Thursday, September 02, 2010

What is a Meme?

I had to look that word up... first time I have been memed... I doubt anyone would care to read my answer but I'll go ahead and play.

1. Answer this question: if you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you and what would it be?
2. The second thing you have to do is, pick 6 people and give them this award. You then have to inform the person that they have gotten this award.
3. The third and final thing is, thank the person who gave you the award.

1. The proverbial change... funny, the older I get the more things I wish I had done differently... the optimist sees the wisdom I have gained; the pessimist calls it poor decision-making. But I have yet to answer the question. Here it goes: I would have shown more affection towards my Mom.

2. Michelle the speedy journalist/photographer. Frank the patents engineer. Kyle the adventurous one. Seebo the speedy Professor (2:35 marathoner). Mindy, truly the one person who always manages to bring a smile to my face when I read her blog. Kenny the commuter journalist.

3. TK- Thank you for giving me this award. You described me as being kind, but really, I pale in comparison to you. Your eloquent writings should be published in a major running magazine... if nothing else in the New Yorker. I look forward to reading more about your next PR... and the next, and the next.

Now if I could only figure out how to make the *right* decisions so that I won't have to look back in the future and say: "I could have been this... or that, if I had only done that, or the other."

Happy and healthy running to you all...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ooo La La (Anatomy of Two Races)

Funny how life turns out. I had set a comfortable (semi-confident) goal of sub-3:30. Why the lack of confidence you ask? After all the year had began well with a 1:33:XX half mary. Not much later though, I ran into a wall while "pacing" the 3:40 hopefuls. It was at mile 22 where, due to severe dehydration, I threw in the towel; my spirit was defeated as my legs failed to produce. Fortunately there was a co-pacer who carried the few remaining soles to the finish. I slogged my way to finish in 3:44:XX... feeling sorry for myself.

Paris is one of my favorite destinations. Alas, my memory was mired as I had ran this race (slightly different course) back in 2001, in a PW of 4:05:57. I was foolish then... no real sense of what it took to perform at this distance. A sub-3:30 would be more than redeeming to this battered soul.

I left LAX at noon on Thursday, and arrived at CDG on Friday at 9 AM local time. Somehow I managed to get some sleep during the flight even though it was against my circadian rhythm's logic.

After I checked in, I managed another 1.5 hours of sleep. Nice. Went to pick up my bib number and called it a day. That night, I took a sleeping pill, an iron supplement and my allergy medication. Result: close to 12 hours of sleep. Jet lag be damned. Did a bit of sightseeing and heading "home" early the following day. Drank 16-oz of gatorade and, again, took a sleeping pill and an anti-histamine. Slept for close to 8 hours. Felt as rested as I have ever felt.

Race morning had me so relaxed, it seemed I was getting ready to go for an easy stroll rather than a 42.195 Km journey. I was wearing a long sleeve T over my singlet and decided to wear the plastic poncho provided by the organizers. I also wore cotton gloves that not only kept my hands warm, but also were used to store three hammer gels. A bag of jelly-beans was going to be a new thing for me; they were to be ingested 15 minutes pre-race time. I quickly ate half a banana and I was on my way. My Nike Zooms only had 17 miles in them and I worried that they had not been broken in; what's more, they felt a bit too snug. Too late.

The subway trip took just about 25 minutes. Amazingly, the CDG Etoile [Arc de Triumph] exit was not crowded; I guess runners who took the subway took it in waves. I had about 20 minutes to spare. I promptly made my way into my corral (3:15) and lined up way in the back, next to the 3:30 corral [3:15 was my goal when I signed up in October]. Jelly beans were quite tasty. The temp was coolish, 40s... perfect.

The horn goes off (no national anthem sung here, nor a fancy flyover) and we're off. No. Wait. We walked. It was a cluster-f*ck. We did not start running until we crossed the starting mats. I immediately got into a nice easy rhythm. At one K I checked my watch and it was just over 5 minutes. Perfect. Champ Elysees had never felt flatter. At 2K, and while rounding the Place de la Concorde, I tossed my throw-away long-sleeved T. Two kilometers of cobble stones conquered.

[2001] At two K I begin to feel pain in my knee;
not a good sign. The pain does not subside. Rain started to drop. It was
not strong, more like a drizzle.


