December 27, 2006

'Tis the season...for re-gifting

Steve sent me this link and now I'm passing it on to you. Barry Manilow to sing in Portland for Cystic Fibrosis. Portland-area readers, I guess you know what do do - go buy tickets!

Been a bad week of running. A week ago, I had a doctor's appointment with my sports doc. I mentioned that I had some shin splints, but of a moderate level. He adjusted my orthotics by gluing more foam on the bottom, to tilt my foot and get my knees aligned. While I can't argue with the effect on my knees - no pain there - the last three runs have been full of shin splint pain, pretty bad - and so those runs have been short. I need to suck it up and see if I can run past the pain, at least once. I have to do calf-stretches like crazy, of course, as well as my foam rolling and other exercises. This is all getting to be quite a drag. I went back to the doc today to say things are getting worse not better, and he added MORE foam. Well, I guess I'll try a run tomorrow morning. I'm really intending a full six-mile Prospect Park run; but we'll see. If I can't get past these shin splints... what's going to happen January 14th?

I have spent much of Christmas break sorting through medical statements and trying to get any medical bills settled before the New Year. I still have two providers to go - thick folders of endless paper to sort out. It was in frustration at one of these providers (who is essentially billing me four times what I owe), that yesterday, for I think the first time ever, I went out for a couple miles jog solely to work off the stress. Sure, I had shin splints again and wasn't surprised, though it took almost a mile for them to show up. Maybe the stretching is starting to help.

Anyway, my annoyance at the confusing billing practices and the confusing statements from my insurance is still high...but I'm getting a handle on it all and at least the first place called back today to say they'd "settle" for what I claim I owe (v. what THEY claim I owe.) I call that a victory.

Quick reminder: shin splints or no, I'm going to run the Houston half-marathon, raising money for Team Boomer. I'll take a handful of Tylenol and just do it. I don't think I'll set a PR, but I am hoping for a second-best. The amount I've raised so far is pretty good (and is more than what shows in the ChipIn widget in the upper-right corner), thanks to donations sent in directly, but I still have a long way to go. Won't you chip in before the New Year? Thanks!

December 24, 2006

A week of downtime let's me get a lot done, and this is what I have discovered....

I have way too many t-shirts. Despite only 34 road races under my belt, I have just shy of 50 running-related shirts -- and that's only a little more than half of my t-shirt collection. Time to make some bike rags.

December 23, 2006

I am Ebenezer

So last night, I was visited by these three ghosts, see.... Just kidding. This post has to do with the holiday phenomena, and with the spirit of giving.

As the story goes, Ebenezer Scrooge was a miserable man, happy only when walled in behind his money away from other people. The money isn't the important part of the story - its the generosity of spirit that Scrooge lacked, not just fiscal generosity. Ebenezer didn't decorate his place for the holidays; Ebenezer didn't go holiday shopping and buy gifts for his friends and family, no not even on the internet. Ebenezer didn't stock up on spiced cider or make snowmen or even appreciate the smell of fresh-cut evergreen trees waiting to be decorated. Ebenezer didn't even get outside for a quick stroll through a snow-filled park.

Well, consider me a bit of a Scrooge, then. I have not put up a tree, which for a Jew is not surprise, but is actually becoming rarer in this age where even Jewish families put up Christmas decorations. I have not laced my front railings with evergreen boughs, ribbons, and lights. I have not even unboxed the wrapped gifts waiting for me to open on Christmas. (Yeah, I know it's weird - I lit my tiny menorah that only holds birthday candles yet I still wait for Christmas for the gift opening.) While I have been to several parties, they were all, in one way or another, related to work, even if I am good friends with some of my favorite artistic partners. And, certainly, office Christmas parties are important to attend if a freelancer wants to keep getting work; even Ebenezer would see the value in that.

