Jumping on the ABC meme

But only because I’ve invested 45 minutes in watching The Girl Who Played With Fire and am bored out of my skull, yet not quite ready to go to bed. Hokay.

Age: 45, turning 46 next month. Oh my fucking god. How did I get here already?

Bed size: King, baby. We’re not big people, but we do like our space. Also, I tend to punch, kick and claw in my sleep.

Chore you hate the most: Cleaning the litter box.

Dogs: Grew up with them and loved them. But not ready for the responsibility or the strange, constant “ham smell.” You know what I’m talking about.

Essential start to your day: P.G. Tips tea, Frosted Mini Wheats and WeatherBug.

Favorite color: What are you, five? No. There are too many mindblowingly great colors out there to commit to just one.

Gold or silver: I will accept either one gladly.

Height: 5′ 5.5″

Instruments you play: If we use the term “play” loosely, then I will claim guitar and banjo. I have always wanted to play the drums. I will probably eventually buy an electric bass to supplement my bad electric guitar playing.

Job title: Freelance writer, content strategist, “journalist”

Kids: Let’s just say I’m glad my sister popped out a few so the pressure was off.

Live: I don’t understand this one.

Mom’s name: Sharon.

Nicknames: Real: Jules, Juliekins, Juki, Threlly. Fake: Cupcakes, Wowzy, The Brick

Overnight hospital stays: Adenoid removal at an early age; five years ago when one side of my face mysteriously exploded into full on Ted Kennedyosity.

Pet peeve: Drivers who do not use their turn signals. I experience several episodes of rage per week due to this problem. Also, telemarketers with autodialers who greet you with, “Hello? Hello?” Sometimes I like to fuck with them by saying, “Hello? Dad? Is that you?”

Quote from a movie: “This dress exacerbates the genetic betrayal that is my legacy.”

Righty or lefty: Righty, except when I eat.

Siblings: One. Sister. Older. She used to subject me to ritual humiliation. I used to beat the daylights out of her. I could also give her piggyback rides when I was in kindergarten and she was in the third grade. We get along really well now.

Time you wake up: Whenever the Zolpidem Tartrate wears off.

Underwear: Recommended.

Vegetables you dislike: Okra. An abomination. It’s like snot encased in frog skin.

What makes you run late: I get in the car. I’ve forgotten my glasses. I go inside. I’ve forgotten where I left my glasses. Half the time they’re in the car.

X-Rays: Lots. Mostly for dental work.

Yummy food that you make: Everything I make is yummy.

Zoo animal favorite: The last time I went to a zoo was during a visit to an awful “animal park” called “Paws and Claws” in Florida in 1988. I ran out through the gift shop, with tears streaming down my face, as a result of seeing the sorry state of the animals in that place. I don’t go to zoos anymore.

Training: Feb 27-Mar 5

Here ya go.

I was really keyed up after the previous week’s long run in Central Park. I ran what was supposed to be a 5 mile recovery run way too hard, in wind and on hills, around my local streets in the Crestwood neighborhood. My adductor started hurting, so I cut it short and took the next day off.

Determined to stay off the treadmill,  on Tuesday I headed up to Scarsdale for what was supposed to be a progression run with 2 fast miles at the end. But I was really beat, plus it was incredibly windy again. So I made do with a run at decent effort, dropping the faster stuff. I knew I had a speed session and a race coming up, so there was no point in pushing things.

Wednesday featured a horrible track workout. That was unhelpful.

I spent the next few days focusing on getting mentally ready to race a 5K, since my body was not doing its fair share. One of the Harriers’ coaches sent round a “Racing Coogan’s for Dummies” document and I studied up. Then I did some race visualization. I know it sounds hokey, but I’ll try anything at this point.

That race went pretty well, although I was a minute off my PR. But I was not expecting miracles. Nor did I get them.

And there you have it. I ran a measly 31 miles, but given my performance on Sunday, that is okay. I’m becoming convinced that less is more when it comes to pre-race mileage, provided you keep the quality up.

This week I’m back up to 50 mpw, with the staples: progression, speed, long. With the exception of one fartlek session featuring Billat surges, all of my speedier stuff between now and April 10th’s Scotland 10K race is track torture. While it’s not 10K training per se, the variety of shorter track stuff mixed with progression work over hills is bound to help when I line up for that race five weeks from now. Or at least I hope so.

Race Report: Coogan’s 5K

I still hate 5Ks. But I hate them a little less after this race. Maybe the Gridiron 4 Miler a month ago helped to prepare me for this. Or maybe it’s the fact that I still have no real race endurance (meaning I know that trying to race, say, a 15K would be infinitely more painful and embarrassing than any 5K at this point). But this was okay.

