Monday, September 27, 2010

Calculations & Predictions: Shreds of Running Tidbits.

The results for yesterday's race are in!  --> 17th Annual Newport Liberty Half-Marathon
Basically, it also shows;

Field Placement: 321 / 2368 (13.6%)

Age group: 45 – 49
Group Placement: 33 / 159 (20.8%)
Gender Placement: 280 / 1285 (21.8%)

With yesterday's time being what it was, I hope that this is a real hope that I can accomplish what I need to do in Chicago, and not just a cruel and false sense of hope.  There are a couple of school's of thoughts one is great and one is not so great.

Good News School of Thought:
The Performance Level Percentage Calculator.  This is a tool that measures your performance against others who share the same gender, age, and race distance as you.  

Basically if you are over 60% you are doing great.  Take a look
100%= Approximate World Record Level

Over 90%= World Class
Over 80%= National Class
Over 70%= Regional Class
Over 60%= Local Class
For yesterday's race, I placed in the 64.2% range.

By the same token, I would only need to place in the 63.3% range to qualify for Boston (3:30:59)
Here is the link to this useful tool:
Of course, that's the Good News.
Here's the Not-So-Good School of Thought:
Race Time Predictor

The predictor gives an estimate of your time for a given distance using data from your recent races.


This formula was first published in the August 1977 issue of Runner's World. Your overall pace slows as you run longer distances. The coefficient (Coef) describes this slow down. A larger value will produce a longer predicted time.

If you enter a second distance, the predictor will automatically make use of this second value to create a personalized coefficient, which will improve the accuracy of the predicted time. You can also type in your own performance factor to adjust the calculation. Typical values are 1.06 to 1.10.

Additional Information
The estimator uses the following formula devised by Pete Riegel:
T2 = T1 x (D2 / D1)Cwhere:
D1 = distance you already raced
T1 = time for the known distance
D2 = distance you want to predict the time
T2 = predicted time for the new distance
C = performance degradation coefficient

Of course, this did not take into consideration the fact that both courses vary greatly.  The 18 mile course was hills all the way, whereas the Liberty run was totally flat.  This was further proved with an auto-generated degradation co-efficient of 1.209, far beyond the normal range.  With Chicago flat and all, I decided to see what would happen if I had just put in the info pertaining to the Liberty run only.  This is what came up instead;

Oh My God.  This is even worse.  I would miss Boston by 24 seconds.

Of course, this is assuming a degradation factor of 8%.  The range is between 6 to 10%.  Question is am I going to suck wind, and do 10% (or worse) degradation.  Be middle of the road, do 8%, and come home in trememdous mental pain, or grow yet another set of brass cohones, and try for even 7% degradation.  With 7%, I would get this;

Surely that looks better.  I would qualify to the Boston Marathon with just a degradation coefficient of 7%.
But then again, there is a saying in Spanish, "El papel aguanta lo que le pongas".  In other words, A piece of paper will hold anything you want to write.  It's really useless to try and convert the will of the mind into a statistical probability. 

I just know ONE thing.   I get my ONE chance to KILL this Chicago 'Bull' Run in less than 13 days.

One thing that should help will be my placement in the race.  I just learned that I was accepted into Corral C.  That's generally reserved for people who have run between 3:36:00 and 3:55:59.  Depending on my lineup in the corral, there can be anywhere between 4,500 to 8,500 people in front of me.  So, if I can line up close to the front, I should be ahead of 90% of the people in the starting line, making for hopefully an unclogged start.  They are also predicting around a 4 minute delay before I cross the starting line too.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

RACE REPORT: Newport Liberty Half Marathon

RACE: Newport Liberty Jersey City Half-Marathon
DISTANCE: 13.1 Miles (Half-Marathon)
DATE: Sunday, September 16, 2010 @ 8:35am
LOCATION: Jersey City, NJ
WEATHER: 64F, 40% Humid, Overcast, Light Wind 8mph NNE
WEIGHT: 158.7

I can remember Gerhardt’s words vividly this morning.

“Do not go all out. Make your half-marathon a training run. If you need to, make the last three miles at your marathon pace.”

My marathon pace needs to be 8:02 (so let’s just say 8 flat). This means he wanted me to go around 8:30 per mile at best for the first 10 miles. Umm, let’s see…okay, that would have given me a final time of roughly an hour and 50 minutes. Not shabby, when you consider that 13 of my 27 lifetime halves have been done faster than that time. So, it would have been a perfect average for me.

Today’s race weather was just about perfect. Though I had my sunglasses on, the majority of the race was under overcast skies. The humidity was still low, and the temps? How about 63 degrees at race time?

Karen got us a babysitter, and she was wonderful. Coming from a big family (6 kids, all told) and raised on a big farm outside of Minnesota, she was perfect. Oh, and she works with Karen too, so this was an extra special surprise. Having someone watching our children means a lot to my mental state when running a race. I wouldn’t have done this race any other way.

Bonnie had mentioned about this race to me midweek. I think this was the same race that the other two people (Kitty and that guy…whose name eludes me still!) had spoken of when we crossed the Queensboro Bridge last Wednesday night together.
They said it was a flat course, like Chicago, and it would be a great training run. I was already registered for the Continental 5th Av. Mile. It typically is a fan fav of mine, but it really didn’t feel relevant to me, so I decided to skip it. This, even though I still picked up my number, and threatened to run with their T-shirt in this race….a further act of denial!

We left a little late this morning (around 7:17am) but nothing too serious. We drove southbound on the FDR and made our way across the Holland Tunnel on the west side. One thing I did like about this race very much was the empty parking lot for all of us runners to leave our car at. We wound up having to park at the very top and outdoor section of the lot (7th floor), but it surely beat looking for parking in a place that I have never been to before in my life.

Jersey City has always looked fairly impressive to me from a distance, but now that I was right in the thick of the “Ex-New York-disgruntled-due-to-tax-so-we-left-NY” financial companies. It was very pretty and clean. Then again, there were several JP Morgan Chase buildings around, but hey, every city is going to have it’s share of ugly greed too, I guess. 

Logistics was something of a nightmare, one of the few “downs” of this event. Baggage check was near the finish, which was also close to the start, but unlike a secured area like at NYRR, you had to line up to hand your bag over to only 2 people behind their table. They were very nice, but you can tell they were slightly overwhelmed. And the bathrooms? Please. I had to complain about the lack of port-a-potties at NYRR races, and that’s when there are like 100. True, this race did not have 5,000 plus entrants like a NYRR event, but when you only have around 20 porta-potties for over 2,000 runners, you know something smells foul….Literally!

