Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - In the Newsroom

(A little something I wrote about working in the newsroom on Christmas Eve)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the newsroom

We were fishing for stories, absent of doom & gloom
The reporters were preparing their pieces with care
In hopes of a looklive so they could get out of there.

The anchors reading their scripts in their best Christmas reds
While visions of spiked egg nog danced in their heads.
The assignment editor in his jeans, and the producer in his sweater
Were planning a night of leading with weather.

When out of the scanner, there arose such a clatter
They sprang from their desks to hear all the chatter
Quickly to twitter, they flew like a flash
To check for pictures of what was apparently a big crash.

The reports sounded bad, blaming it on the snow.
They looked at each other and said “Josh should go”
He and his photog grabbed their gear
And hopped into the livetruck and adjusted the mirrors.

The photog, he had a beard like St. Nick
And with his driving skills, they’d get there quick.
To Brooklyn they were headed, they’d take the Belt.
This was the fastest route to Bay Ridge everyone felt.

Down to Columbus! 66th!
The West Side Highway to the Tunnel!
Down 478 Up 278!
Check that seat buckle!
To the scene of the crash
Just past the police lights.
Get video, get sound
For your package tonight!

The crash scene was hectic, “talk to me!” someone did cry
Perhaps they could get sound from this random guy?
Over to the eyewitness they did make their way.
A camera and a microphone to record what he had to say.

He started to talk and it became very clear
This man has had way too much beer.
His words made no sense, he started to curse
As far as MOS goes, it could not have been worse.

He wore a tight ugly sweater, and a hat like Cousin Eddie
His plump wife stood beside him donning only a teddy.
A six pack of Coors he had in a sack
And as we interviewed him, he began to knock them back.

His eyes were glazed over. His nose and cheeks rosey red.
His breath smelled like a brewery with every word he said.
His mouth dripped with drool and he slurred his speech
Every now and then he let out a screech.
He pulled out a cigarette and tucked it between his teeth.
So much smoke our crew couldn’t breathe.
His expression went blank, and he looked at his tummy.
“All the sudden,” he said “I’m starting to feel funny.”

Off to the bushes he ran to empty his belly.
There is no way we are putting this guy on the telly.
He winked his eyes, twisted his head.
Soon he let them know it was probably time for bed.

Back at the crash scene, there was a police spokesman
No serious injuries, just a couple bones were broken
A lead story this wasn't and for that all were glad
On Christmas Eve no one wants the news to be sad.

Back to the live truck they walked back together
It looked like the show would indeed lead with weather.
As they pulled back into the station the show came to an end.

That’s our newscast tonight! Thanks for tuning in!

Friday, October 31, 2014

How Not To Recover From a Hard Race By Someone Who Should Know Better

I hadn’t even arrived in Philadelphia for the Philly Half last month before I started formulating a plan B. With a less than favorable weather forecast and a calf injury that had sidelined me for most of the week, I was preparing for the possibility that the race might not accurately reflect my training and more importantly make me happy. On that train ride from New York, I shot an email to a contact at Runners World to ask about the Runners World Half Marathon festival in late October. I had wanted to run this race since its inception three years ago and its proximity and affordability made it the best choice.

I was not disappointed. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is a beautiful town and the race was superbly well-organized. Despite being the biggest running publication in the country, Runners World puts on a race that maintains the feel of a local community event while providing all the important amenities of a major corporate event. The race itself is a challenge. My goal was to run faster than I did at Philly and cross the finish line feeling happy. Jason had come with me and we decided to run 5:25s-5:35s right out of the gate. This pace came easy as we worked with a pack of three other runners through the early miles. Bart Yasso lead us all on the bike. The rolling hills kept the pace honest and when we hit the first big hill at mile six, Jason and I were able to open a large gap on the rest of the field – or so I thought. There were some serious climbs after this point in the race. 15-20mph wind gusts added to the difficulty of the climb. Around mile 8, a monster hill took me by surprise and drained a substantial amount of my energy. A runner who had not been in our early lead pack was able to pass us easily here and he never looked back going on to win the race.

I ended up in fourth place after being passed in the final mile by a runner I should have been able to hang with. Still, I was more content with the race than I was disappointed. Sure, the time was not a personal best and I missed the podium, but I went for it early on a very tough course and unfortunately couldn’t hold on as long as I’d hoped. The effort and the experience were far better than Philly and that was the primary goal.

What I should have done next was shut it down and take some time off.  I had run two half-marathons in a month. Even if Philly was a disaster, it was still the best effort I could give on that day and with the conditions, probably much harder than my finishing time would indicate. That’s not what I did. By Thursday, my legs were still a little heavy but that didn’t stop me from hopping into a workout of ten all-out 200s. Speed is not my strength. Some people say, “you just have to keep working at it.” This is not true. I will never be a sprinter. Ever. And I’m cool with that. So, ten 30 second 200s is a lot to ask from my legs. I knew before the workout was even over that I would pay the price the next day. I underestimated how high that price would be. Friday morning I could hardly walk. I did a five mile run in the park at a pace that was slower than a shuffle. Dog walkers were passing me with ease.

Less running, more football on the couch with the loves of my life. That's a damn good way to spend a down week.
I was glad I have an elevator when I got home from that run. When I got to our 8th floor apartment, Pepper, who had not gone for a run, wanted to play. I took off my shoes and obliged. It started as me throwing her stuffed monkey down our long hallway, but after she brought it back the third time I was too lazy and sore to bend over anymore. So, I resorted to kicking it down the hall. As my foot connected with the monkey me heel left the ground and I suddenly found myself in the air. I braced  for what was coming but the impact was still hard and painful. I landed directly on my tailbone just above the area that was already horribly sore. Pepper thought this was an extension of the game and came over to wrestle as I winced in pain and cursed to hold back the tears. I was down for awhile wondering if I had broken anything. I was able to get back up without any searing pain so I figured I was just going to be dealing with a nasty bruise.

That tailbone pain made up for any hamstring pain that had dissipated on Saturday and I gritted out a slow 45 minutes. At this point, I probably should have cut my losses and bagged plans to run the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5 Miler the next morning. But I didn't. I had another opportunity to pull the plug when I woke up Sunday feeling like someone had hit the back of my legs with a crowbar. I should have crawled back into bed. But I didn't. I won't recap how the race went, but the synopsis is: Not well. When you can't walk comfortably, running 5:20s is not an option. I suffered through the first two miles then cut my losses and survived the final three.

And I haven't run since. I may not be able to take a hint, but I can take three hints. This week has been a great week for a break. Ironically, the week leading up to the New York City Marathon is not at all conducive to any quality running for me. Rather than run a bunch of junk miles on no sleep, I'm running no miles and trying to be as well rested as I can during a fairly intense stretch of time. Today is the first day I've really felt ready to run again. I'm usually itching to get out the door after one day so that's a pretty affirming sign that the mini-break was needed. Sunday, I'll get in some light jogging while watching the biggest marathon in the world run through my city. Monday, the training starts for Cross Country Nationals. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Philly Half Was Kind of Crappy

Sometimes in a race, especially a longer race, you know in the first few steps that it’s not your day. I knew before I had even run a half mile of the Rock and Roll Philly Half on Sunday that I was already walking a fine line between feeling bad and being downright miserable. From that point on, the goal was to stay on the “bad” side of the line for as long as possible. That would end up being about seven miles. But more on that in a second.

First, let’s talk about the week leading up to the race.  I spent the weekend in Charlotte where on Saturday, I ran in a new pair of shoes (rookie mistake) that left me sore and blistered after a 9 mile loop. Sunday, I did a 5 mile progression (6:00-5:20) where I struggled to stay upright on sections of very slick boardwalk. I was probably being overly and unnecessarily cautious as I have a history of falling down. I didn’t think anything of the combo of minor issues until Tuesday when I did my final workout for the race (1.5 miles @ 7:50, 4x800 @ 2:30) and had to stretch my calf between every interval. By the cool down it was obvious I had a calf strain – minor, but needing TLC. I spent the next three days not running a step or doing anything for that matter besides icing, eating handfuls of arnica and massaging the sore muscle. I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t losing any fitness (I wasn’t), but mentally it’s very unsettling to take three days off leading up to a goal race.

