January 20, 2007

last Houston huzzah / Buff Jessica

My sister and I crossing the finish line:

I REALLY like this shot:

And I got a couple of articles from the Houston Chronicle today that Mom sent; they acknowledge the records set, but focus on the average-Joe kind of runner, and highlighted the Fallujah outpost of the Houston Marathon - 29 runners sweating it out in the desert. Neat. But enough of living in the past. Tomorrow is the Manhattan Half Marathon. Yay!

And to be honest, I'm not sure I'm going to do it. I have been feeling cold/flu-ish for a couple of days and it really hit full-blown today. Half the joints in my body hurt, including elbows and knuckles. So I can't really complain about the knee pain, can I? I also have the itchy, watery eyes; stuffed up nose; and low-grade fever. I'm coughing up a moderate amount of junk and it's really thick, in a way it hasn't been in a long time. I'm afraid if I try the half tomororw - on hills - I'm going to have a miserable time or even DNF. I'd much rather get the best and most amount of sleep I can and then go do six in Prospect Park - and only to help keep the junk moving out of my lungs. I'm also afraid I'll just wear myself out and get even sicker.

I really don't know what to do. I'll see how I feel at 5 a.m. and if it seems like two Dayquil will do the trick, then I'll go.

I did go to the International Motorcycle Show today (I wasn't feeling this bad in the morning) and tagged up with the Buff rep at the show, Jessica. (NYRR athletes should recognize what a buff is; Jessica's company has supplied several designs to NYRR.) She got me a pass into the show, so I couldn't NOT go, of course, and it was really great to see her. When we rode from Napa Valley to New York together in 2004, she told me she used to be a triathlete and still kept in shape. Well, I commented to Jessica today that it looks like she's lost some weight (an older video of her was playing on a monitor behind her) and she said she's in training for the Cour d'Alene Ironman! It's in June and if I work things right, I could go there and cheer for her before my Alaska trip. Wouldn't that be great?

January 17, 2007

back to difficult runs

I did a few miles of bike ride Monday and got out for a run today. Whatever the reasons, this 2-mile run was far more difficult than any of the half-marathon. What the hell?

It wasn't the legs. I felt minor shin splint on the left, but nothing major, and I attribute that to using the newer pair of shoes, not the old broken in ones I've been running in. The lungs were in hell. I coughed the entire way, spitting up loads of junk. I don't think I spit anything up during the half-marathon. Could it be the 30-degree temperature drop? The 50% humidity drop? The fact that I've been doing all my therapy, including the hypertonic saline, for three days and that tends to irritate the lungs a little bit anyway? I mean, how does one go from a relatively-easy half-marathon with no lung issues to speak of to all of a sudden gasping for oxygen at a twelve-minute pace?

I'll see how Friday's run goes (planning 4 miles) and if I like it, I'll sign up for the Manhattan Half, which is Sunday. If I don't think my lungs can handle the cold, dry air for 13 miles, I'm not going to risk a repeat of lasts year's 3+ hours disaster and I'll just go volunteer or something.

January 15, 2007

The Houston Half-Marathon, January 14, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, the weather in NY touched 75 degrees. It was a great day for a run and I was quickly overheated, but figured, at the time, that this was good training for Houston, which reaches the 70s in January quite regularly. Oh, how wrong that prediction was!

The flight to Houston was direct, on ATA, and I like their service; I'll have to use them again. I got to Houston about 9:30 a.m. and hooked up with my mom and youngest sister at the Crowne Plaza Downtown.

(I know they look like twins; my mom's the one on the left.)
It's a nice hotel and beds were super comfy; a good thing, given my three hours of sleep on Friday night - I needed a good night's sleep before the race! Mom, sis, and I wandered around downtown for a while and I got some lunch, then we met my other sister (second child) at the Expo.

The expo was almost like an auto-show, as their were three Hummers, a Mini, and a honest-to-God NASCAR racecar there. I began to think Toto and I weren't in Kansas anymore. The crowd LOOKED like a normal crowd, but I'm sure there were plenty of crazy NASCAR types walking among us. This NASCAR theme was to stick with me through the next two days.

