Training: May 3-9, 2010

50 mpw seems to be my training “set point” these days. I hope it’s not too much of a shock when I start up higher mileage in the summer. But I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

This was an eventful week for two reasons. First of all, this week featured the first race in which I was sporting a blue bib. The other big event this week was that both Jonathan and I joined the ranks of running clubdom. But two different clubs.

Joe has been working on Jonathan for awhile to join Warren Street and finally broke him this week. Then I was plied with iced tea and delicious nibbly things by a New York Harrier on Saturday and in a moment of weakness said I’d join up to bolster the 40+ womens scoring.

I don’t know how competitive these two clubs are against each other, but I suspect that once we start racing for points in earnest, the crockery will be flying. I’ve already warned Joe that I plan to sabotage Jonathan’s training at every opportunity.*

I also have to admit that I don’t really understand the points scoring system, which seems arcane, at least at first glance. But this isn’t the first time I’ve committed to something with only a vague understanding of the requirements or consequences.

Below is a picture of me with said troublemaker. We are admiring our magical blue bibs (her first as well).


The week was capped with Yet Another Race, a Mother’s Day themed 4 miler. This is getting old, I know. So old that I’m not even going to write a dedicated race report this time. Since I’m on the subject anyway, here’s my quasi race report:

On the surface, it looks like I made zero progress between this 4 miler and the 4 miler on the exact same course in March. March was a 27:34. Today was a 27:35. But one must look at the splits, grasshopper. The splits. Very important. The splits, they hold the knowledge.

March: 6:47, 6:48, 7:06, 6:42

Today: 6:47, 6:43, 7:18, 6:34

It was hellaciously windy this morning, a very strong wind mostly going from west to east, although at times it felt southwesterly. My goal was to try to run 6:45s for at least three of the four miles. Mile three on this course is always awful for me — the transverse is often windy (as it was today) and the hills on mile three, while rolling, are exhausting.

I established a 6:45ish pace pretty much immediately and was feeling really good until the transverse when the wall of wind hit us. I was really working during mile three but trying to not work so hard that I’d wreck myself for the last mile. I was more successful with that today than I typically am, as evidenced by my 6:34 final mile. This is why looking at splits is important; they tell a more informative story than the finish line clock does. I’ve got a higher level of speed endurance than I had six weeks ago. I credit all the racing for that.

I also started up with the weight training again and have been experimenting with eating loads of protein and a bit more fat throughout the day. I lost three pounds, although I know quite a bit of it was water weight. But at least the scale’s moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, as part of this effort I’m tee-totaling, which is always a drag. But I find it’s easier to just not drink than to try to drink in moderation. Not because I have a problem. I just love to drink.

I briefly flirted with the idea of doing next Saturday’s Healthy Kidney 10K race. But I need to keep my eye on the immediate prize: running a halfway decent 1500 on the 18th. Racing a hilly 10K three days before that is not going to help. So next week will feature two speed sessions: another cutdown workout on Tuesday followed by some 300s (this is new) on Friday.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 400m repeats I did this week, hitting most of them at 90, although I cut the session short at the tail end of the ninth one when my pace fell off and my left hamstring started complaining. It’s taken so many hard lessons to learn to cut a workout short when there’s an issue, or not do it at all if it’s the wrong day to try.

In other news, my Olympic Trials interview project has started off well. I’ve got at least six women who are very interested in taking part, and I’m hoping to add at least a couple more to my roster. But I haven’t stopped looking. All the women have quite different running/racing backgrounds, which I’m very happy about. They are all interesting in one way or another.

*Since I am the nutritional director of the household this should be very easy for me to do. I’ll plan to feed him copious amounts of goose liver paté, slightly spoiled Stilton cheese and Baconnaise. I’m also going to start keeping an airhorn next to the bed for very early morning wakeups.

Dreamers Wanted

I’m looking for a few good women. Women who are attempting something that is a longshot, if not in all probability impossible.

Approximately 200 American women are able to run a marathon fast enough to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials, a race that rolls around only once every four years and whose top three finishers will make up this country’s Olympic Marathon team.