As this all unfolded, the forecast for Sunday got worse by the day. By Saturday morning, it was clear that race time would be soupy to say the least. This concerned me because in the past, I’ve survived heat but crumbled in the humidity. Terry and I talked on the phone before I got on the train to Philadelphia. We decided I would not race if the calf was still an issue on the afternoon shakeout run, but the weather alone would not be enough reason to pull the plug. After all, not every race can be ideal conditions. Terry thought based on recent workouts (including a very tough/satisfying 2x5 mile @ 5:26 pace) I was capable of running 1:12 or a little faster on a good day. Seeing as how this was not going to be a good day the thought was 1:13-1:14.

Saturday in Philadelphia was warm, but pleasant. My first run in three days felt fine if a little rusty, but my calf was probably 85% which for me was good enough to race. I did my best to not think about the unexpected time off and instead just think of it as a very good taper and do everything I would normally do the night before a big race. There was an ice bath, a giant bottle of water mixed with Nuun, stretching, obligatory race kit photo for Instagram, sushi dinner and a beer. Race morning started with coffee, quinoa waffles and peanut butter then a jog from the hotel to the starting line. I decided to leave my Garmin in the hotel and run on feel.

The air was indisputably thick as we waited in the corral. During a shoot with Kara Goucher a few weeks prior to the race we talked about running the first half of the race together (to be completely honest, I am not entirely sure how serious of a plan this was). Either way, I bagged the idea at the line knowing that my humidity history was poor and she is an Olympian capable of adapting much better than I am. When the horn sounded we went out in a nice pack, rolling through the first mile in 5:20. It was a bit fast, but to be expected on this course. From there I settled into 5:30 pace (1:12 on the nose) but it didn’t feel easy. I knew that I couldn’t hold on for 13 miles unless I clicked into a rhythm and when that didn’t happen by the 4th mile it was obvious it was only a matter of time before a blow-up.  I figured in the best case scenario I hold on for 10 and see what happens. In my mind the only option was to go for it.

That brings us to mile 7. Having gone through the 10k at 34:20 which is still right around 1:12, I was starting to struggle. I was running with Greg Cass from CPTC and decided to just stick with him as long as I could. Without a Garmin, I had no clue what pace we were going. It still felt like 5:30, so I was shocked to see 5:40-something at the next mile. The miles got increasingly slower and dangerously close to 6:00 but never any easier. Dropping out crossed my mind, but I resisted the temptation. Besides, I wasn’t really sure where I would go if I did quit. It seemed like the best way to get to the finish line was to just keep running there although what I was doing was starting to look less like running and more like self-torture. I stayed with Greg for five more miles during which we would occasionally share a brief exchange about how miserable we were. At mile 12, I had nothing left. I slowed dramatically and felt like it was going to take everything I had just to finish. Greg and two women pulled away and I knew barring some burst of non-existent energy, I was going to run much slower than the very bottom of the range I had expected to run.

1:15:29 is that time. I don’t like it, but I like it better than DNF. I’m not sure what I learned during the experience other than more proof that I can’t handle humidity. But I am happy and surprised not to be too upset about it in the grand scheme of things. Sure, I’m bummed to have spent an entire summer targeting a race that ended up being a dud. However, I don’t think the race is any indication of lack of fitness, preparation, aging, etc. It was just a bad race. I know this wouldn’t be my attitude three years ago.

The big picture is that I really enjoyed training this summer, ran some workouts I was proud of and got into the best shape I have been in since 2012. After a year of trying and failing, I have finally figured out how to maximize training quality with an odd work and sleep schedule. This race was not my chance to capitalize on that, but the window hasn't closed. I’m 3 days shy of 31 and that’s still plenty young to pull down some PRs.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Rules of Running in New York City

I took this picture during a run. In general, don't take pictures when you're running
I have lived in New York for more than three years now and by my off-the-top-of-my-head estimation, I have run somewhere in the ballpark of 10 million miles in Manhattan’s two places to run: Central Park and the West Side Highway.  During that time, I have evolved from a quiet, polite guy who says “excuse me” and stops so tourists can take pictures of street performers, foliage, hobos, etc. to screaming obscenities at tourists, running into them if they don’t move and under no circumstances stopping, changing course or delaying my spitting/snot-rocketing for their stupid pictures.  Honestly, I’m not sure how I’m not still standing on the Bridle Path waiting for the 300th picture of everyone gathered around the reservoir (“Take it again!  I blinked!”).  But, I was na├»ve then. I didn’t know that if you want to run in New York, you have to run with balls, you have to run selfishly and you have to run with hyper-awareness of your surroundings. This past weekend, as I raced – and beat -- a bus with “Pippin” painted on the side of it across a driveway on the West Side Highway, I realized I had made the complete transition.  And you know me. I'm a stickler for rules (that I make up. Not anyone else's). So, now I am ready to pass on to you, the rules (Version 1) of running in New York City.

You can’t run on city streets – People always ask, “Where do you run?”  “Is it cool to see all the buildings?”  “How do you deal with the crowds?”  As I said above, there are two places to run in Manhattan: Central Park and the West Side Highway.  You can try to run on city streets, but you will find yourself stopping approximately every four feet for large crowds of people, stoplights or food vendors.  You also run the very high risk of falling into the concrete basement of a bar. If you try to run in the bike lane you will be hit by a bike, car or street sweeper depending on the time of day.

You can run over the Brooklyn Bridge – As long as you do it before 8am.  If you try to run over the Brooklyn Bridge after this time you will get sucked into a large crowd of tourists and it will take you no less than three hours to get to the other side.  Also note, there is a running lane and a biking lane on the bridge. Do not run in the biking lane. You will get run over. The cyclist may not even ring the bell.

You can run on the bike path on the West Side Highway  -- Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, you can run in the designated bike lane on the West Side Highway. Ignore the giant sign that tells you to run on the sidewalk portion adjacent to the river. Will some cyclists yell at you? Sure, but it’s better than tripping over a bench and/or someone walking their dog. The bike path is wide enough for everyone.  Just be polite and run to the side.  Also, look out for golf carts.

Your life is worth less than a cab fare – Cab drivers won’t stop for you.  If you run out in front of a cab thinking the driver is going to stop, your next step is going to be through pearly or fiery gates. 

You can drink out of the water fountains in Central Park – Do raccoons, squirrels and possibly people pee in them? Probably. But, I nor anyone I know has ever gotten dysentery from drinking out of them and it beats strapping on a fuel belt.  Don’t strap on a fuel belt.

Bathrooms are not easy to find – You can’t just run into the gas station when disaster strikes. Sometimes the nearest bathroom is mile away. Sometimes it’s two. Sometimes making it to that bathroom is not an option. I’ve done some things I’m not proud of in Central Park and I’m sorry. That said, I know where every single bathroom is in those 843 acres and I know the quickest way to get there. They are not always open. Rushing to a bathroom to be greeted by a locked door is one hundred times worse than going through the subway turnstile as the train doors close.  At least in that case there will be another train.  A locked bathroom means a trip to the woods. Now, if an emergency strikes on the West Side Highway and you aren’t close to a bathroom, I don’t know what to tell you. Fortunately, it has never happened to me. If I had to take a guess at your best bet, I’d say it would be hanging over the railing into the Hudson River.

You can’t smoke in NYC Parks – It’s illegal. I will not hesitate to inform those I see/smell engaging in the habit. I implore you to do the same.

Never leave without a metro card and a $5 – A lot of stuff can happen and you might need to get home. You might not be able to run there. Maybe you run into some friends and they want to grab a beer when you’re done. Maybe you break your ankle.  No matter where you are, a subway is always within walking (or hobbling) distance. Be prepared. What’s the $5 for?  It’s for the coffee or the beer. Wait, it’s New York. Better make it $10.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 8

This week was a lesson in adjusting.  If you have never tried to run with a half-head, half-chest cold in the dog days of summer, I hope it's an experience you never have to endure.  This might not have been the worst cold I have ever had, but it was certainly the most stubborn and persistent.  By my count it lasted for 10 days.  During those 10 days breathing, sleeping and therefore running were all exponentially more difficult than they would have been had I been healthy.  Still, I have a tough time accepting these factors are the reasons runs go poorly and wind up getting discouraged after a bad workout blaming my fitness as opposed to poor health and a dew point of 72 degrees (See Tuesday).  The summary for those who don't want to keep reading (and I can't blame you) is that this week picked up where last week left off (terrible) but finished on a high and reassuring note.

