In which bloggers sing “Kumbaya” on the Upper West Side

For years, social scientists have pondered the question: Can Americans and Australians ever have brunch together? The answer is yes. Yes, we can.

Today Jonathan and I met up with a load of people, most of whom we’d never met. At least not in the flesh. With the exception of our friend (and my fellow podcast host) Joe of RunWestchester. But I’ve been following the exploits of Ewen (of About a Ewen) and Flo (of Girl in Motion) for several years. Ewen is here with his friends Joy and Mal on an epic tour of the U.S. (can’t imagine why they’d want to come to this 2,600 mile wide dump) and, fortunately for us, it includes an extended swing through New York City. Flo drove her ass all the way up from Philadelphia just to have lunch with us! But it gets better: also there was Flo’s friend, Heather, a newly minted masters runner who lives in New York and who had not seen Flo in sixteen years!! But, wait. There’s more: Heather had a stress fracture in her pelvis earlier this year in almost the exact same place I did!!!

It doesn’t get any weirder than that. Especially when this crew is involved.

In a symbol of the historically peaceful relations between our two nations, we exchanged cultural gifts. Ewen gave us Australia-themed drink coolers and fragrant soaps. We gave Ewen race t-shirts (he made out like a “bandit,” scoring shirts for the New York Marathon, Healthy Kidney, Scotland Run and yesterday’s Run for Central Park). Mimosas were consumed. Checks were split. Hugs were freely given.

Mal and Joy, who are non-runners, were extremely tolerant of all the running talk. Which is good, since we’re meeting up again on Friday evening for drinks and there will be even more runners there!!!! Joe and I will also see Ewen in Van Cortlandt for a 5K on Thursday evening, his first international race (not counting Tasmania)!!!!!

Ewen, Joy and Mal

Heather, Flo and Ewen

Me, Joe, Heather, Flo and Ewen

Jonathan threatens to usurp actual stuff from another continent

Training: June 5-18

The patient slog through injury continues.

Nothing happened June 5-11. My log that week is a wall of yellow that says “INJURED.” I do credit myself for sticking to my plan to do core work twice a week, and I managed to keep that up this week as well. Guess what I’m doing this evening? That’s right: core work!

I have a set of exercises I do (around 12) for my core. The current print issue of Running Times has a few other good ones, so I’ve added in another 4-5. I also do some arm/shoulder work with dumbbells, since I have the weakest biceps known to man. I know I don’t need bulging biceps to run well, but I would like to one day do at least one pull-up. A girl can dream.

All of this takes me about an hour. I watch “Locked Up Abroad” or “My Strange Addiction” while doing my routine. Both of these shows always make me feel a lot better about my life than I did before I watched them.

There’s some light on the horizon, at least compared to earlier in the month. I was able to at least start jogging again this week, although my right calf does not like to go faster than 9:00 pace. It doesn’t like uphill either. Nor does it like flat bits. It loves downhill sections, which comprise around 3% of the terrain I run on.

But, you know, I ran 18 miles. That’s a start. See? Positive attitude. The new me. I can run. That’s more than I could do the previous week. The pain is now just a dull ache, and I’m encouraged by the fact that it doesn’t get worse over the course of a run. If I stop every mile or so and stretch my calf, it seems better by the end of the run. I’ll keep doing that.

I’m throwing out the 10K plan for now. It’s still there in my log, but I don’t look at it. What’s the point? I don’t dare do any faster running until the pain is totally gone. When I get back to the training, I may experiment with a 9 or 10 day training cycle, since I don’t think my body tolerates doing three hard workouts a week.

I have rough plans to do the 2-Person Relay (with Jonathan) in Van Cortlandt Park, a 4 mile XC race (it would be my first XC effort) on Thursday July 7, assuming there isn’t a fire drill on my current freelance project that requires I stay late; if there is, I might swap that for the Women’s Distance Festival 5K two days after that on Saturday the 9th. But this is assuming I can even run fast and free of pain soon. That’s a big question mark.

I still hope to compete in the Run for Central Park 4 miler in a month. If I’m not running fast by then…well, let’s not go there.

Here are some good things that are happening:

The summer has been pretty nice so far. Or maybe it just seems that way because I’m not out running much, or when I am it’s about 5:30 in the morning. Aside from a few scorchers, it’s been in the upper-70s to mid-80s most days. So I’m appreciating the season.

