Sunday, July 31, 2011

Life Recap (with a miniature race recap too)

I won't even call myself an amateur runner. Running happens to be my hobby and it happens to teeter on the edge of obsession. I can admit it. The past six weeks have been a true test of how passionate I am about the hobby and how much I can juggle without letting one of the balls drop.

Life is about prioritizing. My priorities are my fiancee' Lauren and our families, my job and that order. I won't lie. There have been times, perhaps even recently, where running came before work. But, I am in a position now where that would be suicide. The stakes are too high. On top of all that, I am still in the middle of a major move. Since I have moved to New York, I feel like my life is straddling Charlotte in New York. That's a pretty big distance to cover. Getting moved into our new home in Chelsea will be a big relief once it happens.

Running hasn't taken a backseat. Not in the least bit. But, I have had to get a lot more creative with how I keep my training consistent. Gone for now are the days of regular hours at work. In fact, more often than not, I am working long and late shifts making it impossible to get up for a 5:30am run. This was especially challenging during a recent string of days where New York City saw record heat, with the thermometer reaching 100 or hotter three days in a row. To make it work, I went to bed as soon as I got home at 12am, and made sure I was out the door by 7:45am to get the mileage in before the worst part of the day. Some days, instead of a 6:00am easy shakeout, I'll do a 12:00am easy shakeout. Same concept and benefit, different time.

I've had to get accustomed to doing speed work on my own. If everything lines up right, I can make it to the Central Park Track Club's Tuesday night workout, but so far, that's only happened twice. As some one who likes solo recovery runs, but hates solo interval and tempo runs, this has not been an easy transition. Yet, I'm proud to say I haven't bagged a single workout. In fact, I've had some of my best performances.

The long run requires some choreography. The first hurdle is the lack of locations. When you live in Manhattan there are really only two places to run that don't require a subway ride. One is Central Park the other is the West Side Highway. That's not a complaint. Both are among the best, most scenic places to run in the United States. Central Park for the obvious reasons and the West Side Highway because you can see the entire island if you stay on it long enough. On a given long run, you get fantastic views of the Interpid, the Empire State Building, the emerging Freedom Tower, The Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park, Wall Street, Chelsea Piers and the South Street Seaport if you make it long enough. However, just like any other running location, they grow monotonous. A change of scenery means a significant time commitment. I loved my 17 miler in Rockefeller State Park with Dan and Val Matena earlier this month, but the travel time is three hours round trip. Van Cortlandt Park is a little closer, but it will cost about an hour's worth of travel time. That's a lot of hours to sacrifice when your work schedule on weekends is 1pm-12am.

I am still trying to figure out how I will work racing into this new life. I work weekends, but fortunately I work weekend evenings. So, I can race as long as the race is somewhere in the New York metro area. This weekend was my first test. I signed up for a very low-key 5K at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. By low key, I mean it was not a New York Road Runners Club event. There were still about 1,000 people in the race. Getting to the park took two trains and about 50 minutes, so I had to be up pretty early. I got there with plenty of time for a three mile warm up. When the gun went off, naturally, I went out with the leaders. Since everyone was a stranger, I figured I'd see how long I could hang with the front pack and go from there. I hit the mile in 5:07 feeling decent, but then ran smack into mile two which is a steady uphill climb. Even though I picked off two runners on the hill, I was struggling. By the time I hit the downhill third mile, I was pretty well spent and not able to take as much advantage of it as I would have liked. I finished in 16:23 which placed me 10th overall. Not a PR, but it matches my time at China Grove last month and on a much more challenging course. It's progression, albeit slow.

The next couple of weeks will be the real test of time management. I am fortunate to have the very knowledgeable Mark Hadley of Maximum Performance Running coaching me from a far, and encouraging me to stick with the plan. I am hoping to be in peak condition for the Newport Libery Half Marathon in Jersey City, NJ on September 25th, the day before I turn 28-years-old. August will be where I hit my highest mileage, peaking at around 85 miles per week. I don't expect to working in the newsroom fewer than 50 hours on top of the running. Oh yeah, and on September 3rd, I'm getting married to the love of my life.

Juggling isn't easy. If it was, everyone would do it. I'm going to juggle as long as I can. Right now, I see no signs of backing off and hopefully that is the case for many years. But, it's always important to know in the back of your mind which balls you can drop when your routine starts to slip, and which ones you always want to have in your hands.


  1. one more month, and you'll come home on late nights to me and pep! also, i think "amateur" is a good word to describe your relationship with running. marty told us yesterday that the word actually means "something you do out of love" (hence the 'ama'), not out of expertise or necessity. cool concept i hadn't thought of!

  2. i always want to have all my balls in my hands...wait...

  3. If you want to spice it up a little, you should do Rebel Race Indiana. It is a really fun mud run with obstacles like a wall climb called the Great Wall of Rebel Race. There’s another obstacle called Ninja Turtle Tunnels. Its time to relive our childhood- lol. The website is