Sunday, March 28, 2010

RACE REPORT: 15K Colon Cancer Challenge -Kick Colon Cancer Right In The Ass.

RACE: Colon Cancer Challenge 15K
DISTANCE: 15 kilometers (9.3 Miles)
DATE: Sunday, March 28, 2010
TIME: 11:15am
PLACE:  Central Park, New York
WEATHER: 41F degrees, 65% humidity, Winds at 6 MPH

After taking Karen & the kids to St. Patrick's Cathedral, we went back to the house for me to collect my Mp3 player.  Then it was off to the races.  I went to pick up my running number (and Tom's since he was unable to run-but wanted his shirt!).  I felt a little bit more up to this race than I did last week, but it was colder than the weathermen said it would be.  In fact, the gloves I had on, didn't even come off until sometime around the midway point of the race, and my hat stayed on the entire race.
(My cocky pose - how naive we are during the early miles!)

I was very economical in my routes today, only going .07 of a mile over the 9.3 mile course.  Slowly but surely, I'm taking the task of mastering the curves in the park to a brand new art form.   They had no Gatorade at today's race, and I only had 1 GU gel which I took at 11 this morning, but the energy was largely there for most of the race.  

Another interesting art, the art of taking water at the stations was further perfected by me today too.   During Mile 3, some guy ahead of me drank his water, and took the cup behind his back and got nothing but net into the garbage can.  I openly praised him, he thanked me, and everybody around got a good chuckle out of it.

Well, being a quick learner, I tried the same thing at around Mile 6.  And I did it perfectly too!  Another special effect to add to my repetoire. 

Despite getting there early, I procrastinated a little bit, and wound up locked out of my corral.  Nothing was going to stop me however from cashing in on my red-colored corral start, so I climbed over and even got a hand from someone to get me down. 

The race began and I got off to an immediately quick start.  My first mile was done in 7:26.47, a testament that I was in the right corral with the right runners.  The second mile I went even faster, posting a 7:17.63.  I knew this couldn't last, and sure enough my 3rd mile was done in 7:46.12.  Not bad given the fact that there are a lot of hills coming down on the west side after leaving the 102nd street transverse.  Oh yeah, about the course.  It's the 5 mile loop, plus the 4 mile loop in Central Park.  The 5 mile loop eliminates Harlem Hill (thankfully - for it's toughness and steepness) and the 4 miler is across the 102nd & 72nd street transverses.

Mile 5 was a paltry 7:56.79, but Mile 6 was 8:01.03 which included Cat Hill...AGAIN.  Clearly, I was losing steam but I somehow managed to appreciate the straightaways between 80th and 102nd, and was able to get back to sub-8 times with a 7:51.78 for Mile 7.   Mile 8 brought me down to earth unfortunately, as I crept back over the 8 barrier with an 8:03.40.  Yet, I was not done.  And I gritted out a 7:53.86 for my full final mile.  For the last .37 of a mile, I blazed with a time of 2:40.82.  Calculated, it was a pace of 7:15.  One of the best weapons is my ability to throw in a kick at the end, regardless of how dead I feel.  Last week, with still not being 100%, that kick wasn't there the way I needed it to be.  Well, this week I wasn't 100% yet either, but I felt much better.

As I was coming within 100 yards or so of the finish line, some woman runner yelled at me to run faster, so I did.  We started sprinting in fact, and I wish I could thank her for it.  We crossed the finish line, and she actually thanked me and put her arm around me.  I was too tired to do much other than feeling like I was about to puke.  It took me nearly 5 minutes to get my stomach back in order.  The time that it also took for me to make it all the way to the bagel and apple stations. 

((UPDATE:  I just got my Brightroom photos back, and that runner was Jessica Purcell, 30, of New York.  Turns out, she is a triathlete who had to overcome a devastating injury last year in New Jersey when a car hit her while she was cycling.  God bless her. She ran great!))

Karen had come back to pick me up with the kids, but we must have somehow missed each other, as she was at the finish line, and I, had already made it to baggage, seeing her text on my phone.   I went back and saw them looking for me from the top of a big rock. LOL.  I found them, kissed them, and took the kids back home while Karen went and did 6.5 miles of her own. She had parked the car at 70th & 5th.

I was fairly surprised when I looked at the overall results later on.  I came in 441st overall out of over 2400 runners.  And 48th in my age group.  Interestingly, had I been in the 45-49 group (which I will as of July 9), I would have come in 36th place.  Not bad, but as you can see, the good ones don't quit.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

RACE REPORT: NYRR New York City Half Marathon

RACE:  NYRR New York City Half-Marathon
LOCATION:  Central Park, Midtown, Chelsea, Battery Park City
DISTANCE:  13.1 Miles
DATE: Sunday, March 21, 2010
TIME:  7:35am
WEATHER:  53F, 55% humidity, sunny.