The back top feels surprisingly soft; my Nikes are light, they make my feet feel fast. We continue by the Louvre and the pace feel just right, unlike in Berlin where I had trouble breathing. I hit the first 5K in 24:59. Perfect. The first aid station is on the right and I am on the left side; a swarm of runners shift to the right and I stay put, thinking that there MUST be other tables on the left. Thankfully I am right, but I practically came to a full stop as we had to pick the 12-oz bottle from the tables. I grab a piece of banana as well. A fellow runner slips in front of me. Banana peels and half-eaten orange quarters litter the road.

The 3:30 pacers pass me and I let them go, but I keep them close. I keep a sustainable effort and keep up. The second aid station would only be on the left side. I missed it. 10K in 50:01 (25:02). I bent to pick up a half-full tossed bottle; I do not want to go through premature dehydration; I don't care who drank from that bottle earlier. The crowds are feeling a bit claustrophobic and I subconsciously pick up the pace while running on a dirt path. I pass the 3:30 group. It was nice that the group was more of a line than a wall. At around 12K I decide to make a quick pit stop that would eat 20 seconds off my final time. The 3:30G passes me again. I see a split that does not make sense, 4:45. How could I have sped up that much without feeling it? Hmm. 15K, 1:14:39 (24:38).

It was here where I chose to pass the 3:30G for good. I am running on an adjacent running path, taking full advantage of a tail wind. 20K, 1:38:14 (23:35) WTF? I'll take it. Somewhere around the next 5K I started feeling a head wind and I went back onto the road, drafting off of others.

Right where we go under a tunnel by
the Seine river, I decide to favor my injured leg; this appears to work.
Everything seems to be ok until the half way point where I feel like hanging
up my shoes. My knee had flared up again, and it was quite frustrating
seeing people pass me; I felt helpless to do anything about it. I
crossed the half-marathon marker at just over 2:02, or 9:20 mpm.

By K24, the pain in my knee was so overwhelming, I had to stop to massage
the culprit area


25K, 2:02:12 (23:58), still running and feeling strong. We go through a seemingly endless tunnel that really had me praying it would soon end; it was dark, warm and noisy. The under-passes felt no different than the flat areas, signaling that I had done well tapering. 30K, 2:26:12 (24:00), the splits keep on giving me positive feedback. There were some that I must have lost concentration as they trickled too close to the 5 minute mark. Right around this point, my left calf begins to cramp. Shit. Not now. Not when I am having one good day; what am I saying? I am having a GREAT day. I lower my knees hoping that the electrolytes in the hammer gel I just had will soon kick in. The cramping does not last long, thank goodness.

At just after 30K,
I stopped to stretch and massage my calf and to release my bladder. Lo and
behold when I tried to continue with my shuffling, I cannot even move my
left leg, for the pain in my knee is overbearing. For a second time, I want to quit so bad it batters my already wounded ego.


35K, 2:50:32, (24:20). Damn, I am slowing down. I need to pick it up if I want to go sub 3:25. I do the math and it is well within my ability. I push the pace on what are now tired legs. Thankfully, I am left with plenty of energy to finish strong. The splits are getting faster and faster. I try to stay with a female runner who's running splendidly. I can't keep up; she has the better fitness. I relax. 40K, 3:13:46 (23:14) and my fastest 5K of the race [7:29 pace people!!!]. 41K, 4:38. I try to sustain that pace. 42K, 4:24... WTF? Where did that split come from. Last 195 meters in 45 seconds. I cross the finish line feeling elated. 1:43:24/1:40:09 =3:23:33 with a very satisfying 3:15 negative split. And a 42+ personal course record. How do I like 'em apples? ;-) On this day, j'adore them!!!

The last K went by quicker than I thought possible while chasing another runner (4:48) and from somewhere I managed to get some race-like feeling that took me to the finish banner in 47 seconds for the last 195 meters. My stop watch read 4:05:53. Almost even splits.

One benefit that has been the rule, rather than the exception, is that the recovery time is minimal when I have ran negative split 'thons.

I was limping badly after the volunteer clipped my chip. I guess the rush of endorphins had stopped a few seconds after I crossed the finish line.

Thanks for reading and may your next race be as satisfying as this one was for me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

One Tequila, Two...

I decided to run this race because it seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit the town… and at roughly $20 the entry fee, it was a bargain.

I flew into GDL a couple of days before the race. My brother was kind enough to pick me up and we headed directly to buy churros-con-cajeta from a street vendor. Oh the memories of a long, lost childhood. Then he took me to a couple of liquor stores (as I have been in the hunt for rare and/or discontinued tequila). Found one bottle of Casa Noble Gold… Alas, it was corked; it tasted like water with wood cuttings. Nasty.

