New page: Faves

I thought it was time to collect my favorite posts somewhere. Find them on the new Faves page.

Fear and loathing in Buffalo

I like to research potential marathons on It’s hard to know what to make of a race when the reviews fall on the extremes of the spectrum. But, in the case of the Buffalo Marathon at least, it can make for some pretty entertaining reading.

Ann Onymous from Rochester, NY writes:
“I signed up for a large shirt; to me, this is an implied contract – I sign up ahead AND PAY MONEY and I get a race and a large shirt (unless I show up last-minute). A t-shirt is not that big a deal (well, on second thought it is – I trained long and hard all winter for this race; it would be nice to have something to show for it, like the women in my group who got shirts). How this has been handled is an issue reflective of the race management – poor. And while I’m on my soap box…. Maybe have a few more than the dozen or so porta-johns for the 2,300 racers at the start area – I’ve not seen as much public urination in my life (well maybe except for the Boilermaker in Utica – but that doesn’t start in a downtown city area).”

I don’t get why people get so outraged about race tee shirts, either when there are only large ones left or none left. I don’t even take shirts anymore since I have so many of them clogging my drawers. If you finish a marathon, you’ve got something to show for it: your finishing time, your bragging rights and your memories. You’ll usually get a cheesey little medal too. As for public urination, she ain’t seen nothin’ until she’s come to New York, Boston or Chicago.

S.N. from West Yorks, England whines:
“The course itself is flat and fast, but crowd support is spread out – there are long periods with very little support, although there are pockets of strong support to lift you.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Do your research. You’re running in Buffalo. Buffalo! If you want big crowds, run in West Yorks. Or better yet, Shitterton.

L.W. from Washington, DC reports:
“The course was 0.3 miles too long according to my GPS system (and my husband’s) – even in the first five miles. A third of a mile wreaks havoc on your pace when you’re shooting to complete the race before being asked to move to the sidewalk.”

A GPS reporting .3 miles extra for a marathon is actually very good, considering that it’s nearly impossible to run every single tangent perfectly. More important, how can a course be “too long” in the first five miles? I think my head is going to explode.

J.C. from Pittsburgh exhorts:
“The women runner’s were phenomenal. I was with a group running 8:05’s to 8:15’s that strung me along. Another important rating for this course, all the women runners were 5 stars and some are even good runners!!!”


And, finally, there’s this screed that sounds like something out of The Daily Worker. The inscrutably named “m. g. from Parkside with my wage freeze! On ice..” writes, somewhat bafflingly:
“My running partner got hit up for change at mile 25 from some panhandler dude!REALLY! Last bummer: all that was left were loaves of bread and some off-brand diet pop for my post-race party… BREAD AND WATER! HMMM, like I said, the Control Board MUST now have taken over our local road races as well as the economic freedom of the working class! When you see them at the Corporate Challenge in their HUGE tents with catered food and limo service, wave and say hello!”

Will I run Buffalo? I have no fucking idea.

New links

I recently updated a few of my links. Yeah, uh, so what, you say? Well, I think a few of them are worth pointing out.

First, I added a link to Run Away Fast, Jaymee Marty’s running blog. Jaymee just took second at the Marine Corps Marathon, three weeks after running a 2:46:26 at Twin Cities. She’s a latecomer to running and to marathoning, as am I, and she’s also part of the over 40 set. She’s currently gearing up for a qualifying run for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in six months. I doubt she’ll have any problems achieving that goal.

I also added links to sites for two runners in trouble. The first, set up to benefit Jenny Crain, has been around for awhile. Jenny was hit by a car while out running in August of 2008 and suffered horrific brain and other physical injuries as a result. The second site deals with Kevin McDermott‘s plight after a recent diving accident left him paralyzed, although he has made astonishing progress in restoring mobility since then.

As a side note, both these runners and their families are struggling to pay medical bills despite having been insured at the time of their accidents. If that isn’t a wake up call to people who for some baffling reason don’t support health care reform, then I don’t know what is.

Of hamstrings and advanced planning

Just an update as I try to unwind for a few minutes from the latest work-related debacle.

My hamstring is better after several days of self restraint. I’ve done almost as much walking as I have running in the few days since it went “Oh, snap! You dih’in’t!” on Sunday. This morning had me running a slightly zippier 9:30 pace, including an experimental zoom at 7:15 pace for about 45 seconds at the end of the run. All systems seem go.

