April 20, 2008

An important race report

This is an important race report. Important being an adjective, in this case, not an adverb; e.g. This is an import report about a race - the 2008 Adidas Run for the Parks 4 miler.

Many months ago, I alluded to some unhappy shenanigans at the green start of the NY Marathon, where I volunteered. I wrote a formal letter of complaint in January and sent it via registered mail to Mary Wittenburg. Much of the letter dwelled on the miserable failure the staggered start was, surmising that with very little practice, NYRR could certainly have done a better job than the guests who ran the staggered start did.

Well, apparently my letter was received with attention. Though I won't assume it was the impetus for the changes in the way NYRR is running races now, I will assume it fed into a winter-long examination of starting line practices and re-invention of those procedures.

The result was today's first-ever (in my experience anyway) staggered start to a non-major NY race. When I arrived, the starting lane was laid out twice as long as normal, broken up by colorful flags labeled not with pace numbers, but bib numbers. The bibs themselves were color-coded - and a runner had merely to go to his colored corral to await the start.

I had initially decided not to do this race - that I could wake up late and run locally just as easily. However, a combination stomach pain that included some gall bladder pain kept me in a fitful sleep all night and I was wide awake by 4:30 a.m. I took my time getting up, took a shower, ate, checked email, and then went to Central Park.

Luckily, there was morning-of registration available - I was afraid they might end that practice with the initiation of pace-related corral assignments. The volunteer I handed my entry form and money to noted my estimated 11 minutes/mile time and handed me a number with brown color code. Last corral. Fine with me.

I had no stake in this race. In fact, had only shown up out of curiosity about this new staggered start and to rack up another qualifer for 2009 NY Marathon. I didn't even pick up the t-shirt, initially. I told myself it would be enough to get my legs back to running at all, having taken the last two weeks off. This would be my first run since the St Louis Half.

It was chilly and moist, with the misty skies threatening to start drizzling the whole morning. When I woke up, it was 52 degrees. At race start, 50. By the end of the race 48. Because I'd worn shorts, I was cold despite my cotton t-shirt and the long-sleeve, long-necked tech shirt I had over it. So I went back for the race t and asked for an XL. The shirt came down to mid-thigh on me, but thereafter I felt much warmer while waiting for the start.

The start was run very well. The new equipment is quality work and the staff was obviously trained and rehearsed on this. The only downside was that those of us in the last three or four corrals couldn't hear the start announcements. We just kind of got going four or five minutes after the start.

The run itself was pretty good, I'd say, and I didn't expect it to be. Like I said, I had no stake in this run and I didn't care if I walked the entire thing - which was certainly shaping up to be my fate since I was in so much pain. However, once we got going, the pace was slow and steady and I felt I could discount the gut pain. Right away, we tackled Cat Hill, one of the hardest on the 4-mile loop. I once again tried the little trick I used in the St Louis Half and "shuffled" my way with quick, short strides up the hill from a bout 1/3 of the way up to the top. Then I told myself "30 seconds" - just keep running for 30 seconds more before walking. By the time that 30 seconds was over, I didn't want to walk.

And so it went. Very steadily, despite wanting to stop and use the porta-potties, I kept passing them and I kept going. Just short of the turn on to the 102nd street crossover and the second mile marker, this woman I'd been closely tailing dropped to a walk. As I passed her, I half-turned toward her and said, "You were doing so well!" I paused, then added, "Come on." And she started running again. :) That's me, the Middle-of-the-pack Motivator.

I endured mile three, which is the hilliest, with three challenging climbs. Finally, the easiest mile of the park lay before me, making most of mile 4 a real pleasure. About 400 yards short of the turn onto 72nd street crossover, a small group of kids who were being mentored, coached, and encouraged by their NYRR Kids Foundation volunteer, dropped to a walk just in front of me. I heard one ask a version of the ages-old question "are we there yet?" and the coach promising the finish was nearly in sight. I don't think they believed him. (4 miles is a mighty long way for twelve year olds.) Again, I turned around as I passed them. "Hey, kids - it's just a 1/4 mile from here! Come on!" And I turned back around and continued plodding along on my pace. Shortly thereafter, they passed me at breakneck speed. I do believe they might've gone to plaid. :)

Right after the hard left onto 72nd, I did a slow, smooth burn, extended my stride length, ramping up in speed for the last two hundred yards. This felt good - I felt powerful in a way I haven't felt in months. About 75 yards from the finish, a figure appeared in my peripheral vision, coming up fast: a woman, dressed head to toe in black. Black hat, black long-sleeve shirt (like mine - I'd ditched the race T after the first mile), black running tights, black sunglasses (it was cloudy, remember), and even black running shoes for cryin' out loud! I was NOT going to be passed by Darth Vader! I put an extra grunt into it, quickened my pace and extended my stride even further and out-kicked my competition.

