October 20, 2006

I am digitally captured

At the start of the Staten Island Half:

They actually caught me with both feet off the ground! Yay!

At the downhill coming back towards the stadium:

Coming into the finish line. Don't I look heroic?

Don't know about those shorts though. Too short? Too revealing? Hm...


Other notes:
Phedippidations 67 was published yesterday. True to his email, Steve wound up the podcast with an apology concerning his untoward treatment of a certain actor. Of course, he got a bit of a last jibe in. Download the podcast and take a listen. The song at the end is hilarious.

He also mentions me earlier in the podcast, reading the race report note I sent when I posted my half-marathon time for the World Wide Half Marathon. It was neat to be mentioned.

Heh. I could totally become an attention whore. If I'm not one already. Boy, damn. This entry is just SO about ME, isn't it? Come to think of it, this whole blog is....

October 16, 2006

Interesting states of being.

First, I am grossed out.

This actually happened yesterday right after the half-marathon was over. After I'd changed and cheered for half an hour for the last runners to come in, I wandered over to the porta-potties to do my business before setting out for home. The one I chose seemed fairly clean and not over-used, but I couldn't help but notice a large amount of blood in the toilet. I mean, you know how stuff builds up inside those things so that as you approach the throne and do your visual inspection for anything too unsettling to sit upon, you rather take in everything all at once. This was, I tell you, an unusual, unsettling, and I suspect unhealthy amount of blood on the top of the pile. And it was kinda thick. Some poor runner was either crapping blood, throwing up blood, or coughing up blood - none of which are good under even the best of circumstances. And let me reiterate: it was a LOT of blood - far more than a bloody nose could possibly produce, far thicker than a bloody nose makes, too. It was horror-house style disturbing. I sure as hell hope that runner sought medical help, though I was not witness to any ambulances leaving in an emergency yesterday. Talk about an image that stays with ya...

Second, I am a philosophizer.

During physical therapy today, one of the other runners and I got to chatting. She'd done her 20-miler this weekend and is now tapering for the marathon. This will be her first and she's curious about the route. I told her that while I haven't run it, I have several friends who have and I've run many parts of the route myself. She had some trepidations about the 59th street bridge. I said that it seems like the 59th Street Bridge - for this marathon - stands as a symbol of the wall. It is, to borrow from an old joke, the Crowbar. The Crowbar? she asked. Yes, for it separates the men from the boys. She looked puzzled and I think she's never heard the old joke. It's the part of the run, I said, that (in my friend Christa's own words) separates the real athletes from the recreational runners, for the recreational ones will most often walk that bridge. She looked a little worried. But, I said, it's also well-known that a huge amount of the NY Marathon runners are first-timers and undertrained. They aren't prepared for that bridge because a) they're hitting it at the point that matches their longest training run and b) they've never gone over it before. I encourage her to find some time and go out and run over it a couple of times. It isn't a pleasant pedestrian walkway, but it gives you respect for the length and slope of the thing. It is not, however, the longest or steepest hill in the world, or even of all the local races. Get familiar with it, I suggested, then when you hit the bridge, put your eyes to the horizon, put yourself into first gear and chug up it. Then it's over and you're running down into a wall of sound so immense it's like nothing you've experienced before.

Yes, I said all this and I haven't yet run it myself. I was parroting back all I've heard about that portion of the run from other people and believe I gave her a realistic view of the bridge and some good advice. She is one of the smart runners: her training has been good and she is very ready for this race. I think she'll do fine. At least, I hope so: she's really cute. :)

Third, I am intrusive.

Steve Walker, the New England podcaster who produces Phedippidations under the pen-name (pod-name?) Steve Runner, has interjected a couple of odd diatribes into his podcasts recently. His podcast is ABOUT "rambling diatribes" as he says, but this one was different. While I am used to hearing long one-sided discussions one the various facets of running and on the nature of independent v. mainstream media (Steve was once a radio DJ), he has recently gone off on a tangent to his core subject matter and begun belittling Tom Cruise. I grant that there are few worthier targets for belittlement and ridicule than Mr. Cruise lately. But what bothered me was not the target or the content, but the circumstances under which Steve heaped abuse on the actor. It kind of comes in out of left field and contributes nothing to the topic at hand. These diversions yanked me completely out of the headspace of the podcast itself and were, I felt, a less than worthy contribution to the canon of focused, quality work Steve has recorded and offered to his listeners.

So I wrote to him:

"Steve, I warmed up for today's half-marathon (Staten Island Half/NYRR) and cooled down after by listening to episode 66. I noticed something that bothered me: your pounding of Tom Cruise. And this wasn't the first time, either.