The New York City Half Marathon is becoming something of an enigma for me. While I normally do better when crowds cheer me on, it does not apply here. While I normally do better running on flat surfaces, it does not apply here. Even when the temperatures are cool and optimal for running, for some reason this race excludes me from achieving my best performance.

The best time I’ve ever done for a Half-Marathon, came just last year, when on October 3, I destroyed Central Park and finished the Greta’s Great Gallop half in 1:42:33, shattering my previous best the year before in Philly by nearly a minute. Then, and only 8 days later, I did the impossible. I ran another Half Marathon, and somehow muscled out a gutsy last ¼ mile sprint to eeek out a time of 1:42:32 in Staten Island.

Now came the time to see if I could bring my PR to the island where I live, Manhattan Island. Going for me was the Marathon I did in Miami on January 31st. Going for me was the wonderful ongoing support I get from my loving and soon-to-be-wife, Karen. However, going against me, were several factors, the biggest of which was my sporadic training of late, thanks to a miserable fever I sustained shortly after the awards ceremony back on Feb 20. Not only did it knock me out of work for nearly a week with average temps in the 102 range, but it left me with a cough, for which I still have to this date. In fact, just this past Friday, I went to get an x-ray on my chest for it. My doc does not like that I am having minor sweats in the middle of the night, and that my thyroid gland is enlarged. Shit, I’m beginning to feel like Jose Reyes of the New York Mets, with this sitch!

The race featured some 15000 runners. The course this year changed slightly. Arriving to the West Side Highway from 42nd Street, we actually turn north now for a couple of blocks before hairpinning around, thus the finish line was several blocks north of last year’s finish.

Haile Gebraselassie, Deena Kastor and past local-phenom Anthony Famiglietti, were but some of the notable figures present for today’s race. They are amazing people and it feels great when running royalty graces me in the same race that I’m in.

I wasn’t too happy about my bib number (#3299) and corral (green), and felt that I should have been in at least the yellow, if not the red corral. That in it of itself was another reason to prove the number issuers at Road Runners wrong. There was no way, I was going to finish in 3299th place.

I’ll cut to the chase by going right into the chase. The course was a clockwise loop around the park. Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to practice in that direction in the park, but I’ve run around CP long enough now, to know the breaks, and the turns. My goal in the park was to sustain the hills, and cut every corner I could. And I thought I did an admirable job, despite the traffic jams consistent for starting 4 corrals back of the starting line.

The first few miles were non-plus to me. I’ve done Central Park so many times, I could’ve done it with my eyes closed, as they said. I focused on hugging the curves to minimize the unnecessary added distance (and it paid off – I did 13.3 miles, only two-tenths of a mile over the minimum).

I saw Jack volunteering on the Upper-East Side and I yelled back to him and waved.

Still, I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I was ahead of record pace after Mile 2, but after Mile 3 I had slipped, and I slipped some more after the 4th Mile with a sloppy 7:57 mark.

I really wanted a new PR, but I also felt there were a lot of things going against me, notably setting PR’s this early in the year for such a long race. Still, after the first 5 miles, I was actually 1.5 net seconds ahead of PR pace.

Mile 6 was bad though, climbing up around the Lasker Pool area, and at the start of Mile 7, I was nearly 8 seconds off pace. It took so much out of me in fact, that even though the next mile was mostly flat or downhill, I had actually lost another 4 seconds. Then, and as we prepared to exit the park, we hit mile 8. I looked at my watch and lost yet another 4 seconds. We entered the streets of New York, and I was now 16 seconds behind pace.

Should be easy to get these back, right?


Running off Miles 9 and 10, down 7th Avenue to 42nd street and then across 42nd to the West Side Highway, I felt dead. No downhills, no wind, but plenty of potholes and craters, courtesy of a much-maligned winter mother nature gave our city. And yet, despite it all, I pulled off two 7:45 mile laps in a row. I was now within 7.5 seconds of my PR pace from the Staten Island Half last October.

I was wearing my famous Brooks Infinitis today. Same shoes, I broke 6 PR’s with last year. However, I could feel some blistering going on, which didn’t set well on me. Most alarming however, was that I was feeling winded. Had I gone too fast down the streets of Manhattan? If anything, I hadn’t felt I had gone fast enough.

The course was changed this year. Instead of turning left off of 42nd, we instead turned right and actually went north on the West Side Highway for a couple of blocks, before hairpinning back down.