Rachel (the older younger sister) and I picked up our packets and were pleased with how fast that process was. We took some time wandering around the expo with my 4-year-old nephew, and met up with Rachel's college friend Danielle and her family. This was turning out to be quite a get-together!

Rachel and I both had to purchase some gel, which was on sale at $1 each. She didn't bring any, and I had misfortunes with mine. First, security at LGA confiscated my 5 oz. flask of gel. Had I thought to gulp 1/3 of it and stash it in my one-quart ziplock bag with my toiletries, it would have been no problem. But no, they had to confiscate it. (I don't blame the TSA workers - they're just employees following the rules to the letter and the are NOT allowed to "interpret" the rules. I blame the TSA big-wigs who have created a security "system" which makes no sense and fails to make our flights safer from determined terrorists --- but I digress.) The other part of my gel, which was already packaged inside my GelBot, managed to squeeze itself out of the bottle and goo up the inside of the plastic bag I'd thoughtfully put the GelBot in. (Pic 1 - click on all pics to make larger.) This is because of the lesser air pressure inside the cabin than inside the bottle, which I'd sealed at sea level. Lesson learned: don't tighten the seal on the bottle before flying! I did manage to recover 90% of the leaked gel, tho.

Expo done with, we all retired to the hotel for a rest before dinner. I forced myself not to nap, as I didn't want any problem falling asleep that night. My family met Danielle and her husband Travis at Cava Bistro, a nice, cozy, pseudo-Italian place with more wines than you can shake a stick at. I had a problem with my meal and the manager was very helpful in getting me something I could eat without risking the gastric disaster of the Nashville Half. Their food has great presentation.

Back at the hotel, I took pains to lay out my stuff for the next morning. I've never done this before, but it made for a stress-free morning.

I awoke at 5 a.m., feeling super-rested - the beds at Crowne Plaza are amazing! - and met my sister at 6 a.m. Wearing our matching Team Boomer jerseys, we walked down to the convention center which was where the expo was at and was now an indoors start/finish area. Very clever and good, since the weather was 50 degrees and just about to drizzle, with very high humidity already. We did our final preps, dropped our race bags at baggage check, and made our way to the start line. Here's Rachel before the race:

Or as near as we could get. I really like this whole race, so don't get me wrong when I say that if there was one blemish on the experience, it was the start. They had a "corral" start which separated the marathoners from the half-marathoners (why?) and also had two corral colors per race length, for a total of four. This was the worst, most congested start I've ever experienced. If the two bib colors per race length were meant to separate the speedy from the slow, it failed spectacularly. This component of the race MUST be rethought from the ground up. My suggestions: strict separation by time - if you don't have some kind of proven half-marathon time or your time indicates you are a walker - you go in the back. A staggered start would be good - get the marathoners out a half hour ahead of the half-marathoners and separate both groups into corrals of 1000 each. I mean, seriously. The start took this from possibly a "fast course" to a "not PR" course, even had I been trained up ready to run a PR. This race is done mostly on 2-lane roads and when you start 15,068 runners at once - the first five or six miles prevent running at your best pace.

Well, we got started anyhow. I'd put on a plastic bag due to the chill, and was able to take it off by mile 2. I don't think the mile markers were right on the money, but I soon found out my watch is about 2% off, judging by when it was auto-lapping in relation to the last six mile markers.

This was a good, steady run for Rachel and I. We had both talked about walking portions if we needed to, as my training for the last month has been at low levels due to the shin splints and Rachel's training was equally dismal. But whether due to what was actually PERFECT running weather (cool and overcast, but no rain) or the lack of anything I could call a hill (a bridge and an onramp don't count), the run was just very, very steady. In fact, this was my best run since October!

The first four or five miles, we ran about an 11:30 pace, mostly due to the congestion. The course seemed - and this must just be my own perception - all left turns. After about the fourth one, I started commenting on them. "Wow, a left turn coming up! I'm so excited!" "Another left tuuuurrrrn! hurr hurr!" Then as a right turn finally appeared, "geez, Rach, I didn't practice RIGHT turns, I'm not sure I can do this." This, of course, is echos of Jeff Dunham, whom I first saw on a cruise ship a decade ago. He just keeps getting funnier! For the NASCAR stuff, check out his "Arguing with Myself" DVD.

