August 24, 2008

Today, I am an Olympian

Been a while since I posted. Quick catch up: Tuesday, I set out to do 11 miles, from work to home and a little extra, but cut the run short at 4 miles (watch says 4.5). It was a hot and humid run, but I think I was just worn out from the weekend. See, I spent last weekend attending a friend's wedding - in North Carolina. 1300 miles on the bike is a little much when you're not trained up for it. My friend Wayne, who went with me, agreed.

Thursday's run was also difficult, but I got in the distance I had in mind for the day, heading up first to the Boat Basin, then all the way down to Chambers street. I was getting pretty tight at the end of that. I stopped in a convenience store and picked up a Heineken to drink on the subway ride home. Hey, it's a recovery drink, right? And if you're drinking it on the subway, then you're not drinking alone, right? Actually, I could make it a real habit ending my once or twice a week after-work runs that way.

So it all came down to today's long run. I had to get in a good workout or risk falling behind in marathon training. I planned for 14 miles. Or 13. Or 12. Or whatever the distance is from my house to Toys R Us and back, which involves going to, and a ways past, the Verazzano Narrows Bridge.

On the outward bound leg, I ran into Jerry Cahill, who was out for a training ride on his bike. He's doing the cycling leg of the Westchester Toughman half-Ironman on September 21st. For a 50-year-old cystic who just got off of IVs, he's looking pretty good. I hope I am as well-preserved at that age.

The run was pretty hard. Getting out to the turn-around was no problem, but coming back was a slog. My legs were not functioning well, it was hot and humid, and I, stupidly, didn't bring enough fluid or any salt tablets. I think it's the latter that really sunk the ship. Still, I got in long stretches walk, some very long walk periods in the second half, and I made it home without having to shorten the run. My legs hurt like hell, and I immediately drew a cold-water bath and dumped all of my ice into it. This was a true ice-bath and I think it drove my heart-rate up higher than any part of the actual run. But I needed it. My legs took a brutal beating today.

But that's what training is all about, right? Train the legs to keep going; train the mind to keep going when all either wants to do is quit. I admit it was extremely difficult to get running again after the last few walks. In fact, I was having flashbacks to the Flying Pig Marathon from a couple years ago, things were getting that bad.

Next time, I'll stretch more earlier in the run. I will also be sure to take Endurolytes with me, as well as start carrying extra fluids. The one bottle wasn't enough. Rationing it was stupid and my urine after the run was dark yellow - not a good sign.

Now, my watch. I can't seem to get the right calibration. My watch claims this was a 15 mile run, but g-maps shows 13.3, which is about what I thought it was.

I should probably explain the post title. You see, Saturday, as I was watching Tropic Thunder in the theatre, the men's marathon was taking place in Beijing. I arrived home in time to see the last fifteen minutes - and to see the US team unable to medal. I'm not surprised - the runners that did well (and a new Olympic Record was set, btw) were from hot climates. The Americans, not so much. But even the medalists were struggling to reach the end, with the silver medalist breaking down to a walk a few feet before the finish line and needing immediate help. Watching the Americans enter the stadium and trot to the finish, I couldn't help but feel rather a lot of empathy. I've been there, where only sheer momentum and the fact your legs don't have a brain of their own are keeping you going. The US Team just didn't have what it takes to haul down some nuggets at the global level - this time. Give Ryan Hall four more years, especially, and we're going to see him shake the world.

So today, as I was struggling along determined to just finish and not cut the run short, I felt fairly connected to theses struggling Olympians. Sure, they're faster, better trained, and gifted by natural ability; but set that aside and they are no different than I when push comes to shove.

I hope I can remember the Olympians' run and this long run today on November 2, when I get to, oh, about the 20 mile mark and start looking at subway stations thinking maybe it's not a bad idea to call it a day.

And finally, though there was a lot of walking in the second half, I did finish running and I finished running at a strong pace.

August 13, 2008

Things are looking up

Its been a tough last couple of weeks. I haven't been getting much running done, to tell the truth. Last Wednesday, I did get my after-work run in and did 4 miles down to Chambers street, though the run was full of walking. Actually, I ran the first two miles of it well and was quite happy to call it a day at that point, but decided to walk-jog the rest of the way to Chambers. I took the outermost part of the Hudson River path - off the bicycle path and where the pedestrians mostly are - and was quite surprised by how much its all been improved and what kinds of things there are for people who visit the Hudson River Park. It's very nice, actually.

I was wiped out after that 4 miles though, and couldn't understand it. Sure, it was warm out, but not hot and not all that humid. I consoled myself by having a beer on the train as I went home. Hey, it's not drinking alone if you're surrounded by strangers, right?

This weekend's long run didn't go much better. The first four and a half miles went OK. Much less walking than anticipated and I began having that second-wind feeling during the running sections - that feeling where you know you're going just a little bit farther than you've been able to before and all of a sudden it is a little less difficult to do so. I was feeling pretty good about that. Unfortunately, my gut was feeling very good at all. I'd spend the previous day, last Saturday, partying. My bosses had chartered a bus and taken the whole office and shop out to their place in Sag Harbor, where we had a day of swimming, boating, eating, talking, drinking, and (for me) napping. It was nice to meet some of the wives and kids of the other employees. Well, it was a very long day and I hadn't gotten home until after 1 a.m. The next morning, I had the greasies and wasn't feeling very good CF-wise. So when the bowels threatened, I cut my run short and went straight home.

So I had a long run to make up. And I won't get one in on schedule this weekend. It appears to be necessary to shift my running schedule to do the long run during the week for now. So last night, not really knowing I'd be doing it, I left work in my running gear and headed for home. The first three or four miles felt like they usually do, but I could see the walk breaks getting shorter and the running getting easier. I decided not to ditch at City Hall and instead go over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was very crowded, but not too many people were being retards this time. I had to walk twice getting up the bridge, but those were short. I felt pretty good about it. And once I began the descent, walking was pretty much done for the run. My only breaks after that came at traffic islands waiting to cross the roads.

I contemplated ending it at 10K, but as I'd already played stepdaddy to my legs and beaten them into numb submission, I continued my run all the way home. Ten miles by my own reckoning. I'm pleased to say that my watch agrees.

So there's the chart. Look at the green line, especially, which is my pace. Walk breaks are characterized by a low, extended point in the green and pauses for traffic by short spikes downward. Overall, I'd say this was a fairly steady run and - most importantly - at an excellent pace. I surprised myself by my pace and am pleased by my final 10:00 minutes/mile overall pace. THAT is exactly what I want to be running come November. By comparison, here's the chart from the half-marathon - and keep in mind it was measuring miles SHORT, which means the real numbers actually aren't as good as the chart says!

Could I have kept up last night's pace for much longer? No. In fact, you can see my stride length shortening and pace dropping in the last two miles of last night's run. And my legs were beginning to let me know they'd reached their effective limit for the night. But I'll get trained up - am GETTING trained up. I think this run is good evidence of that.

I'll be out of town this weekend and on the road, so no run will happen. But probably Monday, I'll duplicate this run home and tack on an extra mile at the very beginning to make it 11.