A bevy of updates

It’s official. I am now as addicted to Twitter as I am to Facebook. This is not good. At least I can automatically send tweets to Facebook, so that saves a little time.

I have not been a heavy Twitter user until now, primarily just exploiting it as a mechanism for automatically alerting any followers to new blog posts. But in the last week or so that I’ve gotten more active, I’ve picked up more followers and a lot more blog traffic, primarily as a result of the Davila race analysis post. For anyone who’s interested, I also started a Twitter list of New York Harriers. Plus it’s another outlet for posting useless funny shit. Like I need that. But it’s something to do during commercials since I never seem to have posession of the Tivo controls. Funny, that.

The Davila post has gotten around 1,000 hits so far and momentum is picking up. I have sent a note to my media contact at NYRR to see if she’ll be running the Mini 10K. I am afraid that, based on some post-race interviews, the answer to that will be “no.” But if it’s yes, then I will plan to interview her about the Boston race. I’ll probably keep the Mini interviews to just two or three people. It’s a lot of work to prepare for them and I think I can do a better job if I focus on just a few runners rather than trying to interview, say, five to seven of them. It’s always a crapshoot, guessing who will be most interesting and forthcoming. But I’ve gotten pretty lucky so far.

I had a fantastic workout on Tuesday morning. Between uncooperative weather, hitting hormonal low points and a fucked up back, I’ve had to rearrange my training a fair amount this week. I had three workouts scheduled for this week: a garden variety 14 mile long run, a session of 1K repeats on the track, and a 10 mile progression run (last mile at HM effort).

Since I knew I had to drop one of them, I opted to dump the track work. Doing 1K repeats will not help me in a half marathon in 11 days as much as doing a 14 miler will, especially if it’s a hard one. So I made the long run a long progression run, running low 9:00s for the first half and 8:30 down to 7:30 for the second half. I am guessing I’ll be running 7:30s next Sunday if I’m lucky. It was hard work, but it was the right effort. Most of all, it was a big confidence booster. I had doubted my ability to run 14 miles at all, so shaky has my endurance seemed lately. Now I know I can easily cover 13.1, and I’m pretty sure I can run hard for that distance if properly rested.

As for the 10 mile progression run still scheduled…well, actually, I have two of them scheduled. One was for today and the other (10 miles with the last 3 at HM effort) is scheduled for Sunday. I am still fatigued today, so I think what I am going to do is drop today’s 10 miler and just run easy, then do the 10 w/3 fast on tomorrow or Saturday and move the final speed session up a day to Tuesday, after which I can get a massage that afternoon. That will give me four days of easy running and rest before the half.

In other news, I decided not to register us for New York. Chances are good that I wouldn’t have gotten in, and, honestly, one reason I’m skipping Chicago is that I can’t deal with megarace crowds. So I’m now 95% certain we’ll be running Syracuse in mid-October. Assuming I start training after the Mini 10K, that gives me 18 weeks to prepare.

Lykkelig løyper, Grete Waitz

[That's "happy trails" in Norwegian, at least according to Google Translate]

What can you say about Grete Waitz? She was not only an inspiring talent, but she was one of running’s greatest ambassadors. There is a huge hole left in the world of running today.

I will keep the bloviations to a minimum. That’ll be easy because I never met Grete. I saw her at the expo for my first marathon, the More Magazine Marathon, 2007 edition. She was standing there with Lynn Jennings, greeting people. I was such a newbie to the sport that I had no idea who Lynn Jennings was. But I knew who Grete was. But I was too shy and awestruck to go over and say hello! Now I kick myself for that. The next time I saw her was in 2008, when she flew by me in the back of the press truck at mile 20 of the New York Marathon, where I was watching from the curb. When I started interviewing elites last year I vowed to try to meet her at the next Norwegian Festival, but I was away during the weekend of those races in October. And so that was that.

Here are some highlights from around the web. Also, I can recommend the movie Run for Your Life, a documentary about Fred Lebow, in which Waitz has a large presence.

