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.


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.


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


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.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Only in LA

Yesterday, on my way to the beach, I casually look to my right (on the 10 FWY) and I see five cyclists riding on the freaking FWY!!!! WTFX3??? Now this was definitely not a sanctioned ride, and although the traffic was stop-and-go I could not believe my eyes... those guys had some major iron b*lls...

OAN, and after my last rather unsuccessful run, I had trepidations about today's run... even while I was aware that these "bad" runs come in cycles, I could not help but feel sadden... especially when one considers the impending three marathons looming in my not-too-distant future...

On to today's run... I started slowly and had a 9:10 split for the first mile... hmmm, not THAT slow... the second mile was a blistering 8:30 [insert your favorite ironic emoticon]... then the next .75 of a mile was run at low 8ish pace... I suddenly had a stroke of genius; I decided to go sub 7 for a half mile... boom, 3:29 (right on target)... ah, but I wasn't done... I kept the effort and completed ONE mile at sub-7... aren't I wonderful??? :-) I fully recovered; well not really, but my HR was ALMOST back to normal... stretched, as I old age has taught me an important lesson: and that is that my aging muscles NEED to be stretched :-)... I start running, and pick up the pace; this time I am hoping to run 1.5 miles at sub-7 pace... 3:25 (half mile split) and I am feeling PREETTTYYY good... THANK YOU... then I note a 3:26 for the next split; still well within my goal; but the effort is becoming labored... the third half-mile split is a not-too-shabby 3:27 for a 6:52 overall pace... Boy do I LOVE running FAST (relatively speaking of course) :-)

The workout: 7.5 miles (7:55 pace) with a one tempo mile in 6:53 and 1.5 miles @ 6:52 pace. Ended it with a cold Sierra Nevada...

Have a great week y'all!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Musical Chairs

I have always tripped out on people who prefer vinyl records... I always dismissed them as being "stuck in the past." Apparently I am wrong (not the first nor last time). There is indeed a difference as transcribed below. Apologies to Dave for "borrowing" his most excellent explanation...

***My problem, WRT digitalization, comes more from recorded music. And the world of recorded music provides us with an opportunity to foresee the problems an all-digital distribution system of literature may have.

When the CD was first introduced by Sony and Philips in the 1980's, it was touted as having "Perfect Sound Forever". It was an immediate success. And yet many people (such as myself) still prefer to listen to LPs, in spite of the extra effort and expense required to do so. Why?

Well, first I'll bore you with the technical details. The standard CD uses a sampling rate of 44kHz, or 44,000 samples per second. But keep in mind that this is the *sampling rate*, not the frequency response. Take the standard orchestral tuning pitch of A, which is 440 Hz. This pitch is used because it's in the range of virtually every instrument in the orchestra. At a sampling rate of 44kHz, you have 100 pixels to draw this sound wave (with all its attendant overtones) in such a way to distinguish a bassoon from a violin from a human voice. Now, for reasons I could explain much more simply with pictures, electrically amplified and distorted instruments (electric guitars, voices through microphones, etc.) produce much "simpler" wave shapes (due to electronic "clipping", or cutting off the top of the sound wave) than do acoustic instruments. SO for most commercially produced popular music, digital recording is adequate. But there is a reason that whenever Sony (which owns Columbia Records) came out with a new audio format (CD, SACD, DVD-Audio, etc.) the first two recordings they trotted out were Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" and Bruno Walter's stereo recording of Beethoven's 6th - those two 1958 recordings are the best recordings Columbia ever produced in terms of sound quality, and intervening technology has only made recordings cheaper and easier to distribute, not better sounding.

But then the ubiquitous MP3 format came along. The absolute highest sampling rate of an MP3 file is 32kHz (less than 75% of a CD), but most MP3 files streamed on the internet are in the 12.8kHz - 19.2kHz range. At these rates, you're down to 30-40 pixels to draw an A(440) wave, and far less as you listen to higher frequencies (pitch increase is exponential instead of linear - going up one octave doubles the frequency). This just makes most treble clef instruments sound screechy.

The result of this is that most people who listen intently to recorded music find digital recordings quite fatiguing. I can listen to my classical LPs as long as my attention span lasts, and then throw on some jazz LPs for dessert. By contrast, my limit on a CD is approximate a Mahler symphony. But I will admit that I listen to music differently from someone who uses music as a soundtrack to their run, so while LPs are my preferred music format, I don't view that preference as universal.

