Sunday, September 28, 2008

20 Mile Run.....Put It In The Books! (ugh, lol)

After sleeping about 5 hours, I got my stuff ready and drove on out to Queens, for what would be perhaps, my final 20 mile run before the New York City Marathon in November.

The weather was balmy and drizzly, and it was complete pitch black outisde. I had decided to break in my New Balance 1062, which would hold up remarkably well.


My only concern really was driving through the fog at 5 am on a Saturday morning down the Southern State Parkway. This is when the really, really, really drunk people are driving.

For the first 5 miles, I ran in darkness. I made sure to run on the left side of the road so that I could see the traffic in front of me (or at least the headlights). I focused on staying as close to a straight line as possible, and remembered about using correct upper body form, by only pumping my fists when I went uphill.

I also took my Camelback with me. It was loaded with Gatorade, and it proved to be a valuable asset.

Once I approached Queens Center, I turned left and made my way down to QueensPlaza (Skillman Av. intersection). By the time I reached there I had completed 6 miles. My splits on the way there were

The blackness of night converted into the cover of clouds, as I ran back the way I came down Queens Boulevard.

I reached Union Turnpike, hooked a right, and went down all the way till I got back to Woodhaven Boulevard, where I made another left.

When I approached my teammates, I had hit exactly 14 miles, but I did not want to stop for fear that I would start to tighten up. I made my way into the park, and did my normal 4 mile course back to the meeting area.

Once I finished that, I did one last jaunt, to the south side of the park this time to Oak Ridge. Noticing that it was not quite a full mile out, I made sure to run past it for awhile, until I got to 19 miles, and then made it back to the clubhouse in time for the meeting.

20 miles. Mission Accomplished!

As for the other sports story in New York (and no, not football), all I will say is this, I am sorry for all the fans (just the good ones - not the low class filth) out there that put their heart into something that is beyond their control. All I can say is to all of them, is to take pride in what YOU do that is good and be proud of that. I, was actually happy that I had destiny in my hands, and was able to accomplish my objective today. That should be far more important than what a bunch of millionaires do or don't do.

So, I have done this year a total of 1,445 miles. Last year in all I did 1,507.9. So it looks like I will be breaking that record for sure. Last year I did 14 races, compared to 17 so far this year.

Here were my mileage splits

Mile 01 - 9:50.28
Mile 02 - 9:30.74
Mile 03 - 9:28.23
Mile 04 - 9:32.98
Mile 05 - 9:45.88
Mile 06 - 9:20.08
Mile 07 - 9:40.09
Mile 08 - 9:18.86
Mile 09 - 9:29.38
Mile 10 - 9:35.3
Mile 11 - 9:38.58
Mile 12 - 9:33.85
Mile 13 - 9:15.68
Mile 14 - 9:13.28
Mile 15 - 9:07.28
Mile 16 - 9:09.23
Mile 17 - 9:40.65
Mile 18 - 9:27.15
Mile 19 - 9:39.99
Mile 20 - 9:51.61
Total Time - 3:10:09.12

Perhaps the most encouraging news of all is that I did the last 10 miles almost a full minute faster than I did the first 10. As evidenced by Miles 15 and 16, seeing me pass my teammates by, definitely gave me a confidence booster. My overall pace today was 9:31 per mile. My all time record for a marathon was set in 1985, when at the age of 20, I did the course in a time of 4 hours 9 minutes and 47 seconds. The pace for that was 9:32 per mile. But the last 10k of a marathon is perhaps the most grueling moment of all for a runner that is not prepared. And that's why I've been working so hard to avoid a repeat of years gone by where I cramp up.

By the way, speaking of cramping up., I have been taking something by Hammer called Endurolytes. It is a specially formulated capsule consisting of Sodium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Manganese (not Pekinese). I have been taking them for a month and I can now say without a doubt that it has helped me to reduce the amount of cramping that I get, especially on my feet, which has all but screwed me in the late innings of a race. Innings. Ugh.




Back to stats. This year for me, the "Holy Grail" would be to break 4 hours. To do this, I need to have a pace of 9:09 per mile. Weather, Rest, Diet, Injury, Energy. I will do whatever I can to achieve my goals on those factors I can control. The rest is up to "Mother Nature".

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

40 Days To Go.

The biggest race of the year. The behemoth of all races.

The race which makes all other races crawl, hide, and shudder, is upon me. Again.

Have I trained enough?

Do I have what it takes?


The 2008 New York City Marathon.

The final countdown has begun......