Now, I grant that Tom Cruise isn't the favorite son of the public right now, nor do I think he's fully 'all there,' but whether deserving of your enmity or not, you should not give it. There are two solid reasons that I can see that you should perhaps leave the subject for good: first, regardless of his standing as a fantastic example of what not to do, Mr. Cruise has nothing to do with running. Your commenting on him is far more Opie & Anthony than Phedippidations, more Howard Stern than Steve Runner. It is a favorite whipping boy of commercial punditry, and therefore should be above the more refined attentions of the independent media. Second, I personally expect more from you, from Steve Walker. Slamming Tom Cruise doesn't so much belittle him as it demeans yourself. I have come to respect your wit, intelligence, and charisma, Steve, and it grieves me that you would bend to this level even to such a minute degree.

You certainly have the right to your opinion and to air it on your podcast; I'd never dream of anything like asking you to censor yourself. I only ask that you consider what image your adoring listeners have of you and the cognitive dissonance your harping on an actor sets up in us.

Looking forward to ep 67,
Cris Dopher, WWHM runner 440"

I was surprised to find that Steve responded fairly soon:


You're absolutely right. I can't disagree with any of your points (except
for the "adoring" part...me? adored? Nahhh...not possible!).

I have no good excuse for the comment about Tom Cruise, in fact I remember
the first time I mentioned his name; and I regretted it as I do now.

Personally, I do not like Tom Cruise for many reasons; but you're absolutely
right: my dislike for him has nothing to do with running, and it's not fair
of me to put him "down" without any chance for him to defend himself.

Bottom line is: you're right, my mentioning his name only further supports
his cause (not that I believe that there are all that many listeners out
there downloading my goofy show...but a wise man once said that even "bad"
publicity is a good thing). I agree with you, by mentioning his name (or
any others that I have a disdain for) I only give them credit at my expense.

I apologize Cris, you're right and I'll try not to do it again.

It's funny, but a few weeks ago I was having a beer with a friend of mine
who is a well known talk show host on the radio in the Boston market, and he
surprised me when he told me that he had downloaded a few of my PodCasts and
liked them a lot. "Be careful what you say" he told me "it's too easy to
offend someone if you're not careful".

I was surprised that he gave me that advice, and I told him that I didn't
think he understood the whole "podcasting" thing...but he got more specific
with me. He basically said that he was lucky enough to have a general
manager, a program director, and two producers of his show (one to answer
the phones and the other to "run the board" in the studio), they "watch out
of him" during every show...but his point was that I was doing it all by
myself, and he thought that was an easy way to "blow it" with my audience.

Cris, I guess I just don't think of myself as having an "audience", it's
really hard for me to accept that idea: I know fellow runners are listening,
but I think of it as having group of peers downloading my "audio blog" and
listening when they have time.

You raise some excellent points that I need to keep reminding myself of. I
ran into the same problem when I offended some runners by quoting from the
bible (in a purely secular way, in my opinion...but some took it as an
expression of my religious background).

Sorry for the rambling diatribe, but I wanted you to know that I appreciated
your email and "heads up". I was way out of line, and I feel bad about it.

Thanks Cris.
- Steve"

I hadn't expected such an apologetic response. If anything, something along the lines of "huh, you might have a point there, thanks" would have been acknowledgement enough. I wrote again, summarizing with:

"Well... it points up one thing about your podcast that AIN'T what radio IS: sanitized. I'd rather oddities like this came through than to be fed the same drivel I can get on drive-time morning radio, you know? Heck, if I didn't want the variety and rough edges podcasters offer, I woudn't also be listending to Dawn & Drew and to Coverville. Forget it, move forward. You have a marathon in DC to concentrate on. Just keep feeding us addicted listeners the good stuff."

And once again Steve wrote back, and by this time our conversation has been veering off into other related subjects. Steve shared a first draft of the outro for his next episode where he takes note of the misstep and then he encouraged me to go ahead and break ground on my own podcast, which I've been considering doing (concerning CAD software - nothing to do with running, sorry guys.) He pointed out WHY he keeps saying he believes he's got "only 10 listeners." It isn't that he actually believes that, but that he believes that's the core value of a podcast. If you reach just 10 people who gain something from your podcast, then you've truly managed a feat and done your job. Even at that level, advertisers start to take interest, and word of mouth starts to spread. It's interesting that Steve is so focused on the 10 person level when he has several thousand regular listeners.

Anyway, if you haven't had a chance to catch Steve's podcast yet, I highly recommend it. You can download it or sign up for the RSS feed at steverunner.com

Last note: residual soreness in left knee and left ankle today, particularly after the physical therapy. In this, I feel strength as well as weakness. Sore, maybe injured, today; stronger tomorrow. My body is beginning to feel the promise of an ability to run through 26.2 miles. Had I felt this way four weeks ago, I'd be 100% in the NYM. But I'm glad it's happening now, because at least it's happening. I am going to truly be trained up and rarin' to go come the end of January.