Most of these women are young, meaning in their 20s and 30s. But every year a handful of them 40 or older make it into the race. In 2008 there were 14 such women, including a few notable past Olympians: Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Colleen De Reuck and Linda Somers-Smith. For 2012, the USA Track and Field Association has lowered the standard by a minute from 2:47 to 2:46. Yeah. This time it’s going to be even harder.

Here’s who’s in so far for 2012. Are you fortyish and trying to get on this list? Are you willing to talk about it? If so, I’d really like to hear from you:

About the project

I will be doing a series of interviews with masters women marathoners who are attempting to qualify for 2012. The basic criteria for my interviewees are that you:

  • Are or will be at least 40 years of age by the 2012 Houston Trials date.
  • Have not previously qualified for an Olympic trials race.
  • Have not yet qualified for the 2012 trials.

I started posting queries about this just yesterday, thinking I’d be lucky to find one or two beyond the one candidate I had already. As it turns out (much to my delight), there are more of you out there who fit the above criteria than I’d have thought. You are coming out of the woodwork, but I’m continuing to look. This could be quite an extensive series.

If you fit the above criteria, please get in touch with me. I’ve heard from one or two people who don’t fit them all, primarily former qualifiers who are going for it again. I’m open to including them as well for a more rounded view. But the one common criterion I’m insisting on is age (first bullet point above).

I would like the interviews to be equal parts inspiration, personal observation and practical knowledge. To avoid a bunch of generic interviews, I will plan to get some background information from you, which I’ll use to put together some questions customized to your background, current status, etc. You’ll have your choice of doing the interview via email or over the phone as a podcast.

This is a personal project that I fully expect will be published on my blog (then probably picked up by some running blog aggregators). However, I’m also exploring a few other potential outlets that might garner a bigger audience (which wouldn’t be saying much).

While that would be nice, I’m not going to sit on these interviews should the process of working with other media outlets mean a long wait time between interview and distribution. I want these interviews to see the light of day sooner rather than later and I’m proceeding with them regardless.

Pass it on.

Spectator Report: NYRR Emerald Nuts Midnight Run

I spent New Year’s Eve and day playing host and driver to another coachee of Kevin’s, Kim Duclos. Unlike me, Kim is young and fast. She just ran a 2:38 at Huntsville in mid-December and is gearing up for an even faster run at the L.A. Marathon in the spring.

Kim had been invited by NYRR to to run in the elite field of their four mile Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. She drove down from Worcester, MA for the race yesterday, hanging out at our place for a few hours before we drove in. Jonathan has a bad cold, so he skipped the festivities.

Despite the fact that I felt like I was a combination interloper/running groupie, accompanying her to the race and hanging out in the elite tent was a huge treat, as well as a glimpse into how the other half races.

NYRR required that Kim pick up her number by 11PM for the midnight race. Since I didn’t want to be responsible for missing that deadline, we left ridiculously early — 9PM for what’s usually a half hour drive to the Upper West Side. I’m glad we left early since not only did I space out and miss the Boat Basin exit, but no one knew where the elite tent was (we’d walked right by it, unlabeled). Half an hour later, we found a volunteer who knew where it was and settled in.

The conditions in Central Park were awful. A snowfall of around 1-2 inches earlier in the day had turned to icy slush. NYRR had salted the course, but it was still treacherous just walking around. We claimed a couple of chairs in the heated tent and surveyed the table of cookies, water and tee shirts. I spotted a few others who were not there to run, so didn’t feel too self-conscious in there, although I did eventually give up my chair when it started to fill up.

The highlight was when the star of the evening, Erin Donohue, appeared about 40 minutes before race start. At two feet away, this was about as close as I was ever going to get to an Olympian (unless, of course, Kim continues to get faster over the next couple of years, heh heh) and I tried not to stare. But, people, that girl is built: 5’7″ (she looks shorter in person) and around 145 pounds. Solid muscle. She’s got legs like cherry tree logs and you can see every muscle in her shoulders. She was friendly, but I sure wouldn’t want to piss her off.

Runners got the call to get ready to get their asses outside in 10 minutes. Then Mary Wittenberg wended her way through the tent for the pre-race meet and greet. I hid behind Derek Scott, who was conveniently tall, serving as a potted plant proxy. I’d told Kim that I planned to introduce myself as her “handler” if anyone asked, a term that she said had come up for her in a few interactions with race directors. I love how it makes the runner sound like a circus animal.

