I got short legs

I spent a pleasant 90 minutes yesterday evening enjoying drinks (for the record, I had water) and nibbles with the majority of my Green Mountain Relay team, plus one interloper/potential spy from the Hash House Harriers’ team (girlfriend of one of our team members, and pretty darned charming — as spies so often are).

We assembled on the 14th floor of the Library Hotel on 41st St and Madison, in the Bookmarks cafe (notice a theme?), with a little table and benches under the skylights. We were sternly warned beforehand that if we all didn’t get there at 6:30 we’d lose our special area and have to drink with the riffraff at the bar (which was noisy, which means I’d have no chance of being heard).

This meant that I had to take a train that got me into Grand Central at just before 6:00, which then meant I had to kill time. So I wandered the streets, walking to the 41st St. branch of the NY Public Library to gawk. Then I couldn’t take these mindless perambulations anymore and just went on up. I got there at 6:20 and saw, sitting in our space, a bunch of fat, pasty complexioned people in conservative business attire. “Oh, shit,” I thought. “Are these my teammates?”

It turns out they were cubicle jockeys who were squatting our reserved space. The hostess summarily booted them out. So I got to sit alone, awkwardly (because that’s how I roll), awaiting the hopefully not fat, pasty-faced arrivals. They trickled in, all looking fit as fiddles, and I recognized the two I’d met about a year ago at our Blogging Runners meetup.

Anyway, it was nice and they were nice, as I’d no doubt they would be, since at least one of the team captains, TK, seems a good judge of character (she likes me, doesn’t she?). And I know the other captain, [B.], is at least generous, as he paid the bill, and also has a sense of humor; we already have an inside joke involving Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute. Yes, I think this will be fun. Once I sort out the logistics of how I’m going to feed myself and maintain an acceptable level of personal hygiene during this odyssey, I should be good.

The “legs” in the title of this post refer to the three sections of the race that have been assigned to me, not my actual legs. My legs aren’t long, but I wouldn’t say they’re short either. I’d say they’re just right. And very sturdy. Sturdiness is going to count for a lot in about a month.

My “leg” is Leg 4. Which means I’m Runner 4. But everyone seems to just say “You’ve got Leg 4.” The way the relay works for a 12 person team (there are “ultra” teams made up of 6 people, but that’s too much fucking running) is that you each get one leg consisting of three separate legs, or the distances of the entire 200 mile race that you’ll contribute to by racing your little heart out along them.

So, let’s review: there are 12 runners and each of us runs three race distances staggered throughout a total of 36 sections of the race, and our collective three legs are also known as a “leg.”

Still with me? Okay, now, to further complicate things, the legs (meaning the collection of three) are given a rating from 1-12 based on their overall difficulty, as determined by distance and elevation gain. Difficulty score 1 is the easiest and Difficulty score 12 is the hardest. My leg, Leg 4, is also conveniently rated “4″ in difficulty. I initially wasn’t happy with this, since I’m an overachiever and like to work hard and didn’t want anyone feeling that I either wasn’t pulling my weight or — worse (and I worry about this) — giving me a lameass leg because I’m old(er).

But after some thought, and examination of my, um, legs, I realized that what they gave me is perfect, both in terms of what my strengths are as a runner in general and the distances I have been racing lately. (Incidentally, there’s one leg that ends at a brewery. I didn’t get that one.) Here’s the breakdown of my legs’ vitals:

Leg 4 (section 4): 6.6 miles, Difficulty: Hard, Elevation: -657/+633
Leg 4 (section 16: 4.0 miles, Difficulty: Medium, Elevation: -247/+354
Leg 4 (section 28): 2.9 miles, Difficulty: Easy, Elevation: -309/+197

I warned them that I am a godawful downhill racer and actually preferred uphills given the choice. I’m only doing 13.5 miles total, but that’s fine because I think I’ll be able to actually race all of them at a decent effort given how they’re ordered. I had planned to run the first, whatever I ended up getting, in the 80-85% HR range so I don’t fry myself, and then focus on cleaning up in the final two with a full effort second race and whatever I’ve got left for the third. Heck, it’s less than 3 miles!