October 15, 2006

Longest. Thirteen miles. Ever. [Staten Island Half Marathon]

No, not in terms of time - that would be the miserable Manhattan Half from mid-last-winter, 'member? No, this longest-ever was in perceived distance. Something about my internal odometer was seriously out-of-whack today because, I swear, this half-marathon felt longer than the 18 miles last weekend. Same route as last year, same weather even, but shit, it felt longer. (The big scary hill, however, was a lot shorter than I remembered.)

So. Today was the Staten Island Half Marathon, which wraps up this year's grand-prix. Only a couple of months of downtime before the next grand prix begins, presumably, in January with the next Manhattan Half. For some of us, that half-marathon will end up as a training run for another race entirely.

I managed to extract my bike from my front stoop area yesterday to go cover a veterans parade & party in Bay Ridge. So I was able to drive out to Staten Island this morning for the race. I left a little later than last year, as waiting 2 1/2 hours for the race to start wasn't something I wanted to repeat. Things have gotten chilly the last couple of days and my ride to the parking area was cold. Damn cold. Didn't havy my electrics, didn't have pants liners, was wearing summerweight perforated leather gloves, no windhsield, no handshields...yah, it was a cold ride. On the upside, I discovered how well my heated grips work. Nice and toasty.

Oh, yeah, back to the race. Well, I got smart this year and brought a disposable poncho so I could keep warm after I changed out of my riding clothes and into running clothes. Worked well and I got a lot of envious looks. I managed a one-mile warmup jog whilst searching for coffee. Had PLENTY of time to drink the coffee, chat with people, stretch a bit, get jazzed for the race...lose my jazz...9:30 is too late for a half-marathon race.

Surprisingly, the first three miles DIDN'T suck, as they normally do. My lungs were what they were and stayed in one mode the entire race - so coughing and whatnot was predictable and manageable. My legs came to the party ready to roll and even though they didn't appreciate actually starting to work, they worked well from the start and really got into it about mile 5. (It was that mile marker, though, that told me how off my internal distance counter was, as I thought we were coming up on six miles.) I didn't have a terrible lot of energy, but that might have been because I missed my regular yogurt breakfast and instead had a Hammer nutrition bar - which isn't meant to BE a powerbar thing.

Energy or not, the race went reasonably well and I ran it quite solidly. There were only three moments of walking: one due to a hellacious coughing fit I couldn't run through, one due to the one giant hill on the route, and one - at mile three or so - where I simply had to discard my outer shirt. (It was the race shirt, but that and the long-sleeve tech-t I was wearing were too much together at that point. I literally ripped my bib off my chest, stuffed it in my pocket, and skinned the shirt off over my head. Shortly thereafter, when passing a stretch of road I knew I'd be driving after the race, I tossed my shirt off to the side. If it disappeared, too bad. If not, maybe I could retrieve it.)

For a couple of miles, the route does a flat out-and-back, during which one gets to pass all the runners who are before you and all the runners who are after you. I saw not one person I recognized, though I'd chatted with some friends before the race. I wondered where they went. And it was a real wake-up call concerning long, flat races (and make no mistake - Staten Island IS a fairly flat race.) Flat is boring. I may not be able to tackle giant hills right now, but bunny hills and some curves generally liven things up, you know? I think training for Phoenix** is going to be as much about mental prep against boredom as anything else.

So the race went. Had a few moments of real slowdown due to coughing, but not energy-depletion. My Gel-Bot watter bottle did a fine job, though once again I wish it held more gel. I did another smart thing and brought Enduralytes with me this time. I got a warning twinge in the left calf at mile 5 and within a mile had fished out my Enduralytes and downed one. No more problems with THAT the rest of the race.

I didn't set a PR with this one, nor did I imagine I would. It wasn't even remotely possible. But I ran a respectable race. I believe I ran negative splits - I KNOW the last mile was my fastest. There was one girl who, after about mile six, just kept passing me. It became my challenge, coughing or not, to keep her in sight. And I also wanted to beat her to the finish line. I didn't know what that would take. In miles ten and eleven she put some distance between us and I wondered if I could catch her. From marker 12 onward, I really pushed my pace as best my lungs would allow. I eventually caught and passed the girl and kept the lead. In fact, I passed a lot of people in that last 1.1 miles! I feel really good about the whole end of the race.

Later, as I was going to get Recoverite, I recognized the girl by her t-shirt. I stopped her and said, "I don't mean to intrude, but I want you to know that YOU were the person I had to beat today. I've got a bit of a lung infection and every time I coughed, I'd see you go blazing by me, so I had to make you the rabbit." She grinned and exploded with a "Son of a bitch! You kept passing me out of nowhere and I was so determined to put you behind me!" I had been the person she was trying to beat. I didn't beat her by much, I assure you. I suspect the Brightroom photos will show her on my heels. Somehow, I think we spurred each other to a better race than otherwise.