We saw one of Karen’s friends, Katie, and then I went to place my bag in check, while Karen was doing her last minute stretching and prep-work on her bag. I never stretch before a race. I like to bounce up and down and other simple stuff, which I gladly do at starting lines. When I finished at baggage, Karen came to baggage, and asked me to wait in the bathroom line.... UGH....Little did either of us know I would walk for BLOCKS to get to the back of that line! More ugh...

People on line with me were expressing disgust over this and how they were probably going to miss the start of the race.

“Start of the race?”, I joked. “By the time we get to the portapotties, the top runner will have already crossed the finish line!”, I added.

But there was a force from above that changed all that (and no, we didn’t pee in the bushes or worse). A woman, an angel of a woman, came to the line, right by us too, to announce that the Newport Health Club’s bathrooms were open. It was only a block away, and I was already running!

I bode farewell to my wife, drained the lizard, and came out a new man ready to attack the race. Fortunately, I wasn’t too long in there, and the reason why I’m really harping on all of this was because if you had read my last race report (Tune Up 18 Miler), you will know how a bathroom stop in the MIDDLE of a race can really screw you up.

This time, I was smart. This time, I finished drinking my 19.2 ounce savory sugar-free Red Bull, 60 minutes before the start of the race. Make this a sticky note for the upcoming Marathons!

There were no “Nazis” patrolling the corrals at the start, because there were no corrals. They had suggested signs by pace and everyone was on an honor-system. And that’s saying something because, I think we easily had way over 2,000 participants at today’s race too.

The race marshall got there late, I think, as I didn’t hear him speak through my iPod-6th Gen-Nano infested ears until 8:33, and we were supposed to get this shindig started at 8:30.

The race finally started without much hoopla. It had the feel of the Miami Marathon with all of the slick buildings around, but at the start, it had more of a Long Island Half Marathon feel to it. Considering how flat the LI course is, I probably was not too far off.

The first mile was a traffic jam, but thanks to lining up at the right spot, and being surrounded by pace-honest people, I still managed to do Mile 1 in 7:58.87.

Little did I know that Mile 1 would be my slowest mile….

I knew I had gone too fast. In fact, way too fast. I actually did the first mile 7:15.77 (here we go again with the Garmin and my running), so I did a manual lap when I finally crossed the first mile marker for an additional 43.1 seconds over nearly….a tenth of a mile extra!! So much for having re-adjusted my 1.02 mile laps back to 1.00. Ugh!

Mile 2 had has heading back the way we came for a while, through the Hudson Exchange and beyond to Paulus Hook before “hooking” a right onto Grand Street.
And mile two was more of the same as well. I wound up doing 7:52.8 (and again that included an overage of .06 mile).

I knew I had to slow down, and I really wanted too. Gerhardt’s warnings coupled with the sudden realization that I accidentally forgot to wear, let alone bring, my compression calf sleeves, gave me worries of injury going at this rate of speed. But there was no way I would or could continue this pace anyway. This was supposed to be “training”, remember?

Mile 3 had me going west on Grand. And sure enough, I was still going too fast.
“What do I have to do to tone this pace down?”, I seriously thought.

And then it happened.

Normally, when I race, I always remember to bring a hankie to wipe excess sweat off. When I sweat, I sweat like a beast. Well, I had forgotten to bring one, but my reliable partner had an extra ripped up sock to give me. Instead of hanging it over my shorts, I rolled it up my right arm.

I had just finished up at a water station, and was very pumped because I drained the empty cup from 3-point land into one of the garbage cans past the tables. I noticed I was sweating a lot so I took the sock off with my left hand and clutched it, while I removed my sunglasses, with my right. All while running, mind you. And yes, it was overcast, but sometimes I just like to wear them anyway.

I dried myself up, but as I put my glasses back on, the sock got caught in the left leg of the glasses, knocking them loose from my hand, falling on the ground behind me. In a state of panic, I quickly turned around to grab them, but I became so frantic, that I missed it on first, and second swipes, before scoring on the third. From that point onward I made it a point to make sure my hand sock was far away from my glasses.
And even with all of that, Mile 3? Seven minutes and thirty three seconds. I ran even faster than the previous splits and that was even ascending a little (which was hardly anything, frankly).

Along the water in Liberty State Park.  Skyline wasn't too different, except replace the lovebirds seen above with a bunch of sweaty and stinky runners!

The fourth mile took us off of Grand as we went under the New Jersey Turnpike not once but twice, finishing us up into Liberty State Park. It is a beautiful park that I had heard of but have never been to. It’s also home to the Liberty Science Center, for which I’d like to take my kids to one day too.

I did Mile 4 in 7:19.43. Insane.

       This was the same view I had except it was overcast at the moment I passed on by the "Lady".

I will spare the boring details about the run through the park, except to say that we ran around a lot in there. We did a lot of back and forths, and it was as flat as could be. I then saw the Statue Of Liberty. It was so incredibly awe-inspiring, as I ran past it imitating it with my arm up. Seeing Lady Liberty that close up reminded me of my grandfather’s (God rest his soul) memories as he came to this country by boat. As his cruise liner was making its way to the west side piers on 34th, he mentioned how starstruck he was to see that Statue of Liberty for the first time in my life.
                                Foot Bridge to Ellis Island.  Not on race day, but on a sunny day.

The other incredible moment came while I ran along the boardwalk. I never knew this before, but there is a foot bridge to Ellis Island!

Along the Hudson River, but this time on the Jersey side.  Looked like this, but again on a overcast day.

Running through the park, along the water, I thought that the wind would play havoc, but it did not, and I was motoring. With splits of 7:25,7:34,7:28,7:43,7:52 and 7:28, for Miles 5-10, I started thinking that I had a shot not only to break my personal Half-Marathon record of 1 hour 42 minutes and 32 minutes, but absolutely shatter it. I even had an outside chance to break an hour and forty minutes, which was mind-boggling, but I still had a 5K to go, and at this pace, I was beginning to show some wear.

The eleventh mile featured running along Liberty Harbor. The sun was now shining, and was beginning to be something of a factor. Fatigue was setting in, and I was getting a little annoyed by having to run around big boats, and transition between trail running and back to asphalt. And yet, I held on to complete Mile 11 in 7:41.97. Still under 8 minutes!
Karen was having a pretty good run herself!

Mile 12 had me going back on Grand Avenue where I had my slip up with my glasses way back. The area was getting a bit more crowded with spectators, but to be honest the competition which was already thinning out for me back by Mile 9 was even thinner now.
Not to sound chauvinistic, but as a man you know you are running well when you don’t see many women running around you anymore.