Monday: 30 minutes of core.  With friends still in town for a bachelor party and the cold still depleting my energy, I thought it would be better to take the rest day earlier in the week instead of later.

Tuesday: The plan called for 8X800 @ 2:32-2:36 with 300m (90 second) jog rest.  My health and the oppressive conditions at 10am when I set out should have been a signal to adjust expectations significantly and be OK with it, but that is not my strong point.  It was 88 degrees with a dew point of 72 which is downright soupy.  The workout started out tough and steadily slid into misery.  I was hitting the targets for the first set of four, but then the heat combined with cold medication started to mess with my stomach and the second set was disastrous.  I forced myself to finish but by the final interval I was barely moving.  Six-days removed from the workout, it's actually pretty impressive that I didn't drop out or run even slower given all the issues, but that's not what I was thinking last Tuesday.  The combination of this week's effort combined with last week's failed attempted at two mile repeats left me questioning my preparedness and caused me to seriously re-evaluate the remainder of my week in order to expedite recovery from the cold.  In particular, I was signed up for the Autism Speaks 4 Mile race in Central Park Saturday morning.  Terry and I decided that unless weather conditions were perfect, it might not be worth jeopardizing the main objective (Philly Half).  I figured I would decide by Thursday when the forecast would be more reliable.

Wednesday: 9 miles on the Central Park Bridle Path.  This was the first adjustment to the week's schedule.  It was supposed to be a 90-95 minute medium long run, but was scaled back to an abbreviated and very easy effort.

Thursday: 10 miles in Central Park.  Today was the first day since we were in Idaho I felt like my body actually wanted to be running.  Before heading out, I looked at Saturday's forecast and saw it was supposed to be worse than Tuesday.  That was enough to finalize the decision to not race Saturday and add a couple of miles to today's run.

Friday: 7 miles in Central Park, 8x20 second strides.  This was a rare Friday evening run in Central Park as the sun was setting.  Beautiful.

Saturday: 12 mile death march on the West Side Highway.  I woke up to a text from Thomas who said the 4 miler was one of the hardest races he'd ever run.  Other recaps and posts by experienced runners expressed similar sentiments.  It made me pretty satisfied with my decision to sit this one out.  I stayed in bed a little later hoping storms would roll in and burn off the humidity.  They did not.  In fact, when I started running at 10:50 it was comically humid.  I ran as easy as I could for 90 minutes and by the time I was done I looked like I had stood in a car wash for an hour and a half -- minus the soap.  I think the shirt, shorts and shoes I was wearing are still wet.  30 minutes of core in the evening.

Sunday: 16 miles with a 7 mile wave tempo (5:20-5:25/5:50-5:55).  Today was the polar opposite of yesterday.  Anyone could have run fast in this weather.  It was in the high 60s with 0% humidity when I set out on the West Side Highway just before 10am.  There was a Race for the Cure in Central Park, so I knew the highway would be packed with the non-race runners/walkers.  It was.  On the four-mile warmup, I had to dodge bikes and large packs of runners, but fortunately when the workout started the obstacles were limited.  The plan was to alternate between 5:30 and 6:00 for seven miles.  I ended up going a little faster which I attribute to my body's relief after days of running in the humidity.  On the second faster mile, a guy crossed the path with his head buried in his phone.  I started yelling to let him know I was coming.  His response was to stop directly in front of me almost causing me to crash into him.  Of course, he blamed me for his failure to observe his surroundings.  That's the kind of behavior that gets you mowed down by a taxi in this city.  Miles for this workout: 5:21, 5:52, 5:21, 5:51, 5:22, 5:55, 5:23.

Total Weekly Mileage: 66

Beer of the Week:

I really wanted to like the two Harlem beers I tried this week.  Harlem Renaissance Wit had a funky aftertaste.  Sugar Hill Golden Ale was just OK.  As I have in the past, I turned to Oregon for help. I've had my eye on Full Sail's Session Lage for a long time.  I think it's the cute bottles.  I finally picked up a six pack this weekend.  Session is a refreshing summer-time beer without being a summer ale.  It's a true lager with almost a sweet taste, not at all heavy and at 11 ounces a bottle, great if you don't want too much to drink.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 7

August has thrown me some curve balls. Two weeks ago I came down with what I can only describe as food poisoning. This week, I struggled to overcome a cold that gradually progressed from a three-day sore throat to an all-out summer sniffler. I have a high tolerance for pain, but no tolerance for discomfort. This was discomfort at its most uncomfortable. I spent the week as a whining, complaining, snotty mess. Without the kind of cold medications meth addicts use, I couldn't sleep but the drugs made my heart race and that kept me up too. At press time, the cold appears to be on its last legs after seven long days. All that is left is a wad of mucus that refuses to dislodge from my throat and a bit of lingering fatigue from a week of poor-quality sleep. With three weeks left until the race, I can't afford any more obstacles.

Monday -- 8.3 miles with Josh in Central Park. This was the first day I could tell I was on the brink of an illness. I met Josh on the West Side Drive to run together for the first time since the beginning of the summer. 30 minutes of core while watching Seinfeld on my DVR before work.

Tuesday -- 10.3 miles with Josh in Central Park. My throat felt like sandpaper when I woke up this morning, but other than that, I was OK. It was very humid out and I ended up taking the train home to the dismay of the straphangers who had to share a car with me. After getting home, I remembered I was supposed to do strides today. I need to start tying a string around my finger to remind me to actually do them.

Wednesday -- Workout Fail. I had 4x2 miles on my calendar and failed to complete it for a number of factors; 50% of which were my fault. Here's what I did wrong: Moved the workout from the flat track or the West Side Highway to the lower loop of Central Park. I was under the false belief that the downhills would make up for the uphills and failed to adjust goal times to account for aforementioned hills and oppressive humidity. Terry later mentioned that I could have easily started the intervals 10 seconds slower (Five seconds for the hills and five for the humidity) and would have likely completed the workout as opposed to bailing on the first mile of the third repeat. The mounting effects of a cold on my breathing were also a slight factor. I was fortunate to have Jason and Josh's company for this effort. Sticking with Jason who is faster than me for the first repeat should have been an immediate indication that I was pushing too hard too soon. The end result ended up being 10:56 for the first set, 10:46 for the second, a 5:25 mile and then an afternoon of regret and self-doubt.

Thursday -- 13.5 miles on the West Side Highway. I took a sick day from work today to make sure I didn't have strep throat. I spent most of the day in bed alternating between reading and sleeping. I did numerous Google searches on running with a cold only to find the same information I find every other time I have had a cold. The general rule is "above the neck go ahead, below the neck stay in bed." Historically, running has sped up my recovery from colds. Late in the evening, I ended up getting in a fairly brisk medium long run along the Hudson and feeling much better after breathing in fresh air.

Friday -- 8.5 miles in Central Park. Somehow I woke up feeling worse this morning and slogged through a run on the Bridle Path through a haze of cold medication. I kept the pace and effort laughably easy as I couldn't afford to have another soul-crushing workout tomorrow. Oh, and I remembered to do strides!

