Long Island half forecast: NBL trending toward DNS

With NBL meaning “not bloody likely” and DNS defined as “did not start.”

Well, now I’m very glad that I didn’t spend the entire winter training to race the New Jersey Marathon. We’re due for a freak heatwave this weekend. Not only was I smart (or just doubtful) enough to defer my entry until 2011, but we also decided to do a race — a half — closer to home to avoid the expense of a hotel room. So instead we’re scheduled to run the Long Island Half, which is about 45 minutes from our house by car.

The worst of the heat is going to be tomorrow, with a predicted high of 84 and high dew points to go with it. But Sunday’s not much better, with predicted conditions at race start as 69F and a dew point of 64, with thunderstorms predicted at noon, along with a high of around 80. I race badly in heat/humidity even when I’ve had weeks to acclimate. While I’m resigned to the likelihood that I will be doing some of these shorter efforts (1500-5000m, possibly a 10K) in warmer conditions than I’d like, that’s not the same as trying to race a half marathon in the stuff.

No, I’ve had enough horrible hot weather races to have learned my lesson. While I don’t enjoy throwing away a race registration fee, I enjoy losing control of my bowels, running with a massive headache, and crawling in at 11 minutes off my half PR (only to then run like garbage for weeks afterwards) even less.

As FB runner friend Cristina pointed out — while posting about her own decision to scratch her half in DC this weekend — conditions like these aren’t that far off what felled runners in the 2007 Army 10 Miler and Chicago Marathon races, both of which should have been sponsored by E-Z Bake Ovens that year.

We’ve got until 6PM tomorrow to pick up our race packets. I figure by then it should be obvious if the weather muppets are on the money this time around or not. I’ll probably do a longer run on Sunday anyway. But not a fast one.

Sometimes I regret not having created a “weather complaints” category, as I’m sure it would have been the biggest keyword in my category tag cloud by now.

Running hard after running hard is hard

I had the rare horrible workout on Tuesday, a revisiting of the rite of passage “on/off” tempo run: 12 miles with the last 8 switching between 7:15 and 8:30 pace.

Eek. It was awful. I felt iffy going in but I’ve learned that how I feel often has no bearing on how well I run or race. So I gave it my all. Which wasn’t very much. After 3.5 very slow miles I gradually picked up the pace  to the low 8:00s to get ready to run faster. Then when the watch vibrated (yes, I have a vibrating watch; no giggling) at 4 miles I launched into my first “fast” mile. I struggled to run this in 7:56. A mere 41 seconds per mile off pace.

With a rapidly blackening mood, I took it down to 8:30 for a mile, as assigned. Even that was difficult to maintain, though, and I ended up with an 8:45. Things continued in this vein for the next few miles, although the faster ones got a bit better, more like 7:35. But I was working too hard and I knew it. The fourth fast mile was 7:20 at 93%. It was so awful that I abondoned mile 12 and called it a day at 11.1.

Jesus fucking Christ. That was a bad feeling heading into a race on Sunday in which that’s 5 seconds slower than my intended half marathon pace. Ain’t now way I’m running 13+ miles at 93%. Uh, no. Just no.

I came home, banged things around in the kitchen and then moped all morning.

Then Jonathan went out for a run and, for the heck of it, decided to try running a fast mile or two. He came back and confirmed that it had been extremely difficult to do so. I can only think that my legs were still tired from the 5K race on Saturday. I wouldn’t have thought that a 5K can take that much out of you, but I guess it’s like doing a speed session or something.

Days like that make me think of the 19 year olds who regularly post on LetsRun with questions like, “Should I hammer my workout a day after racing?” It must be nice to be young. Beyond a certain age, “hammering” a workout doesn’t even seem to be a possibility three days after racing.

I just end up feeling so fucking old when this sort of thing happens.

I took yesterday off because I was very busy with work and then had to go shopping and after all that couldn’t cope with putting on my stupid shorts and going out and running in 25 mph winds for another dose of failure. Today was better, with a pleasant little recovery run this morning, not even 5 miles, at a reasonable effort vs. pace.

