Spring Training: Week Eleven

One nice thing about having only two hard workouts per week (or one plus a race) is that I’m typically feeling recovered and ready when the hard day arrives. For so much of last year I would arrive at a hard day and feel just ready enough to tackle the workout, but I rarely felt fresh going in. The lower mileage also contributes to this, I’m certain.

Either way, this has been such a big — and welcome — change that I’m wondering if I should go on a 10 day schedule, putting more recovery days between workouts, rather than shoving three into a 7 day period. Since I’m wary of piling on mileage again after this racing season, I’m thinking one way to combine big miles with big workouts again is to go back to high mileage, but with more recovery. Perhaps that would give me the benefits of high mileage without risking the kind of cumulative fatigue that plagued me last year.

So many ways to train.

On Monday, rather than run I took a one hour walk around our hilly neighborhood, primarily to stretch out my legs, but also to photograph the devastation from the storm that moved through over the weekend. Those photos are on Facebook, resembling photo sets from friends in NJ that look eerily similar. This was quite the storm.

In my last report I alluded to what Kevin called a “rite of passage” workout — something not only brand new, but newly challenging. On Wednesday, I did the first of these. Based on how difficult it was, I suspect I’ll be able to recognize such workouts in the future pretty easily.

I called this an “on/off tempo” run. I don’t know what other people call them, but that seemed to fit. After a five mile warmup I launched into the first of four sets of two mile combinations: the first at 7:15 (tempo pace for me right now), the second at 8:30 (mid-aerobic range). Rinse and repeat.

It’s been windy this week (more on this in a moment), and it was pretty windy on Wednesday. I tried to plan the run so I was avoiding giant mud puddles and other obstructions, but there was no avoiding the wind unless I ran inside. This was a rough, but doable, run. I never hit 7:15, mostly owing to either hills or wind. But I was happy with the times I did hit.

To be honest, it was not that difficult a run to do from a mental standpoint. In a weird way, I think my debacle in Sacramento in December, during which I was really suffering from mile 18 on, has created a permanent mental callous of sorts. I can suffer a lot for a long time now and accept it. It’s acceptable because it’s not as bad and never will be, at least not in any workout. If it is, I shouldn’t be doing that workout.

This doesn’t stop me from worrying about suffering like that again in a marathon. But, again, more on this subject in a sec.

I felt great after this workout, very invigorated. But I crashed later in the day and had to go to bed at around 8:30. I felt okay, but not stellar, the next day. I’m getting used to doing long recovery runs again, and I still think I recover better from them than I do from shorter, but more frequent, doubles sessions. On Friday I felt great and probably ran the recovery a little too hard. On the other hand, I had plenty of energy for doing the strides, which in the past I have often skipped due to tired legs or overall fatigue.

Saturday I felt like warmed over dog shit, primarily owing to having had too much to drink on Friday and then only getting six hours of sleep. So the morning run was terrible in all respects. The evening run wasn’t much better, so I cut it short, trimming two miles off for the week.

This morning I got up and felt good and ready for 15 miles at reasonably high effort. I drove up to Hartsdale and parked there so I could hit the car (and some Gatorade) at the halfway point. One thing I immediately noticed was the strength of the wind. I think I was in denial about it because I’d checked both major weather sites and they’d reported from 5-9 mph. It felt a lot windier than that, but I kept fighting it.

I felt good for the first six miles, most of which were into the wind. Then my stomach started to feel bad. Note to self: No cheddar cheese before a run. After a slow warmup mile my paces were anywhere from 7:45-8:15. I was trying for 8:00-8:15, so this was fine. But I just felt cruddier and cruddier as the run wore on. By mile 12 I was done and wanted to stop, but I had to turn around and run the last three into what was now at least 15-20 mph steady headwind. My effort went up into the low 80%s and paces cratered to 8:25-8:40.

As I was running along Pipeline, literally cursing the wind aloud, I realized that the last time I’d felt like this was around mile 10 of the Sacramento race. I’d done the same thing today: denied the reality of how much steady wind can sap your energy. I must remember to never do that again, not in a workout and especially not in a race. If I do that again in a marathon I should be shot for my obtuseness. Wind is real. You’ve got to adjust effort from the very start — or pay the price.

You know, it’s always something. If it’s not heat, it’s snow. If it’s not snow, it’s rain. If it’s not rain, it’s wind. If it’s not wind, it’s attack geese. It’s never a dull moment training here. There were some glorious moments this week when I was out in shorts, enjoying a mix of cool air and warm sun. I hope we get a little more of that before summer takes hold.

Romper, bomper, stomper boo: Let’s kick some ass on the roads today, kids.

Since I’m in a nostalgic mood this weekend, I’ll continue the seventies television theme.

Does anyone remember Romper Room and its magic mirror? Here’s a description from Wikipedia:

At the end of each broadcast, the hostess would look through a “magic mirror” (actually a face-sized open hoop with a handle) and name the children she saw in “televisionland”, then recite the rhyme, “Romper, bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, have all my friends had fun at play?” She would then lead into, “I can see Scotty and Kimberly and Julie and Jimmy and Kelly and all of you boys and girls out there!” Kids were encouraged to mail in their names, which would be read on the air.

So call me Miss Julie, today, because I’m holding up my magic mirror and I see a lot of friends, both virtual and real, toeing the line at important races today.

I see Kim, who is taking on the LA Marathon again, while stuffed into a Brooks ensemble that’s at least three sizes too small. Let’s hope she skipped the burrito stand this year. Look for bib #57.

I see Flo and Tracy, who will be running the festive Shamrock half and full marathons, respectively.

I see TK, Douglas, Joe and Frank, who have been given beautiful weather today for the New York City Half. TK, take care of that adductor brevis.

The eastern runners are racing even as I type this. Kim hears the horn in about three hours. My heart is beating faster in sympathetic anticipation for them all. Can’t wait to read the race reports.

Bay Area Television, circa 1973

At this point, due to training and work demands, the only evening of the week during which I can drink to excess is Friday. I carefully rationed my caloric intake yesterday and allotted space in the budget for a beer and three vodkas. This made watching Day Three of the NCAA Track and Field coverage (recorded) very enjoyable indeed, especially the boring bits.

It also triggered a strange dream, in which I was describing a show from my childhood, Big Time Wrestling, to someone. I haven’t thought about that show in years. Upon waking, I remembered a few other programs that were standard entertainment fare for me when I was around seven or eight years old. Here are some highlights. If you’re in your forties or older then you may remember some of these, especially if you grew up in the Bay Area, where much of this was broadcast on local channel 2.