Saturday -- 18 mile run with a 10 mile Marathon Pace Run on the West Side Highway. Oh, how far gone are the days of being able to wake up with the sunrise and set out for a run before the city awakes. After working the night shift for more than a year, a 6:30am workout is synonymous with "all-nighter". But today I had no choice. The guys were coming into town in the mid-morning for a weekend-long bachelor party and I wanted to have the tough workout well out of the way by then. Also, Sarah and I had similar workouts and were able to link up for the first time in who knows how long. When I rolled out of bed from six hours of staring at the ceiling and cursing my cold, I skipped the pre-run stretching and replaced it with pre-run netty pot, zicam and intense nose blowing. I shoveled a Picky Bar down my throat and guzzled a cup of coffee as I waited for the elevator. This would end up being a bad idea. I felt surprisingly decent as I ran to meet Sarah in Riverside Park. As we settled into the prescribed pace, 5:50 came easy. Too easy actually. We were a little quick through the first mile before dialing it back. Around 3 miles into the tempo, I was reminded of my late breakfast. I hoped it would be a brief reminder; a nudge maybe, but it was not. A half-mile later, I had to make a pit stop in a conveniently-located bus terminal. With the precision of a NASCAR pit crew, I took care of what needed to be taken care of and then sped back down pit road settling right back into the pace. It was discouraging to have to stop mid-workout, but as Sarah said when we met back up, it's good practice for the unexpected. All things considered, the workout was a success with the splits being: 5:45, 5:52, 5:53, 5:47 (pit stop), 5:46, 5:50 (back w/ Sarah), 5:52, 5:47, 5:45, 5:42.  I have been questioning my decision not to do an extra two miles for a total of 12. I think I could have handled it, but I ran out of real estate on the West Side Highway and I thought it might be a good idea to remain conservative while using so much energy to fight the cold. 

Sunday -- 6 miles with Jesse in Central Park. I'll be honest. Most of my "hydrating" yesterday was with beer. I know it was the wrong thing to do, but it was after all, a bachelor party. While the pace of the consumption was slow and steady, the day was long and despite never being overly intoxicated and chasing every drink with water, I woke up with a pretty wicked hangover. Oddly, this six mile run on the Bridle Path was the best I felt all day. That's probably because it was oppressively humid and I sweat out the worst of the toxins. I had the option to take today off, but I always enjoy getting in some miles with Jesse and logistically, it will probably be better to take tomorrow off. The hangover stuck around for the rest of the day and I did all I could to stay hydrated.  My cold however, seems to be dissipating and perhaps tomorrow's day off will be its death knoll.

Total Weekly Mileage: 78.4 (most since February)

Beer of the Week:
Empire White Aphro

I have fond memories of times spent at the Empire Brewing Company in Syracuse, NY. So, when I see its beers on taps, I jump at the chance to go back in time to my early-20s. White Aphro was on tap at the Headless Horseman near Union Square. It's a Wit Ale only available on tap in New York State. The lemon and ginger flavors are pretty pronounced and it drinks a little heavier than its color would lead you to believe, but still very good and a selection you should try if you find it at your local watering hole.

Next Week:  Hold-off on those PSLs!  We're in for the hottest, most humid days of the summer!  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 6

The amount of running, hiking and biking I did this week may very well have been negated by the amount of delicious dinners, beers and ice cream I consumed.  Over  the past six days, I definitely took advantage of every aspect of being on vacation in one of the most beautiful, serene and rugged areas of the country.  My mind is completely refreshed from shutting off my work phone, leaving the TV off (with the exception of watching "Secret Life of Walter Mitty" which is surprisingly VERY good) and limiting political conversations to one in which virtually all of us agreed with each other in principle.  My body on the other hand has been through the ringer.   By the end of today's long run, a much needed massage was the only thing separating the final mile and a horrible injury. So, here's the week.

Monday: AM: 8 miles easy in the Targhee National Forest in Alta, Wyoming. Afternoon: Easy 6 mile hike to top of Grand Targhee Ski Resort.  PM: 5 miles easy into Driggs and back with Lauren on the bike.  30 minutes of core.  This was obviously a solid day of exercise.  The two hour time difference is allowing me to keep the same hours as I do at home, but instead of waking up at 9am, it's 7am and my favorite time to run.  It's also about 50 degrees in the morning.  I'm not feeling the 6400 feet of elevation at all.

Tuesday: AM: 8 miles easy from Driggs, ID to Alta, WY.  Afternoon: 12 mile hike to Devils Staircase in Targhee National Forest. As everyone got ready for a long day of hiking, I ran to the trailhead to get some miles in for the day.  That warmed me up well for a five hour hike to approximately 9800 feet and back down.  My right foot was a little sore from the uneven terrain, but the pain had subsided by dinner.

Just before setting out for 11 miles in Grand Teton National Park
Wednesday: AM: 5 mile easy hike around Taggart Lake in Grand Teton National Park.  Afternoon: 11 miles with 10x30 seconds at 5k effort in Grand Teton National Park, Moose, Wyoming.  This was a rave run. I started at Jenny Lake and ran the bike trail 5.5 miles out and back with pickups on the way back.  The entire run is alongside Grand Teton and it's two bordering mountains which are nothing less than majestic.

Thursday: AM: 14 miles up Ski Hill Road starting in Driggs, ID and ending in Alta, Wyoming.  Afternoon: 20 mile easy bike ride from Driggs, ID to Victor, ID and back with Lauren.  PM: 4 miles in Driggs, ID with Jamie.  This was a big day.  It was cold and raining when I set out.  My intention was to run into town then head back up the mountain throwing in 25-40 minutes of steady state effort along the way.  Unfortunately, my legs didn't agree with my plan and it was obvious after one mile of "steady state" that today was not my day.  It's also possible that I grossly underestimated how tough of a climb I was facing.  After about seven miles of gradual uphill, the road gets very steep and I was working hard to hit 8:15 pace.  At mile 11, I turned around and started running downhill, being careful to hold back for the benefit of my quads and IT band.  Looking back down at what I had just climbed made me wish I had a camera. Lauren and the car waiting to pick me up were a welcome site.  Despite ditching the tempo, I was feeling like a badass about this run.  That is until about 20 minutes later when I picked up the local paper at the coffee shop to see a front page article about two mountain runners who run up nine 12,000+ ft mountains in well under a day and a half.  After a leisurely bike ride to check out the next town over during which a mulberry thorn popped Lauren's tire, I did an easy shakeout with Jamie which drained every last bit of energy I had left.

Friday: AM: 4 miles easy in Driggs, ID.  Afternoon: 7 mile hike to Wind Cave in Darby Canyon. PM: 5 miles easy in Driggs, ID, 30 minutes of core. Neither run today was notable.  I felt sluggish and sore during both and I may have had a pint before the second one which made things interesting. 

In dowtown Jackson, WY.  There is elk and bison jerky in the bag
Saturday: Goose Egg. I intended to get up and run, but it was pouring rain and 45 degrees when I woke up and my sore legs told me it was better to stay in bed and get some extra rest before a long trip back to NYC.

Sunday: 16 miles easy in Prospect Park.  This started off as a nice run over the Manhattan Bridge, into Brooklyn and up to Prospect Park.  By halfway through, I was counting down the miles.  My left leg was sore the entire run and I could not get enough water.  Fortunately, the run ended at my miracle-worker massage therapist's house and an hour of digging seems to have gotten out some of the kinks.

Total Weekly Mileage: 75.9 (24 miles of hiking, 20 miles of biking)
Next week: A tough one. 

Beer of the Week:

Beer Flight at Grand Teton Brewing
To make sure I chose the very best beer available in the wild west, I tried a lot of beers this week.  Most of the beers I tried were from Idaho and Wyoming.  Grand Teton Brewing Company, which we visited, has an excellent lineup.  Favorites included Sheep Eater, a Scotch Ale and Ale 208, a session ale, but I only tried them in a flight (750ml bottles are being shipped to the house as we speak) so I can't name either the beer of the week.  Plus, Grand Teton's Amber got the nod last week.  I tried a lager from Snake River Brewing which gets good ratings on the internet, but I thought it tasted cheap.  Two beers from Victor, ID based Wildlife, a Double Red and an IPA were very refreshing and Harvest Moon's Pigs Ass Porter was really smooth, if not just a bit too bubbly.  But it was Pig War, a White IPA from further west -- Portland's Hopworks Urban Brewing that I liked the best.  I had never had a white IPA before and if they all taste like this, it's a new favorite style for me.  It combines the crispness of an IPA, but replaces the bitter aftertaste with that of a citrus wheat beer.  If I weren't driving home from dinner, I would have had several.  Unfortunately, none of the beers I just listed are distributed anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains, so it will likely be a while before I get to taste them again.

Until we meet again, Pig War (Portland friends, feel free to ship this to me)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 5

This week's update comes to you from Driggs, Idaho where we are vacationing with some of our best friends from Charlotte in the shadow of the Grand Tetons.