At first the recording industry loved the new CD format - production costs went way down while at the same time retail prices went way up (remember in the mid 80's transition a CD would be priced at twice what the same LP would cost, even though the CD cost less to manufacture). CDs required less retail space in a store. Playback equipment was cheaper and required less maintenance. Profits soared - for a while. But then something happened.

Not only can LPs produce more accurate sound, but they used to be distributed with great covers and liner notes. Glenn Gould's liner notes on Bach's Goldberg Variations are as good as any published in those journals Chuck complains about. The RCA 1956 recording of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe is embossed with a 16 page booklet about the ballet illustrated by a young Andy Warhol. The stereo set of Brahms symphonies conducted by Bruno Walter and issued posthumously in 1963 contains an illustrated biography of the composer written by his daughter. And I've found some LPs (Otto Klemperer's Bach Orchestral Suites and two symphonies by 20th C Dutch Composer Henrik Andriessen) which came with full orchestral scores. Meanwhile, with a CD case you got a little pamphlet with abbreviated notes in microfiche that anyone with eyes over 12 years old would need a microscope to decipher, which is still a far cry above the MP3, which is usually just a sound file with no extra material. And the RIAA wonders why they cannot achieve the level of sales and profits they had a generation ago. To me, it's quite obvious - they've devalued their product and turned it into a commodity.

How this relates to the publishing industry remains to be seen. Newspapers are already on life support, and for perhaps good reason (why wait for stale news to arrive at their whim when you can get it fresh online)? And clearly, many people like the immediacy and portability of digital books. Then again, the same arguments can be made in favor of MP3's. And for popular light summer reading this distribution method might work (people rarely complain about the sound quality of MP3's when listening to rock or pop music). But what about those books that you would want to take a bit more seriously; that you would prefer to read in bed or in your favorite chair without interruption? I'm not so sure I would want my only access to James Joyce to be electronic (if nothing else, it would make it difficult to use "Ulysses" as a door stop). But industries like economy and efficiency, so they will eventually prefer to move all of their publishing to a single channel, and digital is cheaper and easier for them. What will we lose? I don't think we know yet. For the vast majority of people immersed in popular culture, probably nothing (just as all but a few people consider the CD's replacement of the LP a good riddance). But for connoisseurs, there is a tangible loss that is hard to explain.

Dave Frederick***

Thursday, May 21, 2009

B2B Redux

I have been slacking big time on my running... supposedly because of my PS (piriformis syndrome)... more on that at the end...

So I signed up for Bay to Breakers early hoping I could break 50 (as I ran 51:16 in 2008)...

BUT, I was not counting on being injured... suffice it to say, that the injury has improved (meaning it does not hurt nearly as much)...

I had a very conservative goal (7 to 7:10 pace)... ALAS, the day dawned warm... warm enough that my 1.5 mile "jog"to the start had me sweating...

I start right behind the elites and the centipedes (the fasts ones any way)... BUT there is this 70ish looking woman in front of me (WTF?)...

There must have been about 200 runners in front of me... BUT when the "gun" went off, I must have gone through that many people... Did they jump in? Most likely... so I found myself weaving for the first mile, 6:58 (6:48)... parentheses show last year's splits... I find myself in oxygen debt, NOT A GOOD SIGN...

I am already hurting and I try to slow down to "feel" tempo effort... find myself at mile two in 7:17 (6:53)... and I am okay as I think I can recover to have a decent showing... then the Hayes terraced hills hit me and I struggled as I never have struggled before in a race (and I am being conservative)... I want to walk so badly, my EGO hurts... I see what appears to be the end of the hills and I "jogged"it in... BUT there is one last slope, one that is so short I know I can take...

THEN, there is this short sharp downhill, that my legs are not ready for and the third mile split comes at a disappointing 8:24 (7:52)... ahh, but the terrain can only get easier, right?... no, there is a mild upslope on mile number 4... so I just "sustain" the effort... BUT my legs are spaghetti by now... mile four in an embarrassing 7:46 (7:05)... I plod on as my legs and lungs are begging for mercy... a few runners pass me... BUT I hold my place... mostly.

Mile 5, 7:43 (6:53)... WTF? I am not recovering as much as I should be... I am really hurting... was it the lack of strides? METHINKS so....