The race started at midnight sharp, as did an impressive show of fireworks. I watched from the start/finish in a prime spot, thanks to my elevated hanger-on status. Despite the crap weather, people were clearly having a blast. It took close to 12 minutes for the entire race field to pass the start line, and lots of the back-of-the-packers were jolly already. Good costumes, many fist pumps, and some unsteady legs!

As for the elite race, which was the only one being timed (at least for the top five in each gender field), it was pretty competitive, considering the conditions. The first man, Patrick Smyth, came in less than half a minute off the course record, and Donohue won the women’s race in a little over 21 minutes. Kim came in shortly thereafter, perhaps a minute slower than would be expected under normal racing conditions. But she was smiling as much at the finish as she was at the start, so she had a good time, which was her goal. Not falling on her ass was a bonus.

After her cooldown we wandered around, hitting the dance party and pretending we didn’t speak English when some guy started babbling to us about portapotties. But the ground was an ice slick and it was getting cold, so we headed home for some wine and other treats. Got to bed around 3:30AM, which is probably a personal record for me for New Year’s.

All in all, a great start to 2010.

Suckage fake out?

For those who want to know every detail of my running: I did 5 miles inside on the treadmill in a hot room last evening. Felt fine and even ran a fast last half mile or so (7:30ish). The difference yesterday was that I actually wanted to go running (even if it was inside). The last week or so I’ve wanted to do anything but (and have).

I’ll try again today and tomorrow. Will probably do a longish run on Sunday (12?) if weather permits.

I’m awaiting a new maintenance/base-rebuilding plan that should start on Monday. I’ll probably still go get blood tested, but I’m yet again unconvinced that therein lies the problem.

I’ve also dropped 2.5 of the 5 lbs gained already. So most of it was water weight.

Kevin was scheduled to chat with Lorraine Moller yesterday. So I’ve been awaiting his web updates with (as our more illiterate web posters like to say) “baited breath.” In the meantime, I’ve posted a review of her book on Amazon.

Now. Would you like to know what I had for breakfast?

Boring vacation photos: Crater Lake, Eugene and environs (featuring bonus Prefontaine Classic coverage)

After the relative calm of Ashland, it was on to some high drama at Crater Lake. Or not. We did learn one fact fairly quickly: the snow sticks around at Crater Lake for quite awhile. The lodge had only been open for about two weeks when we arrived and there was not only nowhere to go hiking, there was nowhere to walk either. Snow was still piled up 12+ feet around the parking lot. So about all we could do at Crater Lake was gawk and drink. And that was fine.

The Crater Lake Lodge

The Crater Lake Lodge

The view from our room

The view from our room

So, here’s the deal on the Lodge. It’s a weird place. Not really an old lodge, but more a rebuilt approximation of someone’s idea of an old lodge. Apparently, the original lodge that was built around the turn of the century was put together by monkeys using knives and forks. Between shoddy construction and a lack of insulation, the place had a terrible reputation and eventually fell into such a state of disrepair (and structural risk) that it was slated for leveling.

Then it went through a refurbishing around 1990. There were no original plans, so the owners (then the Parks Dept) redid the place to have an original “look and feel,” which, unfortunately, means tiny bathrooms, and hideous furniture and bedding, apparently.  The net effect is that one feels no desire to spend time in one’s room, and, since everything outside is covered in snow, the only other option is to head downstairs to the lounge and dining room.

Fortunately, the lounge features a decent selection of beers, wine and cocktails. And dinner at the lodge makes up for the crappy room. I had duck; Jonathan had venison. Both were outstanding. Score one for the lodge restaurant.

Cinder cone atop Lava Butte

Cinder cone atop Lava Butte

Oregon has a rich volcanic history. That sentence alone sends me into such a profound state of torpor that I won’t pursue that thought any further.

Koosah Falls, between Crater Lake and Eugene. The water is really that color of blue.

Koosah Falls, between Crater Lake and Bend. The water is really that color of blue.

