The slacker marathon

Here’s a brand new race: The Thanksgiving Marathon. It’s a trail run in Van Cortlandt Park on Thanksgiving morning. You can run a 10K, a half marathon, a marathon, a marathon relay. Or whatever. No one cares. No one’s timing you. You will have no bib. There are no winners. There are no awards. The course is marked with flour. It’s totally free.

If you finish, you’ll get a commemorative fork to use later in the day.

How fucking awesome it this? It’s pretty fucking awesome.

Please run this race so they do it again next year. Because I really want to run it next year.

It's forking awesome.

In other areas of New York racing, we had a lively discussion this evening on the NY Running Podcast. Among other topics, Steve of NYCRuns told us about a boutique marathon in Brooklyn that he’s helping to organize. We pondered the pros and cons of a second New York Marathon in the spring. Many of us plugged the amazing (and less crowded, and often cheaper) racing scene available outside of Manhattan, in Rockland, Northern Westchester, New Jersey, Long Island and Connectiticut. And Joe of RunWestchester proposed a club-based Ekiden in Central Park. This last idea is something I could get behind. Who’s in?

This podcast is for you, New York area runners. We’re aiming to make it a weekly thing (although we’re taking next week off for the holiday). Help us make it interesting and relevant by lending your ideas and voices.

Links:

NY Running on TalkShoe

The New York Running Podcast Page

Discussion thread for upcoming NY Running podcast topics on NYCRuns

NYC Marathon 2010: Racing Verité

Rinus from Holland put together this “runner’s eye view” of the marathon. He’s compressed his 4:17:19 run into 00:07:11 of footage. I think we refer to that sort of timing as a “New York Minute.”

NYC Marathon Photos: The banquet and the elites

I took lots of shots from the finish line banquet, and got nearly all of the male and female elites coming in. As a teaser, here are two of the better pictures. View the whole album here > NYC Marathon 2010 on Picasa.

Edna Kiplagat

Gebre Gebremariam

NYC Marathon 2010: Faces at the Finish

Teodoro Chavez (photo by Stacey Cramp)

I’ll do a writeup on how I spent the earlier part of Marathon Day in New York. But for now, here’s a link to what I did with my afternoon and evening. I spent about two hours with photographer Stacey Cramp, interviewing runners along one of the arteries leading them off of Park Drive and out onto Central Park West.

Almost everyone was willing to spend a minute or two talking with me; just one person was too exhausted, and two others begged off only because they didn’t think their English was going to be good enough.

Stacey’s photos capture how spiritually elated, and how physically humbled, a runner can feel right after completing a marathon. I am grateful for these runners’ generosity and patience yesterday. I hope you get as much inspiration and enjoyment out of meeting them as I did.

Here’s the slideshow: NYC Marathon 2010 Faces at the Finish

Legit.

Tonight at 8PM ET: the NYC Marathon on NY Running

Tune in for tonight’s NY Running podcast at 8PM ET, for a 360˚ view of the NYC Marathon. My co-hosts include:

We’ll talk about things you might want to keep in mind if you’re running the race this weekend, lend some facts to the faces you’ll see at the font of the pack in the elite fields, and cover some general stuff about the current NYC-area running scene.

Here’s more info on TalkShoe. Remember that if you want to submit questions in the chat room, you’ll need to register ahead of time.

Edited: You can listen to the my auditory debacle here: NY Running podcasts

NYC Marathon: I’ll be there, enjoying myself

I’ll be doing a little work for Runner’s World on marathon Sunday. I’ll be assisting photographer Stacey Cramp to help put together a “Faces at the Finish” slideshow. She snaps the pictures and I ask the questions. Last year Stacey’s aide de camp was Duncan Larkin. This year it’s me. I’m beginning to suspect that this assignment is some sort of rite of passage for budding running journalists.

What this means is that I get a press pass with pretty-good-to-excellent access. I asked for finish line access as well as access to the raceday breakfast and watchathon that goes on in the former site of Tavern on the Green. There are days and days of scheduled interviews, both in person and by phone, among the elites during marathon week. Looking at the schedule, I feel a little sorry for them. There will also be post-race press conferences. That’s great, and I’ll go to some of that stuff. But I’m basically going to take it easy on November 7 and during the days leading up to it, aside from my assigned task with Stacey.