When I turned around after the finish line, the woman in black was gone. Had I really seen her? Maybe it wasn't a woman I'd seen. Maybe it wasn't Darth Vader. Maybe it was death and I'd succeeded in holding him/her off for one more day.

I finished in a net time of 42:45, my sixth-best time in this distance (out of 10). It is almost dead average - four other 4-milers have been done in 42:something. Better: this makes the third race in a row (since October) that my pace has improved, even if only by a few seconds from two weeks ago. (10:41 m/m today) And that was without actually racing this. I was well within comfort zone.

Even better: zero walking. This is a goal I've been striving for for MONTHS. And today I accomplished it without really trying. And I could have extended it to five or six miles. Once I'd finished mile three, I felt really warmed up, much less pain, and the run was really working.

This Wednesday, I'm going to re-start my Wednesday long run tradition, running home from work. I don't think I'll do the full ten miles, but I'm hoping to at least do the 10K from work to Court street station in Brooklyn.

April 15, 2008

Alli joins Ana and Mia as Fat America's New Best Friend

Well, it appears the government has taken another step toward ensuring Americans wipe themselves out within three generations. Read about it here.

Last year, they approved the sale of OTC strength Xenical under the label Alli. Wheee. Alli. It sounds so fun and whimsical. Alli. Like, Ally...or alleve - as in alleviate my over-weight condition. Now that I have a pill to join my psychological friends Ana and Mia, I have a powerful trio of weight-reduction tools. Yay me! Alli!

Shifting from sarcasm to bitterness, let me get real: this drug, a fat-blocker, irks me. It's one more step in turning Americans away from any personal responsibility whatsoever. Alli is a half-strength version of Xenical, a fat blocking agent. You've heard of these drugs by now, perhaps by the name Orlistat, and the accompanying side effects, especially if you eat too much fat while on the drug.

Let me assure you, fattie, that the experience will be no picnic. In fact, I am gleeful that the drugs side effects are quite terrible - not life threatening, perhaps, but downright nasty. I delight in the idea that fatty-fat-fats will go through the same misery I do, VOLUNTARILY, all in the name of weight loss!

There's only one way to healthy weight loss and a fit body, Fatty McFatterson, and that's through diet and exercise. And by diet, I don't mean "a diet", I mean restructuring your intake for good by replacing processed foods with whole foods; by quitting your patronage of fast food and cooking for yourself. And by exercise, I'm not talking about a ten-minute peddle on the stationary bicycle at slow speeds - I'm talking about workouts.

But you already KNOW how to properly lose weight, don't you? And you haven't had the personal fortitude, the personal integrity, to formulate a plan and stick to it, have you? So, lacking the mental structures it takes to be anorexic or the finger it takes to be bulimic, you turn to dangerous and expensive surgeries and medicines that throw your bodies natural cycles into disarray.

But go ahead, really. I'm going to enjoy looking into your eyes as the panic sets in when you all of a sudden have to go. I mean really have to go. NOW. And can't find a bathroom. I'm going to enjoy your misery when you shit your pants with foul, oily stool you can't hold back. I'm going to smirk openly as you begin to carry an extra bag of clothes with you, everywhere you go.

Anal leakage? That's only the start! You are not going to believe the horror that'll be sliding out your poop chute while you're on this drug, whether or not you also reduce your actual fat intake. Of course, after a few of the worst days, you'll finally realize the drug-makers are right when they warn you to cut down the fat intake.

Well, guess what? Cutting fat intake is EXACTLY what's meant by the "diet" half of "diet and exercise". It's just so sad that it take punishment to teach you that. The best part of it, to me, is that this isn't punishment anybody's forcing on you - it's punishment you are laying out healthy amounts of money to voluntarily undergo. But unlike the "other" punishment - exercise - which at least makes you feel good after each session and LOOK good after a few months, this punishment merely makes you feel like shit, literally, and embarasses you in front of your friends and coworkers.

So go ahead, America. Though I think this product shouldn't even be offered just on principle, I encourage you to go buy it and suffer the effects. If nothing else, perhaps some of you will get a clue what living with the digestive side of Cystic Fibrosis is like.

And, yeah, I'm bitter. I spend my life trying to keep weight on and gain weight if possible. I take pills designed to INCREASE my fat absorption, yet still suffer the problems of malabsorption. In fact, I recently had a bone scan and the results show I have osteopenia - just .1 standard deviations short of osteoporosis - and this is a direct result of malabsorption. Despite doing all I naturally can to NOT have low bone density, there it is. Now, I suppose, my doctor will put me on another pill - perhaps Vitamin D and magnesium. Or maybe we'll play wait-and-see.

