A cheery hello from the bowels of failure and disappointment

Since it’s been about six months since my last post, I’m checking in. I know you’re still reading — or at least some of you are! I got 92 hits last week alone on my wildly popular post “How to lose weight when you’re 46 years old and genetically disadvantaged.”

I’m still chronically injured. I run 2-3 times a week, 6 miles tops, for a few weeks and then I get injured for a few weeks. Rinse, repeat. I have faked myself out several times and planned out elaborate training schedules after the period of “basebuilding.” As if this was what facing reality looks like. No, there will be no training. There will be no basebuilding, even. There’s just week to week, seeing what my body will do next.

There’s some kind of weird imbalance issue on my left side. Everything that’s wrong is on the left side: left foot tendon issue, left Achilles, left sciatic nerve pain. So I don’t really know what to do except wait and see and make it a goal to try to run when possible.

It sucks. But I have other things going on in my life and new ways of defining myself, so it’s not the disaster it was a few years ago. But it still sucks. Silver lining: I’ve discovered how pleasurable it is to walk. And I’ve only gained 10 pounds.

See you next year.

One day at a time

Last week I ran 4.5 miles. GO ME.

Right. So running is vying with Learning Swedish on my list of priorities. And I don’t even want to learn Swedish.

Last weekend was the Scotland Run 10K, a race in which I got a PR last year, mostly owing to having maintained the 5K fitness I’d killed myself to obtain all fall and winter. I think if I’d raced that this year I would have been lucky to break 50:00, such is my state of current neglect.

I had plans to train for races this year. 5Ks in the late spring! A summer relay in Vermont! Track racing! The mile!

Honestly, I have no idea what I’m going to do. Right now I’m looking at running from an AA perspective: One day at a time. The first thing I have to work on is running more than once a week. I can already tell how out of shape I’ve gotten. Running now feels awful. So I don’t run, and I get more out of shape, and it feels awfuler.

So here goes: I’m going to try to commit to doing a 3 mile run, every day, for the next week, starting tomorrow. Today I will go for a walk.

Next week I’ll make it 4 miles.

If I can hack that for 2 weeks, then I’ll start throwing in longer runs. No “training runs” until sometime in the summer, after I have rebuilt a decent aerobic base and gotten rid of my various lingering injuries.

I have no other running commitments. I can’t take the pressure. I need to like running again before I can think about training for anything.

Google Search Oddities

“eulogy for a father that owned a car lot”

I liked this one. A lot.

Google Search Oddities

Okay. This is the best keyword search I’ve ever received.

“just walked out of the dentist and going home to die”

It’s also worth doing a search on this phrase. You will get back easily an entire evening’s worth of reading.

Google Search Oddities

“after the realisation…another girl enters…cycle repeats..all over again”

A heartbroken Brit, Australian, New Zealander or Canadian (probably). Poor thing.

Race Report: Flushing Meadows 5K

Today I raced the inaugural Flushing Meadows 5K race in Corona Park, Queens. The park was the site of two world’s fairs (1939 and 1964), and it contains very large, and very visually striking, vestiges of at least one of them. I’m too lazy to research more than that. This is a blog, people.

The race was hosted by the Sri Chinmoy organization which is, as far as I can tell, a benign religious cult. Whatever they are, they put on a well-organized race. The race started on time, it was well-marked, well-staffed (there was a volunteer at every turn — and there were lots of turns), and they gave out huge honking trophies to winners, plus age group winners’ medals. The awards were so…well, big…that I couldn’t bring myself to skip the awards ceremony.

This trophy is really no big deal.

As for the course, this is not a race in which to attempt a PR. The course starts south of the Long Island Expressway and, unfortunately, in order to cross the LIE one needs to run up and over a short but very steep hill, both at the start and finish. Strike one against speed. Strike two against speed is the fact that the route winds all around Corona Park and there is a 90 degree (or worse) turn about every 200m or so. As usual, I did not look at my watch while racing but I did set it up to autolap on the kilometers. The only fast kilometer I ran was the second one (4:03) and that was only because it was almost all straightaway save for one 45 degree turn to the left.

We started at 10:00 am sharp and I was immediately the first woman. I doubted this would last, and I was right. A young woman with a lovely blonde ponytail passed me at about the half mile mark and within another few hundred meters I knew I’d never catch her. She would finish around 50 seconds ahead of me. After that, no women passed me and only one man did. I passed two teenage boys who went out too fast and died in the second kilometer. And that was the end of any passing action.