It’s Thursday. I’ve got a couple of days to get ready to race. The forecast isn’t looking too favorable — warm, humid and windy — but never mind. I don’t care about anything this season, remember?

Google search oddities

Today: “crapped herself”

The madness continues.

Training: April 19 – April 25, 2010

Another light week in terms of mileage. Between the 15K race and then a following week of three workouts, I was feeling a bit beaten up going into this one.

My only workout was a revisiting of the half mile repeats on the track I’d done roughly six weeks earlier. It was a screwy session since the intial turn on the track was blocked off so the high schoolers could do some sort of sport that involves climbing up to the top of a pole, strapping on a harness attached to a pulley, and letting gravity pull them rapidly forward along a tilted line. I wish I knew what this was called so I wouldn’t have to describe it every time. practice their zip line skills.

What this meant was that instead of rounding the track at the top, one had to cut straight across, then try to “make up” for the lost distance by running in the extreme outside lane for the rest of the repeat. I was probably slightly under 800m for my loops, maybe more like 780m.

This all makes sense if you understand the Bronxville High School track. This is one of the wealthiest square miles in the entire nation, and per-student spending in their school system is, well, astronomical. Yet they couldn’t manage to put in an accurate track when they spent a million dollars on one a few years ago. What they’ve done is cram a 400m track into too-small a plot of land. Rather than move the lane markers farther apart for the sake of accuracy, they went with aesthetics, distributing the markers as you would on a standard track. As a result, none of the lanes are 400m. The inside lane is 380m. Lane 4 is the closest at 404m. I haven’t a clue what the outside lane is.

Joe had seen my FB post about heading to the track with Jonathan, and there he was when we arrived! He and Jonathan did some 400 (or whatever they could approximate under the circumstances) repeats, first together, then Jonathan took his slower.

Aside from having to dodge around lounging teens, I enjoyed this workout and didn’t find its “twist” at the end (picking up the pace to 6:00 for the last 200m) nearly as taxing as I did the first time I did it some weeks ago. But I suspect I did too many of them. I probably should have done one fewer repeat to save my legs for Sunday’s 5K race and mullet appreciation day.

I took a day off again on Sunday, something I’ve made a habit of over the past couple of months. It was pouring buckets of rain all day and I didn’t feel like dealing with getting soaking wet or disassembling the bed in the guest room (it’s a tiny room) to make room for the treadmill, which is now shoved up against a wall.

I briefly considered going into the city to watch the More Half in Central Park, and maybe do a run in the opposite direction as I did last year (so I could watch the elites, followed by the March on Washington). But, man, it was just miserable out there. My AG hero, Colleen De Reuck, didn’t win, as I’d hoped. She was in the lead until mile 9 when she succumbed to hypothermia (that’ll happen when you’ve got 14% body fat). From what I can gather, later in the race her pace cratered by at least 20 seconds per mile and she ultimately got handily beaten by Sally Meyerhoff (although I’m a fan of Sally’s too, owing to her having meaty thighs and a substantial badonkadonk, like mine).

Colleen with her jaunty red brolly.

I’ve had it in mind that I should do one hard workout this (meaning the current) week, preferably early in the week, then a minitaper for the Long Island Half on Sunday. I spoke with Coach Kevin over the weekend and he confirmed this plan. But he surprised me by giving me a doozy of a workout to do: a 12 miler with the last 8 alternating between 7:15 and 8:30.

I did this workout six weeks ago and, to be honest, it was difficult. I’m expecting it to be a bit easier this time around, primarily because I’m fitter now, although the fact that the wind is low this morning should also help. Now I just need the sun to come up so I can go out there and kick my own ass.

The rock stars next door

For years and years I didn’t remember a whole lot from my childhood. Now I find that something’s been released in my brain lately and I’m finding all kinds of things crammed away in there that I’d forgotten about.

The other day was warm enough to open the window in the second bedroom that serves as our office. When it’s warm, my neighbor’s dog, Lola, is outside on their deck. She barks at anything that moves, with the mailman and cats being the big winners usually.

Last summer I bought a device called the Barkstopper Pro. It was useless against Lola’s constant auditory onslaught. So I’ve gotten used to the barking and it’s only a real nuisance when I’m on the phone. Or when I think about what we’re going to do if we ever want to sell this house.