Big Time Wrestling

I used to watch this program, hosted by the plaid-sportcoated Hank Renner, on Sunday mornings in my Dad’s “den” — basically a room with a built in bar, lounge chair and ottoman, couch,  pedestal ashtray and large color television. One reason I long for a home built in the seventies is that during those years architects really knew how to blueprint for a proper lifestyle. Who doesn’t want a room dedicated to sitting, smoking, drinking and watching television?

Big Time Wrestling started airing long before I discovered it in the early seventies, but I still think that was the heyday of the series. No matter how lovely the weather, you could guarantee that I would be inside on Sunday morning watching with rapt attention this weekly pastiche of camp theater, personal grudges and flabby action.

Here’s the complete history of the show. And here’s video typical of the time.

“Professional” wrestling still features the same mono-dimensional characters and simplistic story lines. But what I miss about the  seventies version is how out of shape the wrestlers were. Now they’re so pumped up on steroids that they look like assemblages from the local meat counter. The original guys looked like they probably drove a mail truck and ate piles of mashed potatoes and pork chops.

Voice of Agriculture

Even as a child, I was a morning person. Most days I was up long before anyone else in the family was awake, making my way down to the dark den at around 5AM. Before the days of cable, broadcast choices were limited in terms of available programs, especially so during insomniac hours. Most mornings I had a choice of two programs: The English As a Second Language show for speakers of Chinese or this show, Voice of Agriculture.

VOA was an interview format show produced by the American Farm Bureau and typically focused on California’s Central Valley, where agriculture is very, very big. The show’s titles appeared over grainy footage of a gigantic threshing machine in full action. That was the most exciting part of the show. Once the interviews started, I was left to stare, slack-jawed and glassy-eyed over my voluminous bowl of Cap’n Crunch, as the interviewer and interviewee earnestly discussed various farming- and commodity-related matters.

According to this history, the show was later changed to a magazine format. I imagine that made it much more engaging, or at least marginally more interesting than, say, reading the Cornish tide tables or watching mold form on an old orange. It’s still on.

Roller Derby

I saved the best for last. Specifically, women’s roller derby, because the level of tawdry theatrical malice among the female skaters made the men’s events look like a meeting of the local glee club. Here’s a history of the “sport” along with an article about the Bay Area action in particular.

I would probably watch this were it on today. Like English Premier League Soccer, in front of which I spend most Sundays zoned out in a post-long run stupor, the images are hypnotically repetitive and, as such, very relaxing. Yet punctuated with just enough moments of noteworthy action that you’re prevented from dozing off completely.

The fact that I still enjoy watching people moving round and round and round an oval at high speeds under their own steam is perhaps one of the few constants in my personal television viewing history. And any track and field fan will note that, minus the hair-pulling, track racing can be just as dirty and violent. More video typical of the time:

Kathy Switzer’s at it again

Specifically, marathon racing. She’s even got a blog!

For the uninitiated, a bio of Ms. Switzer.

And on a tangentially related note, this thread just popped up on LetsRun.com. Switzer’s mentioned (I think — her name is badly mangled). Other highlights include a mention of the famously awful 1964 Olympic Trials on the Yonkers Marathon course, which is colorfully rendered in the bio of Buddy Edelen. And Patti (Catalano) Dillon makes a surprise appearance.

Spring Training: Week Ten

I’m starting to feel like a real runner again.

Now that I’m plunging into a few months of frequent racing, my training has taken on a different structure and quality. The most noticeable change has been in the number of workouts per week. They have generally dropped from three (tempo + speed + easy long) to two (tempo or speed + hard long or race). The mileage is, by comparison to last year, also a lot lower most weeks, with last week in the mid-30s.

I was very tired on Monday, so I just took it off. At this point, I’m seeing lots of evidence that the training is resulting in steady improvements. So recovering from those workouts has become equally important. I don’t want to either fizzle in the workouts or races, or drive myself back into a ditch of overtraining. Not when things are going so well. So I won’t hesitate to take a day off if my ass is dragging.

We’re trying to put a minimum of two rest days between a hard session and a race. This week, since I skipped the Saturday “Manhattan Monsoon” race (the NYRR 8000), I got three recovery days. That extra day didn’t seem to make me stale.

The nature of the workouts is also changing. This week my speed session featured 800m repeats, but with a twist: I was to run the first 600m in 2:30 (6:40 pace), then drop the hammer for the last 200 and run that in 45 (6:00 pace). This was a tough workout, not the least of which was because I was sharing the track with the entire Bronxville High track team (and it was, as usual, windy). But it would have been tough on an empty, windless track. Running uncomfortably fast for a few minutes and then running even faster proved a challenge both physically and mentally. This was also the first workout that I can remember in awhile that I felt slightly pukeworthy at times. However, I managed the paces, more or less. But I was fried afterwards.

The next few days were very easy because I thought I was going to be racing on Saturday. When I realized I wasn’t, I nevertheless cut back the planned mileage for Saturday from 10 to 6. I reasoned that if I was going to make the 2 miler my focus now, I might as well be as fresh as possible for it.

My legs felt great for the 2 miler, and I ended up with a few extra miles around it for warmup and jog cooldowns.

This week the mileage is back up into the 60s and I did a very challenging workout on Wednesday — a new sort which Kevin referred to as a “rite of passage” workout. More on that coming up in this week’s training recap. Next week features another surprise: my first “cutdown” workout on the track (1600, 1200, 800, 400 — all getting progressively faster). Then the Colon Cancer 4 miler next Sunday, where I hope to break 7:00 over that distance at last.

I’m also once again attempting to shed some of the extra baggage I’ve acquired in the past few months. My scale tops 134 now. Twenty months ago I weighed 126 and I felt a lot more comfortable at that weight, especially when running fast. It was very difficult to lose weight while running high mileage last year. I don’t know what the hell happens metabolically when you’re doing 90 mile weeks, but losing weight was all but impossible for me. Now I’m figuring that with relatively low mileage demands at the moment, my need for fuel should be on more of an even keel and perhaps my metabolism won’t be so inclined to demand calories every 90 minutes and then store them so enthusiastically.

Unfortunately, a concerted effort to lose the flab means scaling back on my usual gluttonous birthday plans in a few weeks and teetotalling most evenings. Moreover, my day gig’s team status call has been moved from Monday afternoon to the cruel hour of 8AM on Monday morning. This means I can’t get moderately inebriated on Sunday nights anymore and count on having half the day Monday to let a mild hangover seep out of my system. This is probably a good development, although I wish I’d had some say in the matter.

Google search oddities

Today’s catch phrase: “girl with bottle in groin”

I guess I picked up readers with the three key concepts: girl, bottle, groin

I’ll stop here.

Race Report: TRRC St. Patrick’s 2 Miler

I won the women’s race in 13:17 and was 8th overall. Sure, it was a tiny race (under 100 people). But I’ll take a win wherever I can get it.