Week 5 started off on the wrong foot but ended on a high note. Sunday night as we walked to Lauren's birthday dinner, I was hit with a sudden wave of nausea. Over the next 48 hours whatever illness I had left me completely dehydrated and drained of energy. Fortunately, it went away as quickly as it came and with adjustments to my training plan, lots of sleep and constant water and electrolytes, I was able to pick up exactly where I left off.

Monday: 6 easy miles in Central Park. Easy is really not appropriate for this run. I was feeling quite sick and just wanted this to be over. I did 30 minutes of core when I got home then collapsed in bed until work.

Tuesday: Run fail. As soon as I started this run I knew I shouldn't have. I stopped and restarted three times in eight minutes before finally listening to my body and walking home to sleep for three more hours until work.

Wednesday: 14 miles with eight miles at 5:55 pace on the West Side Highway. This was originally supposed to be the day I did my primary workout for the week, but given the past two days, Terry and I agreed that it might be too aggressive coming off an illness. I did my secondary workout instead which was a medium long run with the eight middle miles at somewhere in the neighborhood of 6:00 pace. As soon as I started running I was surprised by how much energy I had. Apparently two days of rest not only helped beat the illness, they also rejuvenated tired legs. 5:55 pace came easy and on the cool down I still had plenty left in the tank.

Thursday: 9 miles along the Hudson River north. I've been experiencing a bit of Central Park fatigue. Today, I decided to head North along the Hudson for the first time in a long time. It's a beautiful run with views of the George Washington Bridge, the Little Red Lighthouse and the New Jersey Palisades. 30 minutes of core.

Friday: 9.5 miles in Central Park. The best way to beat Central Park fatigue is to go off the beaten path. Allie was searching for some places to do intervals so we went to some of my favorite spots. Before I knew it, the run was over and it was time for six 20 second strides.

Saturday: 3x3 miles at 17:01, 17:00 and 16:19 with a half-mile at 6:30 pace in between each set. This was the workout that gave me butterflies from the first time I saw it on my calendar.  I did not want it to be hanging over my head all week, but because I had to delay until Saturday it was. Fortunately, my Urban Athletics teammate Tom was willing to join me as this is not an easy workout to do solo. We did the first two intervals in exactly 5:40 pace as planned. The entire time I was worried about being able to go significantly quicker on the last set. Yet, somehow both Thomas and I found the extra gear to put a solid finish on a successful workout. The total mileage for the day was 19, my highest since the winter.  After the run, I ate a donut and sat in a tub full of ice.

Sunday: 5 mile death march in Driggs, Idaho. The combination of no sleep, eight hours of traveling across the country, yesterday's workout and 6,400 feet of elevation made this a pretty terrible run. But, it's beautiful out here and I'm excited to get in some solid runs in the mountains and on the trails.

Total mileage: 63.7 with the unplanned day off.

Beer of the Week:  Grand Teton Brewing Amber

When in Rome. This brewery is less than 10 miles from where we are staying, but their beers are distributed throughout the region. The Amber is probably the most basic of the beers they make. I've tried an American Pale Ale, a Brown Ale and a Weiss that are pretty awesome. But after a long day of travel and a tough run, this was the most refreshing drink in the fridge. And since I am typing this on my ipad, here is a ginormous picture of the bottle.

Next week: Mountain miles, hikes and lots of beer!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 4

I'm a little late on this recap mostly because Sunday night while walking to Lauren's birthday dinner, I was suddenly hit with a wave of nausea.  I was able to fight through yesterday by sleeping nine hours, running, then laying back in bed until work.  Today, the run just wasn't happening.  I made it seven minutes before completely running out of gas.  Instead, I'm back in bed with a juice blend full of so many juices one of them has to cure me and writing this update.

Monday -- 30 minutes core.   After a race weekend and with a high intensity week ahead, this rest day was much needed.

Tuesday -- 8.2 easy miles in Central Park.  I had good company from Allie and my original NYC running partner Heidi on this warm, but casual run around the park. 

Wednesday -- 4x3200 with 400 jog rest at Riverbanks Track.  I had originally planned on turning this into a straight 4x2miles on the West Side Highway, but Jerry convinced me to take it to the track where he would keep me company.  My goals were 11:30, 11:00, 11:00 and sub-11:00.  Jerry said he was going to run his around his marathon pace, so as we set off on the first interval, I tried to make sure he had 10-15 meters on me.  We finished the first 3200 in 10:53 and I knew I was going to have to go big if I wanted to salvage the original intent of this workout and not go backwards.  It was a lot of work, but the subsequent 3200s were 10:49, 10:43 and 10:44.  I don't think I could have pushed myself that hard without Jerry.   This workout was a big step forward in restoring confidence.  I ended up running 14 miles total for the day with warmup and cool down to and from the track.

Thursday -- 7 easy miles in Central Park. Missed connection with Allie today.  She was running late and I was on a pretty tight schedule, so I ended up running solo.  30 minutes of core.

Friday -- 9.2 miles solo in Central Park, mostly on the Bridle Path.  12.4 miles on the ElliptiGO.

Saturday -- 14 miles with 10x1 minute at 5K effort.  I have lived in New York for more than three years, but had never ventured to Summer Streets.  Summer Streets happens the first three Saturdays in August.  The city shuts down Park Avenue to traffic from 72nd Street to the bottom of the island and opens it to bikers, runners, walkers, rollerbladers, etc. I think my hesitation was that it wouldn't be conducive to quality running, but as Jerry, John and I ran down a wide-open four-lane street, I was proven mostly wrong.  We were able to click off a solid 6:30 pace without anyone getting in our way or us getting in theirs.  However, we did have one confrontation with a tourist on a bike who loudly complained about runners then called us a derogatory name for the male anatomy.  Three years ago, I would have ignored something like that, but after dealing with rude people since 2011, I fight back.  I stopped to see if she would mind repeating herself, which she did.  Words were exchanged and then her gentleman companion rode up to Jerry and started picking a fight with him. It ended with Jerry shoving the man's bike away.  He didn't fall, but he didn't come back.  Runners are scrappy.

Sunday -- 15 miles in Central Park.  We had a huge group for this run.  That almost made up for the stifling heat and humidity.

Total Weekly Mileage:

Beer of the Week:
Brooklyn Wild Streak

I really like the Brooklyn Brewery.  I know it's the cool thing to do, but I like everything I try there and I've tried almost everything.  In fact, over the past few years, Brooklyn Summer Ale has become my default, easy-to-find summer beer (it had been Sam Adams for years).  I had never heard of and knew nothing about Wild Streak when I came across it hidden in a cooler at Broadway Dive Saturday afternoon.  Wild Streak was a "ghost" beer, only poured at tastings and special Brooklyn Brewery events.  It's recently graduated to a season release.  It's aged in bourbon barrels and with a 10% ABV, it's not for the faint of heart.  It only comes in 25.9 ounce bottles, so I split mine with a friend.  Yet, for the high alcohol content of a Strong Belgian Ale, it's incredibly drinkable.  Try it if you can find it.

Oh, and download this:
Foxygen: How Can You Really?
Spoon: They Want My Soul (the whole album. Just awesome.  But, start with "New York Kiss" and "Rent I Pay" if you want to test some tracks first.)

Next week: Illness adjustments and preparing for a vacation.  At this point the thought of beer or any kind of liquid that is not water or juice makes me feel ill.  That will go away.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lessons Learned as a 30-Year-Old Runner

30 is not old.  Not even close.  But 30 is also not 20.  It’s not 25 either.  Just like different things being socially acceptable at 25, but not so much at 30 (black out drunk at 25?  Young and fun!  Black out drunk at 30?  Get your shit together), there are things you can do as a runner at 25 that you can’t do at 30.  It doesn’t happen in an instant.  I didn’t wake up on September 26, 2013 and realize I had aged overnight. But in the course of my 30th year, I have noticed a few hitches in my giddy up.  And there’s some good things too.  So as I approach my final month of being 30, I thought I’d pass along some wisdom to those of you who aren’t quite there yet.

You can’t just roll out of bed and run 6:30s – Ya know what guys, I’m just going to start this run at a nice 8:00 pace.  You go on ahead.  I’ll catch up.