Tomorrow I’ll further test Hammy’s tolerance with a tempo run on the track. I’ll do a two mile warmup to get there, then another good mile or so of speeding up to see if it starts to rattle. If it’s okay, I’ll try two at tempo pace and see if there are any complaints. Then I’ll try another two, then do some recovery miles afterward to head home for a bath, a bagel and some gratitude for my body’s ability to heal itself. And if it doesn’t go well, I’ll cut things short and continue to rest.

In other news, I appreciated all the feedback on where to go for spring 2010. I’m traveled out after this year and upon reviewing the various options realized that any race I would travel (meaning “fly”) to would present the same relative chances of good or bad weather than anything I’d find closer to home. Since I need to fix about 3,000 issues with my house next year, I’ve decided I’m going local for 2010 at least for the spring, to save money and cut down on time off from work, for which I do not get paid, lucky freelancer that I am.

I’ll target the 2010 NJ Marathon (May 2) for my goal race in terms of training and taper timing. I’ve run the half marathon there twice and it was the site of my two fastest half marathons (and many PRs at shorter distances in the process) to date. What amazes me (and I should have absorbed this lesson by now) is how fast the hotels there fill up for a race that’s half a year off.

The host hotel, right on the start/finish line, is full up, as is the fancy schmancy boutique hotel ($400+ a night) two blocks from the start. Everything else is miles away. Fortunately, there are still rooms available at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in West Long Branch on Rt. 36. This place is not on the hotels listed on the marathon’s web site, by the way. But it’s less than a mile from Monmouth Racetrack (where the parking and shuttles are) and the rooms have a fridge and microwave. Perfect!

Since Jonathan wants more training time after the Sacramento race in December, he won’t run New Jersey with me. Instead, it looks likely that he’ll do the Buffalo Marathon a month later. That’s a mere 6.5 hours away by car, no airplanes required. We know someone who’s run it three times and liked it (and his times were remarkably consistent with performances elsewhere from year to year, so the course and conditions don’t appear to be a killer). Plus, I can register too and keep it as a backup if something goes awry in New Jersey. Even if it doesn’t, I can always run it as a fun run. Or, if I’m feeling like a fully recovered bad ass, do my best Mary Akor impersonation and race that one too.

So that’s the plan so far. I’m keeping your suggestions in a list for future reference, and I see others researching spring races have hit this site in web searches. So it’s all valuable stuff.

Fall Training: Week 7 (Special tragicomic edition)

09fall-training-07New highs, new lows. I’d planned (or, rather, Coach Kevin had planned) 95 miles for me this week. While that certainly wasn’t a new high, I was looking forward to hitting that number. It makes me feel like a superhero when I can emerge from two 90+ weeks with energy to spare.

The highs this week were a 14+ mile recovereasy run that was a lot faster than I’d planned. But it was fast despite a very low effort. I cruised along at sub-9:00 at avg 72% MHR. This after a fairly challenging 22 miler on Sunday. I was feeling very up after that on Tuesday.

I had enough energy for strides on Wednesday morning, although I didn’t run them crazily fast. Wednesday was a big mileage day, and the effects showed on Thursday. That was one of the week’s lows. I didn’t feel that great going into the run and I was struggling to run an 11:30 mile at 67%. Even though I lowered my expectations accordingly I was still shocked at how slow I was running at 89-90% effort.

Shocked and depressed, actually. I started questioning everything and finding fault everywhere. I was running too many miles. I was too fat. I was too old. I simply lacked talent. This went on for most of the afternoon, but then I pulled myself out of my funk by looking over training logs and realizing that sometimes you just have a shitty day.

I took it very easy for the next few days in order to rest up for Sunday’s sandwich run and race in Central Park, which provided the most extreme highs and lows of the week: what started out as a great race ended up an instantaneous DNF.

Now it’s Monday and I didn’t run at all today. Instead I continued to ice, compress and massage my hamstring. Then I went out for a 3.5 walk with a few experimental little jogs. The hamstring is still twingey, and it does not like going uphill. But it’s only been about 36 hours. I’ll see how it is tomorrow and go from there.

Another DNF. So why am I smiling?

This morning I experienced the second DNF of my brief competitive racing career. Loyal readers will recall the first, earlier this year, as the debacle known as the Newport Marathon. That experience made me want to stick pins in my eyes in true tragic fashion. Today’s DNF, while a bummer, was a whole different story. And, as the title of this post implies, not without its bright spots.