I'm not even traveling this Christmas. I find myself as close to my oft-wished-for ideal of being a hermit as one can get living in the middle of Brooklyn. Yes, I wish I could have seen family this year, but I had to save money for other things. Besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder and bothering my sister only every other year seems like a good balance. I'm hardly even leaving the house. I have no current gigs, so I have plenty of time to prep for some spring work and to catch up on the business of life. I have used the last four days to sort through piles of old medical statements, trying to make sense of them so I can figure out whom to write checks to before the year ends and for how much. This time off has been a blessing; I'm even in a four-day timeout from running; doctor's orders.

In addition, I find myself mildly irritated by all the ho-ho-holiday trappings, particularlly - no, especially - the capitalism. The idea that a good percentage of businesses actually depend on the holiday season to keep their fiscal year in the black just astounds me. The warm and fuzzy image of a rolly-polly white man dressed in a red suit is far from the Kris Kringle of ancient stories, who was a curious mix of Christian saint and gremlin-like elf, if you can grasp that. In many of the oldest illustrations, Kringle is depicted as quite thin and sometimes beardless - much more befitting my mental construct of an old hermit whose only impact on society was to reward good children one night a year by mysteriously leaving gifts behind. No, our current social construct of Santa Claus was created by Coke! More specifically, by artist Haddon Sundblom, working from "An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholaus". (The Snopes article on the subject specifically denies this claim and shows a timeline from the early 19th century onward, trying to construct a smoothly morphing social-construct of Santa; however, I'll argue that the image kids have in their minds, the one *I* grew up with, the one depicted in 99% of modern illustrations, is the Santa that Sundblom created.)

Obviously, Ebenezer would have LOVED what's going on, but I can't help but look at the billions being spent on absolutely useless crap (Nintendo, I'm looking at you) and think the money could be better spent elsewhere. MY money could be better spent elsewhere. The true spirit of giving isn't embodied by how many toys and trinkets you can foist off on one-another, but by how personally meaningful such gifts are. And maybe the best gifts are those we can make to charity, helping those who really need it.

On January 14th, I'll be running the Houston half-marathon to raise funds for Team Boomer. Team Boomer is a registered USA Track and Field team and the money raised supplies scholarships to athletes with CF. That term is not an oxymoron! I am an athlete with CF, there are hundreds, thousands of us. The scholarships are awarded to high school scholar-athletes in the same tradition as most other athletic scholarships; only you have to have cystic fibrosis to be eligible for Team Boomer's scholarship.

Team Boomer is in the middle of raising enough money to fund 9 or 10 of these scholarships in its first year. I hope that you, reading this blog, will be kind enough to go the upper-right corner of this page and click on the ChipIn widget and make a donation to Team Boomer. You'll be sponsoring my run in Houston and you'll be assured that 100% of the funds raised end up in the scholarship-winners' hands. (Overhead is covered by The Boomer Esiason Foundation.)

I haven't done a lot of participating in the holidays and kept my gift-buying and card-sending to a minimum. In leiu of that, I'm putting my energies into this fund-raising drive. I'm keeping my training up. Incidentally, my sister is also running the race for Team Boomer.

So please, consider the athletes in high schools across the country who, this winter, will be forsaking the X-Box 360s and Nintendo Wiis and going outside to run their butts off on the track, trying to make their health better and putting them in a position to win one of the Team Boomer scholarships. Clicking on the widget will take you to the ChipIn donation page, where you can donate securely via credit card or Paypal. I'll be making the first donation and I hope you'll follow me.

December 17, 2006

...and on the next day he rested, and wished he hadn't pushed so hard.

This is what happens when I toke up on 8-hour tylenol before a race: I don't feel the damage being done like I should. So I don't think it's even there. Then the next morning....

oh, god, for about an hour this morning I felt like I was crippled. The tops of both feet, where they transition into being shins, are very very sore and don't like moving much. My best cure will be a motorcycle ride and I have to go get groceries anyway...