Our next overnight stop after Crater Lake was Bend. I have no idea how to describe Bend, since I couldn’t find a distinct identity for it while we  were there. The B&B proprietor was a bit uptight, which wasn’t a great start. Then we attempted a run and discovered that “map” in Bend is more of a representation of future urban planning than current geographic status. We attempted to go to the Deschutes Brewery, but it was as noisy as any Manhattan pub, so we instead opted for a Thai restaurant, which was good, although they mixed up the order and gave us an order of Drunken Noodles that was so hot that it may have been spiked with hydrochloric acid.

So, Bend was no great shakes and we were glad to leave after a night.

The next stop was Eugene, for two nights. Eugene is a college town, and we were staying in a rented bungalow in College Hill (close to Washington Park), which was actually pretty charming. While there, we visited the Raptor Center (a home for raptors who can’t survive in the wild for one reason or another), did a hike, and then spent Sunday morning at Hayward Field watching the 2009 Prefontaine Classic.

Looking down on Eugene from some random viewpoint

Looking down on Eugene from some random viewpoint

A hapless bald eagle at the Raptor Center. This was a wonderful place, and we ended up hanging around the birds for close to three hours.

A hapless bald eagle at the Raptor Center. This was a wonderful place, and we ended up hanging around the birds for close to three hours.

I won’t go into exhaustive details as far as the Prefontaine Classic is concerned. I’m sure there are plenty of excellent recaps out there in the usual places, such as LetsRun and Flotrack. But I do have some shots worth sharing.

Hayward Field is interesting. It’s set up for world-class track meet activity, with this taking the form of huge “warm up” areas. They have a special warmup tracks (both a loop and a straightaway), as well as a giant warmup “field” including open space and areas for privacy tents and massage tables. The back of the stands overlooks this area and it’s a bit like going to the track zoo. You can stand over the warm up area and gaze upon the track stars doing their little pre-race routines.

I have to admit that I felt a little sorry for the meet participants, having to suffer the indignity of being scrutinized by loser douchebags like ourselves. But it was fascinating to be on the observing douchebag side of things.

Here's Kristin Wurth-Thomas doing some dynamic stretches.

Here's Christin Wurth-Thomas doing some dynamic stretches.

Shalane Flanagan and Erin Donahue. Both would go on to run badly. Flanagan looked tense and unhappy warming up (we wondered if she was injured). Donahue just looked nervous.

Shalane Flanagan and Erin Donohue warming up. Both would go on to run badly. Flanagan looked tense and unhappy (we wondered if she was injured). Donohue just looked serious.

The meet featured some great performances and races. For me, the highlight was the women’s 1500m race, which was loaded with great names. I was rooting for Jenny Barringer, the college phenom who I think will continue to do great things during her professional career. She did not disappoint in this race. Here’s a shot of her late in the race, hanging back in ninth place, right behing her 3000m steeplechase rival Anna Willard.

Barringer bides her time on lap number three.

Barringer bides her time on lap number three.

And here she is during the last few seconds of the race, during which she rocketed forward in an attempt to nip the winner, Ethiopian Gelete Burka, at the line. She missed by just .01 of a second. But in the process ran the third fastest time ever for an American woman at that distance, breaking 4:00 and slashing 8 seconds off her PR and nearly 6.5 seconds off the college record. Go, Jenny, go.

Just .01 seconds shy of the win for Jenny B.

Just .01 seconds shy of the win for Jenny B.

That’s all for now. Next up: Corvallis and the Hood River area.

Pre-race potpourri

A paella of posts, if you will.

So, I spent the weekend tackling a to do list that rivalled Santa’s. But I got almost everything done. And I took a two hour nap yesterday too. All I remember was entering the bedroom with the sincere intent of cleaning it, but instead lying down and waking up two hours later.

Some random things:

I did my last fast run before Saturday just now. The assignment was seven miles with three at 7:00. I did the three on a windy track and managed 7:05 avg pace. The wind was about 10mph, but with faster gusts. I had a choice: Either slow down or just go ahead and run the planned pace and work a little harder. I choose the latter option, primarily because I wanted to remind myself that if come race morning it’s windy not to be a fool and try to run planned pace anyway.