Fellow New York Harrier (and fellow runner of Norwegian descent, although his name’s a lot easier to deal with than mine is) Douglas Hegley’s post is worth a read. He had a few chance meetings with Waitz that tell you everything you need to know about the woman. This is the most personal blog post I’ve found about Waitz thus far. But Amy’s is a good runner up, and contains links to other great stories.

Amby Burfoot of Runner’s World has this lovely tribute.

Here’s the IAAF’s remembrance of Ms. Waitz, who, it should be noted, still holds the Norwegian record for the 1500.

Waitz was ambitious and driven, yet humble and generous. Everything a champion should be.

The invisible woman: Desiree Davila’s perfect run in Boston

For once, I called something correctly in a marathon. While I didn’t predict that Desiree Davila would come in second, I did say to Jonathan, right before the gun went off for the women’s race, “I think Davila is going to wipe the floor with Goucher today.”

I will not go into why I thought this, although I think some of it has to do with the way Goucher races marathons, and by that I mean in a way that reflects a narrative that she seems to have internalized, but a narrative that reflects a racing strategy that does not favor beating Africans. Davila, by contrast, was still relatively under the radar going into Boston (despite having run the fourth fastest marathon for an American woman recently) — and, of course, that’s all changed now. But she has not had dramatic expectations foisted upon her. Yet. Let’s hope that now that she’s effectively secured her spot as the top American female marathoner that she keeps her head. Because her head is what got her second place today in a race that I don’t think she could have executed more flawlessly.

So, let’s look at that race (my mile markers are approximate, since there was no mention of them in coverage). In a marathon weekend that saw spectacular performances in both London and Boston, Davila’s run is the one that I cannot stop thinking about. We can learn a lot from it.

Note: Runners’ pre-Boston personal bests are shown in parentheses after the first mention of their names. This should give you a better idea of the calibre of the women Davila was up against in this race.

At the start: Davila (2:26:20) is not even in the front row. Where is she? Hmm.

Mile 1: So much of the women’s race was about Kim Smith (2:25:21). Smith shot out to the front within the first 30 seconds. She was like a woman on fire. I thought she had a shot at winning today anyway, but with this move I believed it even more. So immediately it’s Smith followed by a huge pack. Davila is in the front of that pack, which I will refer to as “the pack.” I notice Davila is being careful to hit the tangents. “Smart girl,” I think to myself. It’s the little things.

Mile 2: Davila is still motoring away in front of the pack, or at least in the first two rows. After Smith, the commentary is still all about Kara Goucher (2:25:53) at this point, as it will be for the next 19 miles.

Mile 3: Smith’s lead is now about 30 seconds. You can’t even see the pack.

Mile 4: Lost to ads and coverage of the wheelchair races.

Mile 5: Now Goucher’s in front of Davila. The pack has now split into two packs. You can just make out Davila hovering between them, just ahead of the trailing, second pack. The first pack is taking off in pursuit of Smith. Davila stays cool, checking her watch. She is running her own race for the time being. I am getting excited, mostly because she looks so relaxed and unflustered.

Mile 6: Again, we miss most of this mile.

Mile 7: Smith’s lead has opened up to about 40 seconds now. She looks strong. Now Davila is positioned midway through packs one and two. She’s slowly working her way up to the lead pack. She casually sips water. She looks like she’s jogging. I am getting more excited.

Mile 8: Now the pack behind Smith consists of [I think] a Japanese runner, Goucher and a large collection of Africans. But who’s that woman who’s just about caught up? It’s Davila. She’s still hitting those tangents.

Mile 9/10: Smith’s lead is now huge. You can’t even seen the pack behind her as she runs along the long straightaway in Natick. She’s on 2:21:20 pace. Incredible. Leaves are blowing up the road in the same direction as the runners. It’s a strong tailwind.

Approaching the halfway point: Smith’s lead is shrinking. It’s 38 seconds. While Larry Rawson has spiralled off into a floridly incomprehensible soliloquy on the history of the marathon ["Just give me water for my village!"], he and Al Trautwig have managed to totally miss the fact that Smith has hit the halfway point in a shorts-shitting 1:10:52. Had they noticed this, they also would have noticed Smith’s pace dropping off. I think this is where she started to have problems, because she doesn’t look quite right.