Fun stuff: This was my first race wearing a New York Harriers shirt. There were unexpected benefits. Well, at least one, which was getting acknowledgments (running the gamut from staid nods to frenetic thumbs up) from fellow Harriers. It also meant I could tap a fellow Harrier (as I did today) and say, “Good luck!” without the action being confusing.

Also, I started the race a few feet away from Gary Muhrcke, known by marathon history nerds as the winner of the inaugural New York City Marathon, and by watchers of the YES! Network as the enthusiastic man on the commercials for Super Runners Shop, which Muhrcke founded.

Minor annoyances: NYRR was not enforcing its corral system today. I started the race surrounded by people in bibs with numbers 5,000 and above. They should have been two or three corrals back. I spent the first third of a mile fighting my way through slower runners. Boo. Also, they started the race three minutes early. Bizarre. Finally, the finish line was not marked with a banner. So what I thought was the finish mat was actually the final start mat. I hit Stop and started jogging after hitting it. Later, my results would reflect this: I lost about 6 seconds due to not knowing where the finish actually was. Grr.

The deets: Allowing for the initial crowding problem (and my theory that the course is slightly harder than the 4 miler course in Central Park), I think I’ve improved slightly since last month. I was careful not to kill myself in the first mile, and I was good about motoring on the downhills, as I passed a lot of people.

The big hill from 1.9-2.6 was not that terrible. Once I crested it, I recovered pretty quickly and was able to roll pretty well through the last half mile. Although that was a treacherous stretch, as it was Pothole City, especially under the bridge. Although I am told by Amy, who calls Washington Heights home, that they did a lot of work to fill those holes before the race, so I should be grateful.

I have no memory whatsoever of the bands or the actual scenery on the course.

Also, it was raining steadily and there were numerous puddles. My favorite racing shoes — the Asics Hyperspeeds — are equipped with drainage holes in the bottom. These are great when it’s pouring rain because it’s like wearing colanders on your feet — the water drains right out. On a day like today it just means your socks get wet during the warmup. But it’s a 5K. It’s not a marathon. Wet feet: not an issue.

The stats: 22:13 (to my watch’s 22:06, dammit), 11th in my AG, 2nd F40+ Harrier. Yay.

The whole point: I know why you join a club now. For the post-race drinks! Think about it. Go drinking at 11AM alone and you’re a sad lush. Go drinking with other people at 11AM and you’re being sociable and festive. I met up with around 30 of my black-clad teammates at Amsterdam Ale House (they wisely avoided the clusterfuck at Coogan’s; I knew there was a reason I joined this club) for Newcastle and chitchat. Urp.

Getting ready to hurt real bad

Tomorrow is my first 5K race in nearly a year. That last one in April was difficult physically (bad wind in mile 2) and mentally (because I gave up; see “bad wind in mile 2″). I had wanted to break 21:00 that day but it was not to be. It’s an important milestone that I’d like to pass, but I don’t know that it will happen this year, not because I don’t think I can get fast enough but because I think tomorrow’s race will probably be one of two or three 5K races I do this year. So I will lack opportunity.

Tomorrow’s race is hilly. We may get wind. We probably will get rain. I can’t figure out whether to wear tights or shorts, since we’ll be right on the edge in terms of temperatures. If I stand around in the cold in shorts for too long then my legs will stiffen up. But if I wear tights and it’s warm, I’ll get overheated. Decisions, decisions.

The Coogan's 5K course: "Ugh. Whee! Ugh. Whee!"

I did a track workout on Wednesday that was a total disaster. First we got kicked off the Bronxville HS track, so I was pissy and freaked out. We drove over to the track at Roosevelt HS (Yonkers), which was empty. The wind was a steady 25 mph with gusts at 40+ mph. First track workout since the summer. I had no idea how hard to run anyway, but I was constantly getting…er…winded from the stupid wind. It was like a rude bar bouncer (not that I’d know), pushing me, pushing me, back in the wrong direction. It was getting dark. My hands were about to freeze off. I emerged from that 45 minute experience more of a pre-race head case than usual.

Today I did a 4 miler, again into ridiculous wind, with five strides. I did a few short ones (10 seconds) and a few longer ones (20 seconds). While doing those I thought, “How the hell am I going to run fast tomorrow?” My legs didn’t feel up to running fast until I was on the last one. Then I felt some measure of confidence. Roll. Rest. Relax. It’s just a stupid race.

Since I don’t train for or race many “short” races, it’s always a mystery, how to set the effort. I am very good at dialing into the right effort for a 5M – 13.1M race. (Don’t ask about marathons. That’s a nut I’ve only cracked once.) With the shorter stuff…I guess I just need to be extremely uncomfortable, verging on unacceptably so, after the first two minutes or so. That’s the right effort, usually. Since tomorrow’s race will be crowded, it may take a little longer than two minutes to reach the desired level of awfulness.

