Take off that race bib and pick up that drink!

Pigtails Flying and I are trying to organize a meet and chat for NYC area running bloggers. Go vote on the best date in January for our meetup.

Race Report: Ted Corbitt 15K


This was toward the end of the race, since I'd been trying to pass that woman in blue for eight miles. Note the efficient heel strike.

It seems fitting that for the inaugural race to honor Ted Corbitt — known as the father of American ultrarunning, among numerous other distinctions — we would have truly treacherous and trying conditions. A race of 9.3 miles is hardly an “ultra.” But today’s race felt a lot longer than it actually was.

Despite yesterday’s surprise storm — which dumped six inches of snow on NYC, followed by sleet and a plunge in temperatures — a few hundred hardy souls convened on Central Park’s 102nd St transverse this morning to honor Ted. The race was declared a “fun run” to discourage people from going nuts and turning it into a speed skating event. Our timing chips were collected and we were on our own to judge our performances against the clock, the conditions and our peers.

I’d been looking forward to this race for weeks, since it was slated to be a true HTFU* effort. Just how HTFU it would be wasn’t clear to me until I actually headed into the city this morning and saw the conditions we’d be running in: Temps in the 20s with wind chills  between 7 and 18; a steady 8-10mph wind from the north; an outer loop coated in a thin layer of semi-frozen slush; transverses consisting of hard-packed snow. I’d say about 15% of the course was totally clear of snow or slush — I can see exactly where those sections were when I look at my GPS route map vs. the speeds I was running at various points.

Not only was I scheduled to run a 15K race, but I also needed to sandwich it in-between 9 miles to make an 18 mile long run. I ended up with a total run of 16.8 miles. The trains and subways were delayed, so I had to cut my pre-race run from 4.5 to 3.5 miles. Then I ran the race. Then — and this was the last thing I wanted to do — I set out to run the third leg. That ended up being 4 miles since the wind chill plunged 10 degrees in the final 15 minutes, my feet were soaked, and I was on the verge of hypothermia.

I do this for fun, remember?

Race time (unofficial): 1:09:10. I’m very pleased with that time considering the crap I ran through, on a course that’s normally pretty difficult anyway. Average pace was 7:24, but I managed a 6:55 for mile 7 (nice downhill) and a 7:07 for mile 9 (flat).

There were so few of us running that the volunteers recognized me as I did multiple loops. Three cute guys, all bundled up and huddled together, saw me approaching prior to the start, with a race number. At first they were confused, thinking the race had started and I was in the lead. Then they figured out that I was just warming up and instead yelled, “You can do it!” For some reason, we all thought that was hilarious. A few others noted that they’d seen me three times rather than two (since I passed by them on my third, extra leg of 4 miles), with one cajoling me, “You can stop running now!”. I thanked a lot of volunteers today.

Despite the conditions (and the considerable effort it took to get there and back on foot from Westchester), I’m glad I did this run today. Central Park was stunning, with a fresh, white coating of snow over everything. People all around us were sledding, cross country skiing and throwing snowballs. A winter wonderland oasis in a city where snow otherwise presents little more than a filthy burden.

After struggling to get out of my wet shoes and socks in a portapotty and endeavoring to get the feeling back in my fingers, I didn’t have the energy to trek the quarter mile to get a half frozen bagel from the boxes on the 102nd St transverse. Unfortunately, the one piece of food I brought with me, a PowerBar, had the appeal (and consistency) of a slate roof shingle; frozen solid! So I found a great little diner on 103rd right across from the subway stop, Jimmy’s, where I got a toasted bagel and hot chocolate.

*Harden The Fuck Up.

Oh, Ted.

For those of you without TV or radio, the east coast is in the midst of a major snow dumping. We’ve gotten about 6 inches of snow so far, and it’s still coming down steadily. I trudged into Manhattan today via foot, train and subway to pick up my race bib and chip. Surprisingly, there were other idiots at NYRR’s offices doing the same thing. But I wonder how many of them came all the way from Westchester. I’m the biggest idiot, dammit! Me! Me!

And apparently the online world abounds with still more idiots. I’ve had hits from lots of people using keywords related to tomorrow’s NYRR race in Central Park, the Ted Corbitt 15K (formerly known as the Hot Chocolate 15K). The search referrals started last week and picked up to a frenzy (eight searches) today.

I don’t dare drive in this mess tomorrow. The traffic report today was comical: “It’s accidents, accidents, accidents all the way up the NY State Thruway and I-95!” So, I will again make my way in via shoeleather express and public transportation. And, since I’m not only racing tomorrow but also doing 9 training miles around it, I’ll need to arrive in Central Park at the ungodly hour of 7:30 at the latest. That means leaving the house by shortly before 6:00.

The alternative is doing this run inside on the treadmill. Frankly, I’d rather run with a bunch of other idiots in sub-freezing temperatures and high winds. Anyone who’s ever done an 18 mile training run on a treadmill will understand this. Besides, there’s free hot chocolate and bagels awaiting. And, if some of the faster runners turn out not to be idiots, I could always place well in my age/gender group.

Fit, fast and … fat?