BTW, Bloggers, if it seems like I don't post many comments, it's not that I'm not trying. I've noticed the anti-spam feature seems to take blogger a long time to process and that's especially true if the comment window is set to be a pop-up, instead of in the main comments section. I'll try and try to get a comment through, but it isn't happening. If people are having similar problems with my pages, I hope they'll let me know.

December 16, 2006

The pattern holds / Hot Chocolate 16K

So, whaddaya think of the new template? Spiffy, yah? I particularly like my handiwork on my bloghead. I'll add more links on the sides real soon. Loads of cut-and-paste, so... must sleep first.

Yeah, I know the name was officially changed to the Hot Chocolate 10-miler, after the 15K route didn't work out due to construction. But I like the sound of "16K", ok? Has a ring to it that makes this run kinda special. It's not every run that's 9.3 or 10 miles - this is a pretty unique distance in the list of all the NYRR races. I would go so far as to say that this is a good race as a next-to-longest run in a good half-marathon training program. And since the Manhattan Half is in 5 weeks....

It's amazing how things can turn around overnight. This morning's race prep was identical to last week's, except that I left the HEED behind. Instead, I took a bottle of Sustained Energy, which I used last week only during my warm-up. But I had noticed a certain smoothness of energy delivery and I didn't spend so much time with sticky sweetness in my mouth, so I thought I'd give it a go as my main hydration this time around. I should have taken more Hammer Gel with me and been more consistent in taking it, but still, all was good. Smooth, constant energy delivery. If anything, I just need to drink more as I go.

This is what I'm going to call a very good run, bordering on great, falling short only by the lack of blisters, blood, and speed. Due to a really late train this morning, I only had time for a four-mile warm-up with just enough time left over for a potty break and to shed extra clothing. The horn went off just as I approached the crowd of runners lined up for the start.

This was a very crowded race:

I know 4000 runners doesn't sound like much, but there were 1000 more than last year. It was a very warm day; last year this was 10 degrees cooler. For sure, this race attracted a quantity of slower runners - the real track stars were not much in evidence. I figure the people who were out were fair-weather runners and/or needed that one last qualifier for next year's marathon.

After I joined the qeue, it took awhile for the race to really get going. The start was so crowded and the race marshalls were being insistent on us staying in the rec lanes this time. The pack was slowed to a walk twice in the first quarter-mile and the first mile was about a 15 minute split. As we passed the first mile marker, I joked that this was my fastest mile ever - and it was nearly my LAST mile, too, as I immediately tripped over one of the orange cones. I just didn't see it coming. I didn't fall, though, and that was a minor miracle. (Over the course of the day, I'd twist my ankle on some round thing I didn't see and tangle with cones twice, one hit on the shin was hard enough to make my eyes water.) Despite the congestion, the slow start was good for me, I guess, as I found a comfortable pace in the second mile that I felt I could keep up for nine more miles.

And so the race went. Round and round we go. I didn't get lapped until mile 4.5, and that was an indicator I was doing pretty good. My left ankle had minor soreness from the outset and got moderately worse, but not enough to not run. The last 5K was a struggle, but not like I feared it would be. I had slowed down quite a bit in the last couple of miles - Cat Hill was in the ninth - but I managed to pick it up for a very strong finish. Not only did I step up the pace to about 8:15/mi for the last 300 yards, but I notched it up to a 7:01/mi pace for the last 100 so as to beat out some runner who was sneaking up on my left. NOBODY passes me in the final stretch!

I'm pretty happy with the results. 14 miles total, at an average of 10:30/mi.. (Oh, and now I have something to recalibrate my watch to, since I conscientiously hit the big red button at the start and finish lines.) A perfect 1:45:00 for the race and about two and a half hours of solid workout altogether. Very nice. Finished feeling good, not quite exhausted, and spent the next twenty minutes cheering in the runners after me. Skipped the hot chocolate; all I wanted was a coffee, ice, shower, and a nap. (Oh, and the nap was so very very nice. I haven't slept that well in weeks.)