Monday, September 22, 2008

RACE REPORT: Philadelphia Distance Run

RACE: ING Philadelphia Distance Run
DISTANCE: Half-Marathon (13.1 Miles)
DATE: Sunday, September 21, 2008
LOCALE: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
TEMP: 58F
HUMIDITY: 72%
WINDS: 5 MPH
OFFICIAL TIME: 1:42:53
PACE: 7:51 (new Personal Record)
PLACE: 2105 out of 13181 finishers (top 16%)
RATING: 10 out of 10


I never have been to Philadelphia, except for once, and that was when I was driving through Philly to see a co-worker of mine, Jonathan Wellner, getting married in a nice upscale suburb not terribly far from it. My only recollection of this city therefore, are the images that have been plastered in my head from the many times I've seen the Rocky movie series. Unfortunately, they do not paint the city of Brotherly Light in such a favorable light either.

However, I had heard a lot about this race among runners. I heard that it was a good place to get a PR because of the flatness of the terrain. I heard that it is very picturesque, and that there would be plenty of spectators lining up the streets to watch too.

Jack had mentioned this race to me back in the Spring, and having followed his good advice from other races, I signed up immediately. At the time, I was with Ileana, so instead of taking one of Jack's pre-reserved rooms, I just decided to book my own room to share with her. Well, the relationship did not last long enough for us to be together, but the race and all the hype that came along with it, did too.

It's been pretty amazing how quickly this year has been flying by. Also, and with little exception (ie. Hartford), I've been very fortunate that my professional life, private life, and running life have not really interfered with one another. Sure, Ily watched the kids some of the races that I've been to, but it's been karmic bliss, schedule-wise, in 2008.

(top: from left: Our beloved president, Jack, John, Barbara, Stella, Scott, Carol, Tom

(bottom: Alex (me!), Bonnie, Pauline)


This past week I trained about 20 miles prior to the run. Early Sat. (Sep 20), I left for Forest Park, and parked my car at Bonnie's house. From there, I waited for Scott, where later we both walked over to wait by where our team normally meets up. It was nice to see a lot of members I haven't seen in a while, like Ben, Tom & Andi, and others. Once Barbara pulled up in her car, and the rest of the caravans showed up, we all said our goodbyes, piled into Barbara's car and took off. Like Carol, Barbara and Stella were going to Philly not to run, but to cheer us on, and museum hop.

The drive to Philly was fairly uneventful, including the expected boring New Jersey rest stop along the way, blah (added for effect). When we got to Philadelphia however, I was already becoming pleasantly surprised. This city was fairly nice looking after all.

We checked into the Best Western. It was in a prime spot. About a block away from Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and three blocks from the starting line. Sweet!

Since we were all pretty hungry (even though I just had BK for breakfast an hour ago, lol)
two of our groups met up and ate at Friday's. As usual, Scott and I acted like complete clowns. Well, I'm not sure I could say that we "acted" because it seemed so natural to me!

After we finished at Friday's, we left for the expo about a mile away to get my running number.

The convention was typical of what one would expect. Plenty of sneaker and attire vendors from the running world were there, and plenty of carbo loading foods and liquid samples to choose from as well. We walked back to the hotel then and rested up for a little while.


I had recently switched the room out from a king to 2 doubles, so that Scott could stay and we could split the bill. I was watching the Brew crew playing on the TV and fell asleep for about a couple of hours.

The restaurant we went to that night was called "Iluminare". Located on Fairmount Avenue in the Northside of Philly. The prices were reasonable, and the food and service were very good.

Photos from there:



I had a "Four Seasons" pizza, and a Yuengling beer. After we wrapped up Jack invited me to hang with him at the bar, but having remembered what happened at Ottawa, I chose to play it safe, went straight to the room, and was out like a light by 10.


RACE DAY.



Scott was up well before me and wasted no time telling me that the hotel had little hot water and even less water pressure (lol). Other than that, all went well. We went outside and had little doubt where the start of the race was, as thousands of runners were cheerfully making their way to Benny Frank Pkwy and into their corral. I was in corral #6. to correspond to my running number.




Outside of the corral we saw Carol. I gave her my camera and she took some pictures of us. In all, there were 16 corrals for the 16,000 or so runners that ING claimed had registered. I don't think the race ever sold out, but there were over 13,000 finishers, a healthy turnout nonetheless.



I was getting pumped for the start. I turned my iPod on, and was bouncing around, eagerly waiting for the air horn. And then.....

Like they say at the start of a horse race.....

............................................................................."And they're off!!!!!"