Mile 6 is a slowish 7:17 (6:28)... and I think that I should be able to knock a "noble"sub-7:15... BUT no, I can only muster a 7:24 (6:28)... and I want to give up right there and then... my EGO screams at me, telling me that there is less than half-a-mile to go... so I muster any left-over energy and finish with a 55:55, 3:06 for the last stretch (2:49)...

It takes me about 30 minutes to get back to normal as I left everything I had on that day behind...

I am NOT disappointed as I did not have it that day... MAYBE I can redeem myself on another race...

Thanks for reading...

PS: it appears that the injured muscles were the aBductors along with the piriformis... I have been stretching the culprits, and the pain is almost gone :-)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kara and Me

Last year I signed up early for NYC... who decides to run HER first full Mary there? Yep. KG.

Then on impulse I sign up for Boston... who decides to run HER second full Mary at B? Yep. KG.

I signed up for Berlin early this year... who's also running it? Yep. KG.

Coincidence? I think not. She's stalking me. No.Doubt.About.It.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Carlsbad 5000

This race bills itself as the fastest 5K... The course itself is fast but is not flat, and it does include TWO hairpin turns.

As stated before I wanted to run sub-20... and the way I was going to do it was to wear my garmin to avoid a fast start and a potentially season ending injury.

I wake up at 3:30 as I have to drive some 90 minutes to the start... NOT to mention that I had yet to pick up my bib number. I had paid $20 at an expo...

I ended up making it to the town center right around 6AM... plenty of time before my scheduled race, 7:05AM...

Picked up my bib and T-shirt (nice design, BTW)... warmed up for one mile easy...

30 minutes before the start I do another w/u mile... this one including four striders at perceived 5K effort... my piriformis gets massaged... and I am ready to roll.

I line up four rows back. And the gun goes off.

After a few steps walking we're off. It's crowded. But it's controlled. I look at my Garmin and I am running sub 6. Hmmm, relax. Adrenaline pumping, my legs want to turn over quickly. About 200 runners are ahead of me and even if I wanted, I could not go faster. My pace slowly drops. The effort feels more like a short tempo run. We turn left and Garmin says 6:16. Hmmm, I expected it to be slower. The course is full of mild inclines, and there is a mild wind that will be on my face for the second half of the race.

I cross the one-mile marker in 6:21. Damn. A bit fast. Will I implode? FI, if I do, I do. I maintain the effort. We are running by the ocean. Also, I am beginning to pass runners. I am feeling good. The first hairpin turn approaches. I turn wide as suggested by a RunnersWorld Forum member (13th OA, 52-years, 16:40). I keep on passing runners here and there. The pace begins to feel harder to sustain. I am still following Garmin. Mile 2, 6:20. How can I be running a 5K in such even pacing? Will the third mile drop off dramatically? I tell myself that I just have to endure the race for about seven more minutes.

We are now on another slight incline and the second hairpin turn appears. There are two other runners close to me. I decide to go a couple of meters ahead to avoid getting in their way. I also swing wide. I would end up passing these runners. I feel nauseous. The puke-meter is redlining now. I try to relax to see if the feeling will go away. It doesn't. My Garmin has been showing the pace is getting faster. I turn left and I see the finish line. Mile three, 6:15!!! I complete the last stretch in 39"... for a final time of 19:35(chip)... matching my gun time of my 19:34 (watch) PR.

To say the least I am extremely happy with the result. To think that I almost PR'd with no race specific training... Apparently my aerobic fitness has stay put. We'll see how my endurance is come April 20th.

If you are only going to race ONE 5K in your life, it has to be the Carlsbad 5000. Awesome race. The best $20 I have spent on ANY race.

Down and Out

Training was going well for B*ston. I had averaged 50 mpw for the first 10 weeks of the year. Then I read about the POSE form and decided to try it on my scheduled 18-miler. Damn me for doing it on a long run. By seven miles my right piriformis was in flames. I stopped and stretched; the pain in the @ss was lessened. I continued until the end but could tell my arse was in bad shape, figuratively and literally. Managed to run 50 miles for the 11th week.