Most important to me is this: aside from the congested start, there was NO WALKING. NONE in that 14 miles. I kept going through my coughing fits and managed every single hill, even if I did slow down a bit on them. Just having done Cat Hill three times without getting eaten by the bobcat qualifies this as a good workout!

Unadjusted splits:

Adjusted totals:

As races go, this is technically a PR, since I haven't done any 10-milers before. As 15K distances go, this is my third of this approximate length. My pace was 40 seconds faster than last year, which simultaneously reflects my better health and slower general speed. Oddly enough, my 3rd race ever was an Al Gordon 15K and my pace then was 10:18/mi. Hm.

So that's that. And they're electric-sliding on the Apollo stage, which is my cue to shut this down and go to bed.

December 15, 2006

bad run today = good run tomorrow, right?

Bad, bad run today. Very short, deleted it from my watch right away. About a mile, I guess.

Couldn't sleep last night, woke up feeling flu-ish this morning. I thought the run would help at least make my achy joints a little better (and it did), but it was just... well, just not a run I'm proud of. (Not a hangover - two beers over two hours at an office party doesn't produce a hangover.)

Hot Chocolate 10-miler tomorrow. Will do a 5-mile warmup at the very least - seems to be the only way to run these races decently. I'm hoping my past history of bad run one day, good run the next holds and that tomorrow is great.

December 11, 2006

Monday fast 5K

I keep referring to this trips up to the park and back as 5Ks, because that's what my watch says, but the fact is, it's a 3.4 mile run. This is why I say my watch is off by about 6%. Gotta fix that.

Monday's run was impulsive, fast, and completely ill advised, but it was a lot of fun. I'd taught all day Monday and had to return Tuesday (for a total of 20 hours of teaching in two days), so of course it was dark when I did this, but the weather was warm and I just felt like I needed the run. I paid particular attention to keeping up my pace throughout the run and felt I'd turned in a decent workout.

Again, the splits tell me I'm running slower than I think I am, even adjusted for the real distance. I'm pretty happy with that 10:11 there, but I long for the days when I was running 9:20 miles in the 10K distance... Maybe I can get back to that with some focused speedwork this spring.

December 10, 2006

I have a moment of clarity / Kleinerman 10K

Well, what a run this was! I headed out to the park last Sunday morning intent on getting in five miles before the race and eight miles after, to total 19 miles. My pre-race prep was right on and I had a good morning. I took all my junk in a bag that can be locked to a fixed object and that has wire mesh inside to prevent theft. This was a far better alternative than the baggage claim if I was going to do more miles after the race.

In the middle of my five miles of warmup, though, I had a moment of clarity regarding Houston: I can't both run the marathon AND run with my sister. The two distances have separate starting lines and though they share a portion of the route, it would be impossible to meet up with Rachel on the run. I reflected that training has been going OK - better than before November - and that I didn't want to blow it. I need to keep running. But Rachel and I picked Houston together precisely so we COULD run together.

And that became the overriding factor in my decision to just run the half marathon in Houston. As it turns out, that may be all my body allows me to run, but at that moment, when I made that decision, I was well on my way to my 19-miler for the day.

I felt really good and had been running pretty steady when I got to the start line. I took a moment to strip a layer of clothing (it was cold out), and then joined the race. I forgot to hit my watch at the starting line and again at the finish line, so the splits aren't entirely accurate...

You can see where I hit my watch to start the race, about a tenth of a mile late.

Though I FELT good and felt like I was turning in 10:30 miles or better, such is apparently not the case. On the other hand, I know the distance metering is off by a little bit - about six percent I think. Still, I wasn't running nearly as fast as I felt. I turned in a third-best for the 10K distance, though, so I'm obviously not doing too bad, either.