Mile 14: Smith is valiantly fighting off whatever ails her, because her lead is up to a minute now. The camera cuts away to Goucher, who is running without anyone around her. She’s fallen off the back of the pack. Which pack? Maybe both. Meanwhile, Smith’s balloon has sprung a leak, because the lead pack is closing the gap. Now her lead has shrunk to 36 seconds. There’s a shot of the pack behind her. Davila is either not there or she’d hiding her 5’2″ frame somewhere. I briefly panic. Wait! There she is, way off to the left of the screen. She’s catching up to that pack. Or maybe she’s parallel. Anyway, she’s in the game.

Miles 15/16: No idea what happened. There was a huge gap in coverage.

Miles 17/18: Smith is now clearly in big trouble. Her stride has a big hiccup coming down a hill. At the bottom of that hill, at 1:38:00, she pulls off to the side, clutching her right calf. Might be a cramp, might be a torn soleus. Who knows. But she takes off again. But now she’s running with gritted teeth, her lead eroding with each stride. She is effectively fucked. Her race is over.

There’s another shot of the trailing pack. I see a non-African way off to the left and I momentarily think it’s Davila, but then I can see by the height that it’s Goucher. Dammit. Where’s Davila?!

19/20: Smith has another stumble. Her pace has dropped to 6:00. I feel bad for her. At 1:41:00, everyone’s passing her. Now I can see Davila again. Goucher is now behind her. Trautwig and Rawson are still talking about Goucher’s status. At this point Caroline Kilel (2:23:25) has taken the lead and is running assertively.

[There's coverage of the invitational mile races. More opinions from me: Lukas Verzbicas should have been disqualified for shoving Andy Baddeley at the finish. What an asshole.]

Mile 21: We’ve come back from a commercial and something big has happened in the meantime. At 1:51:00 the lead pack consists of four Africans: Kilel, Sharon Cherop (2:22:42), Dire Tune (2:23:44) and Alice Timbilili (2:25:03). A fifth runner is running up to join them: Davila!!! Davila gets right to work and at 1:52:30 she’s taken the lead with complete and utter confidence. She does not care that these are Africans, and Africans always win. Trautwig and Rawson can’t believe it. This Davila chick must be nuts! She is running with, and passing, Dire Tune! Now she’s solidly in front, challenging the whole lot.

Mile 22: Davila continues to look incredibly relaxed and unfazed. There is no tension in her body and no sign of strain on her face. The pack has dropped Tune. Timbilili is dropping off the back.

And then there were three.

Davila has a shot at third!!! No, screw that. She has a shot at winning. She can win this thing if she’s smart about it.

Kilel goes to the front. Davila looks unconcerned. She sticks to the tangents, moving inside the group on a slight curve. I believe that this is where the race took on a new dimension. Here is where Davila took the opportunity to evaluate what state her competitors were in. Mere inches away from them, she could sense how tired they were and gauge their tiredness against her own. Why do I think this is what was going on? Because at this point Davila moves to the lead again and shortly after this she starts throwing in little surges. She is going to start wearing these ladies down.

Mile 23: Davila’s leading by a metre, asserting herself. But she’s also enjoying the moment. She’s checking out the crowds. Jesus. She looks totally cool, like she’s on a training run. Timbilili is dead meat now, a distant fourth. The game is officially on for win, place or show. Davila stays in front. Trautwig starts calling her “Desiree De Silva.” I become apoplectic.

Mile 24: Kilel and Cherop move to the front. Davila sticks with them. She throws in another surge. She is totally fucking with their heads! Kilel responds and retakes the lead. Davila eases off on a downhill, when again Kilel and Cherop go to the front. Actually, she falls back a good three metres, in a scary way. We are starting to groan. But then Davila opts out of the water stop and regains some ground that way. Remember all that water she was drinking earlier? She’s back with the Kenyans. Then she’s in front again. Kilel keeps challenging Davila, whereas at this point Cherop is out of that battle, content to stay in contact. I theorize that Cherop will be third based on this behavior.

