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.