My original plans for the weekend were to run the NYRR 8000 in Central Park on Saturday as my priority race, then run the 2 miler as a “see how I do” effort. But the violent Nor’easter that came in overnight on Friday (and peaked overnight on Saturday) quickly put paid to those plans. I got up at 4:30 on Saturday morning and discovered heavy rain falling at a 45 degree angle, coupled with gusting winds. I knew I’d get soaked on the way into the city. Once there, steady winds of 20+ mph would almost certainly prevent me from either running below 7:00 pace or enjoying myself, my only two (and not necessarily mutually exclusive) goals for that race. So I skipped the race, crawled back into my toasty bed, and hoped for better weather on Sunday.

Overnight we had gale force winds (and we also lost power Saturday evening before the worst of it). The weather had calmed down somewhat by early Sunday, so we made our way to Yorktown Heights, site of my recent impromptu 5 miler, and hoped the decent weather would hold. By sheer chance, there was a bicycle race scheduled in the park this year, requiring the TRCC 2M and 10K races to be moved about two hours earlier than normal. Fortunately for us, that gave us a window of between 8:00 and 10:00 when there was either no or very light precipitation. The wind was still bad, but I figured I could deal with anything for two miles — besides, it would be at my back for the last half mile.

I lined up in front and ran the first two tenths of a mile, a downhill stretch, at what is for me insanely fast. I wasn’t trying to stay with the men, but I was fending off a young woman who was running right alongside me. I knew I was going too fast but I didn’t want to lose my lead position that early on, so I figured I’d keep going until it was too much for one of us.

That first quarter mile was run at 5:30 pace. This is much faster than I run my 20 second strides! I’m surprised I didn’t pull something. Fortunately, my speedy companion’s lungs gave out before mine did and when we hit the first hill at the quarter mile mark, she gave up. I was in the lead! I could slow the fuck down!

I was also running alone. The men were gradually getting farther and farther ahead of me. I didn’t dare look back.  I continued to run alone for a full mile more, then passed a guy who was dying at the 1.4 mile mark. All I had to do was make it up a really steep hill without either going into oxygen debt or getting passed and emerge on the quarter mile straightaway with energy to spare.

I dropped to 7:28 on the hill but regained speed after the crest, finishing up at 6:30 pace (a tailwind helped). No one passed me. HR% topped out at 95% at the end. Average pace was 6:39. Kevin’s prediction was a 6:45 pace. I figured that on that course, with wind, I’d be lucky to run 6:50 pace. I am more pleased about the overall pace (and discovering that I can run at 5:30 for much more than 20 metres) than I am about winning.

Jonathan did the 10K and took third place overall in 37:16. He’d wanted to break 6:00 pace, but just missed it. When the announcer handed him his award he noted, “This guy’s 53 years old, folks.” Astonished gasps were heard behind me. I guess when you’re in your twenties, 53 sounds like Methuselah.

The 10K was very competitive in terms of the women’s race this year. The winner was in the high-30s, a time I’d be lucky to touch with another year or two of training. So I guess I picked the right race.

We chatted with another runner in Jonathan’s AG, Bill Carter, and Bill’s wife, Dianne, who also ran the 2 miler. Bill is forming a four man 50+ team for the Scarsdale 15K in a few weeks in pursuit of nice trophies. Paging Joe Garland: They’re looking for a fourth man.

They look just like us.

Spring Training: Week Nine

Although the workouts went well this week, this was the first week since I started up training again where recovering properly felt like a struggle. Although I was able to rally for the harder days, I felt the previous days’ effort accumulating on the easy days, as if I had a slow leak in recovery during the week. Yesterday I was exhausted and forced myself to go out and run, nevertheless cutting the planned nine mile recovery run short at 7.1, as the slog got harder and harder rather than easier. Then I fell asleep for two hours.

But my hard days went well. I was only trapped on the treadmill for three evening runs, all of them mercifully short. Everything else was done outside, mostly along my new route in Scarsdale. It’s also finally starting to warm up, and the snow is melting. The running path is still snowy, but I think it should be clear by end of day tomorrow or early Tuesday at the latest. As should be the track in Bronxville. It’s not quite warm enough for shorts, but I think it will be next week.

I’ve covered the tempo and speed sessions in a previous post. The other highlight was my tour of the Scarsdale 15K course this morning. I had a 15 mile run scheduled, the first 9 of which followed the race course. I haven’t run that particular race since 2006, when I ran a time of 1:25:30. I expect to do much better this year.

But, boy, is that a hilly course! I’d forgotten how cruel its design is, as well as how much it varies between two extremes: several miles of it consist of sneakily slight, but very long uphill grades, punctuated with the occasional short, very steep climb up. There are lots of downhills as well, of course, but they didn’t seem to offer much relief. The worst of it is mostly over by the 6.5 mile mark, but there is a very steep uphill just before the finish. I will have to remember to pace myself so I don’t die in the last mile.

Since after the nine mile mark I was winging it in terms of the course for today’s run, I guessed at distances. I got back to my car a bit short of 15 miles, but I was done for the day, ready for some water, a sandwich and the foam roller. Along with my more casual attitude toward paces, I’m also dropping the obsession with hitting nice, round numbers every week.

Next weekend the calvacade of races continues, with the NYRR 8000 in Central Park on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, if my legs aren’t fried I’ll do a 2 mile road race in Yorktown Heights, as Jonathan’s doing a 10K up there that day. Or I’ll just go be his cheering section if my legs aren’t willing. See Races for all the dirt.

One kudos to a fellow runner: Andrea broke 3:22 today at Napa. It was good for fifth in her AG. I don’t know what her goals were, but I’m hoping she was happy with that time, because she sure was nervous yesterday!

Guest Post: 2001 Boston Marathon Race Report

Coach Kevin sent this to me and another runner he coaches, Kim Duclos, apropos of nothing. I love a good race report and this accounting of his personal best at Boston is a doozy. It’s also not anywhere on the web, which I think is a minor crime.

With his permission, here it is. I’ve reinserted the asterisked or otherwise obscured four letter words; if anyone is entitled to use foul language, it’s someone who’s managed to cover the challenging miles between Hopkinton and Boylston Street under his own steam in well under two and a half hours.

I hope some of you looking forward to Patriot’s Day — or any upcoming marathon, for that matter — can draw inspiration from this report. It reminds me of what it feels like to run a very good 26.2 mile race (a feat I have managed only once in six tries). It feels damned good, even it if nearly destroys you.