Mile 25: Davila’s lead is now about two metres. People all over the country are screaming at their televisions right now, including us. They’re at 5:17 pace. Davila is still trying to wear down those Kenyans. Not just with her legs, but with her attitude too. She’s still trading Kilel for the lead spot. Then Davila slips to third again. But she looks fine. I have to believe she’s doing this on purpose.

Mile 26: Davila is trying to catch Kilel, but Cherop keeps cutting her off. 2:19:50 — after hanging out in third, Davila throws in a huge surge on a turn. This takes both Kilel and Cherop by surprise. Whereas Kilel is straining, Davila has broken Cherop with this move. I say that I hope to hell she’s running the Mini 10K because I want to interview this woman more than any other marathoner now.

Kilel shoots to the front at 2:20:20. Is Davila cooked? No!!! She’s not giving up. She makes an effort to close on Kilel. Universal Sports manages to turn off the onscreen clock, so I have no idea where they are on Boylston Street, but I think it’s about 300m out from the finish. Trautwig and Rawson are calling Kilel as the winner, but Davila starts motoring and — holy fuck! — she catches Kilel and passes her. We are screaming and clapping. The cat has run down into the basement. But Kilel has just a little bit more speed in her legs and she pulls away again, finishing just two seconds ahead of Davila in 2:22:36.

The finish line: Leg speed is what won this race today, not endurance. Why do I say that? Because Kilel collapses to the ground after breaking the tape. By contrast, Davila stops, rests her hands on her knees for a few seconds, reflexively turns off her watch and then starts walking around. She looks like she’s just finished a fun run. Had that race been a mile longer, with a few more minutes of wearing Kilel down, I think she would have won. But a marathon is 26.2 miles. Today, Desiree Davila covered that distance in 2:22:38 by running one of the smartest races I’ve ever seen.

Edited: Here’s an interview that Peter Gambaccini of Runner’s World did with Davila a few weeks before Boston. In it, she talks about the “simulator workout” she did, a 26.2K run over an exaggerated version of the Boston course. There’s another lesson: prepare for your goal race’s course and conditions. Here’s some video of that workout. I love the little pieces of visualization the Hansons use.

And here’s a nice post-race interview with Roger Robinson.

Training: April 3-16

The adventure continues: low mileage, lots of recovery and not a little hard work. Any misgivings I’ve had about taking days off and losing easy miles were put to rest during last weekend’s race. I remain concerned about my fitness for a 13.1 mile race in two weeks. But I have to keep reminding myself of three things:

  1. I am on the comeback trail. I’m not trained for a half, so I can’t expect to pull some amazing performance out of my, um, hat under these circumstances.
  2. I have raced enough half marathons to know what the effort should feel like. It’s not like I can’t run 13.1 miles. I may just need to run them a little slower than I’d like.
  3. Everything is going to be okay.

I’m feeling so nonchalant about Long Island that I may even run with music. It’s not a crowded course and I enjoyed having tunes along the course last year (I had an interesting soundrack to all the overweight guys in their 20s who were dropping like flies around me), and I don’t think they ban headphones.

Anyway. The workouts leading up to the Scotland 10K on Sunday went exceptionally well. Freakishly well. First, I did a progression run that had me running the last two miles at 6:45 and 6:30. Color me shocked. Then I did my special pre-race session on a windy track (~15mph steady, ~25mph gusts) and the splits were around what I got a few weeks ago on a windless track. Yay, me. Coach Sandra sees me as a poster child for cross-training these days.

One thing I did during that pre-race week was to take Sunday off and then move the progression run up a day so I could have a day recovery between that and the track session. Sandra had originally scheduled them back to back on Tue/Wed, but I felt that would be too much to handle. This arrangement worked well. I may try it again before my next shorter race (the Mini 10K in June).

This past week, post-race, I took it easy. Sunday’s race took a lot out of me, although I did a quicker recovery pace on Tuesday (around 9:00 — I’m usually running 9:30-9:45 for those). Then I was fried for the second run. The weather on Wednesday was horrible, so I moved the speedwork to Thursday. It was windy, so I decided that rather than go to the track and be frustrated, I’d turn the planned 1K track repeats into a bunch of time-based segments on the road. Same work, different perspective. That worked out — I just ran hard for 3-5 minutes at a stretch until I’d reached around 20 minutes of hard running. I have no idea how far any of them were, but IT DOESN’T MATTER.