I knew the mail had arrived, because Lola was barking her head off. Then I suddenly remembered a song called “Barking Dog Blues.” It was written by Peter Kaukonen, brother of Jorma, both members of various incarnations of Jefferson Airplane/Starship. Like Proust’s fateful madeleine, that stupid dog brought on a flood of memories.

I mostly grew up in Mill Valley, California, which is about 20 minutes north of San Francisco. We moved there in 1970 and lived about halfway up to the top of Mount Tamalpais. Mill Valley was kind of a magical place in which to grow up, something I didn’t fully appreciate until after I left roughly 13 years later. It is a gorgeous town, with houses stuck into the side of the mountain, carpeted with old growth redwoods and sycamores and full of discoveries, like secret steps you can use to take shortcuts everywhere, horse farms and fantastic parks and trails.

In the sixties and seventies it was a hotbed of musical activity. To give you an idea of what it was like there, my best friend, Johanna, lived higher up on the mountain in a big A-frame. Her house was in earshot of Carlos Santana’s place, and we could sometimes hear them rehearsing in the afternoons. (She also had a neighbor a bit closer in who sometimes made pornographic movies outside on the deck. Needless to say, to our cultural peril, we found the latter activity of much greater interest.)

My family lived next door to Peter Kaukonen and his wife at the time, Jacky. They had no kids, but they seemed to like me, their seven-year-old neighbor. I found them fascinating. Peter had a home recording studio and a room full of musical instruments.

Even then I was intensely drawn to all kinds of music (I was, for example, obsessed at the time with a couple of albums my dad gave me by the Baha Marimba Band, a faux-Mexican outfit) and enjoyed just being around all the drums and guitars. They were like works of art and I loved looking at them as much as I liked hearing them played. Ten years ago I bought my dream guitar, a Gibson Les Paul Custom. I play it badly and it needs attention from a good luthier. But it’s a beautiful piece of art to me.

In the early seventies, people weren’t paranoid about their kids hanging around with adults. I used to go over to Peter and Jacky’s some afternoons after school just to hang out and see what they were up to. It still amazes me that they welcomed me into their home rather than seeing me as a nuisance.

Who would you rather hang around with after school? No fucking contest.

Peter had recorded an album, Black Kangaroo, and he wrote the song “Barking Dog Blues” as a minor protest against (or, really a lament about) our neighbors’ dog, which barked incessantly. I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been to try to record an album with a fucking dog going in the background. On that recording, he gave up and made the barking the song’s centerpiece.

Along with all their instruments, they had a menagerie of exotic reptile pets. It was like a little zoo of lizards and snakes over there. All this was so much more interesting than either school or my friends’ houses that I couldn’t wait to go over there sometimes.

One time I went into San Francisco with Jacky to a store (I’m pretty sure it was in Chinatown — where else would it possibly have been?) where she bought all the food for their pets: dried grubs, live bugs — and live mice. This was a big treat — going with an adult somewhere to do something undeniably adult, like buying live animals. Jacky handled the transaction with a perfect mixture of sensitivity and matter-of-factness. Snakes ate mice; that was just nature at work. I even remember her saying something to this effect before we went in. She was careful to check that I wasn’t upset by this concept, which I wasn’t, although it didn’t seem like I had much of an option.

Doing some casual Googling, I see that they’re both still around, although it looks like they split up quite awhile ago. Looking back, I realize that Peter and Jacky were just kids themselves at the time — probably not even 30 years old. But they seemed so grown up to me, yet accessible and cool in way that my parents and my friends’ parents could never be. They were very kind to me, and the impression they made on me has influenced how I deal with kids, since I know that small gestures can stick.

Race Report: Washingtonville High School 5K

I’m racing so often these days that I’m getting sick of writing race reports. Or at least I worry that my race reports are boring. I’ll try to make this interesting.