But as I completed my twelfth mile in 7:41.9, I knew I was going to have my classic kick in me to have a shot to do the unthinkable, which was to do this race in 1 hour 39 minutes and something. However, I really had expended a lot of energy to keep this up thus far. My overall pace if you included the face that I had actual ran 12.21 miles (+.21 over) was 7:31 per mile. This had taken a toll on me and for the first time, I don’t think I had any “kicks” left.

And yet, as I ran around a lot hooks and turns, around a ton of buildings, going north on the Exchange Place Path, I decided to take a ‘risk’ and go for broke once again. This would be a big risk because getting injured 2 weeks before a race, is deadly.

I never lived my life in fear.
And I wasn’t about to do it now, either.

The jets began to kick in. And I was running past the Harborside Financial Center, I began to notice that I was picking fellow runners off again. Step, Step, Step, Pass A Runner. Step, Step, Step, Step, Step, Pass A Runner.

I noticed the wind kicking up and the sun beating down harder. It seemed like the forces of nature were finally trying to, in a final attempt, to beat me down. It figured it would wait when I was nice and tired to pluck me, and send me home without my dream goal. But I already had the best time well within reach, and there’s nothing better than to mentally feel good about yourself, regardless of fatigue, and especially at the end of a race, which is when things are at their toughest.

As I zoomed past Avalon Cove, I could see the Double Tree Suites in the distance. A fresh wave of fatigue began to set back in, especially when I still could not see the finish.

“How much more can I do this?”, I kept thinking. I wanted so bad now to break 1:40, I could taste it. But I was dying inside. I needed to see something that would give me hope.

And then I saw it.

A right turn and suddenly there was the 13 mile marker, and the finish just behind that.

I gulped the air heavily as I stretched my strides, and increased my frequency. My lungs felt like they were on fire. With each breath I was grunting. Grunting so hard, that I could hear it over my footsteps, over the crowd cheering me to the finish, and over my music that entertained me like an old friend throughout this incredible journey today.

I remembered how I had said on video the week before that I would do anything I could in Chicago to qualify for the Boston Marathon. To even “throw myself” over the finish line if it would help. Here I was now doing the same thing two weeks earlier.

I let out a roar as I blasted, not jogged, or sprinted, but blasted through the finish line.

1:40:00 precisely. I shattered my previous record, but I was sad. No 1:39:59.

But then I realized that I did not hit my stop button until at least a half-second after I crossed the mats.

And suddenly, the realization hit me hard. I was overcome with joy, and started crying. I could not contain myself. A grown man. Imagine. What a wuss, right?

Feeling emotional, I finally got the strength to get my bag, and video this raw moment;

After I was done, I was drained. I walked over and poured, unbeknownst to me, highly concentrated Gatorade straight from the gallon jugs that were placed behind the water coolers. I had no clue until I started drinking and realized I needed to stop if I didn’t want to get sick.

I sat down somewhere near the finish, and just hung out to catch my breath for what seemed like forever. Tired, but with a wonderful feeling overwhelming me, the race clock was already over the 2 hour mark.

Afterwards, Bonnie came to the finish as well. I gave her a big hug after she crossed the finish line, thanking her for tipping me off about this race.
We talked for a little while, and suddenly she was gone, to get back to her kids, I take it.

Even if I had sucked today, I would wholeheartedly recommend this race. Even if you like NYC and have no interest in New Jersey, I will tell you that the sights of Manhattan Island, Lady Liberty, and the Harbor were astonishingly beautiful. And for the cost of $30, which we paid right at the start this morning, and thus the highest possible rate, it is cheap compared to NYRR. The only thing missing are finisher medals, and again, more bathrooms, and easier access for dropping off bags. Other than that, I loved this race, and will definitely do it again next year.

With this time, I now have a chance in Chicago.  The age-old formula is to take your best half-marathon time, double it, and add 10 minutes.  My fingers crossed......but my legs keep moving!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Another week, another week of militaristic training.

Wednesday night, the class decided that we needed to run over and back over the Queensboro Bridge.  And why not?  It was 1000000000000% humid outside, so let's add a horrible bridge for more fun and stir well!

During my run, I met two other people, Kitty and I forgot his name (shame on me), that are also doing the Chicago Marathon.  We are all praying for cool weather.  We ran with Shelly and my first inclination was, oh no, please don't tell me about staying within the lines again.  But that was not to happen.

Kitty, who is doing the Chicago Marathon is a surfer from Sydney Australia.  She mentioned she was going to run Chicago for fun, because of an injury she sustained over the summer after she wiped off her board and her foot gashed wide open from landing on coral on the ocean floor bottom.  OUCH.   And I thought I was a tough-as-nails bastard with my bad right arm and all. 

The bridge was as the bridge was.  A pain in the ass.  A quick ascent going towards Queens, followed by an insanely fast pace that had my watch yell 6:37 pace at one point.  I think it said, "Slow the eff down, nut job!"
But I kept pace.

When we got to the end of the bridge and in Queens, I thought we would have a nice rest.  Wrong.  Shelly decided to be a real ball-buster and gave us about 7.8 seconds of rest before she started marching us back up the bridge of dismay.  And going from Queens to Manhattan is a long, long, long ascent, as evidenced during the NYC Marathon.  Between the humidity, the pace for which we arrived into Queens at, and the lack of rest, I actually felt like I was at Mile 15 of the NYC Marathon. 

But Shelly still decided it was her sadistic duty to march us up at around a 7:40 pace.  Sick!

Soon afterwards we were at the apex of the bridge, and I saw Karen run by me. I waved with my bad arm, and of course, I paid the price for that too. 

By the time we made it to the bottom of the bridge I felt like taking my shirt off, but did not since we were in mixed company (since when did I suddenly turn shy?)

The following day, Thursday, I wasn't even sure if I was going to make it to class on time yet again.  I got about one leg stretch in, and that was all, before we started marching in our respective groups to Central Park.  I did not want to be doing tempo runs with my group, because this was based on a schedule for the NYC Marathon that does not happen for 6 weeks, while for me, I'm also doing Chicago, which is in 2 weeks.  Can't afford to over stride, and finishing last in my group is also not what I would consider a "confidence booster" before Chicago either.  I ran with Gerhardt and the Basic Competitive group.  Karen was stuck at work, so it was all me.

We jogged to the park amidst having to wait for the United Nations motorcade league of unwanted to pass through the transverse first (the city is a traffic mess this week), before we finally made our way to Central Park South.  Tonight we did 2 by 2 milers.  That's two loops around the south side of 2 miles each. 

Started in park near Columbus by foot overpass, one full loop across transverse, and back around again until Tavern on the Green. Faded right away, only to finish as a front runner. Well some of us did the first loop so fast (15:36) that Gerhardt (our coach-du-jour) asked us to give those who did it in 16 minutes or longer, 45 second head start.