Upon checking the data, my suspicions were correct: I was running at 92-93% MHR, so my little three miler was more like a tempo run than an MPace effort. Unfortunately, the forecast for Newport is showing wind. But it’s still four days away. At the very least, I’m mentally prepared to adjust plans if need be, with a recent physical “memory” of what it will feel like if I don’t as reinforcer. I’m determined to have a good race, not just a PR, but also a race where I don’t suffer unduly as I have done in varying degrees in three of my four marathons. I think that’s what they call running a “smart” race.

On another note, I started reading Lorraine Moller’s memoir On the Wings of Mercury. I’m about 30 pages in, but so far I am blown away by what an excellent piece of work it is. With a few exceptions, running memoirs typically range from the flat out terrible (Dick Beardsley’s) to the merely pedestrian (Joan Benoit’s, Grete Waitz’s). Moller’s book, though, is a revelation of outstanding writing and expert storytelling. She did not use a ghostwriter, as I’d suspected as soon as I started reading it. She’s just an extremely talented writer. She’s also very funny. I’m looking forward to digging into this one on the plane. The book is not yet released in the US, but I managed to order a copy from Newton Running.

Finally, I’m in day two of carbohydrate depletion. A few years ago, in one of my many failed attempts to lose fat, I went on a low carb diet for several months. I lost weight, but not fat (I was about 8 lbs lighter than I am now, but I wore larger clothes). I have no clue as to how I tolerated it. I felt okay on the run, but toward the end I felt lightheaded. I’m also sick of eating nuts, cheese, eggs and meat already, and it’s only been about 36 hours. Thank goodness I can hit the bagels and fruit again tomorrow.

Swedish Fish have been purchased. House/catsitter has been arranged. Airport taxi has been reserved. All systems are go.

The More Marathon: Either feed it or kill it

Late last month I spent a Sunday morning in Central Park, combining a long training run with spectating the More Marathon and Half Marathon. This post won’t be a tirade about NYRR’s decision to cancel the full marathon and turn the half marathon into a fun run. There are already enough angry tirades about that. Actually, it won’t be a tirade at all. No, I think the word “lament” most appropriately applies in this case.

My personal history with the More event

I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with the More Marathon event. I have a great deal of affection for the race, as it was the scene of my first and third marathons, the latter also being my “best” marathon not in terms of time but in terms of preparedness and running a good race. The first marathon, aside from being where I popped my marathon cherry, was notable for the galvanizing mid-race epiphany I had when Susan Loken blew by me, running about a 6:25 mile. “Hey,” I thought, “She’s running the full, which means she’s over 40. Why shouldn’t I eventually be able to run that fast too?”

I also love the idea of a marathon exclusively targeted for masters women. So few of us are fast enough to lead a marathon pack or break the tape in big races (or even some of the more competitive smaller ones). Or, even if we’re very fast, we’re nonetheless usually lost in a crowd of male runners in most races.

But the race has its definite shortcomings. The most obvious one is the inevitable chaos that ensues when you mix faster runners with slower runners and walkers on a multi-loop course. This problem is especially pronounced in Central Park, where only part of the road can be devoted to the race, making it even more crowded. I ran the 2008 with a GPS watch, which reported my distance as nearly 28 miles. I believe it, considering that I spent most of the race dodging around runners, or running wide around the crowds hugging the right curb; in some cases, I had to run outside of the course tape and cones entirely just to move forward.

The crowding is inevitable in any race in Central Park. But the problem in this race has become especially acute as the number of half marathon participants has swelled in recent years. In 2008, the 140-odd full marathoners were sharing the course with over 7,000 half marathoners. This year, the official registration count was around 9,600. It’s just not possible to run your best race (either in the full or the half) when you’re running through crowds of slower runners and walkers for several loops.

The event — which is really a half marathon event at this point, with a few marathoners thrown in — has many merits. It raises a ton of money for charity and encourages women of all abilities to participate in a demanding physical activity, whether that be walking or running 13.1 miles, or the full 26.2. The sheer number of out-of-towners also probably contributes quite a bit to the city’s coffers in terms of tourism dollars spent. So, I get it — NYRR makes a lot of money on half marathon registrations with little additional overhead to accommodate the growing numbers every year.