The following day I asked my brother to take me to pick up my bib. I had asked him if he knew how to get to the host hotel; and my brother, who does not shy away from a challenge, quickly said yes. We got lost. We were in the right general area but made three circles in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I was all stressed out after almost an hour of maddening traffic. Finally we made it there. Picked up bib and headed to have something to eat..

Race day comes and I am ready by 6:30AM. I had figured it would take us approximately one hour to make it to the start from my brother’s house (about a mile south of Tlaquepaque). My brother’s phone rings… it’s my nephew… brother agrees to pick him up so that he can join us… hmmm, not liking this at all… we’re pressed for time. After getting lost, yet again, we finally connect with my nephew. It is now 7:10AM. Not looking good. Surprisingly, I am not stressing.

My brother drives like a maniac for the next 45 or so minutes and make it to the edge of town where the Police had blocked the road. I look at my watch and it is 7:56... I start running towards the start (about .75 miles from where we parked) hoping that the race will start late… nope, about 400 from the start I see a whole bunch of people exploding towards me. Now, I was running on the sidewalk so I was not in their way. I run around the barricades and cross the mats just over two minutes after the gun. Some other late comers were trickling in as well, but I can safely state that I was one of the last to start the race.

I quickly started passing slower runners. My breathing is not where I wanted it to be at this time; it is labored; is it because of the ~4000 foot elevation? Or just me who is in denial at losing so much fitness. To put things in perspective, I ran a 1:31:03 in January ‘09... Then I had the abysmal 1:47 half at the Nike Women’s Half in October. A month later and I was adamant about running what I thought was a realistic time, or a sub-1:40. I ended up running the first km on pace. I managed to continue the race effort up to the third km where the climbs began. My lungs began to burn; my legs did not complain so much. I slowed down to 8:20 mpm pace. I do not worry. Much. I think I will get the time lost back on the impending downhill stretch. The climb seem to be never ending. Finally a descent is on my view.

All through these climbs we have been running on an access dirt road, with fields of agave to our left and to our right. The smell of the leftover agave fiber/mulch used to fertilize the fields is quite pungent; so pungently potent that I mistake it for black water. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the sights and smells.

After what seemed like a rather short descent, we start climbing again. Damn. Finally, just after km 9, we turn right into a paved road and a screaming descent begins. I thrive on down hills and start passing quite a few runners including a group of triathletes who had passed me on the climb. I running about 7mpm; I am getting the runner’s high.

Then I see an upcoming hill. Damn. When I start climbing it, my legs begin to feel like jello and my lungs once again burn. I ease up on the effort as I still have more than 7kms to go. The tri-athletes pass me like if I was just standing there. I do not respond. The downhill continues but I can not get my feet to turn over fast enough. I am struggling. I see my brother and nephew. My brother screams words of encouragement… in English… and I give him the finger for I felt he was mocking me. Five more Ks to go… I should be able to finish strong.

Not today. I can barely keep pace with two masters women. The kilometers seem to be longer and longer. My mind is totally in disarray. I want to walk so badly. Negative thoughts cross my mind as if the end of the world was nearing. It took enormous amounts of will to NOT walk. I knew I would finish. After what seemed to be an eternity the finish line was in sight. I gunned it with whatever reserve I had and crossed in 1:43:XX… felling like crap.

I had to stop for about 15 minutes inside the chute to recover. Then after exiting the chute, it took me about an hour to feel back to normal.

My only guess is that I was dehydrated by 10 miles even though I hydrated well during the race.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Fall in New York

My less than adequate result at the SF Nike Woman's Half had me searching for answers. I completed that half in 1:46:57, with several walking breaks beginning on the second or third hill. When I took these breaks, my heart was racing; definitively atypical for me. It was just plain weird considering that my first two miles were clocked at 7:30 pace and I was feeling fine. The problems started during the hills. I should note that I have run this course before and the hills, while challenging, have not humbled me as much as they did this time around.

Fast forward to November 1st. ... and my last day on antibiotics.

I take the ferry to Staten Island. I arrived at the athlete's village at just after 9am. I see that runners with green bibs are heading to their assigned corral. Damn. I still have to take my clothes to the UPS truck. It's announced that wave one is closed, same as last year. I grabbed two eight-oz water bottles as I felt thirsty. Drink one. Hold on to the other one as I do not want to have to go again prior to the start.