I was scheduled to fly to Europe during the 12th week and knew that running would take a back seat. The day I was to fly I decided to do speedwork. Made up the workout as I went along. Decided on 5X1-mile at ~6:45 pace. I ran the first one in 6:29. I knew I was toast. Next one (after a 75-sec standing recovery) is done in 6:32. Still too fast; my heart rate was too high and needed 1:45 to recover. As I was doing the third repeat I knew I would have to cut it short as my form was falling apart. Decided to cut it at 1/2 mile, 3:16. Rested for two minutes and ran another half-mile in 3:12. Obviously my "fast" miles did me in. On the cool down, and just about .6 miles from my house I start getting a really bad stitch. So bad I must have looked like Quasimodo. Miles for the 13th week: 19.5.

On the beginning of the 14th week (Sunday) I happen to find myself in Rome, conveniently I might add as it is marathon day. I decide to bandit a portion of race (I did pay for a walk/run bib :-)) and I jog to the first K marker. There where about 25 locals waiting to do the same I was about to do. Damn bandits!!! The 3:15 pace groups approaches fast on the cobble-stone downhill and I try no to crash into the mass of runners. The first K seemed easy and I felt I would not have trouble holding this pace for 10 miles. Alas, I found myself struggling and dropped the pace a bit little by little. I then eye a guy with a Mexican flag and start talking to him. He was fading fast. His goal was to run 3:40 (and he had been running with the 3:15 group!!) and knew he was in-and-over his head. Then my hip flexor started to flare up and I started hobbling. Quit the course having ran 7:40s for 14Ks... I jogged back to the Colosseum. Then walked to the hotel I was staying to watch the end of the race.

Three days later finds my worn out shoes on the bridges of Venice where I attempt to keep up any fitness I had built up. I don't know if it was dodging locals and tourists but my hip felt a lot worse at the end of the 5-miler (8:20 pace). I knew that rest was not an option. No more running for a while. 16 miles for the week (14th).

It is Wednesday and six days have passed without running. I am back in Lala Land. I want to try an easy five. Not even a half mile into the run and my hip is quite painful. I stop at two miles and stretch. I turn around knowing that it is better not run the extra mile. Four miles at 9ish pace. I am walking lopsided; my body seems to try to balance the tightening of the hip flexor. I am now worried that Sunday's 5K should not be run at all. I am bummed because the Carlsbad 5000 has been one of those races I have been wanting to run for a while.

I rest on Thursday. But I have accu-pressure on the sore piriformis/hip flexor and sore hamstring.

The next day I feel energetic. I want to run an easy eight. I start the run and I notice my stride is fluid. First mile in 8:01. Faster than I have ran a first w/u mile in quite some time. Again, I change the easy run into a workout run, since I am feeling good. I am thinking 3-4 miles at previous MP (~7:25) would be fun. The second w/u mile is clocked at 7:15... wow, I have lost all sense of pacing. I don't stop to stretch but decide to continue the effort. Mile three in 7:04. Damn, this is very close to my long tempo pace. There is a slight headwind too. Mile four has me struggling a bit, 7:16. Back to life, back to reality. I make a hairpin turn. The headwind is now a tailwind. It helps. I run this mile in 6:54. I stop after this mile to get a full recovery and to stretch, paying particular attention to the injured muscles/tendons.

After I few minutes I take off thinking mile six would come in at MP... nope, the first quarter was 1:45 and it felt easy so I just held on, 6:54. Ran the last two at 7:26 and 7:22. Overall pace for the eight miles: 7:15. Not too shabby. It confirms what I have known for a while. I like to run fast (relatively speaking). I will step on the starting line on Sunday. Sub-20 will be my goal. Even when I have had very little speed w/os.

Saturday is a recovery run. Four miles at 8:50 pace. I threw in an extra quarter at 5K effort, 1:41. 6:45 pace??? Damn, sub-20 may be a bit lofty of a goal. I come up with a plan: 6:30, 6:30, 6:20 and hammer the last stretch for a sub-20. But I will be happy with beating last year sole 5K, 20:27. It is so easy to pen a plan; the issue is to execute on race day.

Mileage for the last three weeks before Sunday's race: 19.5, 16, 16. If I fail, I will not be able to blame it on fatigue :-)

Next: Carlsbad 5000 Race Report

Monday, March 02, 2009

Running and the Law

On Saturday I was supposed to run long, 19-20 miles. I did not plan on including a 10K "time-trial" in the middle of the punishing workout, but Mindi challenged her readers to a "virtual" 10K "race." She did magnificently; read her report here.