The More full — a race in decline

The More marathon, which debuted in 2004, started out well. Over 350 women ran the race, although no one broke three hours that first year. Then, in 2005, it clearly was on the radar of some faster masters elites; Susan Loken and Janet Robertz showed up and both ran well below 2:50. Although participation dropped off to around 250 runners, it got more competitive: the average finishing time also plummeted by about 15 minutes. A year later, participation dropped off by another 75 runners and the winning/average times stagnated.

2006 was the year during which the race locked into its current trajectory of decline, both in terms of participation numbers and quality of competition. In 2007, the number of runners was down to 143 and, aside from Susan Loken (who, with her three wins there and a course record, has become the competitive “face” of the More marathon) the faster runners were all gone. Finally, in 2008, the last year there was actually a timed race (this year being cancelled due to a heatwave), Loken ran the half as a tuneup for the Olympic marathon trials and again no one broke three hours.

In the meantime, participation numbers for the half ballooned and, in direct proportion, so did the scathing reviews of the More full marathon on sites like I won’t analyze the competitive pattern of the half because, quite frankly, it’s marketed as a non-competitive event. This has worked well for NYRR and half marathon participants alike. But at what cost to the full marathon?

Either make the More into a world class race or pull the plug

I believe the More marathon could be made into a uniquely great event if NYRR wanted to do so. Here’s how:

Separate the two races

The only reason I ran the More again in 2008 was because I was obsessed with cracking the top 10 after I cracked the top 20 in 2007. But now that I’ve made training and running just two races a year my priority, I’m not going to “waste” one of those efforts on a logistically nightmarish course like the More race’s. If  NYRR wants to halt the decline of full marathon participation, as well as the terrible reviews, they should separate the full from the half. In 2008, it wasn’t just the runners who were overwhelmed by crazy race logistics. The race marshalls were too, as evidenced by a large number of women who were misdirected at a critical point late in the race and ran a short course and were disqualified as a result.

One strategy would be to hold both races on the same day, but that makes for a long day for volunteers. Instead, they would do well to run the races on separate days, which brings me to the next idea…

Make the half racers your cheering section for the full

Why not promote the event as the “More Marathon Weekend”? Hold the full a bit later on Saturday morning (and the half on Sunday) and allow race day packet pickup for the full race participants. Stage the expo somewhere nearby. Then encourage the half participants to come watch the full event before they head off to the expo. Imagine how different a race atmosphere you’d have if even a few thousand of your half race participants turned up to watch and cheer the full marathon runners. I for one would love to run in — or watch — such a race. NYRR and BAA learned the value of piggybacking the men’s and women’s Olympic marathon trials on the NYC and Boston marathons. Why not take the same approach with the More races?

Increase the prize purse for the full to attract great masters runners

Consider this: some of the world’s best female marathoners are fast approaching 40 (or they have even already passed it: more here and here). Also, the F40-44 and F45-49 age groups tend to be among the most competitive (this is an admittedly anecdotal statement, but apparently others have noticed the same pattern). There is an eager demographic, hungry for a great race like this.

Imagine if you could draw some of these faster runners who, once past their prize-winning (and appearance fee) primes, could nonetheless compete for a decent cash award in the More. Couldn’t some of the dollars made on half registrations be devoted to growing participation in the full by upping the prize incentives? In the process, you might even get some of the masters elites and sub-elites who ran in its early days to come back too. Dare I imagine the likes of Paula, Deena and Constantina running those big hills in a few years?

Institute a dedicated training/mentoring program

NYRR markets the More event as a “get out there and move, you can do it” event, which has worked well for them. It’s a fact that the half marathon is growing in popularity faster than the full, which is why you see so many combination events. But the unfortunate side effect of this growth in the half’s popularity is that the shorter event often eclipses the longer one. Up here in Westchester, they’ve done away with the full Westchester Marathon after just a few years for this very reason; why bother keeping volunteers and sponsors around for six plus hours for a hundred or so runners when the real money is in the thousands of half racers who are done in three hours?