((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((BOOOOORAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
(that was the airhorn sound, lol)







Once our corral made it to the starting line, we still were in a huddled mass. Having been in other big races, I knew this would happen. For most of this mile I was still with Scott. He had actually gotten off to a fast start, and I remembered how he mentioned how his Reach The Beach relay was so challenging that it would improve his race here. No doubt. He looked as if he was on his way to shatter his own PR.



.
But I had myself to think about. And I knew that there was plenty of time to get tired, and injured, and I wasn't about to kick it into high gear just yet. Negative splits (which is when one person runs the second half of their race faster than their first half) have become my specialty of sorts. Fearful of running out of gas and not having a good kick, I tend to like starting off slower than normal in long races. Although, I did pass Scott right before the end of the 2ndmile, I made sure to keep track of my pace at all times to make sure that a repeat of Ottawa did not occur.

Like in other big races, there were bands playing along the route, but in a pleasant twist, there was a jazz band near mile 3 called the Frank P. Jackson Big Band. Everyone was sitting down playing their horns and reading their sheet music. Awesome!!!!

I did the first mile in 7:55.15 and the 2nd mile in 7:23.13

Going towards the 3 mile marker, most of the run was on Walnut Street, towards City Hall. At some points the course was getting tighter again, which was interesting. Races start to open up as the miles start to pile on. It kinda reminded me around Mile 12-13 in the New York City Marathon, in the Greenpoint section in Queens.



From what I saw, the city is very beautiful. When we came back towards where we started, we then headed north along Schuylkill River. As we ran, the river was to our right from Mile 5 till almost Mile 9. I even saw a dam. Eerily, this reminded me of the area in Ottawa where we ran alongside a river in both directions. too where I started to die out. I started to die out, because I thought it was okay to hang out with Jack so late. We didn't get back from Miro's house until nearly midnight. I was a complete waste of life the next day. With Ottawa as flat as it was, I think I could have definitely gotten a PR then. But there's next year for sure. In the meantime, was my fate to repeat itself? Was this deja-vu the beginning of something ominous or was I just being a "nervous nelson"?

No.

I am not the New York Mets. I don't choke and repeat it again. By the way, have I mentioned that the New York Mets suck and have no will to fight and win? But that's for another blog.

Despite the occasional concerns of myself. My body kept on trucking. All my miles were very consistent as I was less than 8 minutes per mile for every mile. The course was very flat indeed. The worst of the grades came in crossing the Falls Bridge. It wasn't even a hill, but more like an annoying bump at worst.


.


When I got to the Strawberry Mansion bridge headed south now on the river, I wanted to use my mental visuals now more than ever to get me to kick it into high gear. Still, I held back. My personal record of 1:43:52 in Long Island this May, was in reach, but any bad moves now could cost me the record, and I wanted to play it smart.
Closing in on Mile 11 was the Conrail Railway overhead. Long before I could think again, I was already passing Amtrak's crossing overhead too. Seems like a lot of trains cross over here.



THE WINNERS


Yirefu Birhanu of Ethiopia and Lillya Shobukhove of Russia registered victories
in competitive fashion as each athlete completed the race with a powerful sprint
to the finish line



Ahead in the distance I could see the 20K sign, followed by what looked like the Museum of Art. Wow. Mile 12 in the distance! Looking down at my watch, I could see that I was at pace for a PR! "Just hold on speedstah. Just hold on!!!!"


The one thing I always like to do in a race is to finish off with a good, final kick. I love having a strong leg at the end. And I always do this when I start to see the finish line, but damn me, the finish line was around a bend and I could not see it right away. Making my way past Eakins Oval, I suddenly knew why....There was a bend in the road!! Ah-Hah! And there it was...The finish line..... 13.1 !!!! And now it was time to give it all I had. I already knew I had the PR in hand, but I wanted to do even better than that. Leave it all on the ground behind me. Lay waste to Philly by burning Mizuno Wave Rider Rubber on Philly's asphalt.

I surged. I was passing more people, faster. My mind became a rabid rabbit, while my peripheral vision blurred out anything that was not the banner and clock at the finish line.

There was some tall, lanky chump at mile 12 dressed in orange with orange sneakers, who elbowed me at a water stop and passed me by. Yeah. I beat his ass in the end. I burned him with 300 yards to go, as we had approached the bend. Oh, and yes, I saw him speed up, but I wasn't going to let him pass me.

.


.......................................................IN ........................................................


..................................................THE ....................................................

...........................................ZONE!!!!!..........................................



Up ahead were the steps that 'Rocky' used to run up to signify his triumph in achieving his goals. I swear if it wasn't for the normal finish were you walk in a crowd to get your banana, and water, I would have kept up running past and up the stairs yelling like a lunatic!!! BOO-YAH!!!!!