Net time: 2:15:20. This is my third-best half-marathon time, and marks the third weekend of this distance or greater in a row - with decreasing times each weekend! Sweet. This also marks my 30th road race, in somewhat less than two years. (Going back to look up my first run, it was mid-November 2004. And the blog entries discussing it make it clear that I am, despite my perceived running problems, still in far better shape and ability than I was back then.)

Chatted with Mercury Master Christa before the race. She finished the marathon in her hometown in Germany in 3rd place for her age division and this was her first race back in the States. I lost track of her during the race and was convinced she'd outpaced me to the end, but saw her coming it just a few minutes behind me. I cheered as she passed, of course. Her time was a very respectable 2:21. I also had a chance to chat with James Lu, the bells guy. I pointed out that I beat him in the last race (the 18-miler) and he acknowledged that, but promised THIS race he would PR. He was thinking maybe a 2:05, which knocks my socks off, since I regularly come in just ahead of him in races - but then he's in better training than I am right now. And you know, he came in just seconds over a 2:04! Holy Shit! I am deeply impressed. Not bad for a 68 year old man, huh?

So. Good race, not great. As much as I just wanted it to be over, I am already looking forward to re-routing my long runs along the bay here in Brooklyn and putting in a 20-miler. I have a flat route from my house to the Verrazano Bridge and back that is almost exactly 10 miles. I'm going to obtain an extra gel-bot and a waist pouch to hold it and see if I can push my training into ready-for-marathon state. I MIGHT race once or twice more this year if something is convenient and fun, but I'm not planning anything right now.

**By the way, after talking with my sports doc and a few other people, I have decided that my goal race now is definitely Phoenix, the flat-and-fast music marathon. I'm told the American marathon record was set on that course. I am a teeny bit concerned about going from a new york winter to Phoenix winter racing, but perhaps some treadmill runs in a gym during the taper will take care of heat-conditioning.

October 10, 2006

recovery run and an explanation

Yesterday morning, I put in a couple of miles of recovery run. Nothing fancy, just a straight, flat, slow jog down the bike path of Central Park West to my sports therapist's office. But boy did it hurt. Though my legs felt fine Sunday afternoon, they let me know for sure yesterday morning that I'd overdone it. I thought a short jog would help... The pain was all ankles and lower shins stuff, not the knees, so I'm thankful for that. But geez... Two more short runs planned for this week, then the Staten Island Half. Yes, I'm going to go out and do it, of course, rain or shine. Can't let this unseasonably warm weather go to waste, you know.

I feel I should explain my decision to postpone the New York City marathon. I don't OWE anyone an explanation and I want to make that clear, but while I'm touched that you guys believe in me enough to encourage me to go anyhow, I want to try to shed some light on my thought processes.

The big goal here, as it's been since finishing Cincinnati, is to RUN my next marathon. I want to toe the starting line of my next one having completed a good training program, a couple 20-milers under my belt with at least one being solid, continuous, worthy training, and with my the belief - the knowledge - that my legs can carry me through a continuous 26.2 miles of running. THAT is the goal. The fact of New York being here and now is incidental to the grand plan. Six months ago, it worked into the timing. Now, it looks like Phoenix or Disney might be the race that times out better.

Shunning the start line is not a cop-out. When I consider how badly my training has gone - the missed runs, the shortened runs, the runs that were half walking - it becomes clear that I was actually better trained for Cincinnati than I am now. (Go back and read the last several months' worth of entries, you'll see what I mean.) Sure, I have experience on my side, now - but experience isn't quite enough. I need MUCH more solid training. I need a better base - and I know all of you can agree with that one - and I should probably add in core exercises, too.

I am also considering injury. It is a common theme with me, unfortunately, but I have to consider something other runners don't: I can't afford a sidelining injury, which is what I'd be risking if I did a marathon now. Cincinnati sidelined me for weeks; it was months before I ran without pain again and for any real distance. My lungs need me to stay on my feet and keep pounding out runs; to do that, my legs needs to be able to take me to the streets. I can't afford to come back from the marathon so injured I can't run for a month - my lungs would go downhill fast.

But let's take lungs out of the picture for a moment. My training has been a litany of leg problems since the start, some of which are only starting to get worked out now. My orthotics are finally adjusted right and the sports therapy is beginning to work - but I have to give it a chance and give my legs a chance to heal and get stronger. My most honest evaluation of the picture is this: if I run the NY Marathon, I am definitely risking serious injury right now, moreso than the majority of runners.

(Lungs are part of the training picture of course, but not as much as you'd think. If all that were wrong right now were that I'm struggling on hills and walking most of them, I'd do the marathon. Given a certain minimum level of lung function, I'll go. I can't fully control that element and I accept that. I'd like them to be in tip-top shape, but I won't hold my breath, if you'll forgive the joke.)