There will be lots and lots of interviews and articles coming out of the marathon. Mine probably won’t be among them. The one elite I really, really wanted to interview, Lyudmila Petrova, isn’t going to be among the field available to the media. I’m taking this as a sign, as much as I don’t generally believe in signs.

When I do my NYRR interviews, I spend hours researching and coming up with questions for the runners I’m going to interview, probably an average of 2-4 hours apiece. Then I go interview. Then I spend a few hours transcribing the interviews. Then I edit those and write them up. The average interview probably takes me around 6-8 hours in total to do. And those are the ones I can actually use. A Houston Hopefuls interview, because it’s more detailed and longer (and harder to research), typically takes me around 25 hours total from initial contact to posted interview.

I’m not whining. I’m just explaining why my contributions will be slim for the marathon. I’ve got around 50 hours of freelance work next week. Plus my insane cross-training schedule. Plus all these frigging medical appointments. So I’m going to put the kibosh on what was emerging as another source of pressure next week, much as I’d love to take full advantage of what NYRR is offering those of us with the fancy square of plastic around our necks. My apologies in advance.

But all is not lost. I will be on the NYC Marathon edition of the NY Running podcast on Tuesday November 2nd at 8PM ET, with cohorts Joe Garland and Steve Lastoe of NYCRuns.com. I have no idea if I’ll actually have anything to contribute, but I’ll try. NY Running is a parallel effort to the Runners Round Table podcast, of which I have become a fan, as the archives have provided much distraction (along with entertainment and insight) during the aforementioned insane cross-training schedule.

Anyway, tune in on Tuesday and help us make the show interesting. I’ll post something after the marathon. I just have no idea what.

Training: Oct 10-23

The grind continues. Today marks 11 weeks since someone or something gave my running the stinkeye.

I continue to train hard using alternate methods. To break up the monotony, and make sure I’m working hard enough, I’ve started getting creative with cross-training:

Spinning: I naturally tend to work harder in a spin class than when I’m on my own. Unfortunately, my schedule does not always mesh with the gym’s, so I’m doing a lot of spinning on my own these days. I focus on getting my heart rate up, evidenced by a) a high heart rate and b) getting myself to sweat like a pig. I achieve this with lots of standing up while pedaling alternated with 2 minutes of pedaling like I’m being chased by a mob of zombies — the fast kind, not the slow kind.

Elliptical: You can do speedwork on the elliptical. You can also do hillwork, but I’ve been told to stay away from doing that because it could aggravate whatever my injury is — plus the focus for us distance runners is high turnover, strength and endurance, not being able to do the equivalent of running up stairs carrying a dishwasher. So I do surges here too, getting my reps up to 210 (and making sure I’m pouring off sweat) for 2-3 mins with 1 min recoveries. In the case of both spinning and elliptical, I note the days I’m doing intervals with a plus sign.

Weights: I have yet to have found a way to make this work creative. Although I do enjoy the fact that I’m usually the only woman in the weights area. I feel so special. Let’s move on.

Pool: I’m beginning to not mind the pool so much. For one, I’ve developed some mind games to play. But when I’ve got an entire lane to myself for upwards of an hour and a half, there are no distractions and the act of running in circles becomes meditative. Pool running is the priority among all these gym activities, so it’s where I work the hardest. I tend to “save my strength” for the pool — meaning I am conscious of not trashing my legs in whatever I’m doing before I hit the pool for a hard session, meaning anything harder than an hour’s steady effort of 72-75%. What are hard sessions? Right now it means three things: long run (80-90 mins at 75%+), fartlek session (around 18-25 minutes of short and long intervals with very short recoveries), progression run (I start at 65% and work up to 85% in 10 minute increments). Once I’m back to regular running training, I’ll still be hitting the pool 3x a week as well as doing 3 sessions of spinning and frequent weight work.

I met up with Sandra a couple days this week at the gym. She was doing a little training, but as she’s dealing with a knee problem, couldn’t do everything with me. Still, she hadn’t seen me at work in a few weeks and she seemed surprised at the effort I was putting into it. I also sent her my training log and her reaction was that I’m probably training a lot harder than I was when I was “just running.” She swears I’ll be faster when I hit the roads again as a result of this conditioning work. I hope she’s right. At least I’m getting a nice pair of legs out of the deal.