Throughout the race, we steadily passed other people, but one particular segment of the runners were a real problem: the Galloway Method-ites. (Or, considering their tranquilizer effect on pace, maybe I should call them the Methodones.) (For a funny spoof of the Plan, see here.) The problem was, the Galloway runners were doing this not as individuals, but en masse, leading to entire road-clogging convoys of NASCAR-crazed, Galloway-trained cult members! It didn't worry me too much when, in the middle of a clot of walkers, my sister and I heard this group of 8 or 9 people chant "...5...4...3...2...1...Run!" And they all proceeded to start jogging again. The true horror of the situation dawned on me when Rachel and I reached another crowd of runners a half-mile later. 20 voices: "...5...4...3...2...1...WALK!" Aarghhh! NOoooo! It was like coming out of hyperspace in Star Wars. Or everyone on a four-lane highway cutting their speed by 20 mph all at once, only you're not in on the signal. What a clusterfuck.

Passing through one cluster of slower runners, I ramped up the speed briefly and went ahead, then slowed and waited for Rachel. She came up in a little bit and said she can't "sprint" like that. Sprint? Hell, that was just putting the engines from 50% throttle to 70%. Smooth and easy. Her comment made me realize that I do that move a lot in races and really have no problem getting power when asking for it. But lately, I think the one thing that's helping with that is my use of Sustained Energy. It really provides a nice, smooth, continuous energy release and, combined with a couple shots of gel (didn't even use all of it), I am well-fueled and hydrated. (Rachel mentioned when we were within sight of the finish that her feet had been hurting her since mile 2 and perhaps that's why a "sprint" wasn't happening. Despite the pain, she kept up with my increased pace right to the end. She makes a great rabbit! I only hope I was also able to help her keep up a consistent race in a way she might not have done alone. We did mention to each other that we'd like to get running partners for further training and now we can FEEL why.)

We got around these Galloway people, having eventually passed all who were run/walking this race, but not before passing a potty stop at which I commented to Rachel (sotto voce): "...5...4...3...2...1...pooooop!" That got a chuckle out of her.

Rachel and I stopped only twice; once so she could use the portajohn and once for a photo op about mile 11, where Danielle and her family were waiting for us and cheering everybody on. Rachel mentioned later how nice it was to have someone waiting and cheering for her and I agree. I did, however, hear my name and Rachel's several times. Took me until about mile 12 to find out my name is actually printed on my bib!

This run qualifies as great. Usually, I'd have to have dry heaves and bleeding to give a run that descriptor, but in this case, what made it great was that I was running with my sister the whole way. We really acted quite well as each other's wingman, even though a PR was not in the cards for either of us. Though I missed starting my watch again between the potty stop and the next mile marker, the remaining 12 splits show a perfect progression of negative splits. Every mile we ran was faster than the last, ultimately putting in 9:30 for the last mile, with a maximum recorded pace of 8:24.

That last mile was spectacular. As we came downtown again, we could see the convention center, which looks like a cruise ship, and then the course cuts over a couple blocks to bring us around the side of the place. When it straightens out again, you can see the finish line for about half a mile and hear the crowd that far away! The energy and support from spectators was consistent and continuous all along the route. Even the more sparsely-populated sections of the route still had people out there rooting us on - including at one point three guys on their couch on their broken-down porch, sipping from Bud Light cans and looking like they'd just woken up. Guess NASCAR-fans have to put in some late nights. ;)

We finished, got our hardware and shirts (Under Armour!) and found mom and little sis, who were wearing their Team Boomer sweatshirts (and had been out on the route cheering everybody, of course!) (oh, that's my newphew in the bottom left corner of the second pic.)

Seriously, this was a very good race, both as an event and as one of my own runs. This was the 35th annual marathon in Houston (and I think the eighth half-marathon run concurrently), my 33rd road race, and - as it happens - my 10th half-marathon! Of the three big events we've met out of town for as a family (Cincinatti, Nashville, and Houston) this is my favorite.