Meantime, as I was doing this, I was already thinking that Haile was already back in his hotel room having lunch by now. After all, the man did this race a few years back in under an hour. Ridiculous!

Little did I know however that Gebrselassie was in a dogfight of his own, with Kamais, a 33-year-old Kenyan 10K specialist who was running only the second half-marathon of his career. Haile had the lead from the start, but Kamais held on and pulled ahead after at eight miles, Gebrselassi fell the victim of a mild asthma attack, and Kamais ran on alone from their on out. Haile had stopped for about a minute, and tried to resume a race effort, but he soon pulled out again and did not finish.

It was kind of odd, because as I recall, he was on the podium talking before the start of the race, giving out tips, with the last one, a funny one, stating “and make sure you don’t run fast!”.

I always wondered how annoying it must be for the top athletes to be forced to talk before the start of a run. Heck, I like to be silent and conserve all of my energy before my races.

Anyway, Haile didn’t fare up too well……And neither did I.

The West Side Highway has always proven to be brutal to me, for what reason I don’t know. Today was cool. I should have excelled. Being only 4 seconds or so off the pace SHOULD have incited me to continue improving.

But I couldn’t. I was losing steam. I could feel it.

Mile 11 was a total disaster for me. 8 minutes and 5 seconds. You know, there was a time when doing an 8:05, even at Mile 2, was amazing, but those days are long gone (at least until my body says it’s old and I have to regress back to this). Completing Mile 11 carried the burden of putting me a full 23 seconds behind pace. I looked at my watch precisely at this point. 1 hr 26 min 28 sec. It’s amazing how well my brain held up, if not my lungs, for I knew I had 16 minutes and 4 seconds remaining before my dreams of setting a new personal record in the Half-Marathon would go up in smoke. With 2 miles left to go, all I had to do was to do each mile in 8 minutes and 2 seconds. Great. Except one little thing. .1

I had 2.1 miles left to go. That point one is really a bastard. I figured that it would be difficult, and I was right. I would have had to have maintained a 7:40 pace until I crossed the finish line to best myself. But I was out of gas, man.

I did Mile 12 in 7:55 instead, 5 seconds over the average pace I would’ve needed to maintain since the start to beat my record.

At this point I was “finished”. No kick would do anything to beat my record now, so I did not kick at the finish (not that I had any kick left anyhow – I was flat dead). Instead, I felt grateful just to finish.

With a time of 1:43:15 however, I had nothing to feel ashamed about though. It was my 4th fastest half-marathon ever (sub-8 now is a thing of the past) and I was the fastest Gonzalez in the race (lol). I also came in 2247th out of 11568 finishers, and while 2247th place is nothing amazing, it was still well ahead of my assigned running number of 3299. Again, I have proven that the New York Road Runners have placed me in the wrong corral (Green, when it should have been Yellow). Perhaps the most impressive stat was that I beat my previous NYC Half Course-Record by 6 ½ minutes in 2009 (1:49:45) and nearly 11 minutes in 2007 (1:54:14). So not all was lost…..and I got a nice medal to show for it too!

I saw Pauline, who was giving out mylar at the finish line. Whereas I had scoffed at the notion of handing out mylar when it was supposed to climb into the 70’s today, I was actually cold as hell. I was grateful that mylar was handed out! Pauline saw me, and wrapped me up right away. She could also tell that I was completely exhausted and flat-out drained. She grabbed my hand and walked me over to the Gatorade. My fellow Runner-Of-The Year!

As for the race itself, the top female winner with a grand prize of $20 grand went not to Deena Kastor, but rather to Kristi Yamauchi of Great Britain.  She blasted the previous course record by nearly 30 seconds with a time of 1:09:25.  As for the men, Kamais had beaten everybody by 45 seconds.  He clocked in a personal-best 59:53—the second-fastest time in event history (after Gebrselassie’s 59:24 from 2007) and his first time under the one-hour mark.  Remarkable.

After I got my goodie bag, I walked past the post-race festival that took place in the beautiful North Cove area of Battery Park City. Stupid me, I thought the big shebang was still in Battery Park. I got my bag and continued to walk all the way to battery park. It was only a half mile, but it seemed like an eternity, especially when I had to turn back. By the time I came back to post-race festivities, Karen called me. We met at baggage. I was very proud of her. Her finish time of 2:20 was her best since nearly 2 years earlier at the Staten Island Half.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fifty Seven Minutes.

Today was my "trial" run.  My last significant training run prior to perhaps the biggest HalfMarathon race of the year for me. 