I have one word in my head in a short race: “Push! Push! Push!” It’s a relentless mental whip. Running that hard hurts, but it’s over with quickly, which makes it bearable. That’s the theory. Yet, still, 20+ minutes is a long time to be screaming at yourself and willing your legs and arms to keep pumping even though it feels like someone’s beating them with hammers.

I tend to lag mentally (and the body follows) at somewhere in the beginning of that third mile. I am determined to not do that tomorrow.

It’s a downhill finish. Those are fun. If you don’t die before you get there.

Google search oddities

Today’s highlight:

“cockatoo tail amputation”

I actually can’t think of anything clever to say about this one.

Running dreams? I got running dreams.

Early on Monday morning, around 3:30 am, I awoke with my heart thudding out of my chest. I’d been having a nightmare. I have nightmares rarely — maybe two times a year — so I know I’m particularly anxious about something when I do. In this case, I was out on a run, but it was at night. I was running through a nearly-empty parking lot when I spied, emerging from the bushes, a huge bear. It was lumbering right toward me. I hid behind a small car, peeping through the windows, only to see the bear coming closer and closer. As I was debating whether or not to try crawling underneath the car, the bear started coming around to my side of the car. [cue me waking up screaming]

Trust me. You do not want to have this particular dream.

While I’m not totally sure what that was about (I have so many sources of anxiety in my life at the moment!), I suspect it had to do with my long-delayed followup with an endodontist scheduled for later that day to discuss a suspicious issue with one of my lower teeth. I won’t bore you with the details, but it turns out that I have extra roots in my lower teeth, which can look like massive disease on an x-ray. She thinks it’s nothing and sent me on my merry way. I think she knew I was pissed off last time I saw her because she didn’t even charge me.

So, while sometimes the bear eats you, sometimes you eat the bear.

This morning I had another bad dream, but it hardly qualified as a nightmare. Nightmares are not usually funny. In this one I was competing in a huge outdoor track meet. The stadium was full and I was arriving with my team for the opening ceremony. One of my teammates was freaking out because she’d forgotten her inhaler. It was Shannon Rowbury. My first thought wasn’t, “What the fuck am I doing in a meet with Shannon Rowbury?” (which it should have been), but instead, “Shannon didn’t tell me she had asthma. I wonder why.” That was followed by, “I guess if I’m here then I must be pretty fast.”

I was wearing lemon-yellow sweat pants. Not snazzy track pants even. No, they were the awful, thick kind that you’d pick up at Wal-Mart to prepare for an eating binge, an extended bout with the flu, or to be vomited on by a baby. Or all three.

Yanking them down, I discovered that I’d neglected to put on my shorts. [cue crowd going wild]

The long journey of a cyclist with no hands

Why am I writing about a cyclist? Because this post is as much an appeal for help from New York’s athletic community as it is a fascinating human interest story.

Damian Lopez-Alfonso, 34, is a Cuban athlete with considerable athletic achievements — ones that are made all the more impressive by the fact that he has excelled despite competing with major disabilities. Details about him appear in the links below, but here’s his story in a nutshell: At the age of 13, while trying to retrieve a kite stuck to a streetpost, Damian hit a power line and sustained a range of catastrophic injuries as a result of electrocution: facial disfigurement, blindness in one eye, severe burns, and the loss of his arms below the elbow, among others.

Damian is self-sufficient and has adapted to his disabilities, but he nevertheless wants to benefit from whatever reconstructive surgery and prosthetics are available. A group of organizations — including the U.S. Cycling Federation, Achilles International and NYU’s Reconstructive Plastic Surgery unit — are working together to facilitate a better quality of life for Damian.

Here’s what this post is about: Damian needs hosts while he’s in New York for his surgeries at NYU. He will be arriving sometime in mid-March and has his first round of surgeries scheduled for April 3. Then he’ll be recovering at NYU and preparing for the next round on May 5. So hosts are needed from around March 15th through April 2nd or so, then again from the end of April through the end of May.

Achilles is funding his food, transportation and other costs so that he will not be a financial burden to his hosts. Since he doesn’t speak English, Spanish-speaking hosts would be ideal. Someplace within reasonably easy commuting distance to NYU would be desirable, I’d think, but I don’t know that it’s essential.

If you’d like to open your home to this inspiring athlete for a few days or weeks, please contact Tracy Lea for more details: tlea@tracylea.net

If you’re not able to host but you’d still like to contribute financially to this effort, then you can PayPal to: teamdamian2011@gmail.com

This guy’s pretty interesting. Read more about him:

Download a complete bio (PDF)
Cyclists Helping One of Their Own
A Tale of Ultimate Survival and Human Kindness
Cyclists Rally Around a Competitor
Armless Cyclist to Get Reconstructive Surgery in NYC

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