We showered, took painkillers, and brunched at the hotel's restaurant. I couldn't believe how hungry I was, despite having slugged down a sports bar a quart of HEED (forgot the Recoverite), and a pint of coffee right after the race. (BTW, Houston gives the runners a HOT MEAL after the race!) I feasted royally and we took our time eating. Here's my nephew eating syrup-soaked pancake:

The flight home was thru Chicago, and I lucked out again, as the only delay came from LGA's end, due to poor visibility in New York. I congratulated myself on a run well-done with a beer on the plane and was happy that the planes weren't crowded at all - I had room to spread out and nap.

I like Houston's results site. Since my watch was off by a mile-lap, I'll have to take the timing chip's word for it: 2:19:02. Exactly one-minute-per-mile slower than my PR. Amazingly, this is a 4th-best for me: I have three faster half-marathon times and six slower ones. The following pics are screen captures from Houston's site. I really like the graphical way the data is put out there.

Running for Team Boomer has been a great experience. I'm slowly learning how to fundraise and I want to thank all the people who so generously donated to the campaign. Counting the online donations and the ones sent in by mail, I have raised $1,750; perhaps a touch more. Not bad for one person. Be looking for my emails and phone calls come October - New York Marathon.

Records shattered at Houston!

from the official press release (details of my own run in the next post; I need sleep)

Records shattered at Chevron Houston Marathon,
Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Hall crushes U.S. half marathon record; Tune sets marathon course record

HOUSTON, TX January 14, 2007 – Ryan Hall separated himself from his competitors with a blistering 4:36 first mile, then ran the rest of the Aramco Houston Half Marathon alone on Sunday en route to a U.S. half marathon record.

The 24-year-old runner from Big Bear, Calif., ran 59:43 and became the first American ever to break an hour in the half-marathon distance. Hall beat the previous American record, set in 1985, by a minute and 12 seconds. He obliterated the previous Aramco Houston Half Marathon course record, set last year, by 2:24.

“I train in altitude,” Hall said when asked about this significant record. “I saw my splits around 4:30 and then thought, ‘I can do this.’”

Hall, in his half-marathon debut, ran the last 12.1 miles through the streets of Houston alone in what was arguably the best-ever performance by an American distance runner.

Fasil Bizuneh and Meb Keflezighi, the silver medalist in the 2004 Olympic marathon, were left to battle for second place, finishing two seconds apart in second and third place, respectively, but more than two minutes behind Hall. Brian Sell, the 2006 U.S. half marathon champion who won the race here last year, finished sixth.

Hall took home $21,000 for his efforts: $12,000 for his first-place finish, $4,000 in bonus money for the course record and an extra $5,000 for the American record.

Temperatures in the low 50s on Sunday morning made it a great day for setting records, and Hall was not alone in erasing past marks.

Dire Tune, 21, came to Houston to set a course record, according to her agent, and could proclaim “mission accomplished” 2:26:52 later. Tune broke the old course record – set 23 years ago by former world marathon record-holder and Olympic gold medalist Ingrid Kristensen – by 59 seconds.

Her previous best was 2:30:48 set in Los Angeles in 2005, where she finished fourth. The Ethiopian pocketed $25,000 for first place and an additional $10,000 for the course record.

In the men’s marathon, Feyisa Tusse of Ethiopia crossed the finish line almost three minutes ahead of his closest competitors. David Cheruiyot, 36, who won the race in 2005 and 2006, finished fifth. Tusse takes home a $3,000 bonus for running a time below 2:12 in addition to the $25,000 first-place prize.

In the women’s U.S. Half Marathon Championship, Elva Dryer and Kate O’Neil battled for the lead throughout the race. Dryer pulled ahead in the final stretch, clocking 1:11:42 at the finish, a five-second victory over O’Neil.

“I had to maintain a good stead pace,” said Dryer. “A couple of us were together at the beginning. I knew she wasn’t far behind the whole time.” Dryer collects $12,000 for her run.

Fourteen athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sunday’s race. In the marathon, five men broke the Olympic A standard by running under 2:20. Another five men qualified by running sub-2:22, the Olympic B standard. Four women qualified by beating the Olympic B standard of 2:47.

