December 28, 2008

One single mile

My plans of a 6.7 mile loop didn't work out today, but I did get in a quality two-miler. My main focus was consistency, and I managed to keep walk breaks only to a portion of the uphills. Coming back, no walk breaks at all. Not especially fast, mind you, but at the end it felt like I was flying right along. I grant the return route is mostly downhill, but not all of it. There's a three-block uphill section that is often more than I can handle.

My biggest problem is my breath support. It's just not there. At no point can I get a good deep breath, and if I want to run continuously, even maintaining the same slow pace gets harder and harder. But today, with the weather 20 degrees warmer than Christmas and humidity near 100%, something seemed to work out OK, and though I was still coughing a lot (and bringing up more than I have in the last few weeks), I didn't have to slow to a walk for every coughing spell. I was able to gain some confidence that I can once again, with discipline, handle the smaller hills and not have to walk every step of the larger hills.

I know it seems a very little thing to most of my readers, but being able to string together that one single mile is quite a victory for me. I don't expect to be able to do that during every run, but if I can increase the frequency when I can and just slowly get better, then maybe things will work out.

Coney Island trot

Christmas morning, I met another blogger at Coney Island and we did a 3-mile jog along the boardwalk. This was quite a new experience for me, as I haven't run on the boardwalk at all, except for the single Brooklyn Half I did.

Michelle is quite a good runner, though she limits herself to five miles right now. But she is pretty fast, judging from her 5-mile PR and she does 5 miles on the boardwalk almost every day. I wish I could attain that kind of consistency.

It was a pleasure to run with her, since she didn't seem to mind my coughing and spitting. I am finding running very difficult right now - my lungs just don't seem to be what they used to be. But I did my best and having Michelle pull me along was nice, though I still had to walk a couple of times.

You can see from the graph how many times I had to walk - not the best training for Michelle, I'm sure. But the second half of the run wasn't too bad, really.

I did find running ON the boardwalk strange. It can be treacherous if you aren't watching your footing. Several portions are in poor repair. A couple guys with some replacement boards and deck screws could fix the boardwalk up in a few days - but apparently our city can't be bothered with that. Maybe I can go down there with my screwgun and at least take care of the deck screws that are sticking up.

The beach was deserted of course, but there were still people out enjoying the sunshine, especially the older Russian community.

Michelle and I have plans to run together again on Wednesday. She wants to run the Manhattan Half, but there's precious little time to train up. She's got a month to get her long run mileage high enough to tackle a half-marathon race. I think with her outstanding base, she'll be able to do it, if she's very careful about fueling and hydration during her long runs and makes sure to take a rest day after.

Anyway, just before we started our run, we found this:

Laughed a little over that. Seems about all the Internet I can afford, I tell you what.

You can read Michelle's write-up of the run here. I think she gives me too much credit. Or maybe I'm just a little embarassed. But if she can draw strength from my stubborn example, then more power to her. Like me, she plans to run all five borough Halfs. I don't think I told her, but if she accomplishes it, she gets special medal from NYRR! It would also be five qualifiers toward NYC Marathon 2010...

December 23, 2008


First things first: very rough 2 miles today. I just couldn't get going. Kept having to stop for traffic or walk to catch my breath. The slippery sidewalks and treacherous roads didn't help. That 2 miles took about 40 minutes and it was nothing but frustration.

First thing:
Babes in Toyland w/ Drew Barrymore, Keanu Reeves, Richard Mulligan, and Pat Morita??

OK, other things:

On The Call tonight, they're talking about the connection between crime and economy. This is a connection which Bloomberg flatly denies and I believe he's 100% wrong. And crime IS on the rise here - up 9% this year, especially shoplifting. I'm not condoning any kind of crime, especially since we're not talking about shoplifting food like Jean Valjean, but electronics and bling. One viewer of the call points out that this might be because the people who are supposed to be setting the example - CEOs, bank execs, etc., are actually robbing the American public blind. And there seems to be no punishment for it.

The police, of course, flatly deny that crime is up. They claim that crime is DOWN across the board in all five boroughs - the 18th straight year. If by CRIME you mean FELONIES, then yes - that's probably true. But a lot of misdemeanors are pretty eggregious and those crimes are up.

Feeding into my thoughts here is a conspicuous rise in the amount of FILTH in the city. The streets aren't getting clean, especially in poorer areas. Trashcans overflow. In fact, the MTA seems to have stopped cleaning and collecting trash altogether.