So, where do things stand right now? An MRI should provide some clues this week. If it’s a stress fracture then I guess I’m sidelined according to how serious it is. I would be very surprised if it needs surgery, but what do I know? The other possibility to be ruled out is a hamstring tear. I have not looked into what that involves because I’ve already wasted so much time Googling injury-related information. I can’t do it anymore. I’m sincerely hoping it’s merely inflammation in the joint that can be treated fairly quickly so I’m back on the road next month.

As for training and racing plans, there will probably be adjustments. In the training realm, one piece of news is that Sandra and Khalid are moving to Colorado Springs next month to pursue some opportunities she has out there, live at altitude and leave the high cost of living in New York State (and horrible weather) behind. It’s also a quicker trip to Mexico, where they spend a fair amount of time every year.

I knew when I started working with Sandra in July that this was their plan, but now it’s really happening, which has not been easy to accept. I got a mere month of road/track training in before I got injured. So that’s been a source of disappointment. But I have to acknowledge that I learned a lot about training in that month — and in the “injury months” since then in terms of how to apply cross-training (both while injured and as a supplement to regular training). Sandra and I communicate well, so I’m feeling confident that we can keep up the good work using the various modern tools at our disposal — Skype, Google docs and email. I was also encouraged to discover that the majority of the Houston Hopefuls are successfully working remotely with their coaches.

As for racing, I have no idea whether I’m going to Houston in January. If I can start marathon training in, say, two weeks, it’s probably enough time — around 12 weeks — to get me in shape to run a good marathon, if not a great one. If it’s a longer wait, another option is to train for and race the Houston half instead. I love the half and working toward a PR there would be a good stepping stone to returning to the marathon, so that’s a compromise I could live with. And if I’m completely screwed for a January race, one idea I’ve proposed is switching my plane ticket and targeting the Napa marathon in early March.

Nearer term, I would love to race something, anything, as soon as possible. Watching the Fifth Avenue Mile last month — not just watching, but limping around as a volunteer — was enormously depressing for me, as will be watching the New York Marathon next month. I don’t want to get greedy and demand a race when I should feel lucky to be able to run anywhere for any distance, which I still can’t. But I’ve appreciated in the past couple of months that, while I enjoy training, the racing is what the training’s all for. I have it my head to try to run the Joe Kleinerman 10K in Central Park in early December. It’s a carrot to chase after mentally. But, ultimately, my body’s going to be the one calling the shots.

At least I’m not living alone in Injury Land. And I have a reliable cross-training partner most days, although he recently had to drop out for a bit while battling an infection. Anyway, here’s yesterday’s quote of the day, triggered by the arrival in our mailbox of an entry form for the Marisa Fund 5 Mile Turkey Trot.

“It’s amazing to think that just five months ago, I won their 10K on that course. And now I couldn’t even win a snail street-crossing contest.”
– Jonathan Sumpter

Race Report: NYRR Club Championships

Well, fuck. This was a bad race. A five miler I’d really been looking forward to, for a variety of reasons:

  • It was my first club championships race, since I’ve only just joined a team a couple of months ago.
  • The work I’ve been doing lately has set me up for some faster shorter races.
  • We were gifted with ideal summer racing conditions: low-70s and relatively dry.
  • I’d more or less tapered since Tuesday, so felt ready from that standpoint.

All I needed to do was better than 34:45 for a PR today at the 5M distance. I felt it was well within the realm of possibility. I ended up with 36:24. So what happened?

As often happens the day before a race, I had a new little niggle to deal with, in this case a weird issue with my right hip that came on quite suddenly in the evening. If I put weight on it while standing at a certain angle, such as when twisting to load the dishwasher, it hurt a lot. But I had been fine on a run in the morning. As long as I didn’t make dishwasher-loading movements, it was under control. I decided to ignore it.

This morning I got up and the issue was still there, although it had eased in intensity slightly. But when I set off to do my warmup and strides near the race start, I had a new issue: a sore right hamstring (which has been giving me trouble for the last 10 days, although it comes and goes). This was worrisome. I briefly thought of bailing on the race altogether, but hated the idea of doing that. So I set a goal of 7:00 pace (down from the original 6:50 goal) for the first mile and figured I’d see if I could loosen up the hamstring over the course of the race.