105th Boston Marathon — 4/16/2001

Got a revolution behind my eyes
We got to get up and organize
Got a revolution behind my eyes
We got to get up and organize

My experience at the 2001 Boston Athletic Association Marathon cannot, in fact, be aptly summed up by the lyrics of the Lo-Fidelity All-Stars club anthem Battle Flag, but since I like the song I will impose its besmirched couplets upon my race nonetheless.

My race began, of course, months, not weeks or days or hours or minutes, before high noon in Hopkinton, Mass., a nondescript if pleasant enough burg annually transformed into a freak show by the descent of fifteen thousand curious souls — aspirants with dreams too offbeat to fill their leisure time with the mundane corruptions of workaday society. But for purposes of this account, the story’s obligatory beginning is at the unfurling of my rendition of that dream — as I wandered blandly out of the Korean Church of Hopkinton, the temporary operating base of the two-hundred-plus seeded runners, slapping a modicum of restraint on the pulses of adrenalin that needed to be harnessed until a more opportune moment than this instant of contrived hype.

I said hallelujah to the sixteen loyal fans
You’ll get down on your muthafuckin’ knees
And it’s time for your sickness again

Under the direction of race marshals (who, much to my satisfaction, made sure I was wearing a seeded number beneath my BRADY/POSITIVE POWER T-shirt) I followed teammate Dan Verrington to the front of the first corral, the noisome belly of which I had narrowly eluded thanks to a 2:26:52 qualifying time in my last marathon in October 1999. The day was sunny and the easterly breezes ripe for bipedal showmanship. I remarked unaffectedly that I felt like an impostor among the Tanuis and Aberas and Nderebas and DeHavens traipsing along nearby. Dan, a 2:21 marathoner, gave amused assent. The thought was devoid of timidity; a half-accomplished runner knows his position far better than the wags who would lump him in the “elite” category for the sake of convenience, ignorance, and hyperbole. As if on cue, a public address speaker announced that every one of the runners streaming onto Route 135 between untold numbers of raucous observers and press corps members was capable of covering 26 point 2 miles at under five-minute pace. I smiled. The day was in order.

Given my position I was able to warm up in front of the starting line, and with a hundred introspectively light-footed others I ambled to and fro a few times more for the sake of nervous dissolution than to prime myself physically for the impending task. The trick here was not to undermine my chance of success in the first downhill miles. It is not an easy trick. The ghosts of a score of legends, realizing their mistakes too late even with the foreknowledge of what might happen on this unique stretch of asphalt, pepper the landscape between Wellesley and Boston, where luxurious debts are repaid to the fullest misery of the starry-eyed borrower.

Twin F-14 fighter jets soared by overhead toward the east, two minutes ahead of schedule.

I manipulate to recreate
This air to ground saga
Gotta launder my karma

We got two more minutes and
We gonna cut to what you need

Finally, as the final seconds were counted down, it was just like any other race. We were stuffed onto a very ordinary two-lane road, sweaty and anxious to escape the jitters and body odor. I can only imagine what the people crammed into the corrals must have felt.

The officials lowered and removed the rope stretched across the street. A simple pistol shot (or was it a cannon?) launched the 105th crazy parade toward the appallingly disorganized infrastructure of the most provincial city in America.

Hey Mr. Policeman
Is it time for getting away
Is it time for driving down the muthafuckin’ road
And running from your ass today

My plan was to run the first half of the race evenly, meaning I would run the first four or five miles with restraint and effectively pick up the pace as I traveled over the flats. (Actually, my plan was to run the whole damn thing evenly, but even I wasn’t buying that one.) Of course, I wouldn’t really know until I got to the flats whether I’d in fact held back before reaching them, would I? Oh, the cognitive gymnastics. I eased into what felt like something between mile and 50K race pace and listened to the fans yammering away behind the guardrails on either side.

Shortly I was joined by Eric Beauchesne, a Massachusetts runner who, until the Eastern States 20, had probably beaten me about a thousand times in a row. He had started somewhere in the first corral. “It’s a clusterfuck back there,” he announced. I didn’t doubt it. Meanwhile, a huge lead pack was forming up ahead. I was guessing the leaders were running “slowly,” but still felt that giving them any less than a half-minute in the first mile was probably imprudent. My time (note that in this account I am giving split times from my watch, an eight-second cushion on my official time) at the mile was 5:26, which told me nothing, really. Shortly thereafter I edged past the women’s leaders — a surprising development. (Later, at around seven miles, Beauchesne would remark, “I’m surprised the women went out so slow.” I replied by telling him I’d remind him of that comment when said women went zooming by somewhere within sight of skyscrapers.)

The next several miles were a continuation of an experiment — did I really feel good enough to hold on to this pace for two and a half hours?

Passing through splits of 10:52, 16:17 (16:51 at 5K — this was incorrectly reported on the BAA Web site), 21:39, 27:11, 32:40 (33:48 at 10K) and 38:05, I had no conscious bouts of either self-doubt or extravagance that I can recall. I was moving along as I had trained myself to do, which I suppose was the point.

Just beyond eight miles (43:30), I left a small group of runners, including Beauchesne, behind. The bodies ahead were already scattered into groups of three or two or one, and I was sure I would be largely if not entirely alone the rest of the way.
That was okay. Contrary to common belief, solitude can be a marathon racer’s ally so long as the occasional passing of a comrade-in-legs occurs, subserving the need for confidence-boosting.

I took a bottle of fluid from Bob Hodge, 3rd-place finisher in this race in 1979 and my gracious host for the weekend, just beyond nine miles (48:56) and noticed for the first time how warm it seemed to be getting. I felt fresh, no worse for the wear than I would be on a long training run. Concentration is a funny thing; ask me to run nine miles cold at faster than 5:30 pace on some stretch of road somewhere and I doubt I could do it without extremes of effort.

As I passed ten miles (54:27), I realized I was flirting with the Olympic Trials “B” standard pace; this meant nothing here, in April 2001, and even less in the face of the 16 miles remaining. But every benchmark helps and I was on a roll. I covered the next two miles in 5:19 and 5:18, my fastest two of the day. Passing Wellesley College — where the noise was so fearsome I edged grimly toward the center of the road but broke into a reluctant smile in spite of myself — I urged myself to ease up, one of running’s peculiar oxymoronic demands, and reached thirteen miles in 1:10:30 and halfway in 1:11:06. Another benchmark. Verrington, who had been at least 200 meters ahead, was slowly coming back. It was almost time to begin playing mental games: “How much can I slow down and still run…” but I managed to keep most of these idiotic mental maneuvers at bay.

It was here that I realized the low-grade gnawing need to unload biological ballast from at least two orifices was not subsiding, as I had assumed it would with the persistent effort. Perhaps my display back in the church basement, where I’d served as the equivalent of the town drunk by bellying up to the coffee bar far more often that my fellows, was leading me down a crueler path than this habit of mine had managed to do in the past. Other than this distraction, I was feeling fine, and continued to reel in runners I didn’t recognize. At first these runners had worn bibs with three and four digits, but a few of the guys I was now catching wore bibs with only two. Benchmarks.