I start my run at a very conservative pace. The first six miles averaged 8:18, and I could feel the fatigue in my legs. Damn. Was it the three miles I ran on Thursday with 40 seconds on, 70 seconds off? I did average 6:57 for those three miles. A sign that my legs might have been on the verge of over-training was when my recovery run on Friday had my legs protesting a bit. Naturally, I just did not feel "it." But I got ready to run at least the pace I ran on my last half-mary (6:57).

The first half mile is too conservative as I glanced at my watch and I saw a 3:36 (7:12 pace). I have to pick up the effort. I do. The first mile is a not-too-bad 7:05. The bike trail is fairly flat with a couple of grade-separations (under-passes). The second mile comes in at a more "decent" 6:56 and I have thoughts of negative splitting the race. I continue the same perceived effort but I notice the stride is shortening. Mile three, 7:05. Shit. I tell myself that 7:05s are not that bad, especially on beat up legs. I desperately want to quit. It's just a workout. I am supposed to run long steady pace, :-) I decide to hang on and take one mile at a time. It also helps that Mindi had much worse circumstances and she did it; and did it rather well. Mile four 7:04, thank goodness I have not slow down. I concentrate on my form. I am not hurting as much as if I was racing others, but it is very close. Mile five, 7:02. Yes. Only one mile and change to go. I know I can finish this thing. Mile six, 6:53. One last quarter. I cover it in 1:45, or 1:30 for the .215 of a mile. Final time is 43:35. And I am so exhausted. I know I will not be able to do the 7-8 miles left to complete the scheduled run. I compromised on doing 15 total miles. I rationalized that the quality of the 10K should more than make up for the lack of distance.

On another related note: it had been thirteen straight days of running and the month of February had me averaging 57 mpw. My legs are definitely tired. I had arranged to meet a former co-worker for an easy Sunday run around the Rose Bowl (RB), but I was hoping he would cancel as I felt I needed a day off.

I meet him at 10AM sharp. He is wearing sandals and cargo shorts. WTF? He tells me he has to be elsewhere at 10:30 so we would have to postpone the run. I say fine, I'll tag alone. We come back to the RB and the day is just gorgeous, maybe a bit too warm. We run a route that is rather hilly. Luckily, we are running easy. Still, the hills were tough.

I finished feeling good about my 14-day running streak. We then make our way to re-hydrate. An hour later we decide to drive but a block away to have a bacon burger. We are in separate vehicles. I park and I look on my rear-view mirror and what do I see? A patrol-car with its lights on. Shit. I promptly go for my wallet and pull my license. The Officer comes over my side and asks me for license, registration and insurance. I hand him the license and look for the insurance and registration. I fumbled the two and he notices that I do not have a current proof-of-insurance. I assure him the insurance is current. He asks me if I know why he stopped me. I say no; and I didn't. He tells me that I made an illegal turn, a "no-turn-on red."

He walks over to his car and gives my info to his partner. I am upset that I did not see the signs forbidding my infraction. All along I have been calling the Officer Sir.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity he comes back. No pad on his hand. Good news? Yep. They decided to let me off with a warning as I was some 20 miles from home. I was so relieved. But the anxiety stayed with me for the better part of the remaining day. That combined with several restless nights and the mileage accrued made for one extremely tired old dude....

May you all have a wonderful week!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Start Spreading the News...

Dear Alejandro ,
We are pleased to confirm that you have been accepted for entry into the ING New York City Marathon 2009. Our records have been updated to reflect your acceptance.

Big grin on my face :-D

Yesterday I found myself racing my first 8K. Not having done much speedwork of late had me guesstimating a 7 mpm pace. I warm up for two miles and do two strides at perceived goal pace.

I lined up about four rows deep. There are a whole lot of pre-teens and sub-18-year-olds. The "gun" caught me off guard and I just follow a rather large mass of runners. I hope to reel most of them in. The first mile is a smallish loop that has some challenging rolling hills, 6:37. I can only dream I can average this pace. The "fade" is expected to come later. Mile two is a straight away that appears deceivingly flat; it is not, 6:49. Then we work our way around a larger loop and a monster hill is just in sight. [It might not have been that big, but my legs definitely complained] I set my sights on three sub-teens. I finally catch them after cresting the hill, 7:08.