I hit the first split in 6:58, which was good, as it’s one of the harder miles, and I was more or less on plan. The hamstring hurt and, worse, had obviously limited mobility. I could extend my right leg about 80% compared to my left one. I kept at it, albeit with a slight limp.

Mile two was a 7:00 split. I was doing okay, but nothing was improving and I was having trouble maintaining my lopsided stride. So I shortened my left leg’s stride to reduce the stress on the right side. I had to slow down too, as it was really beginning to hurt, especially on the downhills and flats. The last three miles averaged around 7:28. It was the best I could do on an increasingly gimpy leg.

I thought of dropping out, but figured there was an outside chance that I could score points for the Harriers master’s team. Had I not had this issue, I’m sure I could have, as teammate Addy and I kept passing each other (she while walking up hills, me while slowing on the downhills so as not to further strain the problem hamstring). I also decided against dropping out as I was afraid that if I stopped running I wouldn’t be able to start up again. This turned out to be a good call, although I wouldn’t realize it until hours later.

Yes, the worst was yet to come. After I stopped running, new problems emerged. Now the pain’s geographical coverage migrated to include my right hip. Between the hamstring and hip, putting any weight on the leg was really becoming quite painful and I was limping all the way back to the car. Once seated, I felt fine. But we got stuck in bad traffic, and I could feel the hip tightening up over the course of the hour or so it took it get home. Once in the driveway, I discovered that I could no longer walk. At all.

Crutches got me into an ice bath. Percocet got me out of the ice bath. Now I’m lying on the bed, hoping this isn’t serious.

Goddamit. I shouldn’t have run that race.

A few minutes with Lornah Kiplagat

Lornah Kiplagat, 36, has been absent from the racing scene for awhile, but she’s back. She has excelled at distances from the 5K to the marathon, and has continued to race competitively across that distance spectrum throughout her career. She holds four world records for road racing: 5K, 10M, 20K and half marathon. Originally from Kenya, she has been a Dutch citizen since 2003. The Mini 10K was one in a series of post-surgery “comeback” races for Kiplagat. A four-time winner of that event, she’d hoped for a fifth title and was leading for the first half of the race before being overtaken by the eventual winner, Linet Masai. Kiplagat would finish fourth.

You’ve been running fast forever. How have you managed to have such a consistent career?
I think it’s just good planning. Good support, the right people around you. And a lot of running. So if I can also do that as a career, then you like to do that extra.

After setting the world record for the half in Udine, Italy, 2007.

What’s it like to have a tulip named after you?
It’s nice. How did you know about that?

I went to one of your sites and there was a story about that. I thought that was pretty neat.
Yes, it was nice of the Dutch that they did that for me. They mentioned this to me about seven years ago, even more. They thought it was a good idea, and they started preparation for it. Because it takes a long time. But it finally came out. It’s a very funny flower because it’s very strong. We have tulips and home and normally tulips don’t last long. They were lasting like for three weeks!

That’s very appropriate for a marathoner.
Yeah. Tulips normally just wither down.

Do you train in Holland?
Yes. But mostly in Kenya. Because of the altitude. It’s nice in Holland in the summer. I like it. But in the winter, it’s better in Kenya, for sure.

I was reading about your High Altitude Training Centre in Kenya. It seems like the focus has become less on athletics and more on academics.
The focus is really both. But we’re more into giving opportunities to top athletes all over the world. So they are able to train there.

Did you always have it in your head that you wanted to start something like this?
It was with a group of people. We have one guy in Kenya that’s selecting students. And they are staying in my place. They get coaching. They also get to study there. After that, they can come to America. We do it with four people. My part is to coach them — not so much to coach them, but to motivate them. So it works really good. They are boys and girls, top students from high school.

Is your foundation still focused on AIDS prevention and AIDS education?
Yeah. We are growing, actually. We’re starting up a high school for 300 girls. The training camp was so small. We could do only 12-15 girls.

How did you manage to grow it so quickly?
We’ve not yet gotten funding, but we have the plans for doing that.

How do you select who gets into the school?
They have to meet a certain academic level. And they all have to be doing something in sport. Football, hockey, running.