I passed fourteen miles in 1:15:55 and fifteen in 1:21:2X (I rely on memory for splits and here is where mine begins to fail), and noticed as I began the long descent toward Newton how subjectively different this race was from the 1996 version, my only prior bout with this particular fool’s errand. Not only was I running half a minute per mile slower, but the nuances of the course — in this case the downhill that had begun the rapid unraveling of my quest for a sub-2:30 in the 100th Boston — seemed kinder. That sort of thing is always as important as the numbers on the clock with each passing mile. When I reached the bottom of that hill still feeling fresh (sixteen miles: 1:26:48), I was confident this was going to be a fine day. I passed Dan somewhere on that hill and set my sights on the next singlet. The heat seemed to have cast itself aside.

My seventeen-mile split was in the 1:32-twenties. I would be climbing for the next four miles, and my general distaste for downgrades notwithstanding, I could still find myself in trouble in short order. But the rumbling in my guts was becoming a truly unmanageable problem. I reluctantly began scanning the sidelines for portable toilets. When I finally found one (having never looked for them in a race, I was surprised and distraught at how few of them were actually available in such a large race), I startled the people nominally gathered around it by veering toward then with a cry of “anyone in there?” “Yes,” a woman told me (guiltily — not that it helped) and with a cry of “FUCK!” I skedaddled back onto the road. Strike one.

Eighteen miles passed in just under 1:37:5X. My mental mathematician, aroused briefly from her slumber and divorced from the equally busy gastrointestinal disaster-management engineers below, busily informed me I still had over a one-minute cushion on 5:30 pace. That translated into a sub-2:23:00. If…so many ifs.

I trundled by 30K in 1:41:25 and was told by an official I was in 39th place. I knew that if I simply held form and passed only a few runners, I would likely move into the top 30 through Boston’s unique disbursement of attrition. My legs were still quite willing, the mind equally so. Nineteen in 1:43-thirtyish. I guessed that three of the supposed four hills encompassed by the Heartbreak stretch were behind me. I was noticing lots of cries of “Alright Kevin!” and “Go New Hampshire!” but was clueless as to their sources. I made yet another foiled attempt at a port-a-john entrance. Strike two. Not yet truly desperate (yet obviously desperate enough to do the unthinkable and stop in a race), I graced everyone nearby with another cry of “FUCK!” and sullied on.

Twenty miles went by in under 1:49:00. That benchmark was very real – it meant I was somehow clinging to 5:30′s even in this revered stretch, known, if perhaps hyperbolically, for dismantling the races of legends. I then began climbing Heartbreak Hill proper. Six tenths of a mile of altitude gain which, compared to the roads I had carved my life’s initials on all winter, was a piddling hump. As I threw myself up the hill, passing a Brazilian masters runner, a South African runner and New Jersey’s own Joseph Aloysius McVeigh (a former top American at this race and one of its biggest proponents), I smiled inwardly at my dismissal of Heartbreak Hill. A little well-placed arrogance, properly applied, can never hurt.

Come on and tell me what you need
Tell me what is making you bleed

At twenty-one miles (about 1:54:30), CMS team manager Gary Bridgman appeared, bearing, as promised, a drink similar to the one Bob had supplied. I waved him off and gave him the thumbs-up at the same time. I had been taking Gatorade at most of the aid stations and, feeling as strong as I did, felt no need to torment my innards with any further sugary insults. I started the long descent into the belly of Boston.

35K in 1:58:40. The crowds grew thicker and more flamboyant; the personally directed shouts from the sidewalks flew toward me as before. Twenty-two miles in a shade over two hours even and I had reached Cleveland Circle. Whether by playful fate or playful coincidence, I knew as I spotted the lone portable toilet to my right as I rounded the turn onto Beacon Street that I could no longer defer relieving myself, and that I would be forced to do so with several hundred people more or less watching. As I shot into the port-a-john, I swear the cheers doubled in volume. Great.

I won’t delve into the unnecessary details of my communion with the port-a-john, but I believe I was in and out in about forty-five seconds. I recall no toilet paper, but had there been any, I would have flown out of that foul little edifice trailing it behind me in place of the Superman cape the gathered throng (whose cheers had now surely trebled in volume) evidently expected me to have donned.

Your construction
Smells of corruption

I plunged back into the linear ring of combat. My legs seemed no worse for the wear, and I was eager to leave this particular group of onlookers in my odiferous wake. As a result, I fairly flew by McVeigh and the South African again (if they were confused by my apparent lapping of them, they didn’t show it) and, given that I reached twenty-three miles in close to 2:06 flat, actually covered the twenty-third mile at close to 5:15 pace. This may have been my biggest mistake of the race, but it didn’t wind up costing me that much. I knew a sub-2:23 was clearly out of the question now, but a sub-2:24 was not.

Twenty-four miles in 2:11:30-ish. Another 5:30-ish split. I was feeling nicks and quivers in my stride now, but nothing tragic. I focused on the long lane in front of me, an unbending stretch of asphalt that would be my proving ground for the next ten-plus minutes and forever all at once. I now rallied behind the humming, belching noise of the most scholarly and enthusiastic marathon crowd anywhere, white noise I had fought to ignore until this, the proper time. Gamely, I edged by another runner, a Japanese. He wore bib number 6. Benchmarks.

So one of six so tell me
One do you want to live
And one of seven tell me
Is it time for your muthafuckin’ ass to give

The “pain” of a marathon, to a well-trained and focused athlete, is not unbearable by any means. Those who speak of The Wall in hushed tones and with overstated reverence have either never trained properly or have executed a marathon race foolishly, their well-intentioned ambitions toppling them beyond the crest of their physical and emotional means. No, it is not the pain of non-responsive limbs that plunges marathoners over the brink into a purgatory of utter helplessness that can only end with a shambling, hacking wobble across the finish line or to the sidelines; it is the frustration, the apocalyptic frustration of a racer’s cardinal sin: Slowing down when the mind says go, go, we MUST cover this mile in five thirty and change…

And just like that, at twenty-four and a half miles, the realization was complete. There would be no more surges or bright-eyed gambits or pleasant surprises. I was hanging on, fighting to keep the house of sub-5:30 cards I had assembled over the past two hours from being blown all over the city of Boston. For the next ten minutes – and hopefully no more than that – my life effectively depended on it. I had a mile and a half left to run – to race.