For some reason, I tend to run better in downhills and the next 1.97 miles had a nice gradual decline. I start passing a runner here and there; I am still running strong, 6:20. The last stretch is practically mile two, but in the opposite direction. I am running next to a bearded runner. Exchange a couple of sentences. He is fading a bit. I get an adrenaline rush. I push the pace a bit more. The gag-meter is redlining. I force myself to lower the effort, as I know I would have to make a full stop to toss my cookies. The gagging feeling stays with me. One younger runner passes me as we make the turn into the parking lot where the finish is. I tell him to "bring it home." He thanks me. I increase the effort for I do not want anyone else to pass me, not this close to the chute, 6:01 (6:12 pace). 32:55 by my watch, 32:57 official tag time.

I am quite happy with the result. It shows that I am not as slow as I think I am.

The food provided at this event is the BEST I have ever seen. Pizza from BJ, brownies from ClaimJumper, salads from Cali-Pizza Kitchen, breakfast tacos, smoothies from Jamba Juice, and more!!

A 12-year old beat me by more than FIVE minutes!!! He ran 27:43 (5:36 pace)... Amazing...

Have a nice week!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

One Good Run

I have been hesitant to post a goal for Boston. And my ol' legs just don't seem to have the same pizazz they once seemed to have. I went so far as to join the Boston sub-3:10 thread at runners world. But then the sysop changed the look and feel of their forums. And magically, there was no record that I had ever boasted I could run sun 3:10; I mean, I had a hard time running a sub 3:18 in 2006 on much younger and readier legs; what on earth was I thinking? On top of that I am not following ANY structured plan; I am just trying to get at least two quality runs and sustain the weekly [read weakly] mileage in the 50s.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. I had 15 on the menu. 8 mpm seemed about right, but I would not worry too much if I ended up 20-30 seconds per mile slower. I started a bit fast [for me] as it was a bit cool and windy. I had a tailwind for the first 1.7 miles, then as I entered the man-made channel the wind was suddenly on my face. Not too strong but it kept me honest [whatever that means]. My stride felt fluid and quick. I hit the three mile mark in 24:15. Can I sustain this pace? Even with a headwind?

The bike trail is clearly marked every quarter-mile. And I notice that the pace is getting a tiny bit faster. Next three mile segment is completed in 23:28, or 7:52 pace. WTF? I am dreaming or what? I also feel really strong. I kept on wishing I felt like this during race efforts.

On the next quarter I check my watch and I am now running 7:40 pace. And this with a headwind. That means that I should be able to run 7:20s on the way back. I hit the hairpin turn and now the headwind is a tailwind. Nice. In an effort to drop the pace to 7:20s I notice I am working a bit harder. This three-mile segment is run at 7:30 average pace, 22:30.

Then the unthinkable happened. The notion of working harder went away and my breathing was as relaxed and even as it has ever been. My pace dropped to 7:10s. It was short of amazing. Where was this coming from? Two days earlier I had to cut a tempo run short as I could barely survive three miles in just under 21 minutes. Penultimate three-mile segment, 21:34 [7:11 pace]. The runner's high was just beginning. I exit the bike trail with a low 7 mpm pace. And I hit a headwind. No matter. I am on a natural high. One mile to go. My left knee ached a bit but not enough to slow down. I finished the last segment in 21:05, almost the same pace as my tempo run two days ago. 1:52.52, roughly 7:31 pace. Needless to say I was on cloud nine :-)

So what? I had ONE great run... what does this mean in the bigger scheme of life? It means I will go for a sub 3:15, which would qualify me for London 2010. Incidently, I signed up for Berlin 2009 and will sign up for NYCM 2009 [as I already have a qualifier].

I leave you all with a picture from the Surf City Marathon. Happy running.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Pacing 3:30 Surf City Marathon Runners

I was feeling a bit anxious as this was my first attempt at pacing. This time it was not about me; it was about those runners who wanted to tag along and run 3:30 or as close to it as possible.

My ride had Frank (a team member who was carpooling and who was pacing the 4:10 group) and I a bit nervous as the cars did not seem to move and it was already 6:30. We were a little less than a mile from the start. Marathon was to start at 6:50. I asked Frank if we should start jogging to the start and he said yes. On our way there we had to make a pit stop. We left that pit stop with about three minutes to go. We could hear the Anthem being sung. As we approached the start, we hear that the wheelchairs are given the green light. I wish Frank good luck and I head to meet the other 3:30 pacer... with only 30 seconds to spare.