Do they have to maintain a certain level of academic consistency to remain in the school?
Yes. They have to. You know, they come there and they go down…we want them to come there and go even higher. Academically and in sport. This would be a boarding school. Before we didn’t have a school. They would only stay there during holidays. They could go to schools all over Kenya. They’d come to us in August and December, but it was not enough. It was too short to do something. Finally, I said, “I’m doing something, but it’s not enough.” So we needed to put [together] a better structure. We hope the first class will be 2013. It’s nearby the altitude training center. We’re trying to get the funding, but even if we don’t get it, it will still happen with our own money. I’ve got the ground to build the school already. It’s 18 hectares. That was the hardest part — getting the ground.

What made it so difficult? Finding the right place?
That and getting the right ground in such a place is almost impossible anymore. Getting a space that big. I had to move four families.

Was that difficult? Did they not want to leave?
No, it was an opportunity for them. If they give me one acre of land, then I have to buy them two and a half somewhere else. But in a nice place, where they can really farm. And still with some money on top of that. So they saw it as an opportunity to get more land. That was the most difficult part, and now that’s done. So the rest — putting up the buildings — is not a big deal for me. If we get funding, it will go quicker. If we don’t, it will go slower. But still, it will happen.

Do people know that you’re doing this project? Do people at these things ask you about it?
I don’t even talk about it. When I see that you’re interested, I talk about it. But normally I don’t even mention it.

No, I ask because I was surprised. I did some research on you yesterday. I know you as a runner but had no idea you were heading up all these other projects.
I don’t think most people are interested. They just want to see how the running will be. This is for my own good feeling. I don’t want to be just a runner and then pass by. I want to be a runner, but establish my roots. You want to know where you came from and where you end, what you brought to influence society. That’s what we [with husband/coach Pieter Langenhorst] do. Pieter supports me very well with this work. He’s the one making things happen. Sometimes you can be together, but if the other partner doesn’t have the same motivation, it doesn’t work. For us, it works very well.

I came across an interview with you a few years ago in which you were describing your experience of going to one of your first races in Kenya. You slept in a bathroom. There was basically no support. Have things improved in the last 18 years?
Yeah. It’s improved a lot. It’s like day and night.

Yes, it was really shocking.
It’s quite impossible now to have that kind of experience. There are so many athletes now, so many girls. Girls running now is a normal thing.

Is it still one of the biggest professional opportunities there?
Absolutely. In the last 10 years, it’s grown like crazy.

Can I ask you about your running, or are you tired of answering questions about that?
No, it’s okay.

You’ve been coming back with some shorter races. Are you planning on returning to the marathon?
I will build up slowly now, since I am coming back from injury. But end up at the marathon.

Do you have one in mind?
Not yet.

As you’ve moved into your thirties, have you found that you need more recovery between hard workouts?
Yes.

Are you doing two workouts a week now? Or three?
I run, of course, every day. I do speed work three times a week. But not very sharp, though.

What kind of mileage are you doing right now?
70-80 miles a week. Not a lot.

What do you get up to when you’re peaking in your training for the marathon?
If I’m going for the marathon, for sure over 100.

Do you think after you turn 40 that you’ll keep competing?
No, I think I will just go to easy running. But not competing. It depends.

Because a lot of women are running well into their forties.
I’m not far from 40…

That’s why I’m asking.
I will just see how it will go.

If you scale back the running, will you spend more time on these other projects?
Yeah. That’s like my baby.

Do you think doping is widespread in women’s distance running?
No, I don’t believe it. Because I know most of the women in distance running and most of them are really clean.

I know it was bad in the eighties. A lot of the Chinese times, people don’t even really count because it’s assumed they were all on something.
And it is possible [to excel without drugs]. It’s just a matter of training hard. Simple. No shortcuts. Knowing most of the girls in long distance, you can tell that they train hard. Even in competition, you can see somebody who you can say, “Hey, something is wrong.” So it happens, but it’s not common.

Do you train by heart rate?
No.

How do you know how hard to run?
I used a GPS watch. Every kilometer, I know what speed I’m running and I feel. So if I’m running under 4:00 per K, and I’m feeling good.

Do you race with a GPS?
Sometimes [Kiplagat wore her Garmin 310xt at the Mini 10K]. When I’m not sure, I race with a GPS.

A lot of people are funny about it. They think it’s cheating, that you have an advantage over other people in the race. Or they assume that elites never use them.
No. It’s no different with a watch. Every kilometer, you can see [the split]. What’s the difference? There’s no difference.

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