How’s this for an opening gambit: Jonathan was beaten today by a guy with a mullet. He was right in front of me at the start (I was just behind the guys at the front) and I found myself unpleasantly entranced by his straggly neck-shading locks during the National Anthem. After the race I got a look at his front and discovered that he bore a striking resemblance to Davy Jones of The Monkees. But with a mullet.

Now that I have your attention, here’s the race report: Warm up, blah blah blah. Feel crappy, nervous, blah blah. Stand behind mullet guy. RD yells “Go!” and we’re off. Too fast. I’m running with teenage girls and 12-year-old boys who have never run a race. I know this because they are weaving all over the place and asking me, “Are we supposed to run off to the left or something?”

We’re all going at around 5:50 pace and this is just silly. So I slow down. The 12-year-old boys die after 200m (no endurance, these kids today), but the confused girls are still with me. By the quarter mile mark we’re running at a more reasonable 6:30 pace. Then they start slowing down and I don’t want to get complacent, so I pass them, suddenly feeling very Kathy Bates in Steel Magnolias Fried Green Tomatoes.* The rest of the race, I see one woman ahead of me and wait and wait and wait for someone else to catch up. No one does.

The woman is a high schooler in black, probably about 5’10” and all of 130 lbs. She is floating and I know there’s no chance I’ll catch her. I hit the first mile split in 6:37. We turn north. And. Cue the wind. Mile two is way windy. My pace drops to 6:56 for that one. Ugh. But I know the course is sort of in the shape of a bent spoon (or helium balloon on its last legs, if you prefer; or crushed lollipop…), so we should be turning out of the wind eventually and getting it on our sides again.

But that second mile has killed me and at the 2.5 mile mark I start thinking how nice it would be just slow down a bit, or even walk. Or stop and sit down. There’s an idea. But I have to keep going. I’m a little mad at myself because I know I mentally gave up to some extent when I realized in mile 2, as I watched my average speed eroding, that I wouldn’t break 21:00 today. I’m at 7:00 pace at 2.5 miles. This is unacceptable. I snap myself out of it and run the next half mile about 10 seconds faster. Then I see people turning into the parking lot at 3 miles and gun it for the last tenth for a finishing time of 21:12.

So I’m a bit disappointed, but I ran as well as I could today. Since this was a nearly flat course (total up/down elevation was around 150 ft) I now have a 5K pace to use as a baseline for training and for coming up with a reasonable (ha ha) pacing plan for next Sunday’s half marathon on Long Island. I suspect my legs were still tired from Wednesday’s speed workout, since I had leg soreness in the middle of the night. I knew I should have gone with my instinct on Wednesday to do 4 x 800 rather an 5 x 800. Live and learn.

Today's haul. The graphic is a wizard hat ("Washingtonville Wizards").

This week’s haul included a lovely plastic trophy (and bonus non-haltingly correct pronunciation of my last name) and an AG medal. Jonathan came in (I think) sixth with 17:35 while also smashing the 50-54 course record by about a minute. He was, as previously stated, beaten by Mullet Man (who turned out to be in his 30s). We hung around, eating free bananas and watching the kids’ races, waiting for the awards ceremony, which could only happen after they raffled off 4,000 gift certificates from local establishments. These little races are a hoot. They always remind me of political protests — everyone and everything is given equal importance and tedium is never an obstacle in either planning or execution.

More fun stupid stuff…

The drive to Washingtonville, about an hour from our place in Yonkers, is very pretty if you get off of 87 and instead take the Palisades Parkway. On the way, you go past an exit for Letchworth Village (a sign that always makes us giggle). We made up a town to go with it: Lushton.

On the way back we noticed a Mercedes with a vanity license: 4MYBOGIE. What does it mean? That led to a half hour session of FBI style profiling the type of person who gets a vanity license plate. Highly critical profiling, naturally. This sort of thing is why I can go on long car trips with Jonathan; there’s no pressure to talk, and when we do talk, it’s usually at least entertaining, if not always deep.

For the hell of it, here’s a picture of our cat, looking more cute and less pissed off than usual. She was in bed when we left at 8:00 am this morning. I predicted she would still be in bed when we arrived home at 1:00 pm. I was right.