In fact, you can’t just roll out of bed and run anything – I used to roll out of my bed and into my running shoes.  Sometimes I was still asleep a good three miles into the run.  Now a 9am run means an 8am wakeup at the latest. I can’t run until I have eaten at least an energy bar and drank a small cup of coffee and both have been successfully digested.  Then, I have to do at least 15 minutes of foam rolling, sticking, pacing and stretching which leads me to…

Stretching is not optional – Like every other distance runner on the planet, I hate to stretch.  I don’t need to recite the lecture you've already heard from your chiropractor, physical therapist and/or massage therapist.  I’ll just say, turns out stretching serves a purpose.  You might be able to get by without stretching for most of your youth, but I promise you it will catch up to you.

The candle only has one end – Just keeping a regular exercise routine while working full-time is a challenge.  Training for a marathon with a demanding job is a whole other level and I don’t even have kids.  For most non-super-humans, there is a shelf-life on 12-hour work days and 100 mile weeks.  I’ve surpassed my expiration date.  I know runners well into their 30s who have not.  The key is knowing when it’s time to back off.  Backing off doesn’t involve waving any white flags, or training any less-hard (I googled the crap out of a better way to say “less-hard”).  It just means training different.  Maybe it’s fewer miles. Maybe it’s easier easy days.  Maybe it’s more prehab.  Maybe it’s an extra day off.  You’ll find what works for you after you find what doesn’t.

Your age group gets way easier – Here’s a good thing.  Nine out of ten times, the 30-34 age group is way easier than the 25-29 age group.  Speaking from New York City running experience, all the Kenyans and Ethiopians are in the 25-29 age group here.  Not that I get too many jollies out of placing in my age group, but  it can be demoralizing to not even crack the top 10 with a time that would have easily placed in the adjacent categories.  Since turning 30?  Top 10 every time.

Just because you can afford every specialist now, doesn’t mean you should go to every specialist – Here’s a rule I wish I had known when I had no money to spend.  If it feels like a stress fracture, it’s a stress fracture.  I just saved you $500 on an MRI.  Ok, so you have a stress fracture.  Stop running.  When it stops hurting, start running again.  Gradually.  I just saved you $100 on a doctor’s office visit.  I still see a lot of specialists, but you’ll spend a lot less if you see them to avoid getting injured as opposed to after getting injured.

You don’t have to keep all your gear – Yeah that race in 2005 was awesome, but I’m pretty sure the stink from nine years of running in the tech shirt is not going to come out with a sandblaster. So maybe it’s time to toss it?

As I said, every runner is different.  At NYRR Team Championships last weekend I got out-kicked by a man who was much older than me.  I looked him up in the results and saw he is 48.  If the race had been decided by age grade, he would have been first overall.  One thing I think is applicable across the board is that no matter what the date is on your drivers license, running keeps you young.  May you all run many more miles for many more years.  We’ll chat again in 10 years when I’m telling you 40 is not 30.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 3

At dinner last night I told Lauren how nice it felt to be “in a good place” for the first time in a long time.  I am not sure what exactly triggered the change; the move, weather that is neither oppressively hot or dangerously cold, finally finding a routine...who knows?  And who cares?  I’ll stop beating this drum, but hope it reverberates.  With three solid weeks of training for Philly in the books, the doubts I had about being able to run a respectable time are starting to fade, and I am even targeting a four-mile PR in early September.  More on that later.  For now, week 3.

Monday – 6 miles easy in Central Park before a 12 mile ElliptiGO ride.  The legs were definitely feeling the high-mileage of the weekend and yesterday’s massage.

Tuesday – 90 minute run with 6400 meters of alternating 200s (37/47).  I had never done anything like this before and while the times looked simple on paper, the thought of four miles alone and continuous on the track was a bit daunting.  I had trouble dialing in the paces for the first mile and ran the “off” 200s too quickly, but once I was able to find the right speed this workout flew by.  Unfortunately, every child in Harlem was playing in the infield of the track this morning so a couple of the laps included unexpected obstacles in the form of soccer balls and small clusters of kids wandering out into lane one (adult supervisors paying no attention).  The entire 90 minutes ended up being 13.2 miles with the 6400 meters in 22:08 (5:32/mile).

Wednesday – 8 miles easy on the Central Park Bridle Path.  This was a slow recovery run.  I tried to avoid turning left as much as I could since I hit my left turn quota yesterday.  30 minutes of core.

Thursday – 7 miles easy in Central Park.  Allie and I kept our weekly Thursday run at a very easy 8:00 pace as she had a cold and I had the two-day workout hangover. 

Friday – 7 miles easy on the Central Park Bridle Path.  In the middle of the run, I did 7x20 second pre-race strides.

Saturday NYRR Team Championship 5 Mile Race in Central Park. For the first time in more than a year, I was actually pretty excited about lining up for a race.  I was feeling relatively fit and rested, but mostly was curious to see what I was capable of running.  My goal going into the race was 26:30 which is not my PR, but is faster than I had run since late 2012.  In fact, I hadn’t cracked 27:00 since this same race last year.  Yeah, things have been rough.  I never get much sleep the night before a Saturday race.  I woke up at 7:45 and had two chia waffles with peanut butter and grabbed a small cup of coffee before hopping in a cab to the east side of the park.  There was a light rain when the women’s race went off, but by the time we started warming up it was just plain soupy.  I felt terrible during the two mile warm-up, which is a good thing (I’m always suspect of feeling loose and springy during a warm-up jog.  It usually means the race will be the opposite).  When the horn sounded, I tucked into a pretty big group of guys that I knew to be around my goal speed and let them set the early pace.  I realized early on that I had forgotten to turn on the GPS function on my watch which after a brief moment of panic, wound up being a blessing in disguise.  The first mile of the course consists of all three of the West Side Hills. There is really no better place for them because it gets my least favorite stretch of the park out of the way early. I was feeling very good the first two miles and split much faster on the hills than I have in the past.  The second mile of the race was my fastest.  By mile three our group had dwindled to two or three familiar faces and I decided to take the lead. I held on until the base of Cat Hill where a guy from NYAC passed me and opened a pretty big gap.  I never caught back up to him.  Cat Hill was my slowest mile, but I recovered decently and pulled away from two of the others guys in my group, beating them to the finish line and finishing in 26:21 (5:17/mile).  Splits: 5:11 (West Side Hills), 5:07, 5:15, 5:29 (Cat Hill -- Yikes!), 5:18.  With seven combined miles before and after the race and a 2.5 mile shakeout in the evening, total mileage for the day was 14.5

Sunday – 16 miles in Central Park with a big group.  Despite two or three too many glasses of sangria last night, I felt fine until mile 14 of this run. The last two miles were a death march.  I would have cut it short but I had to get home.  20 minutes of core in the evening.

Total Weekly Mileage: 72.7

Next Week: A rest day, long intervals and a classic go-to workout.

Beer of the Week:

Dogfish Head Namaste

The internet is full of odes to Dogfish Head and rightfully so.  Still, when Lauren brought this beer home, I wanted to like it not love it so I could chose a more unknown brewery.  I loved it.  This year, Namaste made the leap from seasonal champagne-size bottles to year-round six packs. I had a bottle with Lauren's homemade banana, peanut butter ice cream before bed Friday night (pre-race carbs).  It’s a really refreshing, easy-to-drink beer without sacrificing too much flavor.  I actually had trouble not downing it in one swig.  It’s made with orange slices and coriander (I’m not actually sure what coriander is, but I like it in beer.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training : Week 2 & Introducing The Beer of the Week

I had forgotten what it felt like to feel good about running. Despite the inescapable humidity of New York City in July, I'm enjoying running more than I have in nearly two years.  Granted, it's only the second week of training for the Philly Half.  But, I'm experiencing an renewed sense of confidence. Instead of being so nervous I can't sleep the night before a tough workout what keeps me up now is excitement.  It's a good problem to have.

Monday - Rest Day (30 minutes of core).  I've been taking one day off every two weeks for several months now.  That will continue during this cycle.  I crave the restoration, but always end the day wishing I had run.  I think that's a good balance. This worked well because it was also a travel day back from visiting family in Virginia.