What if NYRR marketed the two events differently? Namely, rebrand the half as an event for two distinct audiences: for the majority, it remains about community and fun, but for another group it’s a gateway to competitive running and perhaps “moving up” to the full race. I imagine that if you put a bunch of half participants out on the course to cheer on the full racers, the wheels might start to turn for some of them in terms of sparking a desire to try the full distance. For those women, have a table at the expo where they can explore a future full race with the support of training resources: a training group (virtual, local or both) dedicated to preparing for the More full event, connecting full participants with aspiring runners to offer support and advice, etc.

If it’s going to continue to wither, just pull the damned plug

I love the More Marathon not for what it is but for what it could be: Not just the world’s only full marathon exclusively for women over 40, but a race that attracts world-class talent and fosters talent growth among masters runners. I said at the start of this post that I wouldn’t be posting a diatribe about this year’s race. But I will say that there was something sad about this year. Despite the presence of Loken and Olympian Magda Lewy-Boulet, there was no real sense of excitement; the event had the distinct vibe of neglect and afterthought. (Although, to be fair, that may have been more a reflection of the last minute changes due to weather. It’s hard to know.)

Anyway, I say that if NYRR isn’t going to nurture the full marathon, it’s time to put it out of its misery.

Updated: It looks like the More full is no more.

Spring Race Training: Week 14

09spr-training-14Crikey. I’ve been in serious training now for well over three months and I’m still standing, albeit at a slight lean some mornings.

Coming off of a recovery week, I was bursting with energy starting on Monday morning. Tuesday’s run was a big surprise, with my having planned to average 8:00 pace, but getting carried away and running nearly 16 miles at an average of 11% slower than MPace. For this, I have to lay blame where it’s due: squarely on Colleen De Reuck’s shoulders.

With yet more energy to spare, I ran Wednesday’s recovery runs too fast. The AM run because it was just so darned pleasant outside; the PM run because it was pouring and I was freezing and just wanted the damned thing over with.

I paid for my folly on Thursday. At least I was smart enough to swap runs and put the longer one in the morning, since the pattern is that I’m drop dead exhausted on Thursday evenings. This week was no exception. Actually, it was exceptional in that Thursday’s PM recovery run was one of the worst runs in recent memory. The image of myself resembling a shuffling, scowling reanimated corpse haunted me throughout. Even the ducks were laughing at me.

I have learned to have faith in a night’s recovery and Friday morning confirmed that this faith was not misplaced. The morning presented a rare combination of ideally cool temperatures and a mere 3-4mph wind on the track. I ripped through my 3 x 1 mile intervals at about the same pace as the half mile intervals just a week before. From reanimated corpse to Wonder Woman in just 12 hours, although my pride was tempered by the fact that there was no way I could have done a fourth. But the good news was, I didn’t have to!

Our freak heat wave moved in on Saturday. It was still cool on Saturday morning, but by the afternoon it was 85F out. I was in such a heat-induced stupor that I got all the way down to the running path before realizing that I’d forgotten to put my watch on. I can’t remember the last time I ran without a watch. It was liberating and relaxing. Something I’ll probably do a little more often on some recovery runs.

Sunday called for a “time on my feet” long run with nothing special. I’d been told to try to run at 8:20 pace. But since I was running in Central Park in very high heat (91F at the peak), I ran by the HR equivalent of 8:20 lately, which is around 76% max. I managed 8:46 pace at 77% MHR. It was not fun. But being in the park with water, ice cream and the odd Olympian nearby was a much more appealing proposition than slogging all the way up to the Valhalla Dam all by my lonesome.

The sun and hills did a number on me, though, necessitating my longest post-run nap ever: around three hours in la la land. I haven’t even slept for that long after a full marathon.

For week 15 I do just one hard workout on Tuesday (14 miles with the last 4 at MPace), followed by a short taper to get ready for the New Jersey Half Marathon on Sunday. So far, the weather forecast looks good: 50s at the start and overcast. But it’s only Monday…

The long, hot summer (run)

Is it summer? It sure feels like it. Today the “real feel” temperature topped out at 91F in Central Park. I know because I was there to combine a long run with spectating the More Marathon/Half Marathon event.

Well, half an event, as it turned out. They canceled the full marathon and declared the half as a non-timed “fun run.” There weren’t even any clocks on the course.