We did, but caught up to them before the turn north on CPS. Nearly passed him, when he asked me not to (here we go again with this nonsense). He mentioned to me and a few others at the finish, that we should not be in his group if we run so fast, but in the Advanced Competitive Group.  I reminded him that he gave me the thumbs up to run in this group, since Chicago is only in 2 weeks and I did not want to train at the level for the NYC Marathon as others are doing, with 6 weeks to go. Don't get me wrong I like him, it's just that these coaches have something about having their runners take the lead.  Isn't that why we are in the C-O-M-P-E-T-I-T-I-V-E group after all?  I know, I know.  I have issues with authority at times, what can I say...

Anyway, after we finished we jogged back to the school, and Gerhardt gave me some good advice. He suggested that I do a Half Marathon race 2 weeks before Marathon sunday (Chicago), but not go all out, and not try to break 8min/per mile. Only the last three should I try to perhaps kick it harder.
Then he mentioned that next Thursday should be my last speedwork, and no speedwork on Oct 7th.
Finally he said that the Sunday before I should do the last 10 miles of the course. The works well for the NYC Marathon (on Oct 31), but not for Chicago since I live here in NY. However, what I will do is run down the west side highway next Sunday, since it is all flat. All of this was so interesting, that we accidentally missed the right turn onto 81st and 5th, and wound up having to turn back on 82nd (in front of the magnificent Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Sleep bank. (based 7 hour min): +5 hours!  (Sun 9/19 +1, Mon 9/20 0, Tue 9/21 +1, Wed 9/22 +.5, Thu 9/23 +2.5)

My miles have already started cutting down.  Last week I did about 37 miles & this week will be around the same as well.  My arches in my feet are still a little sore, but that's because of the new sneaks I'm breaking in.  Still, I'm not taking any chances, so that why this Sunday's HM will be my last run of over 10 miles before Chicago.

Also, no more hill running. All flat running from here on end.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

400 hours to go....

...until the start of the Chicago Marathon.

What a silly way to count down right?
But when you think about it, 400 hours seems like nothing.  After all, what's an hour anyway?  You'll burn up 1 hour watching Law & Order, or 2 hours watching a movie.  And when you go to bed you knock off 8 hours easy.  Well actually, as I write this we are now less than 399 hours.  See what I mean?

Do I have what it takes?  Ahhhh, therein lies the question that I have bored myself to tears over.
I just found a race which I was told is completely flat.  This is good because I need to practice on flat surfaces anyway.  It's the 17th Annual Newport Liberty Half Marathon just on the other side of the Holland Tunnel in Liberty City, New Jersey.

NYRR posted a photo of the 18 Mile Race in Central Park this past Sunday, and wouldntcha know it, I made the cut. 

I'm the guy with orange hat, black shirt, red shorts running along near the grass.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

ChiMara Strategy Session: Mile 10

  • Sharp right onto Webster Ave. but stay in the middle because there will be a sharp left onto Sedwick St. in just 1 block and you will not have enough time to adjust!

ChiMara Strategy Session: Mile 9

  • Expect a lot of eateries, especially smells of Fried Chicken, to be challenging your senses slightly.

  • Stay on your left like you were in the last mile; the last 3/10ths circle slightly to the left.

ChiMara Strategy Session: Mile 8

  • Start moving over to your left after the 7 mile marker because at 7.5 you will be swinging over sharply to your left onto Addison Road, and...
  • Stay on your left, as another sharp left onto Broadway Street will occur at precisely 7.7 miles.
  • Watch out for some potential fracas going on in "Boystown" during the turns at 7.5 a/o 7.7

ChiMara Strategy Session: Mile 7

  • Get over to your right once you pass the 10K marker to prepare to merge right out of the park and onto Sheridan Road.

  • Expect some wind from your right to hit you as you make your way north through Lakeview and into Wrigleyville.

ChiMara Strategy Session: Mile 6

  • Enjoy the adrenaline surge of the increase in crowds as you run through Lincoln Park.

  • Live music here just in case the Nano isn't cutting it.

  • Stay on your right and prepare for a violent right turn swing at 5.7

  • Head immediately over to the left for another violent turn, this time LEFT, at 5.8

ChiMara Strategy Session: Mile 5

  • Watch for the masses who were not able to relieve themselves before the start, as many will be doing such unspeakable acts as soon as I enter Lincoln Park.

  • Stay on the right as the course veers right into Lincoln Park at the 4.7 mile marker and....

  • Swing over to the far left, as the course goes NW into the park at 4.8.

ChiMara Strategy Session: Mile 4

Be not fooled by this flat and straight mile.  LaSalle is a HEAVILY crossed intersection by pedestrians, especially at the Mile 4 marker which is Division Street.  Keep an OPEN eye out for this...And motor on!!!

RACE REPORT: NYC Marathon Tune-Up

RACE: NYC Marathon Tune Up Run
DISTANCE: 18 miles
LOCATION: Central Park, NY
DATE/TIME: Sunday, September 19, 2010 @ 7am
WEATHER: 65-69F,  Hum. 81%, Winds light, var. 3-5MPH


After carbo-loading last night at Vespa's on 2nd & 84th street, and getting almost 7 hours of sleep, I was the last to wake up today (surprise, surprise).  Everything was already packed, so I was in no panic at all.  I turned to the fridge, to have my 19.2 ounce sugar free Red Bull, and my 1 piece of whole wheat toast with strawberry jam and margarine.  Did my consecrated doodie, err duties in the bathroom, and left for what would be my last LONG run before the Chicago Marathon.  I've had a lot of doubts of late regarding my ability to run an 8:02 pace and figured that it would be nice if I could finally do it here, today, at the New York City Marathon Tune Up race of 18 miles.  Then again, it's 18 miles not 26.2, however Chicago has NONE of the hills that I was going to run through not once, not twice, but thrice this morning.

The day started off on a good sign as I was feeling a pep in my step as we walked the 1.3 miles to the starting line.  Typically, I'm chasing after Karen, but today, I felt stronger.  Could I have finally turned the corner in my training.  Oh God, I surely hope so!

                                                             The "all systems-go" pose.

Baggage check.

Karen making her last prep.

I gave my wife a big kiss, leaving her at the bathroom line, which were obnoxiously long as always.  I checked our bags on the transverse at 102nd, and headed back to the starting line.  'Kick Ass.  Kill.  Kick Ass. Kill.'  I kept repeating to myself.

As I made my way right into the corral, who else do I run into but into Tom Brogan?  It was nice to see him.  He mentioned that Pauline Seto was running too, but that Jack and Wilson were in Philly doing the Distance Half Marathon Run.  The PDR was such a great run for me in '08, but I needed to do a longer race, hence the Tune Up.