Right away the pace felt surprisingly easy. I tried to maintain an 8 mpm pace. At 10 miles I was a bit ahead with 24 seconds banked. At twelve my feet started feeling tired (wore shoes w/ 250 miles on them) and my left knee was bugging me. At this point I was about 10 seconds behind the other 330 pacer. Then at 13, this kid tells me that he intends to run with me for the rest of the race. He was a god-sent savior as my mind was beginning to struggle (I have only ran longish once since the NYCM - 17 miles at 8:24 pace). Travis and I hit 20 miles in 2:39.43 or 17 seconds ahead of the intended pace.

I just stayed with him and finally around mile 21 I was given a zip-lock with orange wedges that did the trick. I felt renewed. I had taken three hammer gels at 5, 12 and 18.5. So nutrition-wise I was fine. Maybe the high humidity in the first half dehydrated me too much.

In the latter miles, the other pacer and I encouraged two runners to pick it up as they looked strong. We ended up finishing in 3:29:54. Not too bad says I.

It felt really good to have been able to "help" two runners achieve PRs and to encourage Travis as he was fading at the end. Would do it again in a heartbeat. One negative was the misplacement of mile markers. They threw me off a couple of times, but was able to adjust.

I must note that running a marathon is so much easier on the mind as on the body; racing is tough, really tough.

Temps were cool and foggy during the first twelve miles and they warmed up a bit after 13. 50F/82% at 6:50, and 60F/53% at 10:20.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

SoCa Half Mary

I signed up for this race mainly because it was relatively inexpensive, $34 (a $4 club discount included). It also took place about 30 miles from home.

I got there about 40 minutes early. A brisk jog later, I pick up my bib and a sucky cotton T-shirt. Still warming up, I head back to the car to drop off my warm-ups and the "goodies." I then jog to the start with about 10 minutes to spare... enough time to stretch very tight hip flexors and piriformis. I line up very close to the front; maybe about three rows back.

The MC lets the sole wheelchair participant take off first. Two minutes later it is our turn. It's a bit crowded but I welcome it as I don't want to go out to fast. Mile 1 in 6:52. My A goal was to run sub-1:30; B is to average 7 mpm, and C a very conservative 7:15 pace.

The course is billed as flat and fast. It may be flat, but the several turns "cost" me at least 15 seconds. The Santaanas are strong and screw up my planned even-pacing. At one point a monster gust hits us and I just let go; I almost stopped altogether and walked; I did manage a jog. This female runner who had been trading places with me back-and-forth says something, but I can not discern it. I just uttered that I hated the wind.

This runner seemed to have targeted me as someone she was not going to allow to get ahead of her. Really. She would pass me, breathing rather heavily- like one would breathe when running a short tempo. Then she would fade and I'd be forced to pass her as I did not want to draft off of her. Then a couple of minutes later, she would pass me again. I was more amused than anything else. Finally around six miles, while we were running on a bike trail (more than 80% of the race took place here) I dropped her during a mild incline. Clearly she was running a bit too fast for her current fitness. She would finish about 2:30 behind me.

By eight miles I was really tired, particularly my arms. I just tried to hang on. After this mark more runners passed me than I was able to reel. I was trying really hard to catch up to a bare-foot runner (I got as close as 20 meters) but he slowly gained distance.

It's now the last mile and I am hanging on to this one guy. I am hurting as much as I have hurt in a half. I hang on though. We are now running on the sidewalk. It's the home stretch. We make one final turn and the finish banner is there. The guy in front of me picks it up; I follow through. Now he really guns it. I finish just a second or two behind him. Oddly, the official results have him seven seconds ahead of me. No matter. He helped me push myself at a point where I was running on fumes.

Five meters into the chute, I get really nauseous and I thought I was going to toss my cookies. Final time: 1:31:01. Sweet. I am pleased with the effort as I came to this race without tapering. I give myself a solid B+.

Splitville: 6:52, 7:02, 6:52, 6:37, 7:12, 14:01 (6&7), 6:56, 6:53, 7:05 [1:09:29], 7:12, 7:02, 7:16 for the last 1.1

Nice way to start the 2009 year...

Happy running!