The subject of the Mini 10K race, which is week before the relay event, came up and there was much excitement, with at least one team member having decided to spectate rather than run it given the presence of Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher, who will be doing it as a fun run since they’ll both be fairly pregnant by then. I admitted that I’m planning to race that one like a rabid animal (since now I have team scoring to think about), regardless of the physical commitment I have a week later. No eyebrows were raised in worry or judgment.

Random crap

TK calls these posts “Ellipses…”

I call them a great way to unwind on Friday afternoon, after the steam whistle has blown. Toot!

The Green Mountain Relay, and my commitment to it, is becoming more of a reality every day. I had to register and input my most recent (terrible) 10K time. Then I had to pick a shirt style (because that is the most important part of all of this — how I look).

Now I’m scrutinizing the various “race leg” sets and, like some clueless roundeye who’s wandered into a Dim Sum palace, I’m pointing helplessly at a few and saying, “Yes, I’d like to run these! I have no concept of exactly how running extreme changes in elevation, for around 18 miles over a 24 hour period — some of those miles in the dead of night — will affect me. But, dammit, I’m choosing with confidence and authority!”

Oh, right. It's the Green MOUNTAIN Relay.

The way it works is, the race is 200 miles long, divided up in to 36 “legs.” They are numbered (surprise!) 1-36. On a 12 person team, each runner will run three legs, evenly distributed. So, for example, runner 1 will run legs 1, 13 and 25. Some legs are harder than others, and a couple of them are fucking brutal. I’ll let some 25-year-old studs claim those.

But I am nevertheless among the masochistic majority, clamboring for the three-leg sets that are on the “hard” side of the spectrum. And I may not get one of the harder sets, since it seems I may be one of the slower team members. I still don’t yet know how I feel about this piece of information.

Also, on a related and disturbing note, the phrase “baby wipes” is beginning to appear frequently among team member communications. What have I gotten myself into?

So far, at least in email, the team is a fun crowd. (I’ve met two of them exactly once, although we’ve been members of the Running Blog Mutual Appreciation Society for quite some time.) Someone shared this photo snapped during last year’s race (this man was not on their team, by the way).

According to co-captain TK, "It was some freak running down the highway we saw while we were all in the van. It was the funniest thing ever and we all mocked him from the confines of our vehicle."

Edited: When I saw this photo, I knew this man reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t think of whom. This morning, it hit me. He looks quite a lot like a running Ron Jeremy. (That Wikipedia entry is worth a read, not the least of which because it reveals the existence of something call the Adult Star Path of Fame, located in Edison, NJ.)

On a totally different topic, I am cleaning up on the 2009 shoe closeouts. I’ve picked up Saucony Fastwitch 3s for $40 and Asics Hyperspeed 3s for $55 (Holabird Sports). Holabird doesn’t like grabby people, so they only let you buy one pair of the Hyperspeeds. I’m going to put Jonathan up to buying another pair (or maybe I can drop the cloak and dagger and just place a separate order). At this point, I’m doing almost all of my training in “racing” shoes (7.5 oz or lighter). I can’t imagine how I used to train in 12 oz. tugboats.

My shorts (or, rather, the elastic) have all decided to expire at once too. My mesh “comfort liners” have taken to flapping about like sails. I’m already showing way to much flesh when I go out as it is. I draw the line at sunkissed butt cheeks. I’ve got four pairs of new shorts on the way from Running Whorehouse.

I managed to destroy the watch face of my 301XT last week. I knocked it off the counter and broke the glass face right up the center. The watch still functions, but I’m sure it’s not waterproof anymore. I’m quite annoyed that Garmin thought it was a good idea to not only make the front of a sports watch out of glass, but actually raise the glass so it’s guaranteed to shatter if it gets hit. Great job!

On the running front, I’ve had nothing but good workouts this week (two of them, rather than just one; playing with fire), despite the freak heat wave, and I was zippy on my 7 mile recovery run this morning. So I don’t know what to think about Sunday’s 15K race. Maybe I’ll do well, despite my doubts.