Take that risk assessment and pair it with my motivation to run the marathon, that it isn't about doing my first marathon, it isn't about doing a marathon, it's about doing it right at the right time. It adds up to this: I'm not ready for THIS marathon. I will soon be ready for A marathon. When I initiallly came to this realization, I didn't feel bummed about it and I hope my readers aren't either; this was a moment of wake-up, a moment of the smart. Ironically, the knowledge that I'm not running the race is making training easier right now; my goals can be more modest and in-line with what my legs need and I can take a step back and get my base built better. I feel it takes the bigger man to say, "I am truly not prepared for this race; I'll do it next year," than it does to say, "damn the torpedos, full steam ahead."

In short, my decision is a tactical one. It is better to retreat and regroup right now than risk everything in a suicide charge.

Will there be regrets when I'm out November 5th as a volunteer worker in Central Park? Maybe; but those will evaporate when I witness the six-hour-plus finishers limping across the finish line. I was there once, and I don't want to be there again. That's not running, that's surviving, and my running has to be about so much more than that. I must start my next marathon knowing I have the best chance at triumph, not wondering how much of it I'll have to walk or even if I'll DNF.

That was a fairly long explanation. Sorry about that. But I hope now that my supporters will realize where I'm coming from and that I'll have your support in the upcoming months of training as I prepare to RUN a marathon.

October 8, 2006

I am tuned up

Huh. That's funny. My legs don't hurt.

And they should - I put in 18 miles today, first time for THAT since the Cincinnati Marathon 18 months ago. And you know what? It wasn't too bad.

This was not a single race for me, this was a dual: I not only ran the 18 mile NYRR ING Marathon Tune-up, but used the first 13.1 to run the Phedippidations First Annual World Wide Half-Marathon.

This was an OK run today, at times it was even good. I did my usual pre-race routine and had zero jitters or nervousness about tackling this mileage. I also had no self-delusions: I knew I wasn't going to run every single mile of this run, and I wasn't racing it, either. As I posted before, my only goal was to finish it on time and notch up a qualifier. In fact, knowing my lungs aren't in top shape, nor my legs, I did two things to help me through. One, I took Tylenol 8-hour when I got to the park, about half-hour before the race. Two, I made a deal with my lungs: they could have the significant uphills (seems to be four of them on the park loop), but the downhills, flats, and minor uphills belonged to my legs. Me, as a psyche, I stood only as an intermediary amongst my body parts today, I'm afraid. My brain was pretty much just along for the ride.

I turned on my tunes, too, for the first time in months. I think it helped at times.

I was surprised right off the bat at how strong my legs ran. Sure, the first three miles sucked, they always do, but it was about getting my body to get used to work, not about getting my legs to actually run. I was doing ten-minute-miles right off the line and able to hold the pace. I did NOT try to conquer the hills. Though I made it up the harlem hill the first time, the rest of the time I'd walk the hill before coughing fits forced me to slow. (I had tons of coughing anyhow for the first two loops.) All the rest of the time, my legs ran well and without pain. I only had some minor ankle pain showing up in the last (third) loop of the park.

I used the first 13.1 miles to run the World Wide Half. I didn't intend to race it, but I had lined up with the 10-minute milers by mistake (instead of at the back) and ended up running the half pretty well. Despite walking the hills, I turned in my third-best Half time ever, a 2:19:30. Seven minutes slower than the NYC Half, but 11 minutes faster than last weekend.

I'd made the decision early to allow myself to walk the rest of the race after the 13.1 miles were done - but didn't do so. I continued to walk hills as needed and run the rest. Only after mile 15 things got dicey. I simultaneously ran out of powersnot and HEED, even though I'd been drinking a little water every five miles to stretch the HEED. I dumped two cups of Gatorade and one cup of water into my bottle and continued on. A woman offered me her last gel, bless her heart, but I assured her I had a backup plan: I'd brought the Sharkies with me! (Sharkies product review: nasty taste, but certainly helped keep up my energy.)

Unfortunately, I was also beginning to suffer from electrolyte depeletion. Given my salt-laden CF sweat, HEED is not enough - and I had left my Endurolytes in my race bag. I never realized how much I'd sweated out on the course, either... about 50 yards before the mile 17 marker, I picked it up to a run again after a hill - and was hit bad with cattle-prod like jolts in the calves - uh oh. Well, I know this warning sign and immediately decided my run was done for the day. I was NOT going to risk debilitating charley horses for a training run! So I turned the iPod to the latest Phedippidations podcast - a complilation of user-submitted encouragement and cheering meant to be listened to during the run - and looked around at the beautiful day and strolled on toward the finish line. I did pick it up to a jog a couple of times in the last mile, but not without more warning twinges, so I took it very very easy. I finished the 18 miles in 3:21:46, less than 20 minutes behind my disastrous Manhattan Half time from last January. Very interesting.