Before the gun went off, I remembered to make a modification to my Garmin.  For the longest time, I've been getting mile splits on my watch that actually fall short of where the mile marker is on the course.  As a result, I get a split that looks good, but I still have x to go before I get to the actual split.  For this reason, I change the auto lap on my Garmie, from 1.00 mile to 1.02 mile.  And it would make a difference.

As we finally took off, the first Mile was going to be down to Lasker then back up Harlem Hill, the highest elevation.  Intelligently, I now tackle Harlem Hill not all at once, but in two parts.  Part 1, is the straight away up the hill.  Once I get to the bicycle sign that is posted at what seems is the peak of the hill, then I've finished part one.  At that point there was a volunteer who was very helpful telling the runners to relax.  It reminded me of what Karen had said about relaxing the shoulder.   Part two of the hill  heads uphill even more.  It winds to the left, and back further up to the right, and that's where most runners get burned here.  I took a deep breath at the end of part one, and tackled part two.  Mission Accomplished. Now I only have to do this hill two more times.  Ugh. LOL.

Mile 1 was done in 8:44.36.  Sure enough, I had actually gone 1.02 miles, but because of my customized lap setting, my watch buzzed just as I crossed the Mile 1 marker. Perfect! 

8:44 was slow, but given the hill, the starting line crowd, and chatting a bit with Tom, I figured I would work on making this back up.  After all, I had 17 miles to do this in, and I was in a mad mofo take-no-prisoners state-of-mind.

Mile 2 (or 2.04) still had some hill left over, plus the first of three rolling hills along the west side. I figured I could lose a few more seconds, and did not do that poorly either.  8:05.54 was not bad considering.  Now I was about 49 seconds behind pace, but still nothing to worry about.

However, something started happening totally unexpectedly, and totally effed up.  My bladder.  It felt full.  Dammit!  My groin started feeling pressure.  With every stride, what felt like a heavy rock, was bouncing in my bladder.  Jarring, unconfortable and painfully, I had hoped that the bathroom right after mile 2 was empty.  Nothing doing.  There was a line of about 4 people waiting, so I kept running.  Thoughts of going in the bushes came to me, but now I was passing the Great Lawn on my left, so there was no where to pee without being in plain sight of officials that would surely disqualify me had I done so.  The thought of even doing the unthinkable came into view, but I was running so fast, that there would be no way for me to do both at the same time either.

Finally, as I passed Strawberry Fields and the 72nd street transverse,  and just as I came up on Mineral Springs,  I was elated to see 3 green boxes (port-o-sans) in the distances. I was excited because no one was waiting.

Then, two people running ahead of me, ran off course, heading directly for these toilets.

"NO! NO! NO!" I thought.  Shit, now I would have to wait behind them.   What do I do?  If I don't go here, my per mile pace is going to suffer, but if I do queue up, I'm going to lose valuable time.  

'You should've waited with Karen for a bathroom earlier, idiot!' I yelled at myself.

I could not wait anymore to pee, so I queued up.  Person #1 got in almost immediately, but person #2 waited about 30 seconds.  Then I got in, did my business and got out.   I did Mile 3 in 7:42.25, but I lost 67 seconds (not 62) at the beginning of what would be my 4th mile, and did Mile 4 mile in 8:24.55 (would have been 7:17.55 otherwise....balls!)

Even though I had lost valuable time, I was feeling great now, and in the 'zone'.  heading back north, and waiting for that dreaded Cat Hill, I was amazed to see that my final lap time for Mile 5 was 7:55.02, proving for once and for all, that a cat can indeed be tamed.

As we made our way past the Metropolitan Museum of Art and up the straightaway to Engineer's Gate and 90th, I did all I could from over-revving.  And even then, when I got to where we began, Mile 6, my 1.02 mile split was 7:41.52.  I was a machine!

Of course, here came Harlem Hill again, but this time, using a visualization technique that I've been practicing, I pretended to be a sherpa on the great Everest.  My goal was to save the poor climber that had collapsed at the top of the hill.  Soon enough, the immensity of the big hill was minimized by the need to avoid a tragic loss of life.  I know, I am absolutely crazy, but hey it worked.  I did Mile 7 in 8:09.43 (7:59 had it been 1 and not 1.02 miles either, btw).

Mile 8.  West Side.  Again.  More Rolling Hills.  Again.  Did it in 8:10.56.  Disappointed. Took my first GU gel.  Needed more energy.

Mile 9.  Home of the Tavern on The Green and Sheep Meadow. Also home to where I drained the lizard.
I would not be denied this time, and my strength pulled me through both remaining hills, plus Mineral Springs to post a 7:58.69

I was halfway done now, and had a 1 hour 12 minute 52.22 second time.  My pace was 8:06, but honestly I had run 9.18 miles which meant a pace of 7:57.  Honestly, I openly question if the NYRR have ever really revisited calculated the distance of this course.  Karen, my running partners, my friends, etal, all say the same thing.  They cut every freakin' corner they can and they can never do ONE mile in the ONE mile that is marked. It is always more.  Chicago, thus, will be interesting (hopefully).

Anyway, I was feeling very fresh and as I looped my way east through Central Park South, up through Wollman's Rink and the Zoo, I was really throwing the jets into high flame.  And throughout it all I was beginning to really believe in myself.  It took 10 miles, but when I crossed that marker (and manually hit the lap button for a .99 mile) in 7:43.13, I started to think that this beast within me, may have finally broken loose of its chains!

As I made my way up past the Bandshell and the Boathouse,  I came up on Cat Hill again.  With some added bravado, I decided not to look down as I ran up this hill, and looked the cat right into the eye.  Unfortunately however, I did Mile 11 in 8:18.83.  I wasn't tired, but could feel my sugar level taking a hit.  I had been drinking gatorade when it was being offered, and water as well. Yet, I botched the water stop at 11, as the cup slipped out of my hand.  Crap.

Mile 12, East Park Drive.  Not feeling as crisp as I felt the first time I sailed through here, but started getting a brief adrenaline rush as the crowd along the edge of North Meadow Ballfields cheered me on.  I did not miss this water stop, as I chugged down over a cup, and poured a little down my back.  Ahhhhhh.  My time at Mile 12, the second full loop completed, was 7:59.42.  Yes!

I was two-thirds done now.  My total time was 1 hour, 36 minutes and 53.6 seconds. My pace was now 8:05 (7:55 if you take into consideration that I had actually done 12.24 miles already).  I was now within foot range of setting out what I wanted to accomplish.  But if there is anything one knows about long distance running, it's this...The devil waits for you to get tired.  And then he does his bidding.