But I just can't help but feel a little bit bitter that I do all the things a regular person would do to lose weight just to keep my weight ON and to keep from having the bowel problems, yet I still have to take extra pills, extra vitamins, etc etc.

The existence of Xenical and Alli makes me want to look at the the people taking these drugs and give them a big ol' FUCK YOU.

Next post: I'll post the chart from my St Louis run and, hopefully, have a short run to report. Been lacking time, but will start taking mornings to do my 3.4 mile route. Already afternoons here are getting into the upper 60s and low 70s - so my running schedule has to shift to cooler parts of the day.

April 12, 2008

St Louis Half Marathon results

Feeling and control has returned to my legs and I am enjoying my first night at home since last Sunday (doing a show eats up nights), so it's time to post my race report, I guess.

Holy Hell, that was hard. Well...no, it wasn't. It was hard on my legs, obviously, because I spent Monday thru Wednesday unable to go up or down stairs, but I didn't really feel the effort in my legs during the race. There were hills...but not the kind of hills in Central Park, where I'd done several of my training runs, including my last long run before the race, my 12-miler.

It was unusually warm for early April, but not a Chicago-marathon-style meltdown or anything.

Frankly, I don't know what to make of this race. I didn't do well...but I didn't do poorly, exactly. I didn't run the entire distance, but I never walked more than a minute or two at a time. Uphills didn't hurt, but downhills didn't help. My lungs slowed me down some (a little exercise-induced asthma from mile 6 onwards), but not anything like the Staten Island Half back in October.

In short, this wasn't a PR half-marathon for me, but it was far from my worst. In fact, I came in with a time of 2:22 - just three minutes slower than the no-walking-involved race in Houston that I remember so fondly. Yet this time, I walked about once per mile.

Interestingly, though I feel my performance was sub-par - poor/mediocre - the numbers say I did a little better than average. I have run 12 half-marathons (more than any other distance), and of those, this came in number 6 - 5 faster, 7 slower. This race, at 10:57/mi, was faster than either my mean or median race times (2:27:57 and 2:26:06 respectively).

So...it's a big shrug for me.

However, I would like to turn the spotlight to my sister. She and I started together and she set a pretty snappy pace from the beginning. I stuck with her for almost a mile and then, after seeing we were keeping pace with the 3:40 marathon pace group, knew I was going "too fast to last". But my sister had a super training cycle, including working with a coach and doing Pilates, and was ready to set her PR - and did she ever! She broke two hours, coming in at 1:57!!! I am so proud of her. She talks about not really wanting to do another marathon - and I wouldn't blame her - but I think she has the ability to do a four-hour marathon and what a feat that would be.

Team Boomer...well, my fundraising was not all it could have been, but I had many donors and that money has been sent on to BEF to fund the Team Boomer scholarships. I thank each and every one of my sponsors and hope I can lean on you come NY Marathon time.

Because THAT is what this half-marathon was - a training run in the larger picture of getting to the NY starting line this fall. I am temporarily injured now, but that is just overworking the legs. I've been resting them this week (and work has filled all my time), but I'll be getting back on the training calendar late next week. I plan on sticking with the weights, but getting better at speed workouts. More important than ever is training for continuous, fluid mileage. I am on the cusp of being able to just. keep. going. and must make the most of it.

April 2, 2008

footpod croak

That sounds like the name of a really good band, doesn't it? "Footpod Croak! Limited engagment at Rain Ballroom! Tickets on sale April 20th!" Sadly, "footpod croak" is merely the name of today's blues.

Went out for my typical 3.4 mile hills-to-the-park loop and discovered that my footpod's battery died somewhere between Orlando and Nassau, or maybe on the way back. So I don't have the distance recorded, only the time: 34:50 - or just barely slower than a 10 minute/mile pace. I'm quite pleased with today's run - nice and continuous, with only two moments of having to stop for coughing and the same for traffic pauses. Kept up a good pace, even tackled all the hills well.

Perhaps this was influenced by the gloriously-sunny weather. On the cool side; but my running pants were in the wash, so I went in shorts and two tops, stocking cap, and gloves...and was very comfortable throughout. Perfect gear combo for the temperature and probably what I will run in tomorrow and for Sunday's half-marathon, too.

If Sunday goes as well as this morning's run - with slowly improving pace throughout and great tolerance for tired legs - then I stand to come in at 2:10 or so, perhaps notch a second-best run. If things go insanely well, like with a strong wind at our backs for the last four miles, I MIGHT even P.R. We'll see.

April 1, 2008

Toe Pain Blues

gout again today. insanely busy. The ball keeps rolling.

YouTube has a sense of humour. Every single featured video link is a RickRoll. Funny guys. Very funny.

Happy April Fools!