I head to the green corral even though it's supposed to be closed. I am allowed to enter it; I move my way forward as much as possible. It's not nearly as windy as last year. I spot Dean Karnazes; he looks thinner than I remember. I ended up waiting 30 minutes.

The horn sounds and it takes me 1:20 to cross the start mats. I plan on running as easy as possible while maintaining a decent pace. First mile is as expected due to the incline, 9:10. The second mile is mostly downhill and it should be faster. Right before the two mile marker I find myself in front of a tossed out white plastic trash bag. It's quite large and I decide to set my right foot on the middle of it. Big mistake. As my other foot landed firmly, the bag somehow wrapped itself around both of my feet and down I went, landing mostly on my hands, with my right hand scraping badly enough that it burned for two miles. Interestingly enough, I bruised my left arm and hand, scraped my left elbow and knee but did not notice it until after the end of the race.

As I was tumbling around, I saw the wall of runners forming the 3:30 group. As I quickly made it to my feet, I heard two or three people asking me if I was okay, to which I replied yes. Mile 2, 7:38. 8:24 pace so far and feeling good in spite of my right hand bleeding more than it should have as the loss of skin and the cut were not that bad. I will try to finish this "thing" in around 8:20 pace as I do not want to crash as badly as I have done in three of my six previous stints at the course.

Mile three is in Brooklyn and I am handed two band-aids; I struggle to place them on my hand while still running. Missed hitting the split button. I turn into the wide avenue and now the three corrals have merged. My right hand keeps on burning and I keep on glancing at it. Why? I don't know. Instinct I guess. Miles 3 and 4 in 16:43. Still feeling good.

I continue the easy pace; the effort coincides with the pace. The stupor from the fall has faded and I am able to clock an 8:07 for the fifth mile; I might have subconsciously upped the effort. Cool. Mile six confirms that as my watch shows 8:05. Time in the bank. Mile seven is an 8:08 and I contemplate averaging 8:10s instead of the original 8:20s. Mile eight brings me back to reality as the split is an unexpected 8:18 (10 seconds slower???). It was at this point where my feet began to ache; not badly, mind you, more like a dull ache than painful; but I saw it as my body telling me to revise my "race plan." I decided if the aches continued, or worse, got painful, that i would quit at the half.

[Mile nine has a mild incline that has wreaked havoc with my mind in my failed NYCMs as I have always got a much slower than expected split. Add the Poulansky bridge midway and you have the final nail on my coffin.]

So I decide to try Gallo-breaks (TM) in this mile. I make sure to be on the side as I do not want to be a hindrance to those who are running well. Almost as soon as I start walking I feel a gentle but firm slap on my butt. I am naturally startled. It was a European woman whom I guess wanted to encourage me to man-up and continue running. I could not help but to smile. 50 secs later I resume my running. Not surprisingly the split is slower, 8:37. I decide to skip the break during mile 10 as it has a mild decline and I am rewarded with an 8:01. Wow, I might just be able to complete it in 8:20 pace after all. It's nice to be an underachiever :-)

I take another walking break at mile 11, 8:33. Mile 12, 7:52... woohoo, nice ego boost. The Polansky bridge is coming up and I cannot help but to feel anxious. Mile 13, 8:12 and I walk the incline of the bridge, or at least for a minute. I cross the midpoint in 1:48:42. I do the math and even splits will bring me in with a not-so-bad 3:37 and change. Mile 14, 8:20.

Now in Queens, mile 15 is one of the least enjoyable in the course as the area is mostly industrial and it includes the upslope of the Queensboro bridge. Again, I follow what has proven to be a "wise" strategy, walking the inclines, and picking it up on the declines. Mile 15, 8:29. Mile 16 has a very nice decline and I expect to bank some time; I also expect not to take a break. But I wasn't counting on spotting what looked to be a bill stuck at one of the expansion gaps in the bridge. I look to my sides to make sure that my u-turn will not result in an accident. I pick up what ends up being three folded bills (2-$20s and 1-$10). Even with this slight "detour" I manage an 8:01 (I expected it to be faster- oh well).