For all the problems that my Garmin gave me yesterday, it behaved oddly well tonight, syncing up even before I got to 2nd avenue.  But it didn't matter.  I already knew that the distance was 7.57 miles, out and back.   Sunset here in NYC is 7:04pm tonight.  When I left through the front doors of my building, I thought how it seemed darker outside, even though I was getting an earlier start then yesterday, when we didn't even come out until nearly 7pm from the gym with Karen. 

Karen got stuck working a little later tonight, so this would be a solo effort.

Well, I was motoring.  I blazed through first mile in amazing fashion.  When you consider the uphill by the police preceint between 3rd and Lex, it was almost unimaginable to me that the time read 7:20.38 for my first mile.   But there would be more.

Mile 1 is usually right before the windy downhill at the top of Lasker Pool.  So you would think that going downhill would only make me go faster.  Wrong.  I've learned through many heartaching injuries, that going downhill is the EASIEST way to injur oneself, usually by overstriding and landing too hard.  So, I shortened my stride and took it easy.  Plus, the second half of Mile 2 is up Harlem Hill anyway, which is a killer.

It was pretty interesting to still see a block of ice in Harlem Meer.  Signs that perhaps winter does not want to leave us?  Well.  LEAVE ALREADY!

I finished mile 2 in 8:17.72.  And then I did the 3rd mile in 8:04.51.  At this point my overall pace had raised itself to about 7:54 per mile. 

Then in Mile 4, along the west side, I began to pick up some speed, as I passed Asphalt Green runners.  A couple of them had passed me, but that was just as they stopped to turn around.  Apparently tonight was not their long run.  Probably practicing intervals.

As I started Mile 5, which was near Tavern on The Green, I had passed a large group of people.  A lot of them had orange shirts on as they were from the Central Park Track Club.  These runners are lethal.  They usually vie for the top spots in several races along with the likes of the Westchester Track Club and NYAC.

They immediately caught up to me, and were already being aggresive in jocking for position.  Apparently, they wanted nothing to do with a non-member, which was fine by me.  But I didn't need a group of 8 runners (probably their fastest since they went out first) pass me like if I was just a bump on the log, so I gave chase.

I kept up with them for over a half-mile.  It wasn't until I was heading up the east side, that they finally started to pull away from me, but to me it was a very encouraging sign that my speed is building, improving.

And it helped.  I finished Mile 5 in 7:27.48. 

It would not end there though.  As I ran up the east side, there was another group of runners just warming up.  I ran past them but could not ascertain what legion they came from.  I ran past The Boathouse, and made my way up Cat Hill.  By this time, my overall pace was 7:46.  I fully expected to lose time as I went up the hill, and I did, but it was only 1 second.  I really dug in hard, and burned up that hill.  I took a brief breather, but quickly resumed my assault on Central Park. 

As I ran down hill approaching the museum, I could feel a slight pull on my hamstring, but it only lasted a few seconds as I quickly shortened my stride, and compensated for it, by increasing my gait reps.  It paid off, as I finished the 6th mile in 7:38.17 and lowered my overall pace to about 7:44.

Mile 7 was a blast. Not only did I reach 6.2 miles in 48:10 which is faster than my fastest 10K race in modern times, but I was still feeling fresh.  Anyway, Mile 7 was a blast because it was a straightaway.  All the way from the statue at Engineering Station and up to 102nd street and out of the park.   It was an incredible mile, because typically I would save that for the last half mile after leaving the park, but I was on a mission to go out all hard. 

The final .57 of a mile was complete insanity, all helped by street lights that all turned green in my favor, avoiding me from having to stop.  I bet even the locas were looking at me and saying, "Whoa, that dude is real fast.  He BELONGS in Spanish Harlem!" 

As I past 2nd avenue, I went from a nice sprint, to an all-out anaerobic sprint, leaving nothing left in the tank.
This is usually the most dangerous part of a run, you know, because in an anaerobic sprint, you not only are increasing your reps to your highest possible, but also expanding your stride to the point of possible injury.  Also, my heart beat was probably at least at 175bpm, also the max for me.

I blasted past my front door, finishing the last .57th of a mile in 3:34.01, good enough for a 6:16 pace. And if that wasn't enough, my entire run was done in 57:32, bringing my pace down to 7:37 per mile.

Now, I don't like to brag too much, but this was my best training run of the year, right on the heels of the race on Sunday.  This gave me major confidence boosters.  I feel now that with sufficient rest and the proper diet, that I should do well, and perhaps challenge my PR of 1:42:32 this Sunday.  Time, of course as always, will tell.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Finally! Outdoor Training Again!!