The full results are available at the Chevron Houston Marathon website

The Chevron Houston Marathon, a Running USA founding member, is the nation’s premier winter marathon, annually attracting participants from all 50 U.S. states and nearly 30 foreign countries. In 2006, more than 18,000 runners took part in four marathon weekend events (marathon, half marathon, 5K and children’s run). The Chevron Houston Marathon offers the only closed marathon course in Texas and is ranked among the top five in the nation by the Ultimate Guide to Marathons for fastest course, organization and crowd support. More than 5,000 volunteers organize the race, which is Houston’s largest single-day sporting event.

Steven Karpas
Director of Marketing and Race Development
email: skarpas@chevronhoustonmarathon.com
phone: 713-957-3453

January 6, 2007

Riot of Spring

What an interesting and unusual day it was! We reached a high of 72 degrees, tying for the record. It being a Saturday, everyone and everybody was outside - on the sidewalks, on the stoops, and especially in the parks.

Like the 13th-15th sections of Rite of Spring, there was little organization and a whole lot of life just happening. It was as if the hippies and bears had all broken their hibernation for a moment to soak up some vitamin D. And judging by the display of pale skin everywhere, they needed it!

I tried to keep my run to a 5K today, really I did. I just don't want to do anything stupid and aggravate my shins or knees before next weekend. At this point, either I'm in shape enough to last a half-marathon, or I'm not. I think I am, though it will not be easy (are they ever?) and as previously noted, will not be a PR.

But the park beckoned so strongly and it was so nice to see so many people out, especially the kids. Lately on my runs, it has been easy to imagine I am the only runner in the city, but not today! I reached the park and continue on into it, for the first time in a couple of months. (Honestly, I should have done a long, FLAT run today, but what the hell.) I didn't do the whole park loop, but took the short crossover then went up the big hill, back over to ninth street and down to the grocery store, for a total of 4.25 miles. A little longer than intended but aside from some twinges in the joints, no harm done.

I did have trouble on the hills today. It wasn't an energy issue, but perhaps a combination of being dehydrated from yesterday and the high humidity in the air today. I coughed up a ton of junk.

Anyway, though we've also set some record for the longest period without snow, we are supposed to be snowed on by the end of the month. We'll see, eh? Guess I'll have to stop in this week and pick up some salt for the sidewalk out front and put it and my snowshovel in the hallway.

I am a blogger Luddite

Though time will march on and the little hamsters that turn our hard drives will keep running and the fluid network of the intertubes will keep expanding, I am firmly against any further progress of the world wide web. Blogger offered their beta and after much deliberation, I switched to it. And though I have no reason other than suspicion of the new technology driving it, I wish I hadn't.

I am very happy with the internet as it is and I'm afraid that continued enhancements and "improvements" will result in a world in which our children have no appreciation of how difficult communication actually used to be, both in terms of transmitting it (does anybody here remember paper, pen, and the US Postal Service?) and of obtaining it (when was the last time you cracked the spine on a volume of an encyclopedia?); or how difficult communication actually IS: English is becoming an aglutinated language and, even worse, we now compact the Queen's English down to leetspeak in a self-generated version of Newspeak (no Ingsoc needed!) and we are forced to tack on emoticons because we've become so unable to express ourselves with words only!

At least I could TRUST the old encyclopedia - information on the Web is about as trustworthy as our current president. Sure, the information isn't outright blatant lies - it's just misleading, inaccurate, and imprecise. Information has become rotten in this big apple-barrel of connected databased. What is needed is some sort of certifying agency; some way of stamping the information as trustworthy, much as financial sites can provide a certificate for you and your browswer to trust. Of course, nobody would look at the Truth Verification Statements (my term) either.

It may be ironic, you say, that having railed against the unreliability of information on the web, that I link to a Wikipedia article on Newspeak. Not so. What I'm railing against are the webpages full of bad information compiled by a single researcher who, more often than not, is a hobbyist webmaster, not an actual, qualified, experienced researcher. Wikis, on the other hand, are an interesting diversion from this trend, as the idea is that given a large audience, all of whom can use, monitor, and correct the body of knowledge, the database gets simultaneously richer in detail and increasingly error-free. An unacknowledged quality of Wikipedia is that the longer it is, the more likely it is trustworthy information.