I am now in first avenue where both sides of the road are lined with huge crowds screaming their lungs out. I spot a pair of arm warmers and I bend down to pick them up without losing stride. Mile 17, 7:41... damn, to run this kind of split at this stage was a good omen. I take a gallo-break but start picking up the effort when I am running. My left knee begins to ache (later on I figured the pain came from the bruise I sustain in the fall). Mile 18, 8:02. Mile 19, 8:17. Mile 20, 8:20. These three miles had a moderate headwind, so I expected to see faster splits once we headed back into Manhattan. Mile 21, 8:20; this mile includes a brief stint in the Bronx.

I was proven right once I entered Manhattan. Mile 22, 7:50. I am tired, but not nearly as tired as I was last year at this mile. Note: I am still taking gallo-breaks in the inclines. Mile 23, 7:50. Mile 24, 8:20... I can only guess that this was steeper than how I "saw" it.

I now am running in Central Park. I seem to remember that once I crest Cat's Hill that it is downhill until turning on Central Park South. Mile 25, 7:50. I am weaving in-and-out to avoid fading runners.

I turn on CPS and I struggle to make a decision whether to take a break this close to the finish. I chose what has worked so well so far. Mile 26, 7:50.

At this point I was under the impression that I was going to be able to break 3:34... I run as fast as I can for the last stretch. It is a net gain of elevation with moderate rolling hills. I complete this section in 1:32. I am spent but more than satisfied. I have just ran a 3'18" negative split in the NYCM. Not bad; not bad at all.

Monthly mileage 16 weeks before NY: July=128, August=133, September=95, October=92. Coincidence that my volume and fitness dropped quite a bit right after I was bit by a tick? I think not.

Thanks for reading and keep on running.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Gravity of the Downhill

The decision was made. To evaluate on the course whether or not to chase another BQ. This course has been good to me with two BQs (3:12:32 and 3:14:XX), both with HUGE negative splits; I knew the second half was much faster than the first. If I "felt" it, the goal was to run around 1:41:30 for the first half and negative split the second half by two minutes or more.

The day dawns cool... it's in the 50s in St. George. It can only be much cooler at the start, some 2500 feet higher. It is: 39F. It feels cooler than my other two BQs. I made sure to hydrate well the previous day. No need to repeat Berlin. I learned my lesson.

I somehow land too close to the start. And we're off more than two minutes early. I am wearing a long-sleeve throw-away shirt and gloves. I am breathing-in through my nose as I remembered that it helps to warm up the cool air... my nose hurts from the cold air... after five minutes, I switch to breathing-in through my mouth... much better. First mile is clocked in 7:33, what? It felt way too easy. I feel the need to reign in the pace. Next mile is a 7:40; much better, methinks. It is still dark and my body is warm enough to throw away the LS T.

I miss the third mile marker, but I am still running by feel and the pace seems easy enough to sustain for 26+ miles. The fourth marker approaches and I hit the lower-right button on my nike watch. It reads 14:39... WTF??? Gravity is really helping this ol' legs. Breathing could not be better. I feel elated. Sustain even effort, mile five: 7:27. Perfect. Mile six, 7:15... shit, too fast. Will I pay for it later? Mile seven, 7:17, even after consciously trying to slow down. I dream of crossing the line in sub-3:16. Ha Ha Ha!!!

Ahh, but doom looms not far from here. The Veyo hill... this is the most difficult mile in the race; thankfully it comes at a relatively early stage. Even so, it does humble me. My heart rate goers up considerably; some runners pass me. I smile as I see a decent 8:35 split for this mile. If memory serves me right, the next mile, even though not nearly as tough will be a slow mile. I am proven right as I clock an 8:15.

The next mile was a surprise as I did not think I was running THAT slow: 8:10. No matter, I banked plenty of time in the early miles; or so I think. Mile 11 comes in at a disappointing 8:22. I keet the faith and plod on. Mile 12 is a sub-8, 7:51. Close enough. Mile 13, 7:36... YES!!! I cross the half-way point exactly where I pictured myself being, 1:41:30.

I am feeling strong. Nothing can stop me now. I know this course; AND I know it well. Ha! Mile 14, 7:50.... hmm, not what I expected to see. Mile 15, 7:26, much more like it.

I seem to remember that mile 16 is screaming fast. Again, I am right: 7:11 (my fastest split of the morning). It was during this mile that the 3:20 group passed me and I let them go. I did try to stay close to them though.