These shots were taken in the 34th street station - one of our city's busiest. But it looks like this in every station. And worse. Saturday morning, heading into the city to do the 15K, I was aghast at the wasteland that was the uptown platform at my express top, 36th street in Brooklyn. The trashcans were more than mounded, they had overflowed - they were small mountains of garbage and you could just barely see the trashcans themselves. All along the rest of the platform was a carpet of debris. I was horrified. Where the hell are the MTA workers? The MTA is about to raise our fares for THIS??? Somewhere, somehow, there's a leak in the MTA. Money is being embezzled, I'd bet on it. You don't simply go from having a $1.2 billion surplus in 2005-2006 to being $500 million in the red with no significant changes in service or ridership. And now the MTA is going to raise fares across the board, in some cases TRIPLING costs for certain passengers. Yet what the ridership gets is cuts in service, dirtier platforms, non-working escalators and elevators, surly and unhelpful booth attendants and a new rash of the homeless using the subways as their personal Taj Mahal.

Actually, I don't blame the homeless for that. I blame the economy, mismanagement by the city, and apathy by the general public. But I do see an astonishing increase in the numbers of homeless, as well as how homeless they are. See, there are degrees. Some homeless actually have a place to go at night, or a stash of belongings somewhere safe. Others are truly homeless - completely portable hobos whose worldly belongings are kept in mountains of plastic bags and kept mobile by attaching all those bags to old shopping carts. (Ever notice the homeless never have a new shopping cart?)

So while I used to see one or two homeless in the subways - one black man in particular can be found on the same bench on the downtown platform of the Broadway-Lafayette station every single day and night - I'm seeing more and more of them. And while they used to have just a couple little bags of things with them, now they have tons of stuff. Whatever that stuff is.

Even more fascinating is that they are beginning to settle in. I believe the police have been instructed to leave the homeless be for now. I don't know what the police are supposed to be DOING, but obviously it isn't dealing with the homeless. I noticed today - on a long walk through various Manhattan neighborhoods and subway stations - that some of the homeless are ENCAMPED. I'm not kidding. Some of them quite neatly, too. Out of the way, but visible. I wish I'd gotten a picture of the one guy who had made a rather neat bed out of milk crates and cardboard. He had comforters, pillows, had used nearby ledges to set out his stuff on - and he was quietly reading something by Satre by streetlight.

I'm not expecting miracles from the city. but I do expect substantial basic services in exchange for my substantial taxes. My dissatisfaction with the city, the police, and the MTA continues to grow.

December 22, 2008

back to the gym

I admit my gym use dropped off in the second half of the year. I was getting busier at work and the time I spent in sports therapy took up my gym time. But I did start going back right after the marathon, though mostly for the hot tub.

Today I just couldn't face the cold outside and decided to put in some time on the stationary bike and get serious again about my core exercises. I was doing pretty well in the first half of the year and kinda let that go.

I was ashamed how wiped out I felt after 25 minutes on the bike and how far I've fallen in terms of pushups, situps, pullups, free weights, etc. Well, it's going to be a long winter.

December 21, 2008

the inaugural Ted Corbitt 15K

I came to consciousness Saturday morning and immediately resolved to skip this one. The weather was awful. It had snowed and sleeted the whole day before and though it wasn't precipitating at the moment, I knew it was going to be a cold and grey morning.

Problem is, I needed to complete that last qualifier. I'd paid for this and I intended to do it. Besides, knowing nothing else about Ted Corbitt, the namesake of this run, I did know that he had enjoyed a reputation for running in any weather. So, I got my ass out of bed at 5:45 and got ready to go.

It was easier last weekend, the Hot Chocolate 4 miler. Used to be this weekend, the 15K, was the Hot Chocolate run. But ol' Teddy needed props, so things got changed up, I guess. Frankly, I don't care what they call it. A rose by any other name...

Last weekend, I didn't worry about hydration and fueling during the run. This time, though, I mixed up a gelbot full of powersnot and S.E. and brought that along with me. I dressed exactly as needed for a 22-degree morning: polypropylene socks, runner's long underwear, pants, cotton long-sleeve T, high-necked winter running shirt over that, a throwaway layer, and my wind- and water-resistant marathon jacket. (I love that jacket - it is really just the perfect piece of running gear.)

I got to NYRR headquarters to pick up my bib and t-shirt and discovered the race had been converted to a fun run. Had I checked the web before leaving home, I'd have known that. What this means is that if you had registered for the race at all, you'd get your qualifer credit. You didn't even have to show up.