The race ended in a strange way. I'd kept passing this woman in green who'd near-sprint for a hundred yards, then walk a ways. Not the best strategy, but maybe she was having cramps. Well, about two-tenths of a mile from the end, when I had just picked up my pace for a strong finish, she comes blazing by me like her ass is on fire. And for the first time, I got angry. Not challenged, just angry. How DARE she pass me when I'm running so well??

So I picked it up myself and managed to pass her one last time before the finish. It was a little too intense, but I'd decided I wanted to end my run on a high note that day anyway. I'd decided not to do the extra eight miles, since a marathon was no longer on the line.

I did actually talk myself into turning around and starting the extra eight miles, but my calves chose to cramp up before I got to the west side of the park. A message from the body? Or a message from the subconscious mind? Oh, well.

I packed it in for the day and for once, I felt like I'd had a good run. Not great, mind you, since there were only multiple blisters, but no blood... but it was a good run. I could use more of those. Its runs like that that keep me plugging away at it. I realize, of course, that just a few months ago even three miles was all but impossible for me, so I'm not taking my ability to finish 11 feeling well for granted. No, this was good all around and I'm finally not conflicted about Houston. I need more runs like this.

Oh, by the way, first race with the Team Boomer jersey on. I like it.

December 8, 2006

quick notes

Geez. I guess I'd better be happy with the couple of weeks "off" of work I've had, because that has come to a screeching halt overnight. I got four calls for work in two days. Nothing lasting too long, but all paying decently for what they are. In short, I'm up to my eyeballs again - until about the 16th of December.

And let me just vent a little about holiday greeting cards. I have received ONE so far this year. That's it. And it's from a COMPANY I did some work for; not a personal contact. I realize December is young yet and I haven't even sent mine out, but I figure I'll get half a dozen more, all from family, and that'll be it. This is why I don't send cards out like I used to: because none of my friends or colleagues can be bothered to put me on their card list. I know this isn't a fair-trade market or anything, but still - after you have a received a card from me three years running and have never sent me one, not even an e-card, then why the hell should I send you any more? Look, we used to be great friends, and I really would be interested in seeing pics of you, your wife, and little rascals all dressed up in matching snowflake-pattern sweaters; but if you haven't realized that by now, then fuck you.

Three runs mid-week. Monday's is already documented.

Wednesday's was another 5K. I should have done five miles, but I really didn't want to push these shins too hard. Neese might be right. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, right? Overall time there was slower than Monday's run, even though I feel I ran just a little faster, a little smoother. I think it was the traffic - I kept having to pause at corners to figure out who wouldn't be running me over first.

Today, I just ran out of time. Spent two hours in town getting briefed on another drafting gig and got home just in time for the sun to start setting. It's freezing outside, for the first time this winter, and the wind is bad. Still, I togged up in extra layers and went out. I had to cut this run to a fast 20-minute run because of calls I had to make before 5:00 (and I just got off the phone with the last of them), but I feel it was a good workout. Definitely a better pace, smoother, and only minor pain. Sure, maybe if it'd been a longer run, the pain would have increased, but recently the shin splints have been there from 1/4 mile onwards - but not today.

I am planning a long run of 18-20 miles on Sunday, running gods willing, and am debating putting in a slow, ginger five tomorrow. For some reason, hills are being good to me these last couple of weeks and I want to take advantage of that while I can. I'm supposed to do the 10K race on Sunday, but most definitely won't be racing it, if I go at all. I may just use the occasion as an excuse to go to Central Park for a run and collect another t-shirt.

BTW, next weekend's 15K is now a 10-miler, "due to construction". WTF?

December 4, 2006

just had to repost this

The first six panels definitely describe me.

