The hissing of summer swans

Okay, it was a goose. But I couldn’t resist a Joni Mitchell-related pun.

Today was my first longish run since the April 6th race. Among the sights today were:

  • Dog Runner Man: A professional dog walker who runs with his charges. He’s usually got four dogs in tow. Last time, it was mid-sized mutts and little yappy jobs. Today it was the big guns, including three of my favorite breed: German Shepherds.
  • Badass Goose Dad: I know it’s spring because the geese couples are beginning to show up with their little fluffball chick children. Which means Dad Goose goes batshit if you get with 10 yards of the family. I was chased by a hissing goose a year or two back, and it’s an image seared into my brain. Today I gave them wide berth and even had to employ the “make yourself look really big” trick (arms akimbo) to psyche out the goose. One time we were in a car and a goose charged the car!
  • Mysterious Parking Lot Crowd: Every child in Crestwood was gathered in the Crestwood station parking lot this morning for some mysterious event. They all had sport uniforms on. From a distance, I thought I’d stumbled on another meeting of what Jonathan and I have referred to as The Idiots’ Club — a giant crowd of adults was gathered last weekend in the same general area, but totally blocking the entire path, milling around, not at all aware that anyone else might be using it. Today I thought the same thing: one of my favorite Claire Fisher lines from “Six Feet Under”: “News flash! Other people exist!”
  • Fast Runner Guy I Haven’t Seen Before. I saw a very fast, very fit guy running this morning. Harumph. And I thought I knew all the decent runners in the area by sight.

I’ve not taken the standard advice to do no hard running for at least 26 days after a marathon. I did a lot of recovery and “easy” (faster than recovery) running last week. This week I did a 4 mile tempo run at 7:05-7:15 per mile pace on Friday morning on the very high quality (if not totally distance accurate) Bronxville High School track (one of the many perks of living right up the road from incredibly rich people). This morning was a 14.7 miler, which I surprised myself by doing at 8:15 per mile pace, at a lowish heart rate no less. I’m not sure where all that speed is coming from, but I’ll take it.

Next weekend is my half marathon in New Jersey. If it goes well, I think I’ll make a habit of doing one a month after the marathon, since it keeps me working during recovery and provides some remedy for the post-marathon melancholy.

On the family front, the other shoe has dropped with regard to my grandmother. She’s back in hospice once again, by her own choice. I wish she’d fight on, but maybe when I reach 93, and time and illness have stolen some of my most treasured faculties, I’ll also decide to throw in the towel on life. It’s a hard, hard thing to say goodbye. But love was all around when I was out there two weeks ago, as was the black humor that seems to run in both sides of the family (which would explain why my sister and I have it in spades).

I’m still on the hook for writing her obituary. But I can’t quite bring myself to tackle that one yet.

Some random media notes:

I’ve rented a string of dreadful movies lately. Werner Herzog’s “Rescue Dawn” was a welcome break from that last night. It’s a classic hero’s journey storyline. Well-written and I’ll watch about anything Christian Bale’s in. Unfortunately, the movie should have ended about 20 minutes earlier than it did, but other than that it was a good flick.

I’m also really enjoying Lionel Shriver’s latest novel, “The Post-Birthday World“. It’s a “Sliding Doors”-type of structure, with alternate chapters portraying how the main character’s life plays out under two scenarios: one in which she kisses a man, the other in which she doesn’t. Her work can be uneven — I thought “Game Control” fell apart as a story about halfway through, losing all momentum, for example or, in the case of “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” a good start ended up careening into histrionic melodrama. But she is a very skilled writer and she has a wonderful eye for absurd situations and the comedic potential presented by the tensions between siblings and their parents.

Hugs for Huckabee

Props and a big shoutout to my homies in Alameda, California rapping for Huckabee. Somebody’s gotta give that man some attention in that state.

Okay, it’s my darling (and highly enlightened) niece and nephew.

This is your brain. This is your brain on home video. Any questions?

Training week in review: 7 of 18

This week’s training theme:

If you want to get better at something, do it a lot.

Oh, my god. This training business is hard.

I ran nine times this week, covering just under 86 miles. The schedule wasn’t that different than two weeks ago, but I feel as if I’ve been run over by a truck today.

The highlights this week included a slightly longer tempo run, with a block of three miles at 7:24 – 7:30 and, a mile later in the run, another block of two miles at (surprise!) 7:18. Dang. This training business may be hard, but it seems to actually work. The next day I did a 15 miler at 8:39 avg pace (!), a 12 miler on Friday at about the same pace and…drum roll, please…this morning I did just under 20 miles, last nine “around” marathon pace (more on that in a moment).