Well. I considered just going home immediately. I still wasn't looking forward to actually running in this cold, grey, slushy shit. But...well, I was already in Central Park after all, maybe I'd see who all showed up. I didn't see anybody I know in the 40-minutes before the race, but all these other strangers and I had a great time questioning each others' sanity.

I had no intention of running 15 kilometers if I didn't have to. I figured, though, I'd at least put in the two and a half miles down to Columbus Circle and that would at least be exercise. But...that water bottle with me was mighty heavy for some reason. And cold. And my shoulders were getting tense carrying it. So right after the first portajohns, I propped the bottle in the snow near a lamppost and determined that if I felt okay at Columbus Circle, I'd finish the 5-mile loop and come back for the bottle, then go home.

I did pretty good in that first five miles. Stopped to shed the disposable layer, and had to walk just a little (most notably part of Cat Hill), and felt intolerably SLOW, but I was making progress.

Somehow, I finished the five miles...and picked up the gelbot...and since I had just been lapped by the winners finishing their second loop, I decided to go ahead and finish the last 4.3 miles.

And it sucked. I should have kept the Sustained Energy with me in the first five miles - and would have had I followed a 15k game plan from the start! But I didn't, so I started running out of energy after the seventh mile. Had to walk more and more. In fact, I ended up playing tag with this older African American guy who looked like an ex-boxer. He and his...girlfriend?...were out struggling through it all, too. Turns out, they'd both done the marathon and, like me, were finding this run to be a harder challenge.

Well, he beat me to the finish line, but not by much. I was happy to finish, and feel I earned my qualifier. But my time is woefully SLOW. I am really going to have to get back to some serious stretching and some speedwork, or these times I'm posting lately will never improve.

December 18, 2008

Post time

To take a metaphor from horse racing; it's POST TIME. In the race to be in the race, you gonna hafta be early to get an entry: Fred Lebow 5-miler and Manhattan Half are BOTH capped at 5,000. Registration for all races through the end of March is now OPEN:

Good luck. I signed up for five, including the Manhattan and Bronx halves, which are only two weeks apart.

December 16, 2008

Just lie there and think of England.

Well, New York runners, I hope you got the peppermint-flavored anal lube out and warmed up, because here it comes: NYRR is once again bending us home-town-ers over and farking us deep and hard. By way of their email newsletter, NYRR has announced registration caps for most races during the year and race fees are about to go up. Again.

I'm beginning to dislike CEO Mary Wittenburg. She is a pretty figurehead, excellent politician, and a runner, but not a Fellow Runner, I'm afraid. During her brief tenure, to date, we've seen race fees go up by 50%-100% (depending on NYRR membership status, when you register, etc), seen hometown qualification chores rise (a volunteer commitment is now required), and the institution of a corral system at ALL races.

Now I will be the first to say that every NYRR member should volunteer - but to require it of people trying to qualify for the marathon reduces that gig from being voluntary to "voluntary". And I hate having to put quotes around words. I saw a whole hell of a lot of "volunteers" at the last race - most of them completely superfluous. This new wealth of man-hours is being mis-managed.

Corrals - also an excellent idea for the larger races. But when I find myself a quarter-mile from the start line at every single race because I'm a slow runner; when that even includes the damn FUN RUNS for crying out loud - it ceases to be a good start management tool and becomes simply discrimination against new or less able runners.

Now the races are to be capped. Read about it here. I note that certain races - those with big sponsors I suppose - will have higher caps. Not NO caps, mind you, but higher caps. Okay, I can understand not wanting to have 8,000 runners at every 4-mile race and pitiful turnout during the rainy 10Ks. I can understand wanting to find a way to spread out the qualifiers load more evenly over the races. But capping races at 5,000 is going to lead to mad rushes to register for the good races and people who aren't checking online registration every day are going to get locked out of races that better suit their calendar, running style, or which their friends are running. It will be harder to do races as groups.

There will be more runners who fail to qualify for the NYC Marathon. This makes it feels like just another waying of squeezing out the New York runners from our own city's major race! Sure, there are seven other ways into the marathon, but when you live in that city, you expect a break - and having to put in 9 qualifying races plus 1 volunteer commitment, all around capped races is NOT what I call a break, or even equal ground with the out-of-country tour groups. (This is the only race I know of where the locals have to run more than one qualifying race. All other races, if you have to run a qualifier, it's for qualifying TIME (i.e. Boston), and the only block to NOT getting in the race is that registration fills up. I understand caps on marathons, even the NYC Half-Marathon - but 4-milers??)

Perhaps this is a way of pressuring more runners into getting bibs by raising money for charity. Admirable to raise money; but not fun or meaningful when forced to as the only way into the marathon.

I don't know. It doesn't break any laws, and since NYRR is a corporation and not a members-run club, I guess they can make their own rules - but the rules suck. I feel more and more like I have to fight for an entry into my own city's marathon.

I'm also feeling like I'm PAYING more and more. Yep, that's right. "NYRR will be holding race prices at their current levels through March 31." In other words, race fees will be going up in April. So not only are we under the yoke, but we also have to suck the financial dick just a little harder, too.

You know, I used to volunteer for the Marathon Expo AND the marathon - four hard days worth of volunteering. A LOAD of time commitment. But now, I may not do that again, and just do my volunteering on some little 4-miler that will be over quickly. I'll still feel like I've paid my dues.

So there you have it, Sisypheans, another notch in the ever-tightening belt that will eventually keep YOU from being able to get into your own marathon! Happy Holidays, biatches!


Oh, and just because 'tis the season to be be bitchin', I leave you with this curmudgeonly thought: Who the hell thought this monstrosity was ever a good idea?

I'd love to have heard that conversation:
"Hey, that's a gorgeous spruce you got there on your upstate property, John...been growing that for, what, about 70 years?"
"Yeah, she's a real beauty. Tall and proud, home to dozens of woodland creatures, with many decades of life left in her."
"Let's chop 'er down!!"

You can insert the drool visuals on your own. Somewhere the story gets even worse:

"Hey, let's drag this bush into the city, choke the natural beauty out of it with 5 MILES of wires and cold, ugly, garish LED lights, and top it with a relic straight out of the 70's! It'll be the biggest eyesore in the whole wide metropolis!!"

Yeah, that's right; I said it: Rockefeller Center's "tree" is a blight on the cityscape and a crime against nature. For all you can see of the tree itself, they might as well put up an artificial one. And the lights...ugh. Serious amount of ugh. Whoever the designer was should be blinded as a retaliatory gesture for his crime against the people of NYC. But I'll settle for a boot to the ass that leaves welts that spell out, "Hey, genius - you can do LEDs and still make it look good!"

And what's with NY Public Library? Not a single decoration! Not even a bow around George or Gracie's necks! This...might have to be remedied.

December 14, 2008

Hot Chocolate 4-miler

Part of me can't believe its been six weeks since the marathon. In that short amount of time, I've become a lazy, bad runner all over again. I'm sure there's still a marathon lurking somewhere inside of me (or why else would I be doing these end-of-year qualifiers?), but I'm in the same December slump I've been in the last two years.

I was supposed to have run the Kleinerman 10K last weekend, but due to several and various circumstances, I ended up showing up too late. The winners were already reaching the finish line and the start line was long gone. Goddamitsomuch.

Mid-week, I ran twice, though not for long distances, only a mile and 2 miles. I feel like I'm still trying to break in these damn orthotics and my body is having a hard time adjusting.

But yesterday's run wasn't too bad. It was cold and windy, but sunny. I dressed just enough not to have to check a bag, which meant I was fairly chilly waiting for the race to start, but comfortable once we got going.

I showed up in plenty of time and probably should have run some warm-up mileage, but wound up instead standing in the wrong corral for 20 minutes. I lined up two colors ahead of where I should have been. Doesn't matter - they removed the corral barriers early and everybody pressed forward. Once we were packed in more, I felt much warmer!

I didn't try to race this one. I'm still concentrating on even, continuous pacing; less walking; and bringing my per-mile time down. On the first two counts, I did OK. As you can see in the chart, I managed to keep going the entire time except for walking the two water stops and part of Cat Hill. I began to finally feel warmed up toward the end of the race and was able to pick up the pace in the last half mile, which you can also see.

The result is that I did a 43:something; about 10:50 per mile. Not quite the 10:30 per mile I was shooting for, but a slight improvement over Staten Island in October.

My biggest mistake was in not fueling properly. I didn't eat enough breakfast and I didn't take any HEED or Sustained Energy with me; either of which would have helped. So I felt pretty drained by the end of these four miles and that worries me.

Next weekend, for the 15K race, I will take Sustained Energy and some gel and try to keep my energy up. If I can keep the first four miles in the sub-11-min/mile range and then the last five in the 10:00 min/mile range, I'll be happy - but I make no promises. It is more important to run the mile I'm in, reach the next water station, try to tackle the hills better, etc etc.

I'm looking at the end of January - the Manhattan half - and I'm worried. This is not going to be easy.