I finished up, and the medals they gave out were gorgeous. Nice and thick and full of weight. Serious hardware!

This was a great race. The exit was a little tricky I admit. But the planning, organizing, crowd control, race course, hell, even mother nature. Everything. And the city was warm, friendly, and it was pretty too. A perfect 10. With any hope, maybe the race organizers from Nike have found a way to get off of Randall's Island and have come to Philly to see how a REAL race is PROPERLY organized.

After the run, I walked around a bit, spoke to some of the race officials indicating my pleasure over the run, and made my way back to the Best Western for a much needed shower.

YAY! I GOT A PR!!!!!

Another sub-8 1/2 marathon... 2 in 1 year. Incredible!!!!!

Not longer after I showered and dressed, Scott came in next. After he was done, we went to the Wawa for some G2. He went back to the room, I went back to the post-race festivities to meet up with the rest of the team and to get the camera from Carol. Unfortunately, I did not see her or Brian during the race. I was so focused however, that I rarely looked at the sidelines.

Well, I only found Barbara and Stella, but they were on the way back. Ahead of me was the steps that Rocky ran. So, yes, I know this is an incredibly cheesy thing to do, but I had to run up the steps. Just had to!!


DA-DA..... DA-DA-DA.... DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA.... (Rocky Theme)

.........................(damn, I look like I am about to take a dump!)

As I came to the top step, I handed over my iPhone that I took with me from the hotel room earlier, and gave it to an unsuspecting set of tourists to take pictures of me.....


After I finished up, Saturn was prototyping a new race car, so I hopped inside!

When I got back to the hotel, most of my team was there. We looked at race results. I came in 3rd in my group. Marilyn Charles who is an extroadinary runner. She actually wins races outright. Tom Brogan came in 2nd, nearly a full 5 minutes ahead of me. He is an amazing runner himself. Scott was right behind me, and while he did not break 8 minutes, he absolutely obliterated his previous half-marathon record by nearly 12 minutes. Awesome job, Scott.

Truth is, everyone had great times, both during the race, and throughout the weekend as well.


After we printed the results we checked out, and while everyone decided to go sightseeing a little bit more, we opted to get back home a little bit early. But not before having a famous Philadelphia Cheesesteak, so we went to Tony Luke Jr.s on 18th street in downtown Philadelphia for one.

The food was awesome. It totally lived up to it's hype. And it's not processed meat either. We're talking freshly sliced tender beef that's been marinated with onions and sweet roasted red peppers... Mmm Mmmm Mmmm. Topped with either American, Provolone, or get this....Cheez Whiz! I chose American. The bread was incredible too. Light and crispy on the outside, and ohh so chewy on the inside. Perhaps the best thing of all was that as big a sandwich as it was, I never felt overstuffed. Now that's a mark of a truly great food offering.

We got lost afterwards going home, but s'okay. I got a medal!

Below is a description of the race...

Half Marathon Mile-by-Mile Course Description
Start Line - Benjamin Franklin Parkway east of Eakins Oval - 34 feet southeast of light pole Japan. Runners will head east on the westbound side of the Parkway.
0.4 - Left around Logan Circle.
0.8 - Cross 16th Street bear left to Arch Street
0.85 - Right at 15th Street
1 - Cross Market Street
1.05 - Left at South Penn Square
1.2 - Left at Juniper
1.25 - Right at Market Street
1.3- Past Marriott
1.6 - Past 9th Street
1.9 - Right at 6th Street
2.25 - Right at Spruce Street
2.3 - Right at 7th Street
2.4 - Bear left on Washington Square
2.45 - Right on 7th Street
2.5 - Left on Walnut
3.3 - Right at 16th Street
3.7 - Left at Benjamin Franklin Parkway - Heading west on eastbound side
3.9 - Left around Logan Circle
4.4 - Pass start line on eastbound side
4.6 - Left on to MLK Drive
5.3 - Pole WO17 - Lighthouse Boathouse on other side of river
6.1 - Past Sweetbriar Drive
7.0 - Past Montgomery Drive
7.3 - Boelson Cottage (1684)
7.8 - Under Strawberry Mansion Bridge
8.7 - Right at Falls Bridge
8.8 - Right at Kelly Drive
9.2 - Under bridge just past South Ferry Road
9.7 - Past Hunting Park Ave. (Laurel Hill Cemetery)
10.1 - Under Strawberry Mansion Bridge
11.4 - Grant Statue on Left / Fountain Green Drive
11.8 - Through Rock tunnel
12.3 - First boathouse on right
12.6 - Past Sedgeley Drive
12.8 - Past Fairmount Avenue
12.9 - Past 25th Street
13.05 - Turn right into painted lot
13.1 - Finish line 340 feet into the parking lot.