Mile 13 the race downhill past Lasker Pool, the drudge up Harlem Hill.  To me, this half-way point meant a lot, and despite all the signs that begged me to slow down, I made the decision to push harder.  Amazingly, I scaled Harlem Hill for the third and gratefully last time in a time of 7:52.38.  Even with all it's hardships, I was so glad for this to be the last time I would see this hill, that it made a direct impact in my speed. 

13 miles in and my time stood at 1 hour 44 minute and 46 seconds. My all-time best was 1:42:32 for a half, and while I was missing .1, I had actually done 13.26 miles already.  Regardless of all of this numerology bullshit, I just knew I was still in the mix, and that's all that mattered to me.

Mile 14, the rolling hills.  Those damn rolling hills.  The previous scaling up Harlem had taken a toll out of me.  This is something I wont see in Chicago, but it killed me here.  As we ran up the first rolling hill on West Park Drive, I actually STOPPED to get water.  My body was beginning to tell me to go to hell, and like a naval vessel on the wrong side of the war, my goal of 8:02 was beginning to taking on a lot of fire.

If Mile 14 was a let down, Mile 15 was barely better.  Three more rolling hills, kicked my ass.  I fought hard against the urges of giving in and just taking it easy, but either way, I took yet another hill-induced impact, and finished up at 8:27.31  

I only had 3 more miles to go.  Get your ass in gear, Alex.  You can do this!!

Most of Mile 16 was downhill, yet  I stopped again at Sheep Meadow for another undesirable drink of water.  I hate hills, but they are part of the scene here, so WTF.   8:26.97 and my dream of 8:02 is slipping.
Plus now, guess what is next?  Cat Hill.

If the rolling hills, of the West Side shook me, then Cat Hill, with the sharpest angle of ascent on the course, baked me.  Even though I was passing people on my left and right, this was never about beating others.  It was and has been about beating 8:02.  My state of mind had gone from "I can do this", at Mile 10.  To, "Shit. What the hell is going on over here" at Mile 14 to now "Damn Mother F*%&in' Cat Hill!"   Ryan Shea died on this hill, and he was running downhill, if you can imagine. 

Anyway, I mentally began to eat my baked humble pie.  I would do well today.  Very well and in fact the best 18 miles ever, but just not good enough.  Mile 17?  8:54.72

I was not going to break 8:02 and while it's concerning because this was 18 miles and not 26.2, the hills that faced me, about 30 or more in all, will not be there in Chicago.

And still, I had something left in me.

As I passed the Mile 17 marker, I was still feeling lethargic, resigned.  This lasted the entire straightaway, as I looked at my watch to see the current pace for the last mile at around 8:19.  As I past the end of the straightaway at the northeast corner of where the reservoir would be, two runners, a guy and a doll, not only motored past me, but they invaded my space.  They cut me off, forcing me to slow down even more. 

This pissed me off!

I might not make my goal today, but I still had something left to say about this shit.

I don't know exactly how many peeps I passed as I headed north along North Meadow for the third and final time.  All I know is that I was inspired through rage, a common practice for me, and how I give myself the gift of a final kick.  I kept on running hard, though the girl actually passed me anyway (the guy got dusted though, lol). 

Only one more person actually accelerated ahead of me, as we were about to make a left onto the 102nd street transverse to head for the finish.  I saw the FINISH sign, and now I was really digging hard.

My name was actually called out by the announcer over the P.A. system.  Very cool.

I charged passed the finish line, breathing fire, and stopped my watch at precisely .99 mile for the last lap.
Time of Mile 18?  7:39.05

My total time was 2:26:48 for an "official" pace of 8:10.  This included the 1:02 bathroom break, and another :30 seconds or so for the two water stops.  My watch read a pace of 8:01 but then again my watch also said that I ran 18.29 miles as well.  This makes me feel so conflicted, to be honest.  Later on, when I met up with Karen, she complained about the same thing.  She mentioned that she cut every corner she could, and she still wound up doing 18.5 miles.  Truthfully, and I say this again, I challenge the New York Road Runners to PROVE that a full loop around Central Park is EXACTLY 6 miles and not more. 

The hills played a big factor as you've read but the weather was not exactly perfect.  Yes, it was cool but it was extremely humid outside (as the 81% on the NYRR website suggested)

While I wasn't bitterly disappointed (unlike my mean-mofo expressions above suggest otherwise), I still had hoped that I could've put questions to rest about my ability to quality for the Boston Marathon next April.  Unfortunately, I think these questions won't be answered until I cross the finish line in Chicago.

And now for a new thing:
Here's a video of me to you from after the race.  I was tired, and still a little bit upset, but it's all good really.
Shit, I nearly broke 8 minutes per mile for 18 miles!!!!!  :-)

BTW- That was supposed to be sleep BANK and calorie BANK.... Not TANK! Ugh!!!!!  :-)

Here were the results for our Forest Park Road Runners' Team as posted by NYRR:

Last Thoughts:
  • I came in 709/4597 (top 15.4%) overall.  I came in 595/2492 (top 23.2%) among Men. And came in 61/342 (top 17.8%) among Men in my age category.  A great day despite my bitchin'! :-)
  • The new 6th Gen. Apple Nano was worth every penny I spent on it.  Thank you Karen for making our family salary such that I can afford one!  I love you!!
  • Karen is still concerned about her ability to do Chicago.  She like I, suck at hills.  Karen-Chicago is FLAT, sweetie!  You will do great, I have faith in you my dear!!!! :-))))
  • As I write this blog, I feel great physically.  No doubt I have what it takes to FINISH the marathons in Chicago and.....New York....but NY will be hyped the way I always do....You'll see. ;-)
  • I weighed 161.6 at the start of the race (perhaps even more with my affair with Red Bull).  I will be lighter for Chicago. MARK. MY. WORDS.
  • I'm proud that Tom from our team is finally doing his first Marathon.  He is a great runner, and should do well.
  • I'm equally excited for Jason Vega.  My classmate from way-back-when.  Not only has he shown his prowess for a guitar, but he's going to kick butt in New York City, and I can't wait to hopefully see him at Fort Wadsworth before the start of the Marathon, to give him a huge hug and well wishes on his badassness!
  • I love my wife, Karen.  She has been a constant source of inspiration for me through my training which literally started with the Miami Marathon at the start of the year, and will culminate with NYC this year.  Her relentlessness on foot and on bike is amazing.  She will do great.  I know it!!!! :-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


For those of you who might not know, there is a website called NYCRUNS that features runners like myself that like to write almost as much as we like to run.  I am featured over there and have been on their site for over a month.

In addition, I've been getting a lot of good publicity over there, and some decent hit rates on my posts there too.