January 4, 2007

good run today

I had a very good run today. It didn't qualify for a great run - no blood - but it was good. Coughing, sweating, dry heaves, wet heaves - grape flavored - which is odd because I haven't eaten anything grape-flavored...you get the picture.

Tried to keep it to 2.5 miles, but was really feeling good, especially after the first half mile. I warmed up really quickly and at one point on what I think of "the longest hill" (and it's steep, too), I was maintaining a 9:20 pace. Up hill. I can't manage a 9:20 pace on level ice shot out of a cannon, but there it was: good run.

Instead of heading back immediately at my turn-around point, I headed up another couple of blocks and kept recrossing the Prospect Expressway, finally going around a school I didn't know about before heading back up to the top of Sunset Hill and then down the west slope toward my house.

Have I mentioned before how much I love the view of the bay as I head down 25th and 26th streets? The Statue of Liberty is perfected framed between the trees that line the streets and it can be an exhilirating couple of blocks.

Ended up running 2.8 miles over 31 minutes - which of late is a great overall pace. (The first mile of any of my runs is exceedingly slow; I can usually get to a sub-10:00 pace in the second half of a run.)

January 3, 2007

I am chewing my inner cheek

'Cuz that's what I do when I'm nervous, you see.

11 days 'til Houston. 11 days 'til Houston. 11 days 'til Houston. That's what keeps echoing in my head. I felt prepared a month ago; I felt prepared three weeks ago. But now...not so much. I worry that taking it easy due to the shin splints has detrained me and Houston is going to turn into a Nashville-like nightmare, though the lack of hills should help. Ironically, I chose Houston for its lack of hills, but running hills lately has not been a problem. In fact, it's going uphill that seems to keep the shin splints at bay!

I am getting a little better. Since I last posted, I've put in three runs of two miles or so. Each time, the shin splints didn't hit 'til later than the last time, even given the downhills I have to travel to get home. In fact, yesterday's 2.25 mile run wasn't bad at all. I had a few moments of pausing at traffic lights, but other than that, it was a steady, productive run - "productive" in two senses: training-wise and phelgm-wise. Heh. Anyway, I didn't get any shin splints yesterday! Woo-hoo! I had only some twinges in the ankle toward the end of the run. Downhills are brutal on my ankles sometimes.

So I'm hoping to keep upping the mileage 1/4-mile at a time and see how things go. I don't think I'm so detrained I can't keep jogging for 13 miles - but I'm afraid a PR isn't on the radar. And I hate to depend on my body's ability to step up when asked to, as it has in most races so far...but I am. I trust that given this long rest on the shins and after adjusting to the tweaked orthotics, that my muscles will remember how to go the distance without quitting at mile 9. I'll of course be taking Endurolytes with me to help prevent cramps. I'm also going to take Sustained Energy instead of HEED on the course. It just seems to result in smoother energy supply and better hydration.

In other fitness news, I got my Christmas-present-to-me, a climber's fingerboard, mounted above my doorway on New Year's Eve. I have been doing some pullups and am dismayed to find I can't do the 25 in a row I could do when I was 18 years younger and 18 lbs lighter. (Yeah, I was 105 lbs when I was 17; suck it, Ana.) Meh. I'm able to do nine pullups, though the last two are a struggle. Good stuff. I have terrific pain in my right shoulder today, but I don't think it's from the pullups, as it's that typical "I slept on it wrong" kind of pain. Weird.

Outside of all that, I am preparing for Houston by eating myself silly. I'm doing my therapy regularly, the pills, good food, all of it. If nothing else, I will get to Houston well-rested and with plenty of energy.

Finally, I'm considering a Bowflex machine or a YMCA membership. The YMCA is a decent bike ride or jog or subway ride away, but not too far. And I could swim again, too, though the sight of me in speedos makes women swoon, children cry, and blindness in grown men. Point is: I need to keep working with weights or resistance training of some kind. I don't really have room for a bowflex, tho it would be more convenient.