I’m able to get home at a reasonable hour most days and have been throwing food on an outdoor Weber I got for my birthday. I find the process of preparing the grill extremely relaxing and gratifying. I sit outside while the bricquets heat up, staring at the fire. I clean the grill later on. I research new grill recipes. I think I might actually be a guy.

My stepmother is on the road to recovery after her near-death, then near-permanently-fucked-up experience over the past two months. She sounds completely back to herself on the phone and she’s been told not to worry about doing any physical therapy, just walk a lot, lift things, etc. I’m still awestruck by her luck and resilience.

Jonathan ran his second race in a year today, and ran fairly well considering the lack of conditioning. He’s not happy with his time, of course, but that will improve. His foot is still stiff and he suspects that will always be the case. But he’s racing without foot pain for the first time in about 16 months. This is a good thing.

Finally, I’m losing poundage in the form of fat. I’ve been holding off on posting about it because the effort is ongoing and has involved quite a bit of experimentation (and deprivation). But I’ll have a full accounting of the good, the bad and the ugly once I reach my target weight of 125.

Here’s some video of the Portugal/Father’s Day run this morning. Jonathan flits through at the 7:35 mark (small, full head of grey hair, glasses, plain blue singlet, stopping watch). That’s NYRR head honcho Mary Wittenberg off to the left. There was some noise about her leaving NYRR to head up USATF awhile back, but, honestly, I can’t see her ever leaving this job. She so obviously enjoys interacting with the runners — all of them, not just the elites — as they come over the line. Much of that action is off camera, but I thought it worth noting since I was so struck by it this morning.

Race Report or whatever: the Brooklyn Half

A three hour tour. A THREE HOUR TOUR!!!

No, it didn’t take me three hours to run a half marathon (I came in a shade under two hours), but it did take me three hours to get home. And that was too damned long.

The actual race was the least interesting part of today. So let’s start with the pre-race goings on. I stayed overnight at my dad’s place on the Upper West Side and, as I usually do before any race, even those I don’t give a shit about, I could not sleep properly. Fake Ambien let me down and at 3:30 a car alarm woke me up for good, well in advance of my 4:30 alarm. I was running on around five hours of sleep.

Fortified by strong coffee and Mini Wheats, I dashed down to where a van the New York Harriers had rented was stationed on 85th and Broadway. There, I met up with a few people I knew already, but most whom I didn’t. The highlight of that standing around experience was when a drunk young man stumbled upon our group, with a seemingly sober woman in tow, and declared, swaying, heavy-lidded and rubbery-lipped, “My wife is pregnant!” The woman he was with looked a little horrified and said, “I’m not pregnant!”

Then, looking at our shirts, Drunk Guy said, “What are the New York Harriers?”

Since no one answered him I jumped in and said, “We are a cult!” That got me a few laughs and a few odd looks, and in this fashion I was able to quickly and efficiently determine who I should talk to post-race. Just kidding. Sort of.

At 5:45 sharp we clambered into the van and wended our way down to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. A bunch of Harriers dashed out and started running…somewhere. When I see people running fast before a race, and I have no idea where baggage or the start are, I tend to get panicky and just follow them. So I was tearing along and it was at that point that I got a sense of how humid it was. It was 96% humidity this morning, according to NYRR. That’s pretty fucking humid. I am a terrible hot weather runner, especially early in the summer season, and the wisdom of my plan to run a slowish long run today was becoming more and more evident by the minute.

Even though I had a red bib I lined up a corral back, at the very back of the yellow-bibbed group. That turned out to be perfect as I was running 8:30 or so to start and would run in that range for the next 9 miles or so. Prospect Park is very pretty and I liked the nature of its hills. Unlike Central Park’s they are very long and gradual. With two loops of the park making up slightly more than half the race, I got very familiar with those hills and had fun running them. I was also glad for the 7:00 am start because the sun was still low and as such the run was, up until the last 2.5 miles or so, almost completely shaded. That helped on a day like today, in which we had horrible humidity and full sun.

A virtual friend from LetsRun.com (and now Facebook) who goes by the moniker Humbled (and who lives in Detroit, but visits Brooklyn often to visit her significant other) had noted that she’d be in town spectating the race today. I looked for her along Ocean Parkway, but didn’t spot her. Much as I would like to meet her eventually, I was sort of glad about that because in the last few miles I was getting pretty cranky and I’m sure I smelled like a barn.

I had no goal for the race going in other than to just do a regular long run. But as I trundled along I decided that I’d try to come in under two hours. I gave up some time in the last few miles due to stopping and taking lots of water. But my average pace was 9:04 and I came in a shade under 1:59. Numbers are stupid on days like today. But I still care about them.