Just take a look:
Hits : 26 2010-09-15

Hits : 67 2010-09-14

Hits : 86 2010-09-13

Hits : 96 2010-09-07

Hits : 97 2010-09-06

Hits : 269 2010-09-02

Hits : 86 2010-08-28

Hits : 93 2010-08-25

Hits : 200 2010-08-21

Hits : 93 2010-08-19

The Yellow Telephone Box Competition.

Interesting change of pace.  The NYRR team had us divided into our usual pace groups but this time our goal was quite different.  Get the box numbers of as many emergency telephone boxes in Central Park as possible. Yellow and usually hanging on poles, our group decided to take the North side of the park.  Me and another couple of guys did most of the sprinting, while the assigned NYRR coach ran with the group leader who jotted down our discoveries.  Everyone else ran at their pace and were great teammates.  When we got to 79th, we were going to quit because we had to be back by 8pm and it was 7:50pm.  The group leader announced we had 19 boxes.  And someone mentioned that it was a shame that we didn't get 20.  I volunteered to go charging for the last one.  I took off sprinting 4 blocks down to get the last number.  When I sprinted back everyone was cheering me on.  It felt great!

The total time was truly 1 hour and 10 minutes with stops and breaks.  However, I could easily tell you that  15 minutes worth were just stopping at the 20 various locations and then taking off again.  So I subtracted the stoppage time to get a real pace from my running.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chills, Thrills and Spills!

Hey Gang, if you want to read about my run tonight skip down to the section that's called CTS (for Chills, Thrills and Spills).  For the rest of you that want the Director's Cut, just follow me below....

Sometimes things just don't go as you plan.  Sometimes you don't even remember to plan.  As for me, I've given up trying to be perfect and efficient.  It's just so damned difficult and when you're 45 years young, time's-a-wasting anyway, so why get upset when life doesn't click as it's supposed to?  I've gotten to the point where I just laugh at myself because hey, no one does it better than me, and if you know who I am, then you will laugh when you read below.  No, this is far from another 9-hour commute story, I get about 3 of those per year (which is 2.9 more than the average human).  This one's more like one of those one-per-week type of days.

It all started Sunday actually.

Apparently that 24-mile jaunt that I did on Sunday, not only threw out my lower back (which is thankfully back to normal now), which kept me up almost all night, and out of work, but it completely screwed up my sleep pattern as I spent much of Monday laying in bed.  My back was feeling fine by last night, but what about my sleep cycle?

Last night was an adventure.  I couldn't afford to have a second straight sleepless night.  This was war.
I laid down in bed at 10pm.  Again, if you know who I am, you will know that this is early for me.
I put an eye mask on as well as ear plugs, but no use.  Karen then came into bed, and gave me some TLC.  I started getting tired, but would it be enough?  Nah.  Still nothing.

As I laid in bed the eye mask seem to have been affecting my breathing, which was because it was on low and close to my nose to block the green LED light eminating the time from my Time-Warner Cable box.  So, I got up again, this time to put take two pairs of golden-toed black dress socks (rolled in balls) covering the display.  As I went back to bed, I also took offense to the light from the alarm clock on my nighttable, so I put that face down as well.  Hah!  I got you licked now!  Sandman, I am waiting!

But poor Mr. Sandman must have been lost.  Perhaps he too got caught in the rainstorm that I endured for those 24 miles and turned into mud, somewhere near the Gowanus Canal.   I have always taken on challenges with brute force and usually I win.  But to conquer sleeplessness requires reverse logic, for which I am admittedly retarded at (Hey! I know it's politically incorrect to say retarded, but I'm saying this about myself, so I get a pass).

Mr. Sandman was nowhere to be found so it was time to turn to Mr. Desperation.  I got up, marched right into the bathroom, and took 2 Benadryls.  Then I walked out into the kitchen, opened the freezer, and proceeded to pour myself a shot of Absolut Vodka.

Yes, I know what you are going to say.  But I'm a big boy now, and I never really even pretended to be an angel, so it's only fitting I play dirty when it comes to trying to go to sleep as well.  This was a "By Any Means Necessary" tactic dammit, and since I only live 23 blocks south and 3 avenues east of Malcolm X, I felt completely entitled to this feeling.  

I came back into the room and laid in bed.  Karen, BTW, was already under.  Thank God for her, but what about for me? 

It was an hour that passed since my probably-poisonous-Daffy-Duck-potion of diphenydramine, grain and alcohol.  Yet still I was awake.  I felt like the main character of a George A. Romero flick.  The only thinkg missing was my desire to eat raw meat (which would've been an impossibility in my house since my vegan wife forgot to take the steak out the night before-that's okay vegan wife, it was for the better anyway-I WANT BRAINS...Just kidding).

Mr. Desperation really turned out to be a dud.  I had one last weapon, one last resort?  I went into my kids room and took the black sheets and a navy blue king size blanket.  With that under my left arm, I went to grab the step stool in the kitchen with my rig---(OUCH. Yes, my arm is still in pain since December - another MRI is pending to see if I have a rotator cuff injury - and to think I don't even use my right arm ---ahh the joys of being middle-aged!!)

I'm in the bedroom now, going slowly, trying not to wake up Karen. step stool rear left leg into bed SW post. 'Oooops.  I better be more careful and not let that happen again'  
step stool front left leg into SE post.  Still, she did not stir.  I am so jealous.

I got up on the stepstool and hung the black sheets followed by the blanket over the curtain rod.  I did a great job.  No longer could the radioactive bright lights from the White Castle across the street could stir me in bed.  It was BLACK in my room, and I couldn't even see my hands! It was really nice .  It was....

It was 7:20am in the morning.  Oh SHIT!!!  I woke up late!  The Benadryl was still having it's way with me (or was that the Absolut).  Whatever it was, I needed coffee. Dunkin. Hazelnut.  and Fast!
I ran out of the house, with the foresight of having remembered to take a gym bag with me.

As I ran to the garage to get my car, I figured I would give my co-workers a call to let them know that I might be just a little bit late.  Again, if you know who I am, you would be laughing by now.  Looked at my Blackberry.  It was dead.  "Did you remember to charge your phone last night, oh great wise professional engineer?"   DING.  STRIKE ONE.

I drove to work in a hurry, and I was only a few minutes late.  I didn't have time for eating anything, but no worries because the 'roach coach' was right in front. (though I never actually saw any roaches on Ken's Breakfast/Lunch truck, so I have no clue why this phrase caught on, please continue).

That was when I noticed I had left my wallet at home.   DING! DING!! STRIKE TWO!!

There comes a time when a man is supposed to let his woman know exactly how clever, selfless, and industrious he is.  A time when he is supposed to not show his weakness, his stupidity, and especially his shortcomings (as if the first two adjectives were glowing reviews, lol).