James Lu, the elderly "bells guy" who comes to all these races and usually kicks my ass, was well ahead of me but within sight for most of the race. somewhere, and I can't remember when, I must have passed him, as he crossed the line behind me, according to the NYRR results page. He has been having some really good runs lately; pretty awesome for a 68 year old. I did not see my friend Crista, the Mercury Master (she's center in the white shirt in the photo), but I did pass FlyGirl before the race on my way to drop my bag. She was already running - what a glutton for punishment! ;)

So, I had a chance to think about where my running is going from here. I know only one thing for sure: I'm cancelling out of the Marathon. Yes, I'm sure I could survive the race and even PR...but that's not what I want to do. I want to RUN the race - and neither my legs nor lungs are ready for that challenge. TODAY was my marathon.

I will skip Staten Island, too, if the weather is crap - I've no interest in repeating the events of last weekend - running is supposed to be lifting and energizing, not torture. But if the weather is decent, I guess I'll go out and top off my running season with the best effort I can give it. I don't expect to PR, but perhaps I can pull off a 2:10:00. I am split between two alternatives now: pull back on the mileage and concentrate on my week point - frequency of runs - and add some real speed work and target a February or March 10K to nail....or add to frequency as well as increasing weekend long runs in prep for a flat marathon late winter or early spring, such as Phoenix in January. One thing is for sure: base mileage MUST get better.

Other notes:
-Coughing eased off after the first ten miles today. Coughing fits not as bad as last weekend and I'm bringing more up, which is actually good. It's real thick, though, and that means I'm not hydrated enough. Didn't slime myself or anybody else though, just the road!
-Stretching afterwards was easy, lazy, slow, and wonderful. Found some steps and put my toes up on the edge and let my heels hang down for the calf stretches - and nearly passed out from pleasure. Never has a stretch felt better!
-GelBot combination bottle. This water bottle holds a little less than other bottles its size for two reasons: one the design is indented, making it easier to grip while running, and two: it has an inset gel flask taking up some volume. The flask is hydraulic-cylinder-style, so that with the top closed, you squeeze and force the plunger in the bottom of the flask up, via hydraulic pressure from the surrounding fluid of choice. You get about three decent-sized shots and you're done - not quite enough for an 18-miler. GREAT for a half-marathon. For a marathon, I will need two of these. The whole thing works pretty well, I must say, and I really like not having to carry the powersnot separately. Frees up room in the pocket for bad little Sharkies - or Endurolytes in future runs.
-It was too fucking warm. I couldn't believe how hot I felt the whole first lap. Considered ditching the shirt, but...well, other runners don't deserve to be subjected to my ugly bod.
-You know how I knew, leaving the house, that this was going to be a decent run? I'd finally found my regular blue-mirror running glasses. With those things on, I can tackle anything.
-Listened to October 1's Phedippidations after the race, on the way home. Laughed out loud when Steve Runner mentioned that as he records the podcast, 440 runners are now signed up for the World Wide Half. *I* was that 440th runner! He must have recorded not more than a couple hours after I signed up. And I signed up from onboard the MS Oosterdam while cruising Alaskan waters... what neat circumstance.
-And, yes, I did print out my very own World Wide Half bib with my number 440 and the race logo and pinned it to my back, while the Tune-up bib was on my front.
-At home, I ice-bathed. Yow! Gotta get used to that. Then I napped like the dead.

October 6, 2006

I am discouraged

Everything piled in on me this morning and I was completely depressed. I got to physical therapy about 10 minutes late and that's something their schedule can't afford. Amy, the therapist, didn't ride my case though, I appreciated that. I told her my legs hurt, even just waking up in the morning. At one point, I described how discouraged I'm feeling lately. The legs, the lungs, the marathon, the work situation, all of it. She reminded me, in not so few words, to have patience.

I will be cancelling out of the marathon. After making that decision, a weight lifted from me, but that doesn't release me from my running obligations. I think I will go ahead and tackle the long training run this weekend, just to get out there, you know, and if I DNF, then I DNF. My goal, actually, is not 18 miles, but 14. I am running the Pheddipidations World Wide Half Marathon and the long training run happens to match up on the weekend needed. So why not go out and get in some kind of long run with water tables, Gatorade, and bagels and stuff after? I paid for it, I might as well take advantage of it. The only thing that would bother me is if I truly don't finish the race and I end up with a DNF on my record. (Yes, the long training run is run as a race, winners and everything, chips and all.) There's a four hour time limit. Given my race time last weekend, I think I could run the half-marathon distance and then, if I wish, walk the final five miles and still notch up the qualifier, so I'm not worried. And I might be lucky and my legs will show up and my lungs will cooperate....

No matter what, I am looking forward to the Staten Island Half. That will be my last race for the season, I think, and probably for the calendar year.

So... last actual run: Wednesday before PT appointment. 3.4 miles; not great, not bad. Minimal walking due to coughing, steady pace the rest of the time, even though my legs were in pain. Pain started to recede at the magical 3-mile point again. Predictable.