*Whoops. Wrong movie. I’m not surprised I got them mixed up as they are both insufferable movies about annoying Southern women that came out around the same time. Steel Magnolias was so awful that I finally decided it must be a satire of something. I only made it through an hour of it before returning the DVD. I don’t think I made it much farther through Fried Green Tomatoes.

The 5K

I have one tomorrow.

I knew it had been awhile since I last raced one, but I didn’t realize until I looked at my old logs just how long it’s been: nearly four years. It also turns out that I’ve only ever raced three 5Ks. In mid-2006, shortly after I started racing — with a 5K, 10K and 15K in under a month’s time — it became clear to me that I was better suited, at least temperamentally if not physiologically, for racing longer distances.

Or at least that’s what I’ve always thought. Namely, that I have no natural speed. But the truth is that I’ve never trained for shorter race distances (meaning less than a half marathon), so I really have no clue if that’s true or not. I stopped racing 5Ks because I hated how I felt when I was racing them. It was just too hard to run that fast. Because of the high level of discomfort involved, I bought into the “I’m not a 5K racer” perspective for years.

Now, after having recently raced a 2 miler and a couple of 4 milers, and having truly enjoyed each experience, I’m guessing that my dislike of racing shorter distances back then had more to do with my lack of aerobic conditioning and less to do with some sort of natural disadvantage in the speed department.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not proclaiming myself a fast racer at shorter distances by any means. I’m fully expecting to have my ass handed to me in the track races I plan to do in a few weeks. But I’m starting to doubt that I’m as irredeemably terrible at racing short as I’d thought.

Tomorrow’s race won’t exactly present the opportunity for a fair assessment, by the way, at least from a competitive standpoint. We’re running a small 5K way the hell up in Orange County. But, as with all my races this season, I’m going into this race essentially to see how things turn out, not to achieve any particular goal or beat someone else.

The last time I raced a 5K I hated it. Tomorrow I expect to love it.


On a totally unrelated note, it’s spring and that means I’m thinking about my grandmother, who died just about two years ago at the age of 93. Flowers burst into bloom and I get reliably depressed; I’ve come to expect it, although it’s better this year than it was last year, when I found myself weeping on a few runs. I miss her dark sense of humor and appreciation for the bawdy.

I saw her in Iowa, alive, for the last time in April 2008 when I thought she was going to fight her way back from a stroke (having survived just about everything else life had thrown at her), then went back to say farewell at her funeral a month later. Then Cedar Rapids was hit with floods of Biblical proportions, which destroyed much of city’s historic downtown including parts where she grew up. I was relieved that she didn’t live to witness the destruction and loss.

My grandmother died less than a year after my great aunt, her older sister and best friend, died in the summer of 2007. That was also a tough one. We were hiking in Switzerland when I got the news about my great aunt and I remember sitting down on a log in the foothills of the Matterhorn and bursting into tears among all that enormous, vertical beauty. Both of these women were accomplished watercolor painters. I hate it when artists die in general, but it really peeves me when I know the artists in question.

Anyway. I don’t mean to be a downer. I just loved those two old gals and miss them both terribly.

Training: April 12 – April 18, 2010

Since I’m in a somewhat manic “oh I’ll just change everything” period, I may as well also change how I label these training posts. I realize that since I’m not training for any particular race, saying I’m in “week n” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So I’m going to do what the pros do and just tell you what dates I’m talking about.

First things first — and I’m skipping ahead into this week, so if you’re confused, it’s not you, it’s me — I did not run the Boston Marathon, which everyone else in the world seemed to be doing. (And I should add that I never will run the Boston Marathon, despite its caché, for a host of reasons). But I did have a grand old time watching it on Monday evening.

Since I had so much to do workwise (don’t people know not to schedule meetings on Patriot’s Day? Sheesh.) I had to sit on our Tivo recording until about 8:00PM. Staying away from all news was challenging (although, let’s face it, Facebook was harder to go cold turkey on for an entire day — I slipped once, but only to post something, not to read).