I have mixed feelings about the cancelation of the full distance event. The marathoners in that event get short shrift anyway, which is why there are typically about 150 women running the full, compared to 9,000+ (I shit you not) in the half. Had I spent six months preparing for this race…well, I honestly don’t know what I would have done given the freak weather. I probably would have not have bothered to race it (since I am terrible at hot weather racing) — which means writing it off and looking for a backup in cooler climes that still had open registrations.

But bagging a race should be my choice, not NYRR’s. On the other hand, with lots of marathon runners taking 5+ hours to finish, that would have had them out there in full sun, full heat. After the debacles in Chicago and elsewhere in 2007, I do understand the impulse to protect people from themselves.

My feelings about the downgrading of the half to a fun run are not ambivalent, however. NYRR did this with the Ted Corbitt 15K in the winter and it was annoying, to say the least. I simply don’t believe that removing the trappings of a race (meaning recording performances) makes a lot of difference to the runners who are there to compete. I still saw a lot of women pushing themselves and running surprisingly fast given the conditions. They should at least have the opportunity to see how they stack up against local competition, especially if they’ve been training for many months, after which an appreciable advancement in relative racing fitness can be measured.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

So it was a weird event. There were five invited elites there, three of whom I recognized: 2008 Olympian Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, who ran with one person I didn’t recognize, Katerina Janosikova.  A few minutes behind them were three-time course winner (and record holder) Susan Loken, Susie Meyers-Kennedy (second in the full race last year), and Christine Glockenmeier (fast runner from NJ, another new face).

I ran the opposite direction for 18 of my 20 miles. It was a little thrill to see Magda and the others go speeding by, and I cheered on the faster “regular Janes” behind them. It was surprising how many people showed up, despite the weather. Despite the miles long stream of people, the numbers did seem lower than the 9,600 registered.

The medical tally was, fortunately, not too grim. I saw two women being loaded into ambulances and another two on the ground being attended to. Most people ran a reasonable pace* and adjusted to the rising mercury (myself included). After sitting under a shaded tree for a few moments at the top of Cat Hill, I ran the last two miles going with the flow of runners. That was actually sort of fun. A few had their names on their backs and, as they were within half a mile of the finish, I gave some words of encouragement and ran with a few of them. Everyone looked so beaten up by the weather; I supposed I must have as well.

I finished up with a Good Humor ice cream sandwich and 1.5 liters of water. Then a three hour nap at home.

I am grateful for two things:

  1. I didn’t make the More 2009 Marathon my goal marathon for this year. What a colossal disappointment that would have been. The fact that we can have a severe heat wave in late April convinces me that I need to select and register for a backup race every season.
  2. I’m also glad I didn’t make the Half my tuneup race. Having had such bad luck with the weather this winter for virtually all of my races, this would have been the miserable cherry on top. This weather is supposed to clear out by Tuesday evening, leaving us back down to normal early spring temperatures for next weekend’s tuneup race in New Jersey.

The usual report on this week’s training (which, yet again, went exceedingly well) will follow once I recover a bit from today’s effort.

Including Lewy-Boulet and Janosikova, who ran around a 1:18. Why, that’s practically a crawl for Magda, who won the US Half Marathon Championships in sub-1:12 in January.

Kara sighting last night!

Fooled ya! I didn’t actually see Kara Goucher. Instead, I had yet another in my ongoing series of Kara Goucher dreams. The worst came several months ago, when I dreamt that I was lined up on a track, getting ready to race, and Kara Goucher was crouching to my right, so close that I could see her forehead vein palpitating.

Last night’s encounter had a totally different setting. I was on the set of one of those vapid morning talk programs, and they were featuring as guests some 2008 Olympians doing little demonstrations: Jenn Stuczynski was pole-vaulting awkwardly in the cramped studio space. Kara was forced to run in place.

Then it was time for the pitch. Jenn and Kara were led over to a table on which sat a plate of ghastly looking processed meat products. Kara surreptitiously flipped one of them over to hide the label. But that didn’t get past our blonde, helmet-headed host. She made an exaggerated frowny face, chided Kara for not being a sport, and flipped the package back over for a proper product placement. Kara looked both angry and despairing. Jenn fiddled with her shorts and looked away.

Then, in a fit of petulance, Kara sent the entire contents of the table crashing to the floor and stomped away.

It was awesome.