Plan of action

1) Keep my eyes on the prize: NY Marathon. Houston is not worth a stress fracture.
2) Build a solid base February, March, and April
3) Absolutely rigid training schedule starting in June. In bed same time every night, out of bed same time every morning - 8 hours of sleep on the button.
4) Speedwork once a week.
5) Find a running partner.
6) Crosstraining a must; I must do some research on this. Bicycle yes, swimming maybe.
7) Core exercises and weights 4x week.
8) Stretching and foam rolling every single day.

better 5K

Maybe the problem is level ground. I've had shin splints up and down hills, of course, but I've noted many times in the past that most of my pains at least lessen when headed up hill. And some get worse while others go away on down hills. Flats have always been a problem for me. If so, Houston is going to be a killer.

I had a talk with my mother yesterday and she reminded me that the only person who would be disappointed by me shelving the marathon and doing the half instead would be ME. heh. Which is to say, I have no fan base to perform for - I'm only performing for myself.

Further thinking along that theme calms me, for it leads me to conclude that the whole point to this running thing, after all, is to take care of my lungs. And THAT has been great lately. Oh, sure, coughing usually fills the first five miles of a run, but that's not what I'm talking about. Right now, I'm in a place where between the running and the right balance of Vest and inhaled therapies, my lungs feel good pretty much 24/7. I have maybe one or two moderate asthma attacks per week and none of my activities are limited. THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT!

I'll do Houston, though I may only do the half. I will take a big step back, as previously described, and step along a very careful training schedule and run NY. And, I think, that will be my last marathon. My legs are not built for such distances, I'm afraid. The fact that I start getting injured at distances above half-marathon is vivid proof of that.

I got up a little earlier to put in a run. I tried to just run, not think. I also took the hills route up to the park and back. It's mostly asphalt, since I can run in the road most of the way. Today was a rough, hard run, but not dreadful. Actually, the leg pains were much less and I only stopped for stretching once (right after the first mile - you can see the delay in my splits). What got me today, like one of those sneaky little catch 22's, was the coughing. It was cold today - I could see my breath the whole way - and I wore pants and two shirts, so I while I was warm, the cold air still affected my lungs. They need to get up to speed here! I coughed and coughed and coughed. My sputum was rather thick and that's a sign I'm dehydrated. Mostly I ran through my coughing fits, particularly on the return leg, but a few of them were doozies.

Okay. More stretching; more foam rolling; see what I can produce tomorrow. *sigh*

December 3, 2006

I am so freakin' frustrated right now

I don't know what to do, I really don't. The shin splints were so bad today I had to abandon my run after a mile and a half. This is the exact same problem I had last week, but I didn't even get to the three mile point! Of course, maybe I can tackle this tomorrow or Tuesday and still get the long run done.

And that's a question, too. 11 miles or 21? 21 is on the schedule, but, shit, I'm really not sure I can do that, not with these shin splints. The 16 last week went OK after about the fifth mile, but can I bank on that happening again? 11 would be a good break; tackle the 21 next week.

43 days 'til the Houston marathon.... It has crossed my mind that due to pain, I may have to go for the half-marathon instead. Again. If that happens, this will be the third marathon in a row that I've committed to and then not done because of training problems.

Being honest with myself, I can say that the one thing they all have in common is a poor base. After Houston, no matter what, I'm going to cut way the fuck back on long runs and start at the very, very basic 3 miles 4x week. That's it. First and foremost, I must work on consistency. Secondarily, I will work on being able to do these runs pain-free. Then I will work on speed. (I know I can run long distances at a 9:30 pace if the training is right.) Once I get to a place where I have a good base of 12-15 miles/wk, I'll start increasing slowly, such that I'll be ready for the late-summer half-marathons and ultimately get to NY Marathon starting line ready to do it.

NYFlyGirl has proven it can be done. She opted out of her first chance at the marathon due to injury and then over the next year had a very steady, rigorously scheduled routine. It built slowly but surely and as a result she had what I consider to be a model of training and a model first marathon. Beast and Derek have a natural ability I'll never have, but NYFlyGirl is a lot closer to me in "natural" ability and her training was just spot-on. I've got to do it like that.

In the meantime, what do I do to get back on the training schedule and be able to run Houston at least halfway decently?