies opened up. This was probably not a bad thing, as I had taken some of the indomethacin earlier that morning to stave off what I could feel was the gout coming back. The indomethicin kicked in during PT and really knocked me out. I was so drowsy I actually thought something was wrong and determined that if I couldn't clear my head or stay awake enough after the appointment to run, I'd call my doctor. But while waiting for my knees to thaw before my run (and before the rain), the drowsiness passed. I headed home. Later in the afternoon, I took a "long" run up to Prospect Park, but didn't do the loop. I went across the top of the park to where it turns and begins to descend, then turned around and retraced my route home. A good solid 3.3 - 3.5 mile run. I took HEED with me, but was still thirsty as hell when I got home.

Yesterday, I again ran after PT and this time slowly upped my pace from very slow jog to marathon to about a half-marathon pace. It was a triumphant run, complete with sweaty, smelly clothes and water-chugging on the subway ride home. I reflected at that time that it felt weird to be able to judge my slight changes in pace and give them race-length names like other runners do, but at this point, I feel my pace notes are pretty accurate.

This evening, perhaps about seven or eight if the temperature cooperates, I'll try to get in a full loop of Prospect Park.

I'm certainly not up to 10K pace yet (a 10:00 mile for me) and don't think I'll do that much this summer. I'm concentrating on rehab, not achievement, right now, but at least I'm back to a three- or four-day-a-week running schedule. I'm signed up for next Saturday's Central Park 4 miler and the following Saturday's Met's home run 5K thing, just to (I believe) finish my 9 qualifiers for the 2006 ING Marathon.

You see, I have goals and I realize that the long range goals may mean putting off short-term goals. I'm determined to run the New York marathon, no matter what it takes. At this point in time -- it takes PATIENCE.

July 4, 2005

...are you kidding me?

Update: runners' knees getting a little better. The PT is definitely beginning to work.

However...this weekend saw my first-ever gout attack hit on Saturday night. I got an email from Derek asking if I wanted to hang with him on his birthday, so we met at a little bar on Spring street and some other friends of his joined us. It was a pretty decent night. Throughout, though, my big toe was feeling more and more like I'd dropped something on it. Then it began to feel very bruised, maybe even broken. I excused myself and limped home wondering what the hell was up. By 1 a.m. it was so painful even the weight of my sheets hurt. Looked up "gout" and my symptoms are supremely classic. This sucks. One more thing to ask the doc about Tuesday morning, I guess. See if I can get some medication to help forestall recurrance.

Also, found out a couple of weeks ago that I won't be running ING this year...didn't get the lottery draw. This is probably a blessing, as between the summer heat/humidity, my knees healing too slowly, and now this goddamn gout, I'm getting paranoid that someone or something is conspiring to keep me out of any future races. No matter what, I HAVE to finish up two more qualifying races before the end of the summer! I will look for short 4-milers I suppose. This will get me entry into 2006's ING marathon, by which point I hope to have all these problems worked out.

Further news: I've got a hot job lead in Cincinnatti. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they call and that I at least get an interview. Could moving to a different city be in the cards this summer? And to the city I ran my first marathon in, at that? Cincinnatti is on my short list of "places I'm willing to move to". Not many towns make the cut.