Here's a pic of me in the Grete's Great Gallop. Woof. Who's that sad-looking dog running in the rain? Actually, I don't look so bad. The girl behind me, who looks so miserable, is about how I was feeling. And you'll see in the finish line pic the woman in red that I outpaced at the end - I didn't realize she was that far behind me. :)

October 2, 2006

To help other people at all times

On my honor, I will do my best
to do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
to help other people at all times,
to keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

So we're back, and we're talking about the fourth line of the Scout Oath: "to help other people at all times."

This is one of the more difficult tenets of the Oath to uphold. Oh, I want to help other people all the time but often get myself into trouble being too helpful, sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong. Despite getting burned now and then, it's a wheezer being able to do something nice for someone, even if they'll never know. It boils down to "do a good dead daily" and all that crap.

"But it isn't crap!" I hear you protesting, "And it's offensive to imply that acting on a generosity of spirit is equivalent to being a goodie-twoshoes or wasting one's time."

Well, but it is crap. Just how helpful are we really? Compared to the communities of old, in which neighbor helped neighbor - depended on neighbor, really - our modern communities are closed in boxes of isolation (admittedly, a rather New York view of things, but one which I hold is still true everywhere to varying degrees.)

It is difficult to be helpful at all times. Besides getting hostile reactions, one risks outright assault or litigation. Conventional wisdom in self-defence circles will have you shout "Fire!" instead of "Help!" if you're being assaulted - because no one responds to "help!" anymore. They don't want to get involved. They're afraid of being duped.

And, too, the people you want to hep make it difficult, too. People are damned independent these days, used to paying for everything and accepting no free help; they are suspicious of free help. Communities don't raise barns these days, contractors do. Strangers will also rebuff offers of help even if they clearly need it. Unless you're in a uniform, you can't be trusted. (Another tip from self-defence courses: always check a uniformed person's ID; you can guess why. Professional helpers are a group I often wonder about and would like to join, but have no idea how. EMTs, firefighters, police, and the like are often held up as heros even when the facts reveal there is more meanness and corruption in their ranks than genuine boy scouts.) Many homeless are in this category, being people who need help but don't want it. Then there are the types who overwhelm one with cries for help. One or two beggars a week I can give some coins to; a dozen a day and nobody gets my spare change.

So what to do? I believe my countrymen are basically good people and would like to help if just shown the way and are given motivation. This is what organized help groups are for. Everything from AA to ASPCA to Red Cross and Kitty Kind. Given an organization, it becomes easier to work for them if you can spare the time, give money to them, and even accept help from them.

What can I do? What can we, as runners, do? Running is necessarily a pretty selfish activity. It takes all one's energy and leaves little time left for volunteering anywhere. But some runs are organized just to raise money for a cause, such as the CF Ghosts and Goblins run I did last year about this time. (I've noticed something: the big runs don't benefit anybody. In fact, they need sponsors in order to get mounted.) But the little runs are organized by people with a cause and the participants pay a respectable chunk of change for a minimally organized and supported race - in order that the extra funds can go to the charity or foundation. This is good. This is perhaps why I like those 4 mile fun runs so much - the positive energy is better. It isn't about competition, it's about having a nice jog and raising a little bit of money in the process. If we're lucky, we get to listen to a good band and munch on donated sample-size energy bars, too.

My good deeds daily aren't worth reporting. Even my bigger, more shining moments are best kept on the DL. It is more noble, maybe, to vanish into obscurity than prompt the spotlight for attention after committing an act of unspeakable kindness. It isn't hard, of course, to do good deeds: shovel my elderly neighbor's sidewalk, reign in wayward trashcans, etc. Even keeping my own front stoop clean is helping my neighbors: it makes them proud of their neighborhood and strengthens all our bonds.

But this isn't "helping other people at all times." To do that, I would have to NOT turn away from any opportunity to help. And that, as I've illustrated, is tremendously difficult; it is more than a mere New Yorker can manage.

I think I have written before on the "everybody is sick" topic, and a similar foundational belief I hold is that everybody needs help. Everybody needs help. To some degree, I'll say it again, Everybody. Needs. Help. Given the sheer mass of help-needs out there, it becomes overwhelming. I, we, cannot help everyone, so we help no-one. Does that make sense? The point is, I think, that to truly be human, we have to reach out and help someone, even if that means just joining up on charity 4-milers or throwing our spare change into the cans on convenience store counter tops. Why be stingy?

And that's what the Oath is about. Don't be a stingy bastard, and on a regular bases, get off your butt, get motivated, and go out and actively help someone who needs it. How does it apply to me, as a single man slogging his way through a run in the park at 5 a.m.? I think it has to do with this: I can't help others if I haven't helped myself first. I can't encourage that guy to be fit if I haven't achieved it myself. I can't prod a flagging buddy through a race until I've been there myself. I can't volunteer my time or money 'til my basic needs - shelter, food, health - are taken care of first, because without those things, I'm no help at all.

To close, I just want to note that I am one of the core volunteers for the Expo this year and, if next Sunday's run does not go well, will also be out volunteering on race day. This is all I can give back to the running community. And by the way, if you're one of the many people who got the misprinted handbook, replacements are available.

Congratulations Steve!

I want to let all of my regular readers know that one of my readers and fellow lung-impaired athlete, Steve Waxler of San Francisco, managed to complete the Portland Marathon yesterday!!!

This is a HUGE deal. Steve suffers from severe and persistent asthma, and I think COPD, too. His lung function is often worse than mine and in fact he recently had an episode that landed him in the hospital for a few days. Yet he bounced back enough to take on a full marathon and perservered and crossed the finish line. This was his first marathon.

So stop on by Steve's blog at http://baycitywalker.blogspot.com/. He doesn't have a race report up just yet, but you can read bout his pre-race jitters. :) Also, be sure to leave him a note of congrats; if anybody I've ever known deserves a pat on the back and a free beer for this accompllishment, it's he.

October 1, 2006

Grete's Ghastly Gallup, or Brooklyn Gets His Wish

I wish I could avoid this entry altogether, but I have to blog the run so I might as well get it out of the way.

Remember this post, wherein I yearned for a grungier, dirtier, sweatier running community? One not characterized by air conditioning and slickly designed flagship stores? Well, I got my wish and then some! (Watch what you wish for, you just might get it, right?)

Following the last exhausting two weeks, I found myself incredibly tired. Friday night I slept for ten hours, waking only briefly when it was time to get up and go run the Fifth Avenue Mile, only to decide that three hours of sleep was not enough. I turned off the alarm and slept 'til 1 in the afternoon. I was awake eight hours and then went back to bed. I got another eight hours of sleep last night and woke up early so as to go run Grete's Great Gallop, the Norwegian Festival's half-marathon. Only it didn't take too long before I heard rain pitter-pattering on my air conditioner. I actually stood on my stoop as the rain came down and decided I was not going. I don't relish running in the rain; it's hateful and not worth it.

So I went back to bed. For five minutes. Then I didn't hear the rain sounds on the AC anymore and decided that perhaps I really should go. So I gathered my stuff (again) and headed out. Grabbed a coffee on the way and read some of Jasper Fforde's Lost In A Good Book during the train ride. I arrived in plenty of time to pick up my number and stash my gear. And to stand around in the rain for twenty minutes waiting for the race to start. I had taken off my extra clothes and was now ready to "run" but was getting wetter and wetter by the minute.

By the time the race started, most of us were pretty much soaked through. I felt a little better, since I wasn't the only one who was miserable, and I met a pretty girl who, as it turns out, had sprained her ankle two miles into August's NYC Half. I hope this race went better for her.

As for me, it was one of the most miserable fucking runs I've ever had. I shouldn't have done this race, that's clear. I won't go into all the details, but will summarize by saying that my lungs weren't functioning well - way too much coughing andit kept slowing me to a walk. But the maddening thing was that I wasn't bringing anything up! The humidity was high, so that might have been the real problem with the lungs.

But the legs also weren't ready for this. I have become de-trained I think. The first seven miles were OK, but then I started to get really tight, growing worse with every coughing fit. I wound up walking much of the second loop of the park and was in rather a lot of pain, though nowhere near as much as in Nashville. The hills of the park defeated me and I walked all of the big ones. Toward the end, even the flat parts were getting me and I couldn't run more than a quarter mile at a time. (Lungs)

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the end was in sight. I was jogging again and about a tenth of a mile from the finish line, saw a red blur in my peripheral vision - somebody was about to overtake me. Surprising even myself, since I didn't think I had anything left, I picked up the pace to a good 5K clip and kept her from passing me until the finish line. That bit actually felt good and now I wonder had I picked up the pace earlier, maybe about mile 10, could I have avoided the trial of the last three miles and just let my legs carry me?

Total time: 2:31:31. Second worse half-marathon ever, though not by much. I should qualify the pain, though: while I did limp to the subway and have some giant blisters from the wet socks, a good hot soak, shower, and nap really helped and my walk to the grocery this afternoon was quite pleasant with no pain. So...who knows?

I'm going to go ahead and run the 18-miler next weekend, hoping for better weather and better lungs. I hope it goes well - well enough to tack on an extra two to total twenty. At this point, my chances of starting the marathon November 5th are under 50% and dropping fast. If next weekend goes very well, perhaps that'll upgrade to 70% or so. But the run will have to go extremely well, or else I'm just going to admit that my training is not adequate for a marathon and will take a pass on this year.

Another blogger pointed out this article at Slate.com. I left a message on their message board regarding the article, saying simply: "Gabriel, you are an asshole. Die in a fire." Worse, it seems this dickhead is a member of NYRR. He should have his membership revoked.

Okay, enough negativism for the night. I'm going to eat my sushi and go to bed, hopefuly for another full eight hours.