I’m blown to the maxim
Two hemispheres battlin’
I’m blown to the maxim
Two hemispheres battlin’
Suckin’ up, one last breath
Take a drag off of death

40K in 2:16:21. That meant nothing too me. Still, I noticed the big Citgo sign near Fenway Park and the small teaser of a hill at Kenmore Square, right at twenty-five miles (about 2:17:12). I had no memory of these things in 1996. At least my brain was still functioning. Functioning and skittish; a quartet of motorcycles zipped by me with just under a mile to go, causing me to flip my head to one side far faster than I could have moved my legs. The policeman astride one of them grinned and said something. I glanced around. Sure enough, I wasn’t entitled to my own personal motorcade: Catherine Ndereba was coming, coming strong, and was about to roll me like a wet log. A mental comedian took center stage and joked that in my first national television appearance, I might well be splattered with the sort of unsavory matter one learns to dispose of properly by the age of three. But it didn’t last long; Ndereba was gone as quickly as she appeared and I was alone again.

Fighting to maintain the one pace I was now seemingly capable of running, whatever it was, I dragged myself up the street. I decided swinging my arms really, really hard was a good idea, because any good coach knows the legs have to follow. Or something.

A minute passed; two. The vehicles ahead darted to the right. There, I saw a blessed, blessed sign:

HEREFORD STREET

and as the South African drew alongside, another, this one on the left:

BOYLSTON STREET

I could see the finish line.

Now tell me if do you agree
Or tell me if I’m makin’ you bleed
I got a few more minutes and
I’m gonna cut to what you need

It wasn’t as close as I thought.

Is it time for your muthafuckin’ ass to give
Tell me is it time to get down on your muthafuckin’ knees
Tell me is it time to get down…

But two hours, twenty-four minutes and seventeen seconds after some forgotten point in time, it came. It came with a little lurch and a righting of my miraculously intact body and it was in the books – a personal best by about a half-mile, here, on the course I knew I couldn’t run, on a day when I couldn’t, for once, run the whole way. I had covered the last mile in about 5:48, a yeoman effort lost in the shazam of Ndereba’s five-flat, a time I would bet fewer than a half-dozen men bettered.

Come on baby tell me
Yes we aim to please

105th Boston Marathon — 4/16/2001

http://www.last.fm/music/Lo+Fidelity+Allstars/+videos/+1-ZuwWvPGul3o

Also, you’ll want to change the link for Bob Hodge to http://www.bunnhill.com/BobHodge.

Got a revolution behind my eyes
We got to get up and organize
Got a revolution behind my eyes
We got to get up and organize

My experience at the 2001 Boston Athletic Association Marathon cannot, in fact, be aptly summed up

by the lyrics of the Lo-Fidelity All-Stars club anthem “Battle Flag,” but since I like the song I

will impose its besmirched couplets upon my race nonetheless.

My race began, of course, months, not weeks or days or hours or minutes, before high noon in

Hopkinton, Mass., a nondescript if pleasant enough burg annually transformed into a freak show by

the descent of fifteen thousand curious souls — aspirants with dreams too offbeat to fill their

leisure time with the mundane corruptions of workaday society. But for purposes of this account,

the story’s obligatory beginning is at the unfurling of my rendition of that dream — as I

wandered blandly out of the Korean Church of Hopkinton, the temporary operating base of the

two-hundred-plus seeded runners, slapping a modicum of restraint on the pulses of adrenalin that

needed to be harnessed until a more opportune moment than this instant of contrived hype.

I said hallelujah to the sixteen loyal fans
You’ll get down on your muthafuckin’ knees
And it’s time for your sickness again

Under the direction of race marshals (who, much to my satisfaction, made sure I was wearing a

seeded number beneath my BRADY/POSITIVE POWER T-shirt) I followed teammate Dan Verrington to the

front of the first corral, the noisome belly of which I had narrowly eluded thanks to a 2:26:52

qualifying time in my last marathon in October 1999. The day was sunny and the easterly breezes

ripe for bipedal showmanship. I remarked unaffectedly that I felt like an impostor among the

Tanuis and Aberas and Nderebas and DeHavens traipsing along nearby. Dan, a 2:21 marathoner, gave

amused assent. The thought was devoid of timidity; a half-accomplished runner knows his position

far better than the wags who would lump him in the “elite” category for the sake of convenience,

ignorance, and hyperbole. As if on cue, a public address speaker announced that every one of the

runners streaming onto Route 135 between untold numbers of raucous observers and press corps

members was capable of covering 26 point 2 miles at under five-minute pace. I smiled. The day was

in order.

Given my position I was able to warm up in front of the starting line, and with a hundred

introspectively light-footed others I ambled to and fro a few times more for the sake of nervous

dissolution than to prime myself physically for the impending task. The trick here was not to

undermine my chance of success in the first downhill miles. It is not an easy trick. The ghosts of

a score of legends, realizing their mistakes too late even with the foreknowledge of what might

happen on this unique stretch of asphalt, pepper the landscape between Wellesley and Boston, where

luxurious debts are repaid to the fullest misery of the starry-eyed borrower.

Twin F-14 fighter jets soared by overhead toward the east, two minutes ahead of schedule.

I manipulate to recreate
This air to ground saga
Gotta launder my karma

We got two more minutes and
We gonna cut to what you need

Finally, as the final seconds were counted down, it was just like any other race. We were stuffed

onto a very ordinary two-lane road, sweaty and anxious to escape the jitters and body odor. I can

only imagine what the people crammed into the corrals must have felt.

The officials lowered and removed the rope stretched across the street. A simple pistol shot (or

was it a cannon?) launched the 105th crazy parade toward the appallingly disorganized

infrastructure of the most provincial city in America.

Hey Mr. Policeman
Is it time for getting away
Is it time for driving down the muthafuckin’ road
And running from your ass today

My plan was to run the first half of the race evenly, meaning I would run the first four or five

miles with restraint and effectively pick up the pace as I traveled over the flats. (Actually, my

plan was to run the whole damn thing evenly, but even I wasn’t buying that one.) Of course, I

wouldn’t really know until I got to the flats whether I’d in fact held back before reaching them,

would I? Oh, the cognitive gymnastics. I eased into what felt like something between mile and 50K

race pace and listened to the fans yammering away behind the guardrails on either side.

Shortly I was joined by Eric Beauchesne, a Massachusetts runner who, until the Eastern States 20,

had probably beaten me about a thousand times in a row. He had started somewhere in the first

corral. “It’s a clusterfuck back there,” he announced. I didn’t doubt it. Meanwhile, a huge lead

pack was forming up ahead. I was guessing the leaders were running “slowly,” but still felt that

giving them any less than a half-minute in the first mile was probably imprudent. My time (note

that in this account I am giving split times from my watch, an eight-second cushion on my official

time) at the mile was 5:26, which told me nothing, really. Shortly thereafter I edged past the

women’s leaders — a surprising development. (Later, at around seven miles, Beauchesne would

remark, “I’m surprised the women went out so slow.” I replied by telling him I’d remind him of

that comment when said women went zooming by somewhere within sight of skyscrapers.)