It was a tough race. For one thing, all of us in front were running alone. There were no packs. There was just a string of runners separated by around 15-20 feet each. The turns were frustrating and mentally draining. At some point in the middle of the race I settled for second place women’s and then things kind of went south from there from a mental standpoint. I knew the nature of the course was going to prevent me from running as well as I could have normally, so I found myself taking an, “Eh, why bother?” attitude. I was totally drifting off in the fourth kilometer (my slowest at 4:25) and then rallied for the last one and got back down to 4:12 territory despite the sharp turns and insane hill. But it was kind of depressing to see 21:15 on the clock when I came through. My PR is 21:12. I couldn’t find four seconds in there? I could have if I’d tried harder. I also wonder if I ran too far and too fast on Thursday (7 miles at 8:26 avg). In the past I’ve taken the day off two days before the race. I will do that before the 5 miler I have scheduled for a week from tomorrow.

This is one of three 5K races I have scheduled leading up to Houston. The primary purpose of these races is just to get some practice racing the 5K. I am very shaky in terms of knowing how it’s supposed to feel. But these races are also good gauges of where I am fitness-wise. Despite a disappointing clock time, I’m happy with the effort today and I do think I’ve gained some speed endurance in the past six or so weeks of training. I have seven more weeks to work at it.

Splits: 4:16, 4:03, 4:16, 4:25, 4:14

My watch read 3.12 miles, so I did a stellar job of hitting the tangents today. Either that or the course was short!

Sri Chinmoy may be familiar to some of you runners out there, but more as a creator of ultra running events than as a religious leader. (That Wikipedia page is worth a look; you will learn, among other “facts,” that he painted 200,000 paintings and lifted celebrities like Susan Sarandon and Sting over his head.) His organization is best known for their “self-transcendence” series of races in Queens. These races are, frankly, insane. They hold races that go on for 6 and 10 days, respectively — in Corona Park — running as much as possible, on as little sleep as possible, to accumulate as many miles as possible. But the crowning achievement in insanity is their 3,100 mile race, which takes place over many weeks in summer and is run around a single block in Queens. The block is circled 5,649 times, to be exact.

Yes. Runners are crazy.

Training: Nov 6 – 12

Last week was on the lighter side due to two very late nights and a violent 24 hours or so of back spasm. I returned to the Rockies on Sunday for another tempo session around Swan Lake. But I was not feeling the love this week. It was windy and I just seemed slow. I was slow. Times were about 15-20 seconds off the last session. It’s fine, though. Sometimes you just have a sub-par run. Afterwards we headed straight to the gym where we had lunch and avoided the blaring NYC Marathon coverage on the café’s television. That would have to wait until later. There were heavy objects to be lifted and boxes to be jumped up and down on and off of first.

The next day my legs were peppy as hell. I zipped along at sub 8:30 with nary a pant. Tuesday evening was the final evening of my storytelling class. That involved a performance. I went for a run early in the day, did a little work and then spent the rest of the day relaxing, meditating and even napping. This is a luxury I rarely allow myself. It was fun to do on a Tuesday.

The performance went well (or, at least, people told me it did), then we had dinner with some friends and then the evening’s second act began, as we discovered that our car had been towed. Everything turns into a pumpkin at 11pm, according to the NYPD. Since I’m rarely out that late (and we arrived at an empty parking space at 11:20), I forgot. So we walked about a mile and a half to the tow pound, calling on the way as they searched for our car. Eventually they found it and, after taking a sum of money from us that I’d rather not disclose, we had our car back. I will read street signs (and my watch) more carefully from now on.

We got to bed at about 2:00am. I was exhausted the next day. So I didn’t run.

Thursday was another speed session. This time around I departed from Jack Daniels’ assigned work(b)out and decided to do what Jonathan called a “classic 5K workout”: 1K repeats at goal 5K pace. Goal for the near future is 6:25. That would get me under 20:00. I went to the track and attempted these but found myself struggling. But I wasn’t struggling with running so much as I was struggling with math. I got home and realized I ran the repeats too fast by about 5 seconds per minute pace. That doesn’t sound like much, but, believe me, you feel it when you’re already pushing the effort. I could only do three of my planned five. I did what I’ve done before, which is to cut down the length of the repeats and up the speed for the last few. It wasn’t a terrible workout or anything.

I miss mile training. 5K training is so much harder.

Friday featured a slow recovery run and legs too tired to do strides. Then a long day in the city, capped off with a midnight showing of a concert film by Sigur Rós called INNI. That ended at 1:30am. And then. We managed to get ourselves caught in a traffic jam at 2:00am. Police had closed off a great swath of the West Side Highway, so traffic got diverted. We got to bed at around 3:00am.

I must have been sitting weird all day because I got out of the car, twisted slightly, and then my back went into a screaming, oh-god-what-the-fuck-is-that back spasm. That lasted through the next day. Moving around a lot helped. Sitting sent it back into spasm. So I’ve been moving around a lot.

What a week. I’m not built for late nights.

Fifth Avenue Mile: The Media Experience

Not only did I have an exceptionally good race experience at the Fifth Avenue Mile this year, but I also had a great experience as a media person.

Interviewing the runners

Once again I’m reminded that, while the lack of interest in professional track and field in this country can be dismaying at times, the flip side of that dispassion is that the stars of the sport are very accessible. In my case, I can walk off the street and find them in a room, ready to answer questions. Bonus: coffee and free danishes.

Like last year,  managed to carve out a few hours to research and then speak to a few of the elites in this year’s race. After a few experiences with the NYRR press events I’ve honed my approach. First, I have to wait to see who will be made available. Usually that’s anounced about two days before the press event. Then I have to select from that list to research. I can’t interview 10 people in a couple of hours; it’s better to pick three or four and focus on them with just a handful of questions to start with. As the interview progresses, you modify questions — or just go with the conversation’s new turns. But what sometimes happens is your planned interview doesn’t turn up, but you’ll get other people you didn’t expect. That’s when my set of generic, “ask anyone” questions come in handy.

So, with my method down pat, I made a beeline for three of the runners in whom I was most interested: Shannon Rowbury, Sally Kipyego and Jenny Simpson. I will be transcribing and editing those interviews and posting them soon — probably about a week from now. They were all great interviews, as expected.

Riding on the media truck

Last year, after volunteering for this event at the start line, I hobbled down to the finish and watched the rest of the races from there, including the elite races. I couldn’t help but look with envy upon the people who got to watch those races from the best seat in the house: the back of the media truck. I vowed to be on that truck when I came back this year. It took quite a lot of persistence, but I secured a seat about 15 minutes before the women’s elite race.

The truck has two rows of seats, plus room on the tailgate if you’re brave. That’s where Mary Wittenberg and a few other NYRR staff sat last year, as they did this year. The rest of us piled up higher. You’re strapped in with a rope and off you go. I was in the top row, viewing the races with a vista that included the back of Larry Rawson’s and Jim Gerweck’s heads. I’ve included video, which is interesting to listen to because you can hear the chitchat among the reporters, which is very much focused on the quarter mile splits.

You’ll also see that the vantage point changes from “runners at 12 o’clock” to “runners at “10 o’clock” as the truck whips off to the side to allow room for the pace car and runners. After the women’s race it whirls around and whips back up Fifth Avenue for the men’s elite race.

I think my favorite part of this experience was the first trip up Fifth, when I could see my friends along the course, as well as a few women I’d raced with who were surprised to see me later on, tearing past them on that truck. One of my friends, Amy Cooper, snapped this photo. I’m in the pink. This is probably one of the happiest photos ever taken of me. Saturday was a dream day in terms of racing, friendship and the thrill of riding in that ridiculous truck.

A sweet little track off the beaten path

Joe did a recent tour of Mount Vernon’s track. Here’s my travelogue of the Edgemont High School track.

Training: Aug 21-27

Just a quickie post, and one without a visual of the week’s training. My training log is on Jonathan’s computer, which is two states to the east in a house that has no power, thanks to Hurricane Irene.

It was a nothing week for training anyway. I probably ran in the neighborhood of 20 miles if I was lucky. Since I tweaked my left hamstring last week and had a 5K race planned for this Saturday, it seemed stupid to do anything to aggravate said hamstring. I also had to travel out of town for work on Thursday and Friday and there was no time to run during those two days.That was fine since my hamstring was still bugging me. So I slathered on Voltaren and hoped for the best.

On late day Friday the Percy Sutton 5K got canceled due to all city permitted events getting thrown out due to the impending hurricane, making the decision not to race it very easy (since it was made for me!). Instead, I snuck in 4 easy miles in withering humidity before meeting up with fellow bloggers Amy and TK for a sojourn in the Poconos, a much-anticipated trip.

Today I’m slightly hung over (big surprise there) but sporting very fresh legs. Assuming I’m less hung over tomorrow, I’ll attempt a longer run. Or not. I have a slight case of the fuck its this week. That’s not such a terrible thing.