Chicago Marathon? Hey. Hi there. Uh, what are you doing?

What is wrong with the organizers of the Chicago Marathon? After heat-related hospitalizations and deaths marred the 2007 race, you’d think they’d be on their toes. Yet the 2011 edition, which is eight months away, has already featured two huge, easily avoidable missteps.

Misstep 1: The race will take place the day after Yom Kippur, for which observers are required to fast for 24 hours. Sure, you can race a marathon after fasting. But don’t expect a PR; there’s a good chance that it will be an awful experience too. I’m not Jewish. Nor am I Christian. I don’t think any holiday should dictate a race director’s decisions. But Yom Kippur is major — it’s kind of like failing to notice Christmas, and then scheduling the race for that day, and then saying, “Sorry! We spent years planning this — and did not look at a calendar during those years — and things can’t be changed now.” I understand the consternation.

Misstep 2: You can register for the race online, but registration starts at midnight tonight CST. Boston’s 2011 race filled up in a mere eight hours (and that’s only because a broken registration link sent runners off into the weeds for several hours). Will Chicago fill up this fast? I don’t know. I guess if I want to be certain of getting in then I have to stay up until 1 o’fucking clock in the morning on a weeknight to register. Or get up at a reasonable hour and hope there are spots left.

Why, Chicago Marathon? Why? If you were hoping to generate excitement by opening up registration at midnight, then guess what? You’ve failed. Instead, you’ve generated anxiety and resentment. I haven’t even registered for your race yet and I don’t trust you to care about my experience as a customer. Nor do I like you all that much. Nice job.

“Everything looks great!”

The Endocrinologist has spoken in her three-word addendum at the bottom of my test results: there’s nothing obviously wrong with me, at least in any of the areas she tested for. While I’m glad there’s nothing wrong, I was kind of hoping whatever she tested for would yield some clues.

The Nutritionist remains puzzled by my total lack of progress: “I wonder what your metabolic rate is.” Uh, I’m thinking it’s in the basement, or being warmed by magma. To get an answer to that question, I am still trying to get an appointment set up at the fitness facility with the dodgy carbon dioxide detector. No one was there today when I called — another snow day?

Yeah, so here’s the part where I whine and wallow in a most unattractive fashion.

My damned adductor is acting up again, for no apparent reason, asserting itself during a two hour driveway-clearing session this morning. It’s been snowing non-stop, making getting the 25 minutes north to the gym impossible on many days. I often don’t feel like running on our treadmill, so I blow it off; it just seems completely pointless. I’m chronically injured (as is Jonathan). I’m getting fatter, for reasons no one understands. I cannot run outside because of the snow and ice. What the fuck am I even training for? I can’t even set any goals in this current state. I will part with $290 for two Chicago Marathon registrations next week, but I don’t even know why. I don’t know if I can even handle a 4 mile race in 10 days, physically or psychologically.

Why did I love running? What did it feel like, to believe I could improve? I’m having trouble remembering.

There’s a new club points series in town

Loyal listeners of the New York Running Show (all 81 of you) will have heard the distinctly distressed aural hand-wringing that four of us engaged in on Sunday afternoon as we discussed NYRR’s unveiling of the club points races for 2011. “No more Healthy Kidney 10K? Hey, a spring half — in Brooklyn! But WTF is Fifth Avenue Mile doing there?!”

But, as we like to say here in New York, “Whaddya gonna do?” It is what it is.

One of us at least is doing what any sensible person does in such cases: go west. And east. And north. And south.

That sensible person would be Steve Lastoe of who, along with a few other ambitious New York area runners, is attempting to supplement NYRR’s offerings (but not supplant them) with a new series of races in which clubs can chase points (and prizes!). The NYCRuns InterClub Challenge consists of races that are off the beaten path.

Here are the deets about the race series (still being created, but a few races are on the official roster) and the still-being-designed scoring scheme. Since I am now an “insider” (which gets me nothing of commercial or negotiable value thus far, although I’m scoring big on the personal satisfaction side of things), I know of a few other races — impressive ones — that are in the works. But I’m not allowed to talk about them yet.

These races are going to happen whether or not teams choose to exploit them as a competitive opportunity. But I hope they do make that choice, even if it means doing something incredibly adventurous — like taking a train or subway to an exotic new zip code — because it would be fun to carry that extra dimension of racing motivation and excitement to other venues around the area.

New Houston Hopeful interview: Lori Kingsley

Lori Kingsley is fast enough to have regularly rubbed shoulders with (and been lent hotel room showers by) marathoning’s professional elites. She wins a lot of races. She likes to play dress up. And she describes herself as “a happy runner.” This one took awhile to post, but I think it was worth the wait. The 90+ minute audio is an added treat.

Houston Hopefuls > Lori Kingsley

Random bloviations

I enjoyed hosting this podcast earlier in the evening. I am always a total fucking wreck in the hours before doing interviews and tonight was no exception. I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. I am always nervous beforehand. I do it anyway. But having good interviewees helps a lot and tonight I scored an 11 (see previous Spinal Tap reference). I am grateful for the participation and insights of my three excellent guests, Lize Brittin, Dave Dunham and Diane Israel.

We had another good podcast yesterday on the New York Running Show, primarily about NYRR’s new Club Points Race lineup for 2011. We’re trying not to make every week’s show about NYRR, but it’s a little hard to avoid them as subject matter. Overall, we were all pleased with the changes, although there was trepidation in particular about how NYRR will handle the Fifth Avenue Mile, now that it’s a club scoring event.

I got a media pass for Friday’s Millrose Games. That was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. I suspect they gave it to me because I said, “I don’t want anything from you — Media Center space, press table seat, etc. — I’m just a humble journeywoman blogger/podcaster…I won’t make much noise or eat hardly anything…” I have no clue where I’m sitting, but I’ll take whatever they’re offering. The track is a paperclip anyway, so I’m thinking that even bad seats probably aren’t that bad.

Jonathan’s running again. Around 50 minutes at a time. He zips round and round and round on our gym’s own paperclip track, an open-air number with 90 degree turns on the second floor. I watch him overhead as I toil on the treadmill. It’s a pleasing sight indeed. Also, his birthday is tomorrow, although with the exception of French toast we’re holding off on celebrating properly (meaning there will be cake and wine) until the weekend. He’ll be at the top end of his AG now. I think he’ll be back racing within three months. Just a guess.

I have no clue what to do about a fall marathon. I’ll probably register us for Chicago since it’s sure to close out. The fact that it’s been a hot weather race for three out of four years isn’t encouraging. But I’ve been told by the little bird I live with to give up control. Still, I’m tempted to register for New York too (especially if I can qualify with a half, which I’m pretty sure I can). I should be happy just to be training again. But I am looking ahead already, probably ungrateful. Sorry, running Gods. Deal with it.

I sent in article #3 for Running Times this morning (for web, not print) — “Cross-Training Alternatives for Winter.” Lots of runners I don’t even know helped with information to help me fill in the spots I’m ignorant about: namely, yoga, Pilates and snowshoe running. I winged it pretty convincingly on cross-country skiing. Conversely, I can now write about spinning, pool running and the elliptical with utter and complete authority. Has it all been said already? Probably. But I did include some clever witticisms.

I think I have some more substantial freelance writing work coming in. Possibly. I’ll know more next week. It’s typical of this time of year. Nothing ever happens in January, an extended holiday hangover combined with corporate spending and decision-making paralysis. I hope it comes through, as I like the client and would get a chance to work with a team of capable writers with whom I enjoyed collaborating last year. Plus, it’s always good to have money coming in to pay for things like new windows, masonry work and expensive birthday steaks.

Tomorrow I’m heads down, working on publishing my Houston Hopefuls interview with Lori Kingsley. The delay seems ridiculous — the last one was published in October. It’s been a rough winter. But it will go up this week. It’s a fun interview — the audio features a lot of laughing. I enjoyed interviewing Lori immensely, something that shows not just in the quality of our exchange but also the fact that it went on for well over an hour and a half. I hope I get a chance to meet her eventually, but that’s the case with all the Hopefuls.

Finally, it’s colder than Pluto in New York right now. Seriously. The cat went outside, then came back in a minute later with a “What the…?” look on her face. Highly unusual, since she usually loves the cold if it means a chance to kill things.

Training: Jan 16-22

47.2 miles? How'd that happen?

Training these days feels like 12 Steps: 1 day at a time. But at least I don’t have to go back and apologize to a bunch of people. Or turn myself over to a higher power. Or stop drinking. Okay, it’s nothing like 12 Steps.

Maybe it’s more like finally escaping after being trapped in a plastic pod for six months.

I ran every day this week because I had a plan. Some of the runs were difficult. Others, just tedious. But, damn it, I did them. And ended up running 7 miles more than planned.

Last Sunday’s foray into Central Park showed some progress (although not enough to confidently commit to a long race anytime soon). Wednesday’s scary tempo run provided lessons in learning lessons. I did some pool running, primarily so I don’t forget how, but also to get some more “miles” in with 15 minutes of faster “running.”

Yesterday’s weather was like some kind of cruel joke. But it was predicted to be even worse today (and it was). So I dragged myself into the city yesterday afternoon, moving my Sunday long run to Saturday. I felt recovered enough, although I ran somewhat crappily anyway, probably because I was tired from the “high mileage” week and also because I always run about 15-20% slower when my hormones are skyrocketing.

God, I hate the city in January. Piles of filthy snow and black ice everywhere, a wind that feels as if someone who doesn’t like you very much is vigorously sandpapering your face, toes that burn for an hour before losing all feeling entirely. I came in over the Madison Avenue Bridge (because I’m trying to save money on tolls) and circled round and round Harlem before finally finding a snow-encrusted space on 118th St. I got out, walked three blocks, then realized I’d forgotten my MP3 player. When I got back to the car, it was touch and go for a moment. It was so tempting to get back in, turn on the heater, and drive home. As my masonry specialist would say, I was quickly developing “a case of the fuck-its.”

That would be me on the left.

But I’d driven in, finally found a space, and I really had to pee. So I made my way through the moonscape into the park, availed myself of some sub-freezing relief and got to work. The runners were sparser than usual yesterday, although that may have been because so many of my usual companions had already run 13.1 miles there in the morning (in 14F base temperature) in the Manhattan Half. Their discarded Gu packets were everywhere.

No fast miles for me yesterday. A few were just under 8:00, but most were plodding at between 8:30 and 9:00. I swung clockwise around the park, then reversed direction at the 5 mile mark. I was slightly underdressed, which is preferable to being overdressed. But I was exhausted later on, probably due to having to expend so much energy to keep myself from dying of exposure. Ten miles was, I suspect, a tad too far after the week, but I felt compelled to hit that number.

The problem adductor was whining a little, but so was her sister. I don’t think either of them like the cold very much. I came home and took an hour-long hot bath and was still cold. That’s how cold it was.

I took today off.

Next week I have around 37 miles scheduled. Let’s see if I overachieve again.

I’ve registered for the Gridiron 4 Miler in two weeks. I have no expectations. I just want to run in a race again.

Upcoming Podcast: Eating Disorders and Exercise Addiction

Next week on Monday, January 24th at 7PM ET I’ll be hosting an edition of The Runners Round Table on the subject of eating disorders and exercise addiction among runners. My guests include three runners who are distinguished not only by their athletic accomplishments, but also by their having overcome these problems and — beyond that — their efforts to educate others through writing, filmmaking and speaking out.

Here’s a description of the show and bios of my guests > RRT 111: Eating Disorders and Exercise Addiction

Listen in online, join us in the chatroom, or download the show afterwards for later listening.

Playing things fast and loose

Today I did my first tempo run since late July. I was nervous.

Since be reasonable is my new mantra, I decided to do a reasonable tempo run as my first trip back into that territory: 7 miles with 2 x 1 mile at tempo pace, with 5 minutes rest between them. Since I am doing most of my runs at the gym these days, it’s anyone’s guess how fast or slow a particular treadmill is.

But you know what? I don’t give a shit about pace anymore. That’s my other new mantra: I don’t give a shit about pace anymore. Effort’s where it’s at, baby. After two years of doing lots of standard training runs, I felt pretty confident that I would be able to lock into “tempo effort”: 89-90% of MHR.

One advantage of going to the gym is that the treadmills there can tell you your heart rate via little metal sensor grip thingies. My treadmill at home doesn’t have that feature (and the HR strap never worked). I trust those readouts. But when it came to paces, today’s treadmill was a liar, and a lousy one at that.

The plan was to do a 2.5 mile warmup at <75% MHR, then a half mile cut down in pace from whatever that was to “tempo pace” (whatever that was). I started out at “9:50” pace, which should feel like a stroll, but my MHR was already in the mid-to-upper 70%s. I slowed things down to “10:20” and held at around 75% for 2.5 miles.

The old, stubborn, data-obsessed Julie would have ignored this obvious evidence of calibration craziness. She would have said, “Dammit, tempo pace should be around 7:00 for me, so that’s what I’m going to set the treadmill to.” Sure, I would have been able to write “7:00 pace” in my training log, but at what cost? Running that “pace” on that machine would have me at too high an effort. And not getting the benefit of the workout. And feeling bad about myself.

And what’s the point of that? Have I not learned anything over the past few years?

I have! I have!

I guessed that what the treadmill said was 7:19 would be a good place to start. I ran a mile at that speed. It started to feel like real work about 5 minutes in. I finished up the first mile and took my HR: 89%. Good stuff; even after six months away from it, I still know how tempo effort should feel. I did my five minute jog back at “10:20.” Then launched into the second mile. After a third of a mile, I was getting that old, “Oh, fuck, I hate this. I want to stop” feeling. That was too early to be feeling that. HR says? 91%. It was hot in that room. The effort was too high. I dialed down to “7:24” — and spent the rest of the mile reminding myself that this is supposed to be hard, not to bail on it, it’s mental training, blah blah blah — and finished up at 90%.

I know I was running faster than ~7:20. How much faster? I don’t care. I ran the right effort for the workout. That’s all that matters. The paces will take care of themselves.

Race plug: Sleepy Hollow Half on March 26

I don’t usually plug races, but I’ll make an exception in the case of the Sleepy Hollow Half, debuting this year. This is a race I’d like to see succeed, since late March/early April is a handy time of year to schedule a half marathon and we don’t have that many appealing choices around here at present.

Learn more about the Sleepy Hollow Half at the Rivertown Runners site > Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon

Patience. Endurance. And more patience.

It’s been surprisingly difficult to get back into a regular running routine, considering how much I missed running from August through October. I had a rough goal of achieving 40 mpw over the past few weeks. But then I found myself skipping planned runs. Or, rather, I had no plans. So not running was easy to do on many days.

Coach Sandra is still traveling and that’s fine. I told her a few weeks back that I was dropping plans for a spring marathon and that I just needed to get injury-free before I could think about making any significant training or racing plans. Building mileage and getting rid of my remaining adductor problems have been the only goals on the horizon.

Still, one needs a plan. In my case, a specific one. “Run 40 mpw” isn’t enough structure for me. So I’ve mapped out runs for the next five weeks. Two of those weeks consist of the “pre-race” schedule Sandra had put into my original plan over the summer. The others include one tempo or fartlek session midweek and a long run on Sunday. Mileage is 35-45 mpw. I have one doubles day. This at least resembles real training, and it’s reasonable to think I can stick to it. I’m giving myself a day off from running about every 7-10 days.

I have races penciled in, despite my better judgment. First, the NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler in early February. That’s completely dependent on how the tempo/fartlek efforts go. If I still have adductor pain, forget it. But if not, I’ll probably go for it. Then, in very soft, highly erasable pencil, the Cherry Tree 10 Miler a couple of weeks later.

That one is probably not practical, based on my run today. I did 11.2 miles in Central Park, although I’d planned to do 12. I ran a bit faster than the previous run two weeks ago (and it was very windy today), and four of them were well under 8:00 at a not ridiculous effort. But I don’t have real endurance yet. I was cooked at 10 miles and made my way out of the park via a shortcut.  I’ll try for 12 next Sunday, down from my original planned 14.

It drives me crazy not to have something to work toward. So I’m going to loosely train for the NYRR Colon Cancer Challenge 15K. That’s 10 weeks away. My best time in that race is 1:07:18 in 2009, and that was doing it as a tempo effort training run with 6 miles tacked onto either side of it. Incidentally, I have no fucking clue how I was doing runs like that two years ago. It seems impossible now.

Running a decent 15K would give me opportunity train for endurance and speed, which training for these 4 milers won’t give me. But I figure I can punt if I’m still struggling with longer distances and just do the Colon Cancer 4 miler instead as a measuring stick against whatever I do next month.

I’m not ready to jump into marathon training yet, physically or otherwise. I need to feel like I can run 50 mpw consistently without getting reinjured. But, looking a bit farther ahead this season, I’m thinking a run at the half distance in Long Island in May (and hoping we don’t have another freak heat wave) is not a terrible idea.

In totally unrelated news, we had a good New York Running Show episode this evening, in which we (Joe, Amy, Brenn and I) covered all things related to training in Central Park (and some racing tips), as well as a discussion of whether men should wear shorts over their tights. We had 83 downloads of the show last week. That’s up from around 50 a few weeks ago. Explosive growth!