Yesterday I got a massage — the first one in about three months, and she spent the entire time trying to get the knots out of my back and shoulders — then decided not to run since I knew I’d be doing a lot of walking that evening. Last night featured drinks and something resembling food at a sports bar on Theater Row with 2010 Green Mountain Relay teammates Amy, TK, identical twins Mike and Matt (aka “Steak”) Tartar, along with honorary guest Bridges Runner (whom I was happy to get a chance to talk to for quite awhile, having previously only met her for about five seconds) — and some other dude whose name I’ve forgotten but who was very excited about the new iPad. Even though it was in a sports bar on Theater Row, it was fun!

As for the coming week, I have a lot of hard stuff and 54 miles. I will, as I’ve been doing, cut back on recovery miles if my legs are trashed. I have a 14 miler, my first in a long time, tomorrow. I will run up to White Plains and back, a run I’ve missed doing. Then more 1K repeats on the track and another progression run. And a trip back to the massage therapist so she can attack my legs.

In other news, I will be running the Brooklyn Half Marathon on May 21. I’d thought we’d be away that weekend, but we will be here. Since it’s three weeks after the Long Island Half, and three weeks before the Mini 10K — and it’s a NYRR club points race — there is no reason not to run it. So run it I shall. Since I won’t get a chance to wave to the cat on Cat Hill, I will wave to the Giant Killer Rat on the boardwalk in Coney Island.

Longer term, I’m still wrestling with what to do about a fall marathon. In an unfortunate combination of bad timing and lack of foresight, I’ve managed to end up with no automatic qualifier for the New York Marathon. My meltdown at the California International Marathon, while a Boston qualifier, did not give me the 3:38 I needed for New York. Then a freak heatwave at last year’s Long Island Half turned that race into a slow training run. Since then, I’ve only been racing shorter stuff.

So now my only option is to enter the lottery if I want a shot. I think. I’m so on the fence that I can’t even deal with figuring out the details. I think the deadline’s in two days or something. I should really look. I will do that right after I hit “Publish.”

Jonathan has an autoqualifier for New York. I suppose we could both enter (he on auto, me in the lottery) and see what happens. I am not excited about flying all the way to Chicago for a race that has been hot three out of the last four years. There’s Syracuse, but it’s a brand new event and I still don’t trust the weather in October. I would like the New York option, especially if it looks like I need more training time. Decisions, decisions.

Google search oddities

“germam fuck legs”

What a coincidence — that’s what I’m making for dinner!

Race Report: Scotland 10K Run (squeak!)

My Low Expectations World Tour 2011 continues. And it’s going well.

I ran just under 45:00 (44:59), a 19 second PR for the 10K (my previous one being on the same course at the Mini 10K in June). I had no expectations for today, and no goals other than to race hard. While I wore my simple Timex and took splits, aside from mile split 3 (which I saw by accident when trying to locate the button), I did not look at the watch until crossing the finish mat.

Today was a near-perfect day for racing: wind chills in the upper 40s, overcast, not humid, and almost no discernible wind. I even had all my usual pre-race events that are indicative of racing success: a plumbing crisis yesterday, nightmares about our house being flooded, terrible insomnia and a messed up GI system in the morning. Seeing those bags under my eyes in the mirror, I thought, “Damn. You’ll run well today.”

I’ll cut to the chase. Since NYRR was doing a much better job of enforcing corral placement today, I was able to get up toward the front of the second corral, and crowding was not an issue after the half mile mark. I guess it wasn’t an issue at all, since it was my fastest mile.

The splits: 6:58, 7:11, 7:10, 7:37, 7:10, 7:17; 1:32. Mile 4, which comes around the top of the park, the second of two big hills, always kills people. I passed a lot of people in mile 5, which I was surprised to see the split for, since it felt like I was crawling through that mile. There was a lot going on in my head at that point in the race. I was getting very tired, but telling myself, “The weather is perfect and no one’s in your way; you have no excuse not to apply yourself.” But I was also aware of how spent I was between mile 5 and 6, so much so that I am now seriously doubting my ability to race a half marathon in three weeks. I’ll have to see how things go.