Mile 17, 7:28... and I am feeling the pace; my heart feels stressed. I pushed the effort a bit to stay close to the 3:20s. Mistake? Maybe. Mile 18, 7:30, but the effort was too great. My breathing is labored. My mind is struggling. Soon after the 18 mile marker I see a decent pair of hills in front of me. My weak mind suggests to take a walking break. After all, walking is human no? Ahh yes, but running is divine!!! (stole that from a T-shirt). The 60 second break feels wonderful to my tired mind. I continue running. BUT wait, now my my legs are aching BIG time, particularly my toes and my quads. True, my knees had been hurting for most of the first half, but the pain was nothing compared to this. I am pushing it, really. Before I crest the second terraced hill I decide to take another walking break. This time it only lasts 30 seconds. Deep inside I know I am done. I continue on. Mile 19 is a not too slow mile at 8:13, but the damage is done. I am done. FINITO. I walk again. I try to jog but even a slow jog is quite painful to my lower body. I calculate that I can slog 10 minute miles for the rest of the "race." My legs refuse to comply, and my walk/shuffle gets me an 11:15 for the 20th mile. Where the f*ck is the shuttle van. Please come and pick me up. Poor me.

I continue the death march while what seemed to be the entire field passed me. Mile 21, 13:25. I am actually surprised it was that fast as even my walking was slow. I ask a volunteer at an aid station if the have any codeine... morphine will do nice thank you. Alas, they didn't even have aspirin. Mile 22, 12:56 and I finally see the shuttle. But at this point I am too damn close to hitch a ride. So I plod on.

The 3:30 group had passed me long ago. Now it was the 3:40 group to do the same. I start to "run" and surprisingly my body is cooperating. I no longer feel the unbearable pain of yester-moment. The three slogging miles must have been enough that my legs recovered. Mile 23, 8:34... Damn, I never thought I would feel good at seeing such split; well maybe at the Veyo mile, but not here. I take another walking break. My legs feel revitalized. I give chase to the 3:40s. I catch them and then some. Mile 24, 7:50. Another walking break, and the 3:40s pass me... AGAIN. I push the pace... manage to pass them and feel like screaming to the group to follow me of they were feeling good. I don't. Mile 25, 7:56. No walking break this time. My foggy mind thinks I can come in below 3:37, not realizing I need sub 7:15 pace to achieve this.

I am passing people left and right. The mile seems LONG... finally I see the 26 mile marker, 7:15, WTF??? I guess I am fully recovered. I would close with a 1:29 for a final time of 3:36:58.

AFTERMATH

I am standing by the finish and I see this guy who is beaming with pride so I ask him how he did. He says: 3:38, and you? That is great; I ran 3:37, I respond. He says: congratulations. I say: thank you, but I was aiming for 3:20. He says: don't be ashamed. I say: I am not ashamed; I am disappointed.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

My guess is that because I have not done all that much speed work, I was not efficient with my stride, particularly for a downhill course. I was not light on my feet. IOW, instead of landing and quickly pushing off with the ball of my foot, I was landing with my heels and rolling the plant of my foot and finally pushed off with my toes. Oh well. Lesson learned :-]

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Das Kapital

No this post has nothing to do with Marx. I just wanted a clever title :-)

On Tuesday, I arrived in Berlin's Tegel Airport not knowing that the exit was just a few feet away after leaving the plane. The luggage carousel was right next to the gate. I happened to connect in Frankfurt and the passengers were mostly businessmen; they just had carry on luggage... and I made the mistake of following them. As it was, I had to wait until my bag was transferred to the lost-and-found to retrieve it. Aside from the inconvenience of waiting an extra 45 minutes, the minor mishap was not all that bad.

I had a full night of sleep. Awesome. Jetlag? What is jetlag?

On Wednesday I went to Postdam for a few hours. Nice little town. Ran 6 miles in the evening with two at ~7:30 pace. Still sleeping pretty well.

On Thursday I took a 2.5 hr train ride to Dresden... came back to Berlin at 9:20pm.

On Friday I ran four easy miles. Then I picked up my bib. The only thing worth mentioning is that the t-shirt was not included. If you wanted one, you had to buy it in advance. I have way too many t-shirts; I did not get one.

Saturday, I did very little walking and rested as much as humanly possible.

********

On Sunday morning I feel fresh and alert, ready to tackle my conservative goal of hitting sub-3:30.

I make it to the start with about 20 minutes to spare. I take one of four hammergels. I feel thirsty so I have about 10oz of water. The mass of runners is pretty amazing. European runners are faster than the average American runner. I am in the fifth corral(3:15-3:30) and it takes me close to three minutes to cross the start.