Met Karen @ NYSC on 86th Street and ran into Central Park with her. The Garmin watch totally misbehaved tonight, not grabbing signal until nearly the 102nd street transverse. St., Patty's Day barricades were still in effect on 5th Avenue, and...on Lex & 86th too? They were splitting the length of the sidewalk by the train station.

The run was great. We went in our typical counterclock wise direction, and half-way through, I started running ahead and back. Hence, the extra logged mile (between that and the distance to/from the club). It was so nice to finally run OUTDOORS again!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Running To Music Videos.

I shamelessly must admit, that I really like running at the treadmills at the NYSC for only 1 reason.  They offer music video channels that you can plug your headphones into.    I was doing my typical 10 minutes per mile, but after 3 miles I started injecting 1/4 or less bursts of 10mph or greater.  During mile 6 - I raised the bar and did 11.1 MPH for nearly a quarter of a mile.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Forest Park Devastation.

It's a shame really that I didn't have a camera with me on this day.   After dropping off the kids at Bonnie's, Karen and I went running with the club through Forest Park.  The devastation of the nor'easter was incredible.  Massive-sized trees were either broken off or in 2 cases, completed uprooted and laying across the road. 

As we headed for the Oak Ridge clubhouse for our quarterly meeting, an amazing site.  A tree, about 50 feet in length, totally cut down by the storm.  It was laying directly across the road, from one end to the other.  Cars and pedestrians had to walk into the mud around the street & walk, just to get through.  The trunk was even wider than my height, as it towered over me.  In other words, there could have been people underneath the trunk and you would not even know it. 

I also ran around the oval track that I love.  Decided to do an interval.  An all-out sprint around the oval.  I held back a bit, since there were branches everywhere, but I was still able to complete the oval in 1:30.

The meeting went well, as I finally stepped into the Oak Ridge clubhouse for the first time.  It used to be the site of our annual holiday party, but that was changed this past year.  Very nice place, but for a party, I think where we went this year was much better.

This was the first outdoor (non-racing) run in a while, but it was so nasty (raining) and cold outside, that it still doesn't feel like spring time running.  Then again, we are still in winter.

After the meeting, we went back to Bonnie's house and hung out there for a little while.  Bonnie's a good friend, as her son did a great job babysitting too.  Having an XBOX 360 didn't hurt either.  Matt was playing with it the whole time, while Steffie was reading her book.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Competing Treadmills.

Ran on the treadmill in the apartment gym. Was supposed to have taken it easy, but the guy who took the treadmill, kept raising the speed on his to surpass mine. Of course, I would not allow this, and I kept raising the speed above his. Karen said that I lost it, and that it's all in my mind. No, it's not. It's competition, and I wont be beat! (well that's not true either, but let's just pretend that way...).  In the end, I did 6 miles.  Not bad considering the kids were upstairs with Karen.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Flashbacks of LA Fitness

Waiting 4th in line for a treadmill tonight reminded me of when I used to visit LA Fitness in New Hyde Park.  It was very busy tonight, but it also might have had something to do with the fact that I got here earlier than normal.  I went a little bit slower tonight to avoid potential injury after doing such a fast hard run the night before.

Monday, March 1, 2010

RACE REPORT: Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K

RACE: Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks
DISTANCE: 5 kilometers (3.1 Miles)
DATE:  Sunday,  March 7, 2010
TIME:  9:00am
LOCATION: 168th Street & Broadway, New York City (Washington Heights)
WEATHER:  37f  Degrees, 41%  Humidity, Wind 3MPH, Clear

I always love running this course.  This was my 6th time on this course, more than any other race except for the New York City Marathon itself.

Here were my previous 5 results;

Mar 06, 2005 - 24:22   7:52 pace    658th out of 2,160 finishers
Mar 05, 2006 - 23:51   7:42 pace    556st out of 2,793 finishers.
Mar 07, 2007 - 24:10   7:48 pace    670th out of 2,874 finishers.
Mar 02, 2008 - 23:37   7:37 pace    503rd out of 1,776 finishers.
Mar 01, 2009 - 23:24   7:33 pace  1,054th out of 4,700 finishers.

What can I say that hasn't been said the last 5 times I've raced?

Pretty much I was on a mission to really crush my previous times, and this would be something because my times on this course have been pretty fast to begin with.

And yet...
Mile 1: 7:12 

Mile 2: 7:03
Mile 3: 7:01
and then the last .22 of a mile (I went .12 over) was done in 1:17 or at a 5:50 pace.


Mar 01, 2010 - 22:33   7:16 pace     971 out of 5,630 finishers.  and since I ACTUALLY wound up running 3.22 miles (zig zagging into position), my pace was REALLY  7:01.