So, yeah, I’m dog tired. But I am also very happy with the way things are going. And excited about the Manhattan Half Marathon next Sunday in Central Park, which I’m using as a replacement to the training schedule’s tempo run. My dream time for this race is 1:40. It would be a real kick to take 10 minutes off my last half marathon time. But I’m not exactly going to be rested, so I’ll be happy with anything under 1:44.

About this morning’s run — I feel good about it because it went well despite being very windy for pretty much the whole way. Steady wind of 12-15 MPH with gusts of 25 MPH or so, although it was constantly shifting direction. During a few of the more sheltered stretches, it wasn’t too bad. But along the exposed parts of the route (pretty much all along the Bronx River Parkway) it was unrelenting. Going out this morning, I decided to have a positive attitude and just do my best.

So that’s what I did. I was aiming for a pace of between 7:40 – 8:00. I made it on some miles, not on others. What’s funny is you can tell the bits in which I was battling the wind, because the pace slows way down and the heart rate shoots way up. Some of the faster miles were probably due to a tailwind (although I’d love to believe that they were due to my supremely competent legs). But the time averages out to around 8:00 per mile, so I’m happy with what I was able to do.

Here are my splits after mile 11 of the run: 8:06, 7:49, 7:49, 8:09, 8:03, 7:52, 8:12, 7:42, 7:50

Today’s run was also notable in that I tried out an alternate fueling source: Gatorade Endurance (which seems to be de rigueur on most marathon courses these days). I planted two small bottles of the “lemon” (cough cough) flavor along the course and kept a third in the car at the midway point. I have to say, the stuff tastes like window cleaner (or at least how I imagine window cleaner might taste). I am cursed with a delicate stomach but, aside from a twinge after downing 8 oz. at once, I didn’t have any problems with it. (Plus my teeth are so shiny now!) Nonetheless, I think I’m leaning toward the Hammer Gels for fueling. They’re a pain in the ass to carry, but they definitely provided a more noticeable “lift” on a couple of recent runs. And they don’t taste like industrial-strength cleaning products.

Once again, the couch is mine today. The pattern lately is that I come home after these Sunday runs, take a bath, eat something very large, have a beer and promptly pass out for at least 45 minutes. After that, I’m still in a semi-zombie state, but at least I can muster the energy to make dinner and engage in light conversation.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 6 miles recovery pace (AM), 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
  • Tuesday: 11 mile tempo run with five miles at very speedy pace
  • Wednesday, 15.1 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Thursday, 6.2 miles recovery pace (AM), 3.8 miles recover pace (PM)
  • Friday, 12.4 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Saturday, 7.6 miles recovery pace*
  • Sunday, 19.8 miles, long run with 9 miles at or below marathon pace

Total mileage: 85.9 miles

Paces this week:

  • Tempo: 7:19 – 7:24
  • Long: 7:38 – 9:35
  • Recovery: 9:15 – 10:00

This week’s quote:

The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

— Robert Frost

Coming up in training week eight: My doubles double, bringing me to four two-a-days of recovery runs. One 15 miler and one 22 miler (longest one yet) during the week. Then the half marathon on Sunday. Also, for some culture, we head up to White Plains (I’m tempted to run there, since we run more often than drive to White Plains lately) for a one-night-only showing of Spirit of the Marathon on Thursday evening. Review to come.

* This was supposed to have been an “easy” run with strideouts. But I ran way too fast on Friday and paid the price the next day.

Happy New Year…almost…

So many choices. What will I be doing this evening? Well, for one thing, I’ll be staying as far away from Times Square as possible. I did that once. Never again.

We have a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, some appealing liquor choices, the makings of homemade pizza, and a Planet of the Apes marathon on AMC. What more does one need to ring in the new year?

Tomorrow I do a tempo run and take down the Christmas decorations in the morning. Then I lie on the couch all afternoon watching hours of English Premier League Football and consuming (for me) vast quantities of beer (three?).

It’s all over on Wednesday.

Two marathon movies

Movie number 1, “Spirit of the Marathon” has been in the works for awhile. Like televised coverage of marathons, a movie about marathoning is probably not expected to be a crowd-gatherer…but I do see that they’ve hooked up with a distribution company to show it around the country on January 24. More info here.

Movie number 2, “3:15” is something I stumbled across on the Motley Fool “Running Fools” message board. I don’t know what the fate of this one will be in terms of distribution, although I’ve sent a note of inquiry to the original poster (who is a friend of someone on the crew). More info here.