My breathing is easy; I am relaxed. I had figured that I needed just under 5 minute klips, but a "whole" five was much easier to keep track. I expected to make up the few seconds during the last 2.2 Ks. After all I was not really racing it this time and expected to have plenty of energy at 40K.

By the third K I was about 28 seconds behind and was rather close to the 3:30 pacers. Even though I would cut the deficit by a few seconds, the 3:30 group managed to inch further away from me. I just could not get into a rhythm that allowed me to stay closer; in fact, the two times I tried widening my stride, I felt the effort was too great and went back to the LR-effort.

The race was so crowded, it was difficult to get to the aid stations w/o slowing down significantly or stopping all together. I am used to getting the cups from the volunteers and keep going at the same speed as I approach the station. Not here. I was forced to grab a cup from the table. And the fact that the cups were made of plastic, made it impossible to squeezed them w/o breaking them.

By the 16th K, I knew that I was not feeling it on that day. I blame it on a rookie mistake. I blame it on poor pre-race day hydration. I should know better than that. Sure, the crowded aid stations probably took away a minute from the final time. Sure it was relatively warm. But what I feel made it tough was that my legs felt fatigued. A fatigue that I suspect was due to under-hydration.

At this point I had to make a decision. Do I keep on running or do I use a strategy that some purists may frown upon, and that is to take 60-second walking-breaks. I decide to salvage what could turn out to be a death march past 30K and opt for the breaks. They will start at 22K, and continue every three Ks.

I did stop at 22, 25 and 28. But I was feeling too tired so I cut the distance to two Ks. I was losing about 35 seconds from the original pace; acceptable to my tired body and mind. Breaks at 30, 32 and amazingly... after taking hot tea (yes, the Germans have hot tea at aid stations) I felt this boost of energy so I decided to go an extra klip to 35; it must have been the sugar in the tea. I think it was around this time that I saw this man with his legs bathed in blood (really bad chafing???); and the guy just kept on going; needless to say, I was inspired.

However, my feet were aching. And 35K is a long distance so the breaks became every two Ks once again. Even though I was still taking the same 60-sec breaks, I was running faster as my 2-K splits were very close to 10 minutes. I struggled whether to take a break at 41 or not. After all the finish was so darn close. I wussed out and took a walking break. Funny thing is that I still managed a 5:48 for the last 1.2 Ks (7:48 pace, including the 60 seconds walking).

I was so tired when I finished. But I was in one piece. No discernible injuries. Interestingly enough, the piriformis has not bothered me of late. Probably because of trigger-point therapy. I did get three separate bouts of PF flare-ups; fortunately, they did not lasts more than 10 seconds.

The following day my legs were in fairly good shape. Very little soreness, if any. Were the walking-breaks the reason? Probably so.

**********

The numbers: 45th Marathon completed. Chip time=3:33:57 Splits=1:45:33/1:48:24 +2:51 split; Fourth Major (missing London)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sundry

I caught the Phantom a couple of weeks ago; it was just as good as I remembered it; or it might have been better as the special effects were definitely improved. Grade: A

On Saturday I went to see Julie and Julia, more so because I love any movie with Streep than because I love cooking. Meryl was her usual self, outstanding as Child, even while she let slip a personal quirk here and there. Who would have thunk it that she could play a much larger woman than herself (as Child was quite tall, who incidentally was quite sexual- something I would have never guessed). This was achieved by filming her with much shorter women... and men. The juxtaposition of the two Js worked quite well. Amy Adams mannerisms reminded me so much of Meg Ryan, there were times I was confounded to "see" a different face. The movie focused on their lives, lives that were almost opposite yet shared a common bond: great food. If you haven't seen it: what are you waiting for? Grade: A-

Running has been hit or miss; more miss than hit. I have been averaging low mileage as it relates to marathon training. My long runs have been non-existent and my legs are taking much longer to recover. Any speed I had seems to have evaporated into thin air. I often find myself fatigued, which leads me to rationalizing not running for that day. Still, I remain optimistic that I can do a decent showing in Berlin (3:30-3:35) depending on how I feel that day. I do know that these "ruts" tend to hit me from time to time; they run in cycles. The difference now is that the rut is lasting longer than average. Grade: C-/D+

On a positive note, it was suggested that the soreness may be due to the low mileage... and Fran just may be spot on. So as he aptly put it: just run! And I will. I intend on running at least six days a week with a mini-taper week before Berlin.

Cheers