And here were my splits....

Mile 01 - 7:55

Mile 02 - 7:53

Mile 03 - 7:56

Mile 04 - 7:55

Mile 05 - 7:59

Mile 06 - 7:58

Mile 07 - 7:57

Mile 08 - 7:56

Mile 09 - 7:54

Mile 10 - 7:40

Mile 11 - 7:39

Mile 12 - 7:36

Mile 13 - 7:27

Last tenth - :42 (and that would have been a pace of 7 minutes a mile even.. what a way to finish!!!!)

AND NOW.....

19 RACES DOWN.......

AND ONE LEFT TO GO.......

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Weather Cooling Off.

I love the fall for many reasons, but now that I am a full-fledged distance runner, you can throw in that as well too. The temperature was definitely cooler this evening, as it was probably in the mid-60's at worst.

Speaking of evening, how nice it is to be able to start my runs by 6pm. Rather than driving to the track, I actually ran from my home all the way to the yacht club and on the way back made a detour to the middle school track where I ran another mile there. No kiddies tonight though. The track was sparse. It was almost an "awwwhh" from me because I was getting a kick out of the track coaches running those 4th 5th and 6th graders around the track and making them do calistenics. LOL.

The sunset tonight was gorgeous. Purplish-pink irradiated skies, adorned by white and golden clouds from the sunset in the distance. It looked something like this, but with more blue...

Tonight marked my 3rd consecutive day of running. I wont be running tomorrow or Friday. Saturday morning is iffy for now.

Countdown to Philly Distance Run -> T-minus 82.5 hours

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My long standing silence. Is. Over.

It has been 36 days since my last blog. 36 days. Wow.
What happened? Lots.
Rather than give you a confabulation of doggerel by lumping it into one article, I have decided to take the right route and break it out. Since August 10th there had not been one blog, and that was because I was in the middle of a breakup at home, followed by a move out on my own. Trust me when I tell you, life got in the way. A big way. Rest assured, I am right now a happy man. I wish Ileana well, but I am happy to be living by myself again…..At least for now, anyway….

Below you will see 7 blog posts coming your way. Charastically very visual, I wont have the time to perhaps gather all the evidence in a timely fashion, but it will make it’s way eventually to the blog. I have a lot of work in the office (as usual) and I have a monstrous race up ahead, the Philadelphia Distance Run. The likes of which I will be talking about leading up to the race.

The seven blog posts to cover the missing parts of my life that I wish to share are

1. Inaugural Long Run: Life is A Beach. -
2. The Big Move – Friday, August 29
3. Aye Yi-Yi - 2 Races in One Day? – Sunday, August 31
4. Race Report: Nike Human Race – Sunday, August 31
5. Race Report: Manhattan 14.2 training run. – Sunday, August 31
6. Inaugural Training Run: Wellwood Marina – Tue, September, 9
7. Inaugural Training Run: Lindy Bulldogs Track – Mon, Sep 15th

Monday, September 15, 2008

Inaugural Training Run: Lindy Bulldog Track

Having already found a nice road run in the neighborhood in the can, next up would be to find myself an oval running track somewhere, hopefully not too far away. The middle school where the Lindy Bulldogs play seemed to look like a nice place on Google maps, so I took my car over there.


And I was pleasantly surprised.

Though not quite as amazing a surface as Victory field near Forest Park, the Lindy track was clean. And most amazing, ONLY runners were on the track. I wonder if this had anything to do with it:Thank God! I guess people have common sense after all!!!

Now the track itself it very beautiful. It's got a red, hard clay surface, and it is kept very clean.Also, what I like about this place is that there is no soccer field in the center of the course, making errant balls a thing of the past. Instead there is a great artificial turf football field, where the Lindy Bulldogs play.



Sunset was absolutely beautiful today too. And while there are no hills in the south shore, there are steps that I can run up and down in the stadium. All I need now is to find a trail near home where I can run, and I should have my four basic run groups (road, track, hills and trails).



Not pictured (because I did not want to draw the potential ire of parents nearby) are the many kids from the middle school that were out there a few minutes after I was with their coaches. It was pretty cute seeing them learning how to run around the track and doing calistenics. Obviously, I felt like an old goat there, but overall it is such a nice feeling to finally be on a track where rollerbladers, soccer balls, and even, get this, streetcar vendors are not being obnoxiously disruptive to our fellow runners.

I plan to run here a few times this week in preparation for my upcoming Philly race....