Compared to most women in this country, I look like a runway model.

I have what I think is somewhere in the range of 24% body fat, although it could well be higher or lower, since all I have to go on is my consumer-level Moron body fat measurement device. While this number is on the low end of normal for the general female population (especially today, when overweight-to-obese is the new “normal”), it’s on the high side for a competitive marathon distance runner.

The discrepancy I see between myself and the women I finish with in races (who are typically carrying noticeably less extra poundage than I am) has bothered me more for theoretical than practical reasons thus far. After all, if I’m finishing with the skinny bitches, then the fact that I am not a skinny bitch myself is not holding me back. Or is it? I don’t know.

Not knowing something, especially something that might impact something else that’s important to me, really bugs me. So I sought out some expert advice from Mary Coordt, who is not only a nutritionist, but she’s also a three time Olympic marathon trials qualifier and frequent speaker on nutrition for runners. Since if you so much as exchange one email with me your expectation of privacy is null and void, I’ll share what she told me with you.

When I presented her with my plight (“I’m obviously fatter than my peers at the finish line, can’t seem to lose that extra fat no matter what I do, and I fear that it’s slowing me down.”) her response was frank, informative and oddly reassuring. To paraphrase, it went something like this:

You’re born with a certain body type and physiological framework within which to work. You’re in a normal range for body fat and you’re making great progress. So stop comparing yourself to the thinner marathoners and look to the bulkier runners instead (she mentioned Russians in particular) who have no problem moving fast over long distances despite the loads they’re hauling. Keep training and your times will drop. Don’t worry about it.

To me, one mark of a true professional is being able and willing to tell someone that they really don’t need your services.

So I’m going to stop looking for the diet or person who can promise me fat loss. I’m just going to keep running.

Winter Basebuilding: Week 4

09spr-base-04Ahh. A recovery week. And not a week too soon.

With a 25% reduction in volume, I was flying on my feet this past week. I truly needed the day off on Monday, as I was quite tired. Tuesday’s 20 minute effort at 10K was not that difficult physically — the real effort was mental for this run for some reason. I wonder if not running for a day had something to do with that.

I did Friday’s tempo effort on the track, which was a pleasure that day since there was almost no one there. Although at one point I was the entertainment for a PE class of bored eight year olds. I couldn’t help but wonder: did they find me fast or slow?

The centerpiece of the week was Sunday’s run, for which I was lucky to have good weather. Nice and cold and not too much wind. I felt fantastic during this run, managing to crank out eight miles at the end at around 10 seconds per mile faster than my early October marathon pace, all at a lower heart rate.

My resting heart rate is now solidly in the low 40s most days too.

I can hardly believe that I’m nearly halfway through basebuilding already. I’ve enjoyed doing the work and seeing progress, however subtle.

For Basebuilding Week 5 the mileage shoots back up to 85 and I start introducing doubles, on back-to-back days, no less. Then I test out my new and improved wheels and engine in a 15K race in Central Park on Saturday.

How the XBox 360 changed my run on Tuesday

Or, rather, how it changed the way my brain works when I’m out running.

My relationship with my significant other was forged over many games of SuperMario Bros. on the Nintendo. This was circa 1990, when people still used cassettes and the Internet was still developing its eyelids. Since then, we’ve upgraded to a new gaming system every five years or so. This year marked the move from our beloved Playstation 2 to the XBox 360.

Although the purchase coincided with Christmas, what’s the point of waiting until some arbitrary date (December 25) to start enjoying it? We could well be dead by then. No time like the present to start frittering away time and working up to a good case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

We ordered a number of games (sword and sorcery for him, post-apocalyptic mayhem and alien destruction for me). But they look pretty complicated. So for the test drive we inserted the Indiana Jones Lego game that came with the system (suitable for 10 year olds and brain damage victims). Let me tell you, this game is like video crack. We’ve killed entire evenings this week in front of this brain-bender.

Brain bending is the point of this post, which I’ll get to. The game forces you to look at your environment in a new way and engage in creative problem solving. This translated into the real world for me on a rainy day run. Our running path follows the Bronx River and, in one section, it’s forced to go underneath the parkway of the same name. Unfortunately, the environmental engineer didn’t consider the effect of heavy rain on the river. As a consequence, when it rains heavily, the path under the roadway is flooded.

In the past, upon arriving at this spot and seeing six inches of water where a path should be, I opt to risk my life crossing a busy parkway, around a blind corner. On Tuesday, however, I had a completely different reaction. For the first time, I noticed a steel handrail with three horizontal rails running alongside the entire flooded area. “Hey,” I thought, “I can put my feet on the first rail, brace my knees against the second, and grip the third with my hands. Then I just need to scoot along the rail past the flooded part.”

And so I did, feeling very clever at having found an alternative to sprinting across two lanes of 50mph traffic.

Now I’m wondering how many other people have figured that out. And what percentage of them are 10-year-old video gamers.

Damned chipmunks

After the About page, this page is the most popular page on this blog. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t get hits from people searching for “baby chipmunks”. For some reason, this drives me crazy. I’m half tempted to remove the post so I don’t have to see it at the top of the most trafficked pages every single day.