Nevertheless, I was happy with the effort and a PR is always a good thing, although I have run a faster 10K segment in a half marathon (the 43:00 range) way back in 2008. But I am coming back and it’s early days yet. Not looking at the watch helped, although at times I was dying to see how I was doing. I will keep racing blind in this way, since I’m finding that doing so removes a whole dimension of stress, especially in the final miles.

Stats: I was 7th in my AG (there’s a guy from Australia mixed in with us in the results), 132nd (or maybe 131st, given the guy) out of close to 4,000 chicks. Second New York Harriers masters woman (there were only two of us out there today). The big news is that Jonathan raced today too, his first race in 10 months. Given that he’s just started running hard again and his mileage is quite  low, he did not have great expectations either. But he ran without foot trouble and I consider that a major victory.

I saw lots of Harriers both on the course and out spectating. It does help to get acknowledged, even if I’m in danger of keeling over if I try to say anything in response. I also saw many kilts. Was there anything under them? I’m not sure, but thinking about that was a fun distraction while nearly puking my way to the finish. Two Front Runners guys effectively served as my pacers today. I thanked them afterward.

After the race we headed over to Ditch Plains on 82nd and Columbus for brunch with fellow New York Running Show co-hosts TK, Joe, Brenn (and his lovely wife and cute baby) and Steve. There, I eagerly shoveled eggs Benedict into my face, followed by s’mores. The shoveling has continued through the afternoon.

Training: Mar 27-Apr 2

What a weird week. I was sick all week with a cold that kept flaring up and then ebbing. On Tuesday I went out for a progression run that went okay (I was running 7:30 at around 86% effort — I wore my heart rate monitor for the first time since the summer), but my hamstring went nuts toward the end. That was annoying. And worrisome. I wish this thing would just work itself out, but I think it’s going to take awhile.

I rolled, stretched and massaged the living daylights out of it that evening. I’ve learned that this is what I must do now: tend to it. Usually, all is forgiven within the next 24-48 hours.

Wednesday was Zen on the Track Day. That was a good session.

I was supposed to do two 6 mile recovery runs on Thursday, but I questioned the wisdom of that plan. The first run went okay, but the second one was just painful. Since I could not see how running 6 miles on exhausted, aching legs was going to help, I cut the run short at 4 miles.

On Friday my cold peaked and I felt very low energy. I had a 9 mile recovery run scheduled but couldn’t imagine running a mile. So I took the day off. I do this now and I think it’s a good thing. I don’t worry about getting overtrained anymore and, in fact, I see some evidence that my training is actually going pretty well.

I was still dragging on Saturday, but I forced myself out to run anyway. I had 14 x 1 minute surges scheduled. I saved those for the last possible point in the run, doing them over the final 2.5 miles. It was windy. I was not into it at all. But I did all 14 of them and was pretty darned proud of that.

This week’s workouts have been surprisingly good. So much so that I am now worried about Sunday’s 10K. Things seem to be going so well — I expect some sort of cosmic payback this weekend. I am trying to push those worries aside. I will be trying for Zen in Central Park.

Finally, let me offer my apologies to the reader who submitted a comment on my March 30 post with some thoughtful observations about running without goals and, often, without a watch, and the potential for personal liberation in these decisions. It got flagged as spam and then in a spastic move I managed to trash it. Thanks anyway. It was nice of you to comment. If you want to try again, I’ll try not to screw it up this time.

Oh, also, yesterday I had a really good birthday, which included several phone calls from family and friends; a few really sweet cards; some snazzy new earrings; free money; and…flowers! And we had some leftover cake and wine from our weekend celebration. I got to make another wish. I don’t feel any older. Just happier.

Bump

I ran 8 miles in 1:04 today. The last two were 6:45 and 6:30. I have no idea where that came from.

The best part was when two people actually jumped out of the way when they saw me coming.

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