The next several miles were a continuation of an experiment — did I really feel good enough to

hold on to this pace for two and a half hours?

Passing through splits of 10:52, 16:17 (16:51 at 5K — this was incorrectly reported on the BAA

Web site), 21:39, 27:11, 32:40 (33:48 at 10K) and 38:05, I had no conscious bouts of either

self-doubt or extravagance that I can recall. I was moving along as I had trained myself to do,

which I suppose was the point.

Just beyond eight miles (43:30), I left a small group of runners, including Beauchesne, behind.

The bodies ahead were already scattered into groups of three or two or one, and I was sure I would

be largely if not entirely alone the rest of the way.

That was okay. Contrary to common belief, solitude can be a marathon racer’s ally so long as the

occasional passing of a comrade-in-legs occurs, subserving the need for confidence-boosting.

I took a bottle of fluid from Bob Hodge, 3rd-place finisher in this race in 1979 and my gracious

host for the weekend, just beyond nine miles (48:56) and noticed for the first time how warm it

seemed to be getting. I felt fresh, no worse for the wear than I would be on a long training run.

Concentration is a funny thing; ask me to run nine miles cold at faster than 5:30 pace on some

stretch of road somewhere and I doubt I could do it without extremes of effort.

As I passed ten miles (54:27), I realized I was flirting with the Olympic Trials “B” standard

pace; this meant nothing here, in April 2001, and even less in the face of the 16 miles remaining.

But every benchmark helps and I was on a roll. I covered the next two miles in 5:19 and 5:18, my

fastest two of the day. Passing Wellesley College — where the noise was so fearsome I edged

grimly toward the center of the road but broke into a reluctant smile in spite of myself — I

urged myself to ease up, one of running’s peculiar oxymoronic demands, and reached thirteen miles

in 1:10:30 and halfway in 1:11:06. Another benchmark. Verrington, who had been at least 200 meters

ahead, was slowly coming back. It was almost time to begin playing mental games: “How much can I

slow down and still run…” but I managed to keep most of these idiotic mental maneuvers at bay.

It was here that I realized the low-grade gnawing need to unload biological ballast from at least

two orifices was not subsiding, as I had assumed it would with the persistent effort. Perhaps my

display back in the church basement, where I’d served as the equivalent of the town drunk by

bellying up to the coffee bar far more often that my fellows, was leading me down a crueler path

than this habit of mine had managed to do in the past. Other than this distraction, I was feeling

fine, and continued to reel in runners I didn’t recognize. At first these runners had worn bibs

with three and four digits, but a few of the guys I was now catching wore bibs with only two.

Benchmarks.

I passed fourteen miles in 1:15:55 and fifteen in 1:21:2X (I rely on memory for splits and here is

where mine begins to fail), and noticed as I began the long descent toward Newton how subjectively

different this race was from the 1996 version, my only prior bout with this particular fool’s

errand. Not only was I running half a minute per mile slower, but the nuances of the course — in

this case the downhill that had begun the rapid unraveling of my quest for a sub-2:30 in the 100th

Boston — seemed kinder. That sort of thing is always as important as the numbers on the clock

with each passing mile. When I reached the bottom of that hill still feeling fresh (sixteen miles:

1:26:48), I was confident this was going to be a fine day. I passed Dan somewhere on that hill and

set my sights on the next singlet. The heat seemed to have cast itself aside.

My seventeen-mile split was in the 1:32-twenties. I would be climbing for the next four miles, and

my general distaste for downgrades notwithstanding, I could still find myself in trouble in short

order. But the rumbling in my guts was becoming a truly unmanageable problem. I reluctantly began

scanning the sidelines for portable toilets. When I finally found one (having never looked for

them in a race, I was surprised and distraught at how few of them were actually available in such

a large race), I startled the people nominally gathered around it by veering toward then with a

cry of “anyone in there?” “Yes,” a woman told me (guiltily — not that it helped) and with a cry

of “FUCK!” I skedaddled back onto the road. Strike one.

Eighteen miles passed in just under 1:37:5X. My mental mathematician, aroused briefly from her

slumber and divorced from the equally busy gastrointestinal disaster-management engineers below,

busily informed me I still had over a one-minute cushion on 5:30 pace. That translated into a

sub-2:23:00. If…so many ifs.

I trundled by 30K in 1:41:25 and was told by an official I was in 39th place. I knew that if I

simply held form and passed only a few runners, I would likely move into the top 30 through

Boston’s unique disbursement of attrition. My legs were still quite willing, the mind equally so.

Nineteen in 1:43-thirtyish. I guessed that three of the supposed four hills encompassed by the

Heartbreak stretch were behind me. I was noticing lots of cries of “Alright Kevin!” and “Go New

Hampshire!” but was clueless as to their sources. I made yet another foiled attempt at a

port-a-john entrance. Strike two. Not yet truly desperate (yet obviously desperate enough to do

the unthinkable and stop in a race), I graced everyone nearby with another cry of “FUCK!” and

sullied on.

Twenty miles went by in under 1:49:00. That benchmark was very real – it meant I was somehow

clinging to 5:30′s even in this revered stretch, known, if perhaps hyperbolically, for dismantling

the races of legends. I then began climbing Heartbreak Hill proper. Six tenths of a mile of

altitude gain which, compared to the roads I had carved my life’s initials on all winter, was a

piddling hump. As I threw myself up the hill, passing a Brazilian masters runner, a South African

runner and New Jersey’s own Joseph Aloysius McVeigh (a former top American at this race and one of

its biggest proponents), I smiled inwardly at my dismissal of Heartbreak Hill. A little

well-placed arrogance, properly applied, can never hurt.

Come on and tell me what you need
Tell me what is making you bleed

At twenty-one miles (about 1:54:30), CMS team manager Gary Bridgman appeared, bearing, as

promised, a drink similar to the one Bob had supplied. I waved him off and gave him the thumbs-up

at the same time. I had been taking Gatorade at most of the aid stations and, feeling as strong as

I did, felt no need to torment my innards with any further sugary insults. I started the long

descent into the belly of Boston.

35K in 1:58:40. The crowds grew thicker and more flamboyant; the personally directed shouts from

the sidewalks flew toward me as before. Twenty-two miles in a shade over two hours even and I had

reached Cleveland Circle. Whether by playful fate or playful coincidence, I knew as I spotted the

lone portable toilet to my right as I rounded the turn onto Beacon Street that I could no longer

defer relieving myself, and that I would be forced to do so with several hundred people more or

less watching. As I shot into the port-a-john, I swear the cheers doubled in volume. Great.