In the last couple of miles people were struggling with the weather. I saw a few runners down along the side of the road, and a few wobbling along the boardwalk. The med tent at the finish was very busy. Had I actually raced today, I’m pretty sure I would have been among its visitors given how I felt in the last few miles.

The post-race meetup was the best part of the day, although the effect of the weather, dehydration and beer took me by surprise. After a week of hardening myself in England with concoctions like Twickenham Naked Ladies, Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale and Bertie’s Snuff Film Lager (okay, I made that one up), I’d thought I’d be fine having a drink at 9:30 in the morning. We met up at something called Beer Island, which made me think of the song “Beer Picnic,” written by my friend Carolyn (Lengel) Enright for her 1980’s band Bad Tuna Experience. Just about any title that starts with “beer” is bound to sound festive.

Schmaltz Brewery's Human Blockhead: delicious but also dangerous. It's 10% alcohol -- more drunk for your buck!

Anyway, at Beer Island I became enamored of their Coney Island Human Blockhead, the label of which features Coney Island Sideshow master of ceremonies (and person who can hammer a nail into his nose, among other fantastic talents) Donny Vomit. Unfortunately, Human Blockhead only comes in 650ml bottles, or slightly less than twice the amount of beer you’ll typically get in a bottle.

Dehydrated and on a more or less empty stomach, even sipping the stuff I was wobbly myself after half a bottle. At noon I realized I would have trouble walking without embarrassing myself. So I hung out for awhile longer, finished it up and, at 1:30 realized that I could put off the ordeal of making my way home no longer. Walking was still a slight challenge, especially on sand, but whatever. I wanted to make it home before The Rapture, which was scheduled for 6:00 pm.

I said my goodbyes to all the nice Harriers (I know many more of them now, and none of them are assholes) and headed over to Nathan’s because I had to put something in my stomach. I have no idea why, but I went with the softshell crab sandwich, of which I could only eat the crab. After wolfing that down I was ready for the subway, which would take at least 90 minutes, plus I had to stop off at my dad’s place first before making my way up to where my car was parked on 108th Street. I’d have plenty of time to sober up!

Did you know that there are 381 stops in Brooklyn on the Q train from Stillwell Avenue? I slept through them all, waking up at Canal Street in Manhattan. Then the Q driver announced we were local. So I snoozed up to 42nd Street, where I hoped to transfer to the 2/3 express. But those were not running, so I had another tedious set of local stops up to 96th Street on the 1.

Anyway, it took me three hours to get from Beer Island to my house. That’s too long. I’m not running Brooklyn again. It’s far easier to get wasted post-race in Manhattan.

Lights! Camera! Travel!

Two weeks without a post. Dearie me.

It’s been one heck of a spring so far, primarily consisting of familial highs and lows, and mostly just lows for running. First, my stepmother nearly died after surgery complications. That was three weeks ago. She’s still in the ICU, clawing her way back to normality. So that’s completely sucked. But I did learn a lot about my family and myself in terms of our personal strengths and weaknesses and how we all cope with disaster. That was interesting and useful.

Then I blew up in the Long Island Half and declared that marathons were dead to me. My feelings have not changed.

This photo needs no caption.

I spent the last week in England with Jonathan’s family, and that was a great time, although, like all travel and concentrated social time, kind of exhausting too. J.’s brother and his husband live in southwest London, while his mother and her husband live in the western cape of South Africa. We try to convene in one of our locales at least every 18-36 months. I hadn’t been to the UK since 2006. It’s changed in some ways but not in others. For example, while cars (and people) are getting bigger, their streets and parking spaces are not. This makes riding in a car a harrowing experience. I spent a lot of time with my eyes closed, worrying about my inlaws’ paint job and side mirrors.

Out and about...

We are active tourists. I think it’s really stupid to travel to a place and sit around inside, which is part of why I don’t care where I stay, usually, as long as it’s not diseased or dangerous. Fortunately, J.’s family is also up for lots of walking, tube-riding and ticket-buying, so our days and evenings were filled with interesting things to do. Highlights include:

A guided walk with London Walks, which has become a kind of tradition when we go there. This time around we did a square mile tour of the city’s center, getting a history of, among other things, Roman London, the Black Death, the births of the Stock Exchange and Lloyd’s of London, and too many buildings designed by Christopher Wren (the Michael Caine of historical London architecture) to count.

A memorial to victims of the plague.