It was a thrilling race, especially on the women’s side, which is becoming a happy pattern in recent years. There are great summaries of the race elsewhere, so I won’t bore you here. Except to say that I wish Larry Rawson would truly retire. He’s like the Rolling Stones (only older) — constantly announcing his retirement only be exhumed yet again, our sport’s own version of Grandpa Simpson, rambling on about how much everyone is earning and how far that money goes in Kenya, reading leg turnover rates like so many tea leaves and getting nearly everyone’s name wrong. At one point he was laboring to compare running the mile (he was a miler in the Mesozoic Age) to running the marathon. Seriously. It was funny.

Okay. Onto the good stuff. I was a bit dumb about training last week, getting carried away and running a bit too hard. But I felt so good after the Scarsdale 15K that I couldn’t stop my legs, which wanted to go. On Wednesday I gave in and let them do a general aerobic run. I was surprised at how slow that was considering the relative effort, although I shouldn’t have been.

I was obviously still tired from Sunday — and probably also from racing over hills for three straight weekends — but that didn’t stop me from doing another speed session two days later. I went back to the “cutdown” workout that I’d done just once before, about three weeks prior. It was a strange session. The first repeat (a mile) was a minor disaster. It was quite windy and between that and running about 15 seconds per mile too fast I just died toward the end. I ended up cutting it short to 1400m. I figured the rest of the session would suck, but that first repeat turned out to be my warmup. The other three legs went extremely well, considering the wind.

I took Saturday off both to rest my legs and to clean our house from top to bottom so my sister and niece would never know what slobs we are. No one must ever know. Niece has decided she’s going to UC San Diego, although since Rutgers’ Honor College apparently offered her a metric fucktonne of financial aid she thought she’d better at least check the place out before deciding to remain a California girl.

While I’m sorry that I won’t have her around on this coast, as she’s really quite charming and the complete opposite — outgoing, cheerful and enthusiastic — of everything I am, I had trouble seeing her living here, especially sequestered away in East Brunswick, New Jersey rather than among the bright lights of New York City that drew her here (insert gratuitous “moth to flame” analogy here) in the first place. But she has her entire life left to move to New York and in the process ruin said life. Like I did! (Just kidding. Sort of.)

On Sunday they headed off into the city for theatre and lunch with more eagerly awaiting family and I dashed up to White Plains and back. Again, it was ridiculously windy and my paces were all over the place, anywhere from 9:30 to 7:50 per mile. But it was a satisfying run and allowed me to eat this monstrosity later on.

This week is considerably lighter: just one speed workout and then my first 5K race in several years on Saturday. I’ll go ahead and say my goal is to break 21:00. Unless it’s windy, I think this might be doable. But you’ll be able to read all about that … next week.

Google search oddities

“photo of girl crap on marathon”

Sigh. I wonder what the Googler was going for there. Probably Paula Radcliffe having her famous mid-race squeeze in London, but that’s just a guess.

And this one, which for some reason makes me think of Ultraman:

“power in my finger”

I honestly can’t remember what I did for entertainment before the Internet came along.

Spring Training: Week Fourteen

This week I was training myself as my coach continues to struggle with access and computer issues. I didn’t mind. The combination of having worked with him for well over a year and not really training for any goal in particular means it’s been pretty easy for me just to look at old workout schedules and approximate what I should be doing.

I celebrated my birthday with a fun general aerobic run. Then decided to throw in some speedwork later in the week to try to rev up my legs for Sunday’s race. I just did a little — not even two miles. I’d planned to do four 1K repeats, but was beat after the third one and I’ve learned that this is the time to stop.

I took Saturday off, I think because I had a shitload of work to do in order to free up Sunday. There is a great myth that those of us who “work for ourselves” (another concept that really isn’t true; we actually have numerous bosses) have loads of free time. I, at least, don’t. I average around 45-55 hours of work most weeks, between my corporate day gig and my freelance projects. When the freelance is really flowing in it can be as high as 65+, but fortunately those weeks are rare.

Thank goodness I have no commute (it’s five steps from my bedroom to my office), or I’d never be as disciplined a runner as I am. (Either that or I’d have to take a page from Ted Corbitt’s book and run back and forth to work in Manhattan.) It’s for this reason that running in the neighborhood of 50 mpw has been refreshing.

Anyway. Still coasting.