I won’t delve into the unnecessary details of my communion with the port-a-john, but I believe I

was in and out in about forty-five seconds. I recall no toilet paper, but had there been any, I

would have flown out of that foul little edifice trailing it behind me in place of the Superman

cape the gathered throng (whose cheers had now surely trebled in volume) evidently expected me to

have donned.

Your construction
Smells of corruption

I plunged back into the linear ring of combat. My legs seemed no worse for the wear, and I was

eager to leave this particular group of onlookers in my odiferous wake. As a result, I fairly flew

by McVeigh and the South African again (if they were confused by my apparent lapping of them, they

didn’t show it) and, given that I reached twenty-three miles in close to 2:06 flat, actually

covered the twenty-third mile at close to 5:15 pace. This may have been my biggest mistake of the

race, but it didn’t wind up costing me that much. I knew a sub-2:23 was clearly out of the

question now, but a sub-2:24 was not.

Twenty-four miles in 2:11:30-ish. Another 5:30-ish split. I was feeling nicks and quivers in my

stride now, but nothing tragic. I focused on the long lane in front of me, an unbending stretch of

asphalt that would be my proving ground for the next ten-plus minutes and forever all at once. I

now rallied behind the humming, belching noise of the most scholarly and enthusiastic marathon

crowd anywhere, white noise I had fought to ignore until this, the proper time. Gamely, I edged by

another runner, a Japanese. He wore bib number 6. Benchmarks.

So one of six so tell me
One do you want to live
And one of seven tell me
Is it time for your muthafuckin’ ass to give

The “pain” of a marathon, to a well-trained and focused athlete, is not unbearable by any means.

Those who speak of The Wall in hushed tones and with overstated reverence have either never

trained properly or have executed a marathon race foolishly, their well-intentioned ambitions

toppling them beyond the crest of their physical and emotional means. No, it is not the pain of

non-responsive limbs that plunges marathoners over the brink into a purgatory of utter

helplessness that can only end with a shambling, hacking wobble across the finish line or to the

sidelines; it is the frustration, the apocalyptic frustration of a racer’s cardinal sin: Slowing

down when the mind says go, go, we MUST cover this mile in five thirty and change…

And just like that, at twenty-four and a half miles, the realization was complete. There would be

no more surges or bright-eyed gambits or pleasant surprises. I was hanging on, fighting to keep

the house of sub-5:30 cards I had assembled over the past two hours from being blown all over the

city of Boston. For the next ten minutes – and hopefully no more than that – my life effectively

depended on it. I had a mile and a half left to run – to race.

I’m blown to the maxim
Two hemispheres battlin’
I’m blown to the maxim
Two hemispheres battlin’
Suckin’ up, one last breath
Take a drag off of death

40K in 2:16:21. That meant nothing too me. Still, I noticed the big Citgo sign near Fenway Park

and the small teaser of a hill at Kenmore Square, right at twenty-five miles (about 2:17:12). I

had no memory of these things in 1996. At least my brain was still functioning. Functioning and

skittish; a quartet of motorcycles zipped by me with just under a mile to go, causing me to flip

my head to one side far faster than I could have moved my legs. The policeman astride one of them

grinned and said something. I glanced around. Sure enough, I wasn’t entitled to my own personal

motorcade: Catherine Ndereba was coming, coming strong, and was about to roll me like a wet log. A

mental comedian took center stage and joked that in my first national television appearance, I

might well be splattered with the sort of unsavory matter one learns to dispose of properly by the

age of three. But it didn’t last long; Ndereba was gone as quickly as she appeared and I was alone

again.

Fighting to maintain the one pace I was now seemingly capable of running, whatever it was, I

dragged myself up the street. I decided swinging my arms really, really hard was a good idea,

because any good coach knows the legs have to follow. Or something.

A minute passed; two. The vehicles ahead darted to the right. There, I saw a blessed, blessed

sign:

HEREFORD STREET

and as the South African drew alongside, another, this one on the left:

BOYLSTON STREET

I could see the finish line.

Now tell me if do you agree
Or tell me if I’m makin’ you bleed
I got a few more minutes and
I’m gonna cut to what you need

It wasn’t as close as I thought.

Is it time for your muthafuckin’ ass to give
Tell me is it time to get down on your muthafuckin’ knees
Tell me is it time to get down…

But two hours, twenty-four minutes and seventeen seconds after some forgotten point in time, it

came. It came with a little lurch and a righting of my miraculously intact body and it was in the

books – a personal best by about a half-mile, here, on the course I knew I couldn’t run, on a day

when I couldn’t, for once, run the whole way. I had covered the last mile in about 5:48, a yeoman

effort lost in the shazam of Ndereba’s five-flat, a time I would bet fewer than a half-dozen men

bettered.

Come on baby tell me
Yes we aim to please

Good

My coach, Kevin Beck, has an uncanny ability to assign the appropriate paces for workouts and predict race times based on current fitness. I am not the only runner who works with him who has noticed this talent. He’s usually within a second or two per mile. There have been a few times when I’ve not been able to hit a pace assigned, primarily when I first started working with him a little over a year ago, and then a bit later when I had an issue with overtraining, iron deficiency or both. And, obviously, when conditions have made hitting a reasonable time impossible. But, in absence of those factors, he is usually spot on.

This week I’ve done both my hard workouts (and most of my other runs) along my new 4.8 mile route in Scarsdale. On Tuesday I did a 14 mile run with the last 5 at tempo pace. Goal pace was 7:15. But it was very windy for 3 of the 5 miles. I came out with 7:18 avg. I was happy with this, considering the day.

This morning I headed back up there to do speedwork. The wind was up again today. I adjusted my expectations and effort accordingly, but nevertheless used the tailwind to compensate for the headwind when I could. Goal: two 1.5 miles repeats at 10:20 each. Average pace I got: 10:20.

It’s been a major pain to run in the streets. And this winter has felt endless — with the exception of a few balmy days in the 40s, bone chilling temperatures have been the norm since Christmas. I’ve lost track of how many times it’s snowed. But I’ve adjusted. I miss doing the faster work on the track. A session with 400m repeats (one of my faves) has been on perpetual hold until the track clears.

But I do have a point: Running these workouts in the street, where I’m dealing with hills and rutted pavement and garbage trucks and all manner of other obstacles, has actually been good for me. Unlike last year, I find that I’m no longer obsessing over every problem, be it wind or cold or rain or snow or hills. You can’t control this stuff. I go into these runs just figuring I’ll do the best I can under the circumstances. I’ve carried the same attitude into my races. The less I care about paces, it seems, the better I run.

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