Tuesday - 8 miles easy in Central Park.  I thought yesterday's rest would mean I wouldn't feel Sunday's hills today, but I was wrong.  It took me at least 30 minutes to loosen up.

Wednesday - 5x1600m (60 second/200m jog rest) repeats at Harlem Riverbanks Track.  The goal was to do these at half-marathon pace (5:30) and add one second for every degree the dew point was over 64.  The dew point was 67 when I left the house.  Based on that, I should have been running 5:33s.  When I ran the first one in 5:13, I knew I was in trouble.  The workout spiraled out of control after that and I ended up doing the perfect ascension.  Looking back, I could have taken a longer rest after the first one to completely recover and start from scratch, but I decided to keep trucking on with diminishing results.  I also may have been more successful had I not been doing this on my own.  I almost quit 200 meters into the last one, but knew I would regret that for the rest of the week if I had.  The repeats were: 5:13, 5:18, 5:20, 5:23, 5:28. 

Thursday - 6.5 miles easy in Central Park.  This was the first time in 10 days I ran with someone.  I met Allie at the top of the park for a lap.  We were both coming off very similar workouts (her's more successful than mine) so we started slow and eased into it. 30 minutes of core.

Friday - 8 miles easy in Central Park.  This was the typical two-day workout hangover.  I did 7x20 second strides mid-run.

Saturday - Prescribed was a long run with 7m @ 630,20,10,00,550, 40, 30.  It ended up going perfectly.  I met a group at UA at 9:40 and together we did 4 miles easy starting at 8:00 minute pace and working down to 7:00 minute pace. As we rolled into the progression, my goal was to stick to the prescribed paces no matter how easy they felt with hopes of still feeling strong when the pace got quick at the end.  We decided to only cut out the Harlem Hills and only do this on the 5 mile loop.  As we neared the final two miles, Jason and I stuck to the park's lower loop to avoid having to do the final mile climbing up Cat Hill.  The progression went as follows:

6:26, 6:07, 6:07 (west side hills), 5:49, 5:40, 5:30, 5:22

There was an option for an eighth mile but I was pretty satisfied with the workout at seven. The last mile certainly wasn't easy, but holding back in the initial miles was key to making it even possible.

Sunday - 12.5 miles easy in Central Park.  Today was one of those days where it was so humid that I was sweating before the run started.  There wasn't much residual soreness from yesterday's workout, just some tightness. I was glad to have Tom, Jason and Allie for company on this run as the conditions were very uncomfortable.  I ended the week with an hour-long, incredibly over-due massage and 30 minutes of core.

Total Weekly Mileage: 63.5

Next Week: Seven days of running, a workout I've never done before and a race!

One of my training secrets is a healthy dose of carbs in the form of beer.  Each week, I'll highlight a beer I tried to "recover" from a workout or "prepare" for a long run.

This week's Beer of the Week:

40 Mile IPA, Three Notch'd Brewing Company, Charlottesville, VA:

This was a six-pack left as a gift from a house guest who was staying at our apartment while we were actually in the Charlottesville area.  40 Mile is the flagship beer of the Three Notch'd Brewery.  40 miles is how long a fellow by the name of Jack Jouett rode to warn Thomas Jefferson and his family that their capture had been ordered.  Jefferson of course, lived in Charlottesville.  The beer named for this chapter in Jefferson's history is a crisp and clean IPA.  It's hoppy obviously, but also has a nice citrus taste to it that offsets some of the bitterness.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training: Week 1

Since finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon mildly over-trained and on the verge of a spate of illnesses, my running has been sporadic at best. I've documented all the issues that lead up to the 2014 Boston Marathon, but it's worth noting that I stopped really enjoying taking part in the sport about two years ago.  Sure, there had been flashes of competitiveness and drive, but mostly weeks of grinding out joyless miles and workouts without any continuity or flow.  During that time, I ran a couple of sub-par races and often wondered if maybe it was time to run for a different reason and let go of PR dreams.  However, over the past month or so, the bug has returned.  My health is back and with pre-hab and a couple of tweaks to the mileage and intensity of my early 20s, I seem to be staving off injury. After completing (and enjoying) my most recent sub-par race, I decided the fix to my stressed relationship with running may instead be re-establishing some structure and actually putting a goal race on the calendar.

Last week, I started a 10 week training plan for the Rock n' Roll Philly Half Marathon on September 21st. Realistically, I don't think a PR is possible at this point, but a respectable performance is not out of the question.  The random workouts I was doing in the spring were mostly focused on speed and as a result, my aerobic capacity is greatly diminished.  So, the goal of this abbreviated training cycle will be to get my body used to running at goal half marathon pace (5:30?).  Weekly mileage will stay between 60-75 with one day off every two weeks.  And while the paces on the workouts look easy, the number of intervals are where the challenge lies. I'll also be getting used to working out in the late morning during the heat of the summer.  With my work schedule, this is my only option and I will have to adjust paces and expectations accordingly. Another major change in this cycle is the limited use of the Garmin.  I could write an entire blog on how I've gone from loving the GPS to hating the GPS, but let's just say it will only be used on tempo runs.

Week 1
Monday: 6 miles easy in Central Park, 30 minutes of core.

Tuesday: 12 miles total; 8 x 1K @ 3:17-3:20 with 200m jog (60s) at Riverbanks Track

Wednesday: 8 miles easy in Central Park, 30 minutes of core.

Thursday: 8 miles easy in Central Park (meant to do 7 but was daydreaming and ran too far)7x20 sec. strides

Friday: 13.64 miles (wore Garmin) 90 minute medium long run with middle 5 miles at 5:54, 5:59(Harlem Hill), 5:58(WS Hills), 5:57, 5:48, 5:57.

Saturday: 9.5 miles in the rain in Staunton, VA.  I got lost.

Sunday: 15.6 mile very hilly long run in Staunton, VA.  

Total Weekly Mileage: 72.7 

Notes: *On days following workouts, it took about 3 miles to really loosen up. 
           *Running too far on Thursday is a good thing.  It has been a long time since I got so lost in thought on an easy run that I totally lost track of time and place. 
           *This was my highest total mileage since mid-February when I was training for Boston.
           *I ran every single mile solo this week.  Such is the life. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Giving the ElliptiGO a Go!

I'll admit it.  The first time I saw someone riding an ElliptiGO, I said to myself, "I am never getting on one of those things." As a lanky distance runner, "Game of Thrones" fan and someone who spent the bulk of my college years holed up in a TV control room, I wasn't really looking for anything else that established my nerdiness.  An elliptical machine on wheels?  How about I just give myself an atomic wedgie and save the bullies some time.

That was five years ago.  Years of wear and tear on my body from high mileage, a long list of injuries, a complete hatred for pool running and a New York City-developed lack of caring about what other people think have all drastically altered my perspective.  So, it came to be that one day late this spring, my friends Josh and Tanya and I were embarking on our virgin ElliptiGO voyage around Central Park.
Admittedly, I look like a huge dork here, but that has nothing to do with the ElliptiGO

On that maiden 19 mile ride, a few things became abundantly clear.  First is that most people think the ElliptiGO looks super cool.  It was a busy, beautiful Sunday afternoon and countless people stopped us to ask not only what it was we were riding, but how they can get one.  They seemed genuinely interested.  This has been the case on every subsequent ride.  Second, it's a lot of fun to ride.  You might have preconceived notions based on mind-numbing stationary elliptical rides where time seems to stop and all you can do is cover the clock with your sweat rag to stop yourself from going insane.  This isn't that.  You can pick up a lot of speed on the flats, fly down the hills and the uphills present a challenge that culminates with a real sense of accomplishment once you reach the top.  And third, it's one hell of a workout.  I don't want to brag, but I'm an expert on cross training.  I've logged a lot of hours in pools and on cardio machines and I can tell you, riding the ElliptiGO is the best thing you can do for running fitness besides actually running.  There is a reason the list of pro-runners using ElliptiGOs is rapidly expanding.

Just days after that first ride, I rode with one of ElliptiGO's sales managers, Jeff Caron then met with Bryan Pate, one of the founders of the company and their top spokesman, Boston Marathon Champ Meb Keflezighi  (Meb, 39, substituted some of his easy runs with ElliptiGO rides and became the first American to win Boston in 30 years). Their plan was to get more ElliptiGOs in the park.  This month, in conjunction with Bike and Roll, ElliptiGO launched a membership program allowing anyone to ride as much as they want.  I've already incorporated regular rides into my weekly training regimen in an effort to take some of the pounding off my legs and stay healthy for an entire race season.  As for my partners on that first ride, Josh and Tanya are riding the ElliptiGOs from San Francisco to Los Angeles later this summer.  You can follow their journey here.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Greatest Hits

I'm a clumsy person.  I fall a lot.  I own that.  The hardest I've ever seen anyone laugh is when I was in my early teens.  It was my little sister Julie.  I was leaving her bedroom after making what I am sure was a smart-ass, know-it-all comment.  Somehow, a wire clothes hanger was attached to an opening at the bottom of the clothes hamper in our hallway.  I didn't see it, stepped into it like it was a trap, on on my next step went flying down the hall, landing with a thud.

 When people ask me how I got into running, I tell them that I was too uncoordinated to play sports with sticks, balls or worse -- both.  Running doesn't take coordination, I say.  Except for that it does.  Even on a flat solo run, there are sidewalk cracks, cyclists, hot dog vendors and my own feet to contend with.  In a race, depending on how well it's organized there are at the very least two of those obstacles to try to avoid.  I'm currently recovering from wounds received at my last 5K.  It wasn't European Cross Country or anything, just a road race in the Bronx where the last thing I was worried about was road rash.  It got me thinking about some notable tumbles and on this rainy Saturday, the evening before a race where I may very well add another fall to the list, I thought I'd chronicle the greatest hits so to speak.

Winter 2002 -- You don't fall off a treadmill:
You fall onto a treadmill.  I trained through a lot of snowstorms during my time as a member of the SUNY Oswego Track and Cross Country teams.  It must have been a particularly bad storm for me to be running on the treadmill in the gym of Laker Hall. I was running with one of those CD players that wasn't supposed to skip as one did in 2002.  This was before I got my Rio, but I digress.  I don't remember what song it was, perhaps something by JaRule or maybe Incubus, but I didn't want to hear it.  In my attempt to change the track, I drifted to the side of the treadmill and lost my footing.  I landed on the belt which shot me into a pile of wrestling mats.  For years after this incident, I never ran on a treadmill without using that little clip you attach to yourself so the treadmill will stop if you go down.

This is from May of 2008.  The circumstances of the fall are not memorable, so thus it did not make this list.

Late Summer 2008 (Exact date unknown as this was pre-online training log days) - Crowders Mountain Crash:
I had just moved to Charlotte and picked up running again.  I was still running in cotton T-shirts and had definitely never run 20 miles before let alone run 20 miles on a mountain.  Still, I agreed to go along with two friends who were planning to do just that on Crowders Mountain in Gaston County, North Carolina.  Other than my complete ignorance of how to properly hydrate and fuel for a 20 mile run in the middle of the summer (What the hell is Gu?), the running was going smoothly.  Toward the end, I was leading the pack when I caught my foot on a tree root.  I belly-flopped into the ground so hard a cloud of dust went up in the air.  I was able to finish the run, but I bruised a whole bunch of ribs making laughing, coughing or breathing in general very difficult for the next few weeks.

August 24, 2010 -- Pre-trip Trash Bag Trip:
I was cooling down with Jordan after a pretty intense track workout during which I had managed to stay on my feet the entire time.  The workout was tough enough that this cooldown was really slow.  We were jogging in a suburban area of Charlotte complete with even sidewalks.  I saw that we were approaching a pile of trash bags filled with leaves, but for reasons that even four years later I cannot comprehend, I tripped over them in dramatic fashion.  I hit the ground with at least four areas of my body.  By the time I got home, the shirt I was wearing was covered in blood and it looked like I had been in some sort of knife fight and/or jumped through a glass window.  What makes this fall especially bad is that three days later, Lauren and I were going to the Bahamas.  Prior to this trip, I had only heard the expression "it's like rubbing salt in a wound."  Now, I know that unless someone is actually doing that, the comparison really isn't accurate.
Patching the wounds from the trash bag fall was a work of art.  Lauren did a great job!

July 17, 2011 -- Faceplant in the Parking Lot:
According to my log from this day, I logged 16.7 miles at Rockefeller State Park in Westchester County. It's safe to say that 16.5 of those miles were on the trails within the park. That's not where I fell.  I lost my footing running to the bathrooms in the parking lot.  This was one of those falls where the palms take the brunt of the impact. 

August 7, 2011 -- Brooklyn Bridge Falling Down:
There are two falls on this list I contend were 100% not my fault.  This is one of them.  I had lived in New York City for two months and had yet to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.  I saw there was a 5K that ran over it from Manhattan and back so I signed up.  What I did not know was 1) the pedestrian path was not closed off for this race and 2) there is a lot of foot traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.  I was in first place from the start of the race. On the way out, it was early enough that other than the occasional cyclist, the path was pretty clear.  On the way back, I was having to dodge in and out of people still making their way to the turnaround in Brooklyn.  For the most part, they stayed to their own side, but in a split second that gave me no time to react, a young child literally hopped into my path.  Down I went.  The kid went down too.  This fall caused no wounds and it didn't cost me the victory, but it's a great first memory of running on the Brooklyn Bridge.   Come to think of it, I wonder what ever happened to that kid.

 December 14, 2013 -- Lap Traffic Tumble: 
I think I got cocky.  I had gone a solid two years without falling and was feeling pretty stable.  Despite a lack of fitness and a blizzard, I was having a really good 15K in Central Park.  At mile 9, I had been battling with two other runners -- good runners -- for the entire race and it was clear it was going to be a kick.  As we neared the final turn toward the finish, we came up on the back of the field heading into their second loop.  There was one spot in between the barrier at which you could merge and head toward the finish chute.  As the runner on the outside of the pack, I missed it.  Desperately searching for another opportunity, I darted in at what I thought was the next opening.  A woman walking never saw me coming and tripped me.  I was able to brace myself, but I hit my side pretty hard and of all the falls on this list, this is the only time I hit my head.  I was able to get up and sprint to the finish, but never caught the other guys.

May 3, 2014 -- Violence in the Bronx:
And that brings us to my current wounds.  I picked a small 5K at Bronx Community College as a good place to do a hard tempo workout and maybe even pick up a win.  Based on past years' results, this was quite possible.  Before the start of the race, I scanned the crowd and determined it was appropriate for me to be standing in the front.  I was planning to go out at a 5:15 pace which would get me plowed over in some big NYC races, but not here.  Or, so I thought.  As soon as the starting command was given, a much larger gentleman behind me shoved me out of the way -- shoved me hard.  He was one of those guys that you see at every 5K. They sprint out to the front of the race like they are racing Usain Bolt in the Olympics.  You generally see them walking by mile 2.  This guy was not an exception to that rule.  With no warning and therefore no time to brace myself, I went down harder than I have ever fallen before.  Before I could even assess the damage came the terrifying sight of a couple of hundred sets of legs coming straight for my head.  Based on the aggressiveness of the guy who pushed me, this was not a crowd I trusted with my life.  A few people hurdled me, but I got up quickly. I jogged over to the side of the road bleeding badly and in a lot of pain.  I was going to call it a day until I realized how mad I was.  The bandaids would have to wait until I finished.  I ran the race grimacing the entire way and only managed to pull off a second place finish.  Anyhow, about those bandaids. Yeah, they didn't really have any.  They didn't have any ice either.  A very nice, but ill-prepared gentleman taped up my arm with packing tape -- yes, packing tape -- and sent me on my way back to Manhattan.  On the hour-long subway ride home I tried not to bleed all over the train (although, I guess people have done worse things on the trains involving bodily fluids) by resting my elbow on my shorts.  My hip was already bleeding through them anyway, so what the hell?  I'd like to thank the gentleman on the B train who approached me and handed me a handful of bandaids and Neosporin packets without saying a word.  Karma will be kind to you sir. 

Packing tape on a grapefruit elbow

I'm livid about what happened at this race, but I understand that this photo is as hilarious as it is terrifying. 

It shouldn't take long for Greatest Hits Volume II to come out.