My friends, this was not the time for that.  I called Karen to whine about this and about the fact that I felt so tired that I felt like putting my head in my desk drawer and calling it a day.  She mentioned to borrow some money, but as she was speaking I found a bag of quarters in my gym bag and let her know of it. It was about 8 dollars in change.  I didn't want to eat pizza, but Karen started singing "Five.  Five Dollar.  Five Dollar Foot Long!"  Yeah, Subways.  Eat Cheap.

Lunchtime came around.  I went to Walmart to Subways.  How pathetic, right?  I sat down and had a veggie footlong.  I left surprisingly nourished and started driving back to work.

That's when I noticed that I was nearly on empty.  The gas light wasn't on, yet.  But  I thought,  'Oh Boy.  I'd better fill up my tank at one of these 18,383 gas stations on route 110'.

'Oh yeah, rocket scientist?  And how are you going to pay for that gas?  With those hairy eyebrows and legs of yours?'


I was out all right.  I was out of gas!  Holy Shite!  And with no money?  Wait, let me see...Umm...There's got to be a few coins here laying around the car.....There has to be something...Damn, there...there just has to ---

"We Now Interrupt This Programming To Bring You The Following Announcement.  Kids, It Is Important That You Plan Ahead.  For If You Fail To Plan, Then You Have Planned To Fail.  Don't Let This Happen To You.  This was a Paid Service Announcement By The All Of Those Responsible People Who's Name is Not Alex D. ---"

I found exactly $3.15.  Gas was $2.80.  If it felt weird handing over 8 dollars in quarters to the cashier at the Subway's at Walmart, can you imagine the indignation I felt to ask the cashier at the Hess Gas Stop to give me exactly 1 gallon of gas, and then pay for it in dimes and nickels???  'I SAID GIVE ME A GALLON OF GAS, AND MAKE IT SNAPPY!  THAT'S RIGHT!  PUMP NUMBER 2!  AND DON'T THINK I'M NOT WATCHING THE METER EITHER!  IT BETTER BE ONE GALLON EXACTLY AND NOT 1/100TH LESS MISTER, OR I WILL BE REPORTING YOU TO THE BBB!!'

Of course, three strikes only happen to people.  Normal people.  But my name is Alex Gonz├ílez.   What's normal about that, right?   To continue.

It was later in the day, about quitting time, when I got an alert on my iPhone.  It was from Facebook.  I was still thinking about whether to go to the NYSC in Huntington or just go home and run outdoors. After all it was really beautiful outside. Low humidity and a nice breeze.  So I started driving.  Traffic was a nightmare (what else is new?) and I realized that I would not be getting home, changing, and leaving for Central Park until after sundown which is 7:06pm in New York, today, September 14th, 2010.

I'm making my way past LaGuardia Airport when all of a sudden the gas light came on.  Remember how much gas I put in?  It was ONE gallon, remember?  A Volkswagon Jetta gives you about 28 miles per gallon on a good day with no traffic.  My job is 37 miles away from my house.  And that's also on a good day.  Today was not a good day.  Back near Port Washington traffic was building up on the Northern State, I got off to take the LIE service, and went the wrong way, forcing me to get back on the Northern, but going the wrong way.   How many strikes does the average person get again?

All of these 'extra' miles on my not-such-a-good-day had me dreaming of getting stalled on the FDR.  Such pleasant imagery.  Or better yet, how about getting off prematurely to avoid the crush of FDR traffic, and stalling at 125th street, or even 116th street?  Good times indeed.

Seeing how engine rotations eat more gas as they increase, I started using the Neutral shift on downhills (from the bridge, and onto the FDR).  Instead of the usual 2,000, it was more like 1,000.

Fortunately, I made it to the garage (though I will be praying tomorrow that I can go at least another 6 blocks to the nearest gas station before going to and ran upstairs to change for my run.


Nothing like running in the dark in Central Park!  First order of business was to get my wallet and get some cash to get AAA batteries.  My red hazard sensor was dead.  It's a little red reflecting light that I put on the back of my hat when I run outdoors and at night.  It was too late to do a full loop, so I decided to do the shorter transverse loop of 4 miles.  Along with another 1.6 miles roundtrip to and from the house and a partial loop around 102nd and 103rd, I did exactly 6 miles tonight.

So running in the park doesn't give me chills.  But it was cool tonight, and I actually felt chilly at first.

As I was running up the 102nd street entrance, not 1 but 2 very, very, very, very (did I mention, 'very'?) large racoons ran right across my feet as I ran to the point that their ugly claws on one nearly touched my new Brooks sneakers.

It was at this point, and early in my run that I was thinking of the title of Chills, Thrills and Spills, but I had no plan to fall while running and hurt myself.  And so for the first 3 miles or so, I was thinking about what to write (if anything at all, really).

I was running down the west side of Central Park between 96th and 72nd, and I was motoring.  I think I was doing about a 7:20 pace, which is a 4 mile race pace for me, when this guy with an orange hat and NYC Half-Marathon shirt blasts by me, nearly knocking into me, and stirring awake my self-conscious.

"WTF?  Calmate mijito.  This is supposed to be a recovery run.  As it was you are running too fast. Do not compete with this guy.  Do not compete, I say!"

Of course, I never even listen to myself, and decided I needed to put a hurtin' on this guy.  So, I increased my speed and stayed behind,  I figured I would wait until we came to the crest of the hill, and then blast by him when we started to go downhill, and maintain my dominance until the next hill, making it even harder for him to overtake me, on a hill and all. 

It paid off, but by the time I was approaching the next downhill near the 72nd transverse I was beginning to see his shadow to my left.  I started picking up even more speed, but he managed to stay in stride with me.  I could not shake the shadow.  At this point I started to go into a full fledged sprint, figuring it was time to leave it all on the road.  My speed must have topped off at around a 5 minute per mile pace.  The strategy had worked, but only for a minute or so.  He not only kept up with me, but he surged past me.  Guess I'm not the only competitive junkie out there.

I started slowing down near the transverse, as the sprinting had taken its toll on me.  I had my headphones on, listening to my 6th Gen, Special Edition Red Nano, when a woman came up behind me and caught my attention.

I didn't know who she was, but I noticed was she was holding in her hands, and took my headphones immediately off.

"You dropped these", she said.  "It was tough to keep up with you too!" she laughed.

It was my keys.  They had fallen out of my sneaker pouch.  Apparently, I was going so fast that the velcro tab opened up and out spilled my keys onto the ground.  How she saw this in the dark, I have no clue.

It was about a mile later when the realization hit me like a hammer. My keys.  They had...SPILLED out.