The site of my latest incomplete was the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff Five Miler in Central Park this morning. It was to be the centerpiece of a total run of 15 miles: 10 easy around a 5 mile race. I’d been advised by Coach Kevin to not plan to run it all out, but that if I felt good to go ahead and feel free to turn on the turbochargers. Well, dang, but I felt good today. I did a 3 mile warmup, mostly easy running but with a couple 45 second repeats at 6:30-7:00 to get my legs ready to go fast, along with my little dynamic stretching routine

Then I lined up in the second corral of runners who’ve managed a previous NYRR race over 1 mile of between 7:00-7:59 average pace. I mention this seemingly unnecessary and wonky detail because I had one goal and one desire for this race today. The goal was to simply run it as hard as I could, with the constant reminder to myself that I need to keep running hard. I don’t race shorter distances because they are so difficult for me to run, as I’m all slowtwitch muscle fibers. The desire was to finally run a NYRR race under 7:00 pace so I can start races in the first corral.

The race started and I was again reminded of why I need to get out of that stupid second corral. Despite starting nearly at the front of my corral this time, I was still stuck in a mob running 7:20 at the start. Midway through the first mile I managed to latch myself onto a guy who I only knew in my own mind as “Lurch.” He was enormous and running fast. So I hung right behind him as he muscled his way through the throngs. We picked it up and I managed a 7:01 for mile 1. Happy with that progress, I vowed not to look at the watch again. Just run fast.

Mile 2 was faster. I could feel that it was a lot faster. That turned out to have been a 6:40. Then mile 3 had some hills and I knew I’d give back some of the time gained in the previous mile, but not all of it. The remaining hills ended at the 3.5 mile mark and then things flattened out as we approached the start of Cat Hill. I was picking up the pace, passing women, and looking forward to the last 1.5 miles, most of which would be either downhill or flat. I’d saved some energy and was getting ready to take flight.

Then, coming down Cat Hill, someone shot me in the back of my right leg. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Hamstring pull. Just like that, my race was over. One loud utterance of “Fuck!” Two hops to get off the course. Three minutes massaging my hamstring and wondering if I would be kissing my fall marathon goodbye and writing off the entire year. To distract myself, I looked at my watch, which I’d turned off the moment I stopped running, since I knew I wouldn’t be running anymore today.

The watch was stopped at mile 3.71. My average pace at that point was 6:54. Hey, wait! This was good news! Had my hamstring not turned into a shrieking diva today, I was certain I could have brought that average down to the high 6:40s and just broken 34:00. Once I managed to skip awkwardly across the wall of runners, I was able to do some walking across the park to Baggage and then another quarter mile or so to the car. While the hamstring certainly hurt, my limp was slight and it became less pronounced the farther I walked.

I’ve spent the last few hours babying it with rest, ice, compression, elevation (otherwise known as the acronym RICE), some industrial strength anti-inflammatories — and it feels better. I’m fairly certain this was a freakish event tied to coming off of two big weeks (and a hard half) as well as the fact that I never run downhills fast. I’d been vaguely aware of some tightness in the right hamstring somewhere during mile 2. But it’s a rare race when something isn’t complaining, so I didn’t worry about it. I guess today’s faster running was one straw too many on the camel’s back and something quite literally had to give.

I get to try again for the coveted blue bib in about a month, when I’ll run a 4 miler in the park. If I could run this well for 5 miles, I’ve no doubt I’ll get that bib before the year is out. But for now, I’m focused on getting my right leg back online.

Help me pick my spring 2010 marathon

I tend to have years that are either “off” or “on” in terms of heavy travel. One year we’ll travel a lot and neglect the house (which is a 1928 colonial in perpetual decline). The next, we’ll stay home and put money into our crumbling domicile. 2009 was an “on” year for travel. Next year will be mostly “off.” But that doesn’t preclude some travel for a spring marathon. I would like to limit it to a long weekend and keep it close enough that it can be driven to in a day (10 hours is the max I can tolerate) or easily flown to from NYC area airports. I accept that we’ll probably need to change planes along the way.

I’ve been researching and I’ve narrowed things down to a few races that look good in terms of location, size, weather/course and reputation/reviews. Since I like cooler weather races I’m looking for mid-to-late May as the outside date. But I’m not averse to doing something earlier, such as in mid-to-late March or April. The ones I’m researching are listed below in the poll.

Note that I haven’t included the Long Branch New Jersey marathon because the weather can be so unpredictable. But I may keep it around as a backup race. Weather considerations are the biggest reason that I’ve not included a lot of New England races that would normally be on my radar.

So, where should I run? If not one of these, what races do you like that are accessible from New England, and why do you recommend them?

Edited: I didn’t think I’d have to be this pedantic, but if you voted “Other” can you please offer a brief comment on which “other” race you have in mind and why?