Race Report: Rockland 5 Mile Turkey Trot

In which I submit another race report and extoll the virtues of Tivo, dessert and sleep.

Yesterday was my second running of this Thanksgiving Day race, the Rockland Road Runners’ Turkey Trot. The weather was wonderful for running: upper 40s, overcast, no wind to speak of. The good conditions yielded a much bigger turnout as compared to last year: 1400+ runners. The Elvis impersonator looked much happier to be there this year too.

This was the second of three races I’m running in as many weeks, and the one I care about the least. I did an easy 10 miler on Wednesday, so I knew my legs wouldn’t be as “fresh” as they could be yesterday morning. Still, in relative terms, this was my best race so far — slightly better than the 10K in Nyack last weekend. New 5 mile PR — 36:41.

I know the course was a bit easier than in Nyack, because my heart rate was at around 91-92% max throughout the race. It was 92-93% max last weekend. (What did people do before heart rate monitors?) I was aware, while running, that I could have pushed harder, but I just didn’t want to. Although one woman passed me at around mile 3 and stayed five seconds or so ahead of me all the way to the finish. She was driving me a bit crazy, as each time I caught her, she’d open up the space again. Turns out she was in my age group.

Speaking of which, I missed an age group award by two slots and about 1:20, which was fine. I would have been surprised to have won anything given the field size, especially coupled with my “I just don’t feel like running faster” racing strategy. Jonathan won his again, however, with a time of 31:14. Sir Speedy.

We followed up with an early dinner out in Tuckahoe, capped by some lovely cake and dessert wine at home. Then collapsed into bed at around 9PM for ~10 hours of sleep. A couple of party animals, we are.

Three days of quiet await me, with only recovery runs and a Sunday 18 miler to punctuate them. I may go see a movie. But today I’m inside avoiding the Black Friday madness.

I did acquire a new toy recently: a Tivo DVR. We missed television coverage of the NYC marathon earlier in the month, since we were on a plane back from Nevada at the time. Plus there’s stuff on at odd hours that I can’t watch, either because I’m asleep, running or engaged in that incredibly inconvenient, time-sucking activity known as “working.”

It’s a useful gadget, although a bit overenthusiastic about auto-recording things it thinks you’ll be interested in. For example, it had us pegged for fans of the ’80s sitcom “Full House” and elk hunting programs. I have no idea why. At least you can refine it by programatically saying things like, “Never grace my cathode ray tube with the likes of John Stamos or Bob Saget again! Anon!” The upside is that I now have about 10 hours of English Premier League and Euro Cup 2008 Football awaiting me, plus a bunch of movies.

The best part? You can pause television, and there’s an “easter egg” that allows you to set up the remote so you can skip 30 seconds ahead at a time. This enables you to zip through several minutes of commercials in just a few seconds. That is worth the price of admission alone.

Next up: the Hot Chocolate 15K in Central Park next Saturday. I’m going to taper a bit for that one because I do care about how I do in that race. Next week’s a recovery week too, which means lower mileage, so my legs should be in better shape on Saturday. My goal is to run it in under 1:11:00. It’s not an easy course — plus there are always wildcard factors like wind — we shall see. Last year’s field was 4,000+ people, including lots of fast middle aged women…names I’m starting to see over and over again, in fact!

Yesterday’s splits:

Mile 1          7:25
Mile 2 7:10
Mile 3 7:07*
Mile 4 7:22
Mile 5 7:07

Finish time 36:41

Average pace 7:20

*When I first started racing two years ago, I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be able to run this fast.


I’ve got some sort of problem with my left foot. I can’t say I’m surprised — in fact, I’m happier that there’s not more wrong with me, all things considered.

I have a sharp pain on the outside bottom of the foot, about an third of the way up the foot from heel to little toe. I did some walking (and, yes, I admit it, a little light running. So sue me.) on the treadmill last night, which seemed to aggravate it. So I’ve put the kibosh on plans to run this evening. I’ll take another day or two. In the meantime, it’s back to ice, elevation and ibuprofen. At least it’s refreshing to be treating something other than my shins.

I have some writing work to do this weekend, but not more than six or so hours. I’ll get it out of the way early tomorrow so it’s not hanging over my head. Other big plans are watching “Little Miss Sunshine” and cheering Jonathan on in the Scarsdale 15K race this Sunday.

I do miss running. I think I’ll buy a new pair of shoes to comfort myself.