War Horse, which has been playing in London for quite awhile but just opened in Lincoln Center and has gotten a shitload of Tony nominations. As previously noted, I’m not a theatre person, but I appreciate a creatively conceived and executed production in any media, and this delivered. Skilled puppeteers steered giant horses (and a tank) around a stage for two hours. The play’s a little long and overly sentimental (but that’s par for the course in almost any English treatment of WW1 and WW2 — that’s my sweeping, culturally insensitive opinion; go ahead and flame away!), but it was nevertheless impressive. The casting director gets Most Creative Casting award for putting a black man into the role of an embittered SS Captain. Not since seeing Charlton Heston playing a Mexican narc in Touch of Evil have I had to work so hard to suspend my disbelief.

Also, I noted that at play intermissions, English people rush out to the lobby to buy tiny containers of ice cream, which they bring back to their seatmates in huge stacks. Then they all sit there and eat it together, looking supremely happy and satisfied. This was a spectacle so utterly charming and weird that I was beside myself.

In one of a dozen pubs visited.

A massive Joan Miro retrospective at the Tate Modern, which I dragged J.’s family to, although I did not hear complaints. But they were probably being polite. There were 13 rooms of works spanning his career, organized chronologically and placed within the context of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s Spain, which I admit to having known absolutely nothing about. Now I know almost nothing about those periods of history.

Sadly, I did not get to drink Piddle while there.

A long weekend in County Dorset, to the southwest of London, which is on the southern coast. J. spent most of his childhood and his early teens in this area and it’s incredibly beautiful. Friends of his brother’s have an apartment right on the beach in Sandbanks that they let us use. We had two memorable lunches: the first to reconnect with Jonathan’s stepfather, who we’d last seen circa 1993; the second to celebrate a major milestone birthday for his mother. We visited too many pubs to recall.

Saw lots of these...

The cultural highlight of that last venue was viewing the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual televised music competition that drew 125 million viewers this year. Each European nation puts forth its “best” song and performer(s) in a bid to win the votes of its peers (you can’t vote for your own country, nor are larger nations allowed to skew the numbers — everyone gets the same number of votes). If you have never seen Eurovision, it’s difficult grasp its level of sheer gaudy absurdity. The event goes on for hours, and it’s kind of like Star Search meets Top of the Pops meets Solid Gold. Fortunately, we have YouTube (see below).

...and lots of these.

Singers from nation after nation take the stage, usually with lots of non-singing dancers in tow, against a backdrop of often stunning visual effects. Then the voting begins and at that point you’re glad you’ve been drinking because it goes on for about an hour and half, with each nation’s vote doler outer (usually a tarted up woman, probably a local television personality) struggling to chatter coyly in broken English (Ha! Ha! Foreigners are so funny when they try to speak proper English!). The winning nation gets the dubious prize of hosting next year’s Eurovision, which is presumably a massively expensive proposition, so we found ourselves wondering if Portugal, Iceland and Greece might be sandbagging. Winning performers rarely go on to stardom, the exception being Abba, who won in 1974 with “Waterloo.”

I think my favorite part of watching Eurovision is the spontaneous reactions we all have. We can’t stop ourselves from saying things like:

“God, is everyone in Iceland that fat?”

“Wait a minute. Her name’s Kati? But that’s a man!”

“What is wrong with the French?”

You also get a real sense of what people in the various countries find sexy and stylish. It’s rarely what I find sexy and stylish.

I have never correctly guessed who will win. I’m never even close. This year’s winners were Azerbaijan’s Ell/Nikki, with an anemic, schmaltzy duet called “Running Scared.” I was banking on either Ireland, with its bizarre, poppy entry from twin brothers (and big fans of epaulets, hair gel and Devo) Jedward. Or Serbia’s Nina, who rocked the final with a stylish sixties vibe and, as a chunky-legged girl from peasant stock like myself, proved exteme bravery in wearing white tights on international television. But, no, all the bands I hated made the top 10. Special mention goes to Moldova, for its entry, “So Lucky,” which embodies the sort of demented eye- and ear-raping that you expect of Eurovision.

Azerbaijan: Cream-colored bland FTW.

Ireland: We don’t care if we win. We’ll charge it!

Serbia: Don’t worry, if we don’t win we can always get jobs at Target.

Moldova: Coneheads and unicycles! Thank you!

Jonathan procures pork pies at Borough Market.

Clearly, given the length of my Eurovision report, this was my favorite part of the trip. But I sampled a lot of English culinary staples this time around: black pudding, Scotch eggs, pork pies and my ritual fish and chips/mushy peas, this time from a decades-old childhood chippy that Jonathan was amazed to find still bustling despite everything around it having changed.