Joe has posted about the upcoming Masters Mile at the Louck Games in White Plains early next month. I’m skipping it since it’s just a few days after the Long Island Half Marathon. I know my limits. But I mention it here because, like a lot of outdoor track stuff, not many people are aware that it’s there for the running. The more the merrier. I’m screwing up my courage these days to perhaps try a track race at Icahn.

We shall see. But, again, people, it’s out there, and that’s why I mention it. These are open races, no invitation or qualifying time required. Take advantage or this stuff will go away. And then you’ll have a bunch of sad people noisily clacking around in spikes.

Oh, right. I remember now.

I remember 2007. Or at least I remember my paces from 2007. ‘Cause that’s what I’m running these days!

This week was the first one during which I attempted anything resembling training, after four weeks’ rest and recovery from my blowup in Sacramento. I’ll post a detailed report after tomorrow, but I thought I’d do a post of early observations and random news.

Lots and lots of runners I follow are mourning their downtime-induced loss of speed. I know exactly what they’re talking about. My tempo pace is probably 30-40 seconds per mile slower than it was two months ago. 8-10K pace is about what my tempo pace used to be. Recovery runs are only a little slower than they used to be (although I always ran them on the slow side once the mileage got above 70 mpw).  I haven’t attempted much in the general aerobic range, but I’ll be dipping my toes back into that world tomorrow.

Along with speed, it seems I’ve also lost endurance. Whereas doing a 10 mile recovery run used to be easy, I’m getting tired right in the 6-7 mile range.

So I’ve got some work to do.

The weather has not exactly been conducive to good training. We’ve had the coldest winter in NY that I recall, save for my first year here (1985), in which this transplanted Californian simply couldn’t fathom sub-zero windchills. I also had not familiarized myself with wool and spent that winter freezing my ass off (because I was 20 years old and broke all the time) in $5 cotton layers purchased from the tables of Senegalese purveyors along 14th Street in Manhattan.

Anyway, it’s been cold. Plus it’s snowed, which partially melted, then refroze, leaving my beloved 11 mile running path an unrunnable sheet of pockmarked ice. Yesterday I had my first real intervals session in months scheduled. But my local rich high school’s million dollar Mondo track was covered in the morning’s fall of snow, so it was back to the treadmill again.

My first race of the season, a four miler, is in a month. After yesterday’s foray into running at 93% effort, my expectations are low. Still, since it’s in Central Park I’ll be able to use it as a good gauge of fitness. I honestly don’t expect to run sub-7:00 (the time that would gain me the coveted first corral bib qualification). Maybe I’ll surprise myself, though. How much fitness can I regain in four weeks? We shall see. Given the bad running conditions and how slow-as-shit I feel lately, I am glad not to be under pressure to train for a marathon in early May anymore.

In other News About Me…

Since I find it easier to lose fat when I’m not running 80-95 mpw, and I’m sporting more of it than I’d like, I’m once again on the wagon and keeping my chubby little mitts away from Nutella, roasted cashews and my various other calorie-dense weaknesses. This plan will partially go to hell at the end of the month, when we celebrate Jonathan’s birthday. But since we’re both sporting tight pants these days, it should be a fairly restrained celebration.

I committed (as it were) to be an alternate on PigtailsFlying‘s team for June’s Green Mountain Relay in Vermont. Like most other things running-related this year, I’m taking a “fuck it, I’ll try that” attitude. The introvert who needs six hours of alone time each day screams “Nooooo!” at the idea of spending three solid days with a bunch of strangers, much of it in a confined (very confined) space (and mobile too, which is sure to bring out my motion sickness), during which sleep and personal hygiene are considered non-essentials.

But the same introvert who misses the moments of pleasure and surprise in spending time with strangers is bellowing from the other shoulder that this could actually be fun – if I only reoriented my perspective from one of discomfort and deprivation to one of adventure and discovery. As my sister pointed out, it’s only a few days. And good blog fodder. But, then, so is the stomach flu. Don’t I sound like a great teammate already? No wonder I’m an alternate; Pigtails has met me exactly once, but I guess that was enough!

I’ve got no signs of injury. Anywhere. Even after my faster (cough cough) running on the treadmill yesterday. Nary a niggle. Nothing. I’m wondering how long this will last. All season, if I’m careful. I hope.

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