Fifty years later, while entire streets and buildings are gone, the humble chip shop still stands.

Unfortunately, since J. got the bright idea that we should all drink absinthe during this musical ordeal, I had a mild hangover the next morning and, while stumbling out for a walk along the beach, managed to bash my left foot on a gate. I’ve done something to it because after an eight mile run the next day my left hip flexor and adductor were iffy. My foot still hurts when I flex it. Kids, don’t drink and run.

Branksome Chine, where we did part of a longish run.

With the foot issue, travel stress and terrible nutrition (and almost no running) of the past week, I plan to jog rather than race the Brooklyn Half this weekend, mostly to collect my 10 points for internal New York Harrier scoring. I’m hoping I can redeem them for pistachio nuts or bobby pins or something at the end of the year.

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.

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 13-19

This was a week that started out rough and then got progressively better as the days wore on. I made a lot of adjustments this week.

After a bout of food poisoning on Sunday, I was in no shape to run on Monday. In fact, I was barely in shape to get out of bed, so poorly did I feel. I had hoped to do a the scheduled harder run on Tuesday early in the day, but my stomach was still not right. Plus I had to spend much of the day on a trip into Manhattan to meet with a client.

By the afternoon things were a little less iffy, although I was still not feeling great. But I went out and did that run, since it only called for a few fast minutes at the end, and now that we’re back on daylight savings time (or off it…whatever), I had no excuse not to go running. I did not bother timing anything since the whole thing was slow. Between being sick and then not having eaten much, I was not at my best. But I did my best.

Thursday featured a brand new speed workout. I won’t go into details, but I will say that it consisted of interval combinations, a longer one followed by a very short recovery jog, followed by a shorter one at all out effort, then a little longer recovery. I did four of these. Jonathan came to the track and did them too. Our legs were so trashed afterwards that we could barely run the 1.6 miles home. The PM run that day was actually funny: 11+ minute miles and lots of walking.

Legs were still trashed on Friday, so much so that I had to cut the planned 5 miles short. I went to the gym and whaled on my legs again with weight work and a short but intense spin.

While my legs were better yesterday, it was insanely windy again, plus I had not dressed warmly enough, which made the recovery run feel like hard work. I have a 13 miler in Central Park later today, so I figured it wasn’t going to help me today if I ran too hard yesterday. I again cut the run short.

Some news: I have cut The Nutrionist loose. I had told myself that I’d give her 3-4 months and if no progress had been made, I’d stop. I’ve really not made much progress in that time, which has been incredibly frustrating. I just haven’t felt that she has acknowledged the lack of progress, nor has she offered any real explanations or remedies. I’ve tracked calories in/out during the time, obviously, as well as micronutrients and timing. I have spent hours analyzing it (which I felt was something she should be doing, but didn’t seem to be) and have a theory that going extremely low fat may be one thing to experiment with, based on subtle patterns. But, Jesus Christ, this is like reading tea leaves.

Anyway, I can be mystified on my own for free. After a year+ of injuries, weird weight stuff, mood disorder reemergence, and other unsolved mysteries, I’m completely burnt out on (and feeling burned by) the entire world of “experts” at the moment. As a result, I won’t be sitting in waiting rooms and writing any more large checks for now. I cannot say the same for Jonathan as he continues to struggle with his foot and another annoying (non-running) problem that has thus far involved several specialists, lots of tests — and no answers. As for me, aside from the occasional shard of generic Ambien, I’m off all medications. I’ve stopped drinking — meaning drinking drinking — save for about 2-3 beers a week. We’re saving a fortune in booze/wine and CVS prescriptions! I’m reading books. I’m taking vitamins and so-called natural supplements. It’s self-help or bust. Let’s see what happens.

In other news: blogger reunions or blogger first dates are kicking into high gear. First there’s a Green Mountain Relay reunion to look forward to. And then a few virtual blogger friends, Flo from Philly and Ewen from Down Under, are coming into town in July. I hope we don’t all hate each other. I don’t think we will.

Also, I’m getting excited about the Scotland 10K race. Probably more than I should allow myself to be, since it’s only three weeks away and I don’t feel at all prepared. But with my new lowered expectations approach to racing, I am anticipating at least putting in a good effort and having a good time. If I can get a good finishing time in the process, that’s a plus. But it’s not the primary goal. I’m not even thinking about the Long Island Half on May 1, as that’s just too scary.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers