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Hoping for a run in a closed space, unimpeded by traffic and snow, I decided to head south. I don’t think I ran in Central Park once in 2013, but the same can’t be said for 2014.
It’s about a 20-minute drive. I tried to be creative in parking, but that didn’t work out so I parked on the east side of Marcus Garvey Park. It’s a straight-shot 1/2 mile down 5th Avenue (the Marathon course) to the Park. Headed in and a counterclockwise loop.
Since I’d last been in the Park, there have been some adjustments. In particular, the recreational lane has been widened in most spots and marked for runners only, with cycling markings to the right. This means far fewer runners venturing into the bike lane, although I did have two guys pass me on the downhill curve at the north end who thought it ok to meander in the middle of the bike lane; they ignored my “aren’t you supposed to be on this side?” query. In all my years of running in the Park, I’ve never run like that.
Which reminds me that I did miss being able to yell at people. The runners themselves were fine. It was the runners-with-big-dogs-and-long-leashes who were the problem. Many of them. Oblivious. Rude or Stupid? You decide. Plus the group of runners simply standing at 90th Street and Fifth blocking half the Rec Lane.
I mentioned a bit ago that one of my objectives is to be able to join Warren Street again for its Saturday morning jaunt (as well as actually racing with them). I’m not there yet so I decided not to try to hook up with Paul Thompson — who dropped me a note that he finished third (not second) in 45-49 at USATF’s Cross Champs — and do it alone. I find it easier to run alone by which I mean it seems harder to run at a particular pace when I’m with a group than when I’m alone.
Still, I did come upon Paul and some other WSSACers who were waiting to pick up folks fo their group and said hello. I hope to be in the group eventually.
The run itself was a mixed bag. I didn’t want to go hard, but the enthusiasm of being in the Park had me doing a 7:01 and a 7:02 for miles 3 and 4 along the west side, which left me pretty dead as I hit the bottom of the Park and fearful that I might blow up. But a slight ratcheting back as I turned north allowed for recovery and after getting up Cat Hill (with a wave) I took advantage of the slight downhill that takes one all the way to the top of the Park to relax and felt like a new runner for the last few miles.
This was the best sign. The last mile-and-a-half was on the streets and while tired — I hadn’t gone over 50 minutes for a long while — I felt solid and had the fastest splits of the run. It was the fastest pace overall in a long while and I got to 8.5 miles in 1:00:06.
I’m a bit tired now. The prospect of Scarsdale, though, has proved a great incentive. I managed three 30-minute sessions on the treadmill this week. It’s as though a switch has been flipped and enthusiasm that I feared had gone is seeping back in. This is a strange business.
While here in New York the snow was unavoidable, people were able to go through February, albeit a short month, without a post here.
I had a nice run this morning, Saturday. Temp in the mid 20s (F) and sunny. Cold enough to keep a wool cap on, tights, long-sleeve. Sunblock and sunglasses. I’ve taken in this cold weather to seeking out quiet areas. I’ve done a couple of runs with a half-mile (or so) loop run 7 times (plus running there and back) and last Saturday was uber-dangerous as there was black ice all over the place and after a near disaster, I meekly headed home. Today saw a couple of loops of a longer stretch, just a block off the busy north-south road that cuts through Bronxville.
Relaxed pace, yelling at myself to keep the eye on the bigger picture, avoiding hammering that has me gasping at the end and struggling to finish. It’s amazing how slowing just a tiny bit can make such a difference, Micawber-like.
My objective is the Scarsdale 15K, on April 6. I’ve run it a few times, although not for a while, and won it once. No expectations. Just putting on a number on a race that’s neither too long where I struggle to finish nor too short where I struggle with too fast a pace. Maybe get some redemption after my last race. I wrote about it, wow, five years ago.
In other news, the great Paul Thompson finished second in the 45-49 AG in the USATF National Cross Champs, held in Boulder. He inspires, even an old-timer such as me.
I haven’t written about Mary Cain for a while; she’s been speaking pretty well for herself. A while back I noted the constant pressure she is under and that she doesn’t run a bad race, and that’s still the case, with a USA indoor 1500 championship last weekend. She seems to be enjoying herself, and everyone I know wishes her well.
Alas, her success inevitably has led a few to suspect she’s on some PEDs. It’s not unique to her. Indeed, it came up about another female runner (who as it happens also ran in the Worlds 1500 final last year) during a Rockies run a while back simply because of an everyone-does-it taint on all world-class runners. Unlike cycling in the post-Lemond through Armstrong era, though, I don’t think everyone one does it and I don’t think any Americans in that 1500 final do.
Specifically as to Cain, two words: No way.
It’s been a month since I last posted and, well, I’ve nothing to say. Same old, same old. With a couple of hiccups, I’ve managed to string together some good runs, on the roads, on the treadmill, on the track. My goal is to be ready for the Scarsdale 15K come April. And I do hope to be in good enough shape to re-join the Warren Street boys for their Saturday morning runs. For me it’s a serious effort and I can’t hang with the group the entire distance. But it’s something to look forward to.
By contrast, when I was running with VCTC, the objective was to slow things down, and that worked, but in part because of the physical limits of where they run, I’ve been simply trying to keep it slow on my own, by finding a Goldilocks pace. Of course that’s more easily done on the treadmill.
I have been throwing inclines into treadmill work, say going up to and down from 6.0 in 0.5 increments with 1 minute each or to 8.0 with 30 seconds each. Brutal but it helps the time pass. On one of these ventures, I listened to a good podcast from Bob Babbit on Competitor Group with Bob Kennedy, an American icon in the 90s.
I was itching to just run “fast”. So to the Bronxville track I jogged this morning. A mix of folks on it, walking, running. (Because lane 4 is the closest to 400m, that’s where I was; I asked a couple of people to keep it clear and they gladly complied.) It always seems romantic. Going hard and fast. So I was to do six 800s, pace to be based on feel. Cruel shock on No. 1. These things hurt. So I down-graded to doing 4. Each a struggle but each under control and just under 3:00. I don’t know if that’s good or bad given that it wasn’t too long ago that I could do 20-minute Tempos faster than that. It was good, though, to go hard, to use the lane-markings to keep me going — only 500 to go, etc. It was a fun, almost spontaneous workout. Not yet serious, but I’ll have to become so if I want to be ready for Scarsdale.
It’s been a while since I’ve commented about NYRR, largely because I’ve not been paying much attention to it. Sure, I noted Mary Wittenberg’s comment that nobody has any problems with NYRR’s general baggage-policy, since plenty have wondered what the point of something that is a major inconvenience is, but for the most part it seems to be doing a good job. It is generally responsive on its Facebook page, where I sometimes lurk, and so its communications have improved.
Someone just commented on a post from long ago, Why Would Anyone Run An NYRR Race, and that reminded me of what is a hugely-positive step that is being rolled out by NYRR. This is the “Classic” race series. I don’t know how the races are selected or how many there will be, but the bottom-line: no-frill (i.e., no t-shirt) races for $10, open to NYRR-members only. These are normal races on the NYRR calendar and they are capped at 2,500-3,000. No Marathon-qualifier.
Subject to the race-selection, it’s a good sign that NYRR is open to a constituency — people who want to run races and don’t want to pay a fortune to do so and don’t care about 9 + 1 — that has often seemed forgotten.
In Other News
As to my running, my fall turned out to be more of a problem than I had first thought. I strained a back muscle and couldn’t run a step for weeks. Finally I did a bit over 10 minutes with no pain last Sunday and got up to 34 and change this morning. There were some days in that stretch when I didn’t think the pain would ever go and then it was gone.
In Marathon news, Brenn Jones rather easily broke the 3-hour barrier with a 2:56:40. I was monitoring his progress and, well, there really was no suspense at the end.
Bois Baret [ed.: correct thanks to Sham. I don't know who of them would be more insulted. It's Stephane Bois and Sebastien Barar, I mean Baret.] was pacing a 3-hour group and he screwed up, running an almost-perfectly paced 2:59:46. Better luck next time Seb.
Helen was cruising but DNFed as she accompanied a friend to the hospital. All is good, but she said she saw the ugly-side of the marathon that day.
Bobby earned a friend-for-life with is pacing but she just missed 3.
Frank was happy with a slow race but one that followed a long injury stretch and Emmy finished her 25th NYC Marathon. I haven’t even watched that many.
And Steve finished too.
It’s a chilly Sunday morning here in New York, overcast. The Marathon, which in these parts is the NYC Marathon, begins this morning.
In the past, I’ve had friends who’ve been eyeing one marathon or another — I described it as Going All-In — and through the wonders of technology found myself thrust into the fandom normally reserved for folks with their names on their bibs I’ve had the one-day-that’ll-be-me sensation.
But having given up on the idea of racing another marathon and not having any friends racing New York this year and perhaps saddled by last year’s experience and a loss of enthusiasm for the pro-field I view today’s race with a some indifference. I see a number of friends are “doing” it but don’t know anyone racing it, except for Brenn, aiming for sub-3.
Sebastian is pacing a 3-hour group. Helen is coming off that sub-3 in Chicago. Steve is kinda rolling out of bed to do it after not having had time to train. Bobby is jumping in to pace a friend near the end (something of which I disapprove). Frank is adding to his amazing collection of races.
I’ll watch it, as I always do, reminiscing about my few trips along the course and the many times I’ve watched before and getting into the excitement of the race
Meanwhile, I still have not run since my fall two weeks back. This is not helping my attitude. Not the bruises, etc., which are pretty well healed, but I strained a back muscle. It was not that big a deal after the fall. It hurt badly, though, the next day and has continued to bother me since. I thought I was over the hump a few days ago, but it’s back. So another of those frustrations. While I didn’t have many running plans coming up, I had wanted to do Steve’s HM in Central Park in early December. We’ll see
I want to mention one of those friends whose prior races I followed. That would be Flo.
First, I’m not doing P2P next year. I’m too old and it’s too technical.
What brought out this revelation you say? I’ve been running on Saturday mornings with the Van Cortlandt Track Club and the route has been up the Putnam Trail. In the Bronx it’s narrow and there are numerous railroad ties as well as tree roots. When it hits Westchester it becomes paved and heads all the way through the County.
It was the Bronx part that was the issue and about 2 miles into the run with a nice group of folks I hit one of those ties or roots and found myself aloft. As the saying goes, it’s not the fall that’s the problem it’s when the fall ends. And end it did. Based on my post-action incident report — a survey of the damage — I landed on my right hand and rolled on my left side, with lots of cinder residue on my lower and upper left leg as well as a nasty scraping on my left elbow and plenty of cinder covering the left back of my (ironically-worn) Paine-to-Pain shirt.
That left elbow itself contains a few plates and screws from the 2008 Incident and I landed right on them. Fortunately, it looks much worse than it is. But it could have been very, very bad.
I completed the run, getting just to the 10-mile mark. But a reassessment is in order. I’m old and not only does it take longer to heal — other than skin damage I have a strained muscle in my back which makes up-and-down movement painful — and the frailty of age makes things that could have been laughed-off in the past are not so easily dismissed now. So I’ve considered where I run in that light. Certain trails I’ll be skipping going forward, including the one on which I ran with Bobby and Ian last week and about which I was so enthusiastic afterward.
This running thing, as is true of life, is not risk-free. And perhaps it’s more dangerous to “run” on trails than carefully navigating a technical trail, where you are careful about each foot-plant. That’s kind of different though from what I enjoy doing. So Rockies: Yes, Putnam: No.
When I have the type of experience of last week’s Paine to Pain I can dwell on it. After NYCM 2006 my thoughts quickly turned to how to better next time, although in that case there never was a “next time”. From P2P, I had a bucket-load of errors so there’s a wealth of ideas on improvement. (The photo is just before one gets to the final water-stop at P2P, in Twin Lakes.)
I’ve had a series of solid runs since the race. I’ve been tired in some, but the big difference between being tired and what happened last Sunday was that then I knew early on that my quads were blowing up. It’s one thing to have an overall fatigure and another to feel that you’re not physically capable of running-through-it.
Today I went out with Bobby P. and Ian. We decided to head up the Hutch Trail, after meeting in the stables parking-lot at Twin Lakes. I run Twin Lakes/Nature Study so often that I’ve neglected simply running along the parkway and had forgotten that while that stretch is not quite at the level of technicality as is Leatherstocking, it is pretty rough. I was somewhat lulled by the ease of Twin Lakes/Nature Study in my P2P prep. Up 35 minutes into Saxon Woods at a relatively-easy pace but the “pace” is confusing because the effort is much higher, say 30 seconds. We stopped at the turn-around since they both had to pee, and I was concerned that I would not hang on heading south.
Now we were duplicating the P2P course with all its ups-and-downs, mostly single-track and I had flashbacks, particularly to spots where I had stopped a week earlier. On little hills (hardly worth the name). Yet unlike last week, my quads were fine and while I had a bit of tiredness I was never stressed, never breathing with every-other stride. No problem running up the big hill south of Pinebrook. Very nice all the way to the end, at 1:07. Longest time and distance (except for P2P itself) in quite a while. This followed on a nice solid run in part with VCTC yesterday at Van Cortlandt, where I was breathing with every other stride, although that was because I was actually pushing it pretty hard. Nice run on the B’ville track on Friday night — 20 laps in lane 5. (I only run on the track after dark out of fear of tripping.)
More important, one can forget the “why” of doing it and forget the simple thrill of a run well-run. Who knows how I’ll end up, or whether I’ll be hobbled by more aches and pains. But the runner’s life always has some level of optimism about the future, about the next race being a wee-bit better than the last.
Separately, congratulations to my friend Helen Dole, who ran Chicago this morning. Helen hit me, literally, in Brooklyn a few years back as I walked at the NYCM (I DNFed). She ran a
2:28:12 2:58:12 [editor's note: my error was pointed out to me] in Chicago and more tellingly, she ran almost perfectly even splits. Her 5K times through 30K ranged from 20:51 to 21:02 and her seventh and eighth were 21:30 and 21:36. That’s the way you do it. But I’m thinking that right about now she’s thinking of what she can do next time to shave off a few seconds here and a few seconds there.
I’ve not raced much recently. Part of it is in my body. Part of it is in my head. A few months back, while doing a great run that included the Nature Study Trail, I decided I’d do Paine to Pain.
P2P is the creation of my friend and former clubmate Eric Turkwitz. He engineered the conceptual and to some extent physical binding of three discrete trails with the relevant municipalities and Westchester County into what is known as the Colonial Greenway. It happens to be a 13-or-so mile loop, one mile of which is on roads. I’ve been running on some of these trails since high school, over 40 years ago and have done certain stretches hundreds of times. To celebrate the creation of the system, Eric came up with the idea of having a race, and it has grown until it sells out. Today’s was the 6th edition.
The course itself is interesting because it consists of different trails. After a half-mile uphill and a quick down, one enters Leatherstocking Trail in New Rochelle. (Named for the series by James Fenimore Cooper, who lived nearby.) This trail exists because someone wanted to build a bridge across Long Island Sound and wanted an entry road. The bridge was not built so the road was not needed, and New Rochelle and the Town of Mamaroneck converted it into a trail. For the swampier parts, Mamaroneck built boardwalks. This trail grew up as a path through the woods and that’s what it is. So it’s narrow, it goes up and down short hills, it requires traversing rocks and trees. It is, in short, “technical”. It takes you to about mile 3.5. When I’ve run it as a work-out, I’ve always found it brutal. One can’t relax on a trail like this. This would be my downfall. I’ll get to that. Then onto Saxon Woods, a County Park. It begins with similarly technical stretches, but not as dramatic as Leatherstocking. Then it eases up and the final trail stretch, which takes one down the Hutch, to the west of Twin Lakes, and through Nature Study, is relatively placid, with one big uphill.
So much for my course description.
So those months ago I was getting longer and longer runs in. Some were struggles, but more and more were crossing that chasm into smooth-relaxed-fast. This is when I decided to do P2P. Then injuries — I’ve been struggling as to my shoes and have now gone back to Brooks Pure Flows — but P2P was out there. I entered about a month ago. I then found myself in a stretch where I was having difficultly soloing past 30 minutes. This is the brain part. No matter how fast, or slow, I went, I struggled. So I headed down on Saturdays to run with the Van Cortlandt Track Club, and that helped enormously. I’m not an official member yet, but will join shortly. I lost some training while on vacation in the Bershires but last Saturday ran 8 miles, mostly with VCTC’s Kevin Shelton-Smith, on flat trails at Van Cortlandt and felt very strong followed on Sunday with 7.3 at the Rockies with Charles Scott (who I met via some interesting but irrelevant internet stuff). I gave blood on Sunday and missed running because of my schedule until Friday.
I was, naturally, more than a little nervous as raceday approached. I had a plan. I’d take it real easy through mile 5. Then I’d have only an 8-miler about which to be serious. Piece of cake. Go through 5 at 40 and then 1:40 would be a snap.
This was the plan. It did not work. I had not run on anything like Leatherstocking in a very long time. Up/down, right/left. Avoid this root and that rock. As I said, you can’t take this trail “easy”. By mile 2 I knew I was in deep trouble. On the longest mid-race paved stretch I stopped for the first of many times. There are those who say it’s mental. It wasn’t. My legs were screaming. It was humid, and my shirt and shorts were already soaked.
I went into survival mode, determined to finish. Wearing my Garmin, I’d commit to running a certain distance before stopping. I started feeling a bit better on a flat, smooth stretch of Saxon Woods, but it was a cruel illusion. As soon as we hit a bit of hilliness, I collapsed anew. I kept passing people who’d pass me when I stopped only to be passed again, etc., etc., etc. I felt bad and something of a jerk about it. I was trying to find the least-uncomfortable pace. So it continued down to about a half to go. I had not blown up, but I was getting close. Far worse than the marathon or a later leg of RtB. Far worse.
Somehow I made it out of Nature Study Trail and onto the road to New Rochelle HS. The race ends on its (350-meter) track. I finished. I saw Eric afterward. The race, I said, was a ring of hell. Not the innermost, perhaps, but not very far out.
A while back during a run Bobby Papazian and I spoke about how some people seem hard-wired to be unable to take it easy in races. Have fun/smell the roses. I’m one of those people. I know I can do this thing a lot faster. I must adjust to the reality of Leatherstocking — a few runs there would not be amiss — but I think that if I’m in shape for it, I can do it pretty well. Not the 1:52/14th AG of this morning. As I also told Eric, “I’m pissed”. Not about today; I don’t think I could have done it much faster. But about the fact, and it is a fact, that this beautiful course got the better of me. In my defense, though, it wasn’t a fair fight. I hope next year that it will be.
I also saw how hard everyone in these races works. Everyone near me was busting their butts, focusing on the business at hand — and that they were was reason I felt bad about my frequent passing. It was an object-lesson for arrogance I may sometimes display.
A final thought. I know the folks who put this on — in addition to Eric and Greg Stern and other former SSRMC-mates Steve Lastoe’s NYCRuns did the scoring — but I think objectively they did a fantastic job. Eric was livid [edited to add: Eric dropped me a note to say he was more "perplexed" than anything, including livid, since he too took notice of the course markings] afterward when he learned the the 2 lead runners missed a turn late in the race (and the guy who had been third stopped right before the finish line to let them get ahead of him). He and his team, including guys who ran the course beforehand to ensure that it was properly marked, did a fine job of marking the turns and there were tons of marshals and volunteers — thanks Iona College — on the course, plus cheerleaders on the opening and closing stretch. I think though that in the later stages one’s faculties can be less than ideal. I knew where I was going, but still confirmed that the small yellow flags were properly set-up and they were. Racers, though, can miss things like that and I’m sure Eric will make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I was put into the fourth (of four) wave (presumably because I had no recent marathon or HM time to put in). I emailed Eric last night, and within an hour he and members of his and Steve’s teams assured me that I’d be put into wave 1. A few years back, I ran part of the course the day before and saw a fallen log across it. I emailed Eric. Within two hours he emailed me back, “What tree?” with a photo of his son holding a saw and pointing to a gap in that fallen log through which the course ran.
One reason I bitch about NYRR is that it doesn’t seem to care about things in its races. Not so with this race director. Who could, were he not a lawyer, make a pretty good living as a stand-up comic (“The New Rochelle Army” indeed).
I wrote about my run last Saturday with VCTC. I ran with them — actually with one person — yesterday and it was another enjoyable day in the park, a bit over an hour, close to 8 min. pace.
Before starting, I made a video of the Van Cortlandt track. After the run, three local runners, I think they’re Ethiopian, were circling the track metronomically, looking to be doing beautiful tempos.
I haven’t posted in quite a while. The vagaries of my running since the last one helps to explain that.
Today I had a good run. I’ve been plagued by stuff and when it finally seemed behind me I was having basic-running problems. In the spring, I found that if I found my Goldilocks pace, I was fine. But I’ve had trouble re-finding it. Plus no matter how slowly I went, I died. I was in a 20-30 minute rut with runs of Herculean struggle in their final stages. So last Saturday I decided to venture down to Van Cortlandt to run with the Van Cortlandt Track Club. (Right now, I am running unattached (insofar as I am running). I planned to join VCTC a while back, but running set-backs have put such plans on hold.)
I figured, correctly, that if I ran with some of those guys at a more-controlled pace, I could sustain a decent run. This would be in contrast with my old runs with Warren Street or with Bobby, Paul, et al. at the Rockies in which I found myself struggling to keep up. So last week it was around VCP’s parade grounds — the flats for XC races — and then up the Putnam Trail, into Westchester (where it is paved). I turned at 25 minutes and headed back on my own, getting to 45 minutes, over 15 more than I’d managed for months. Plus while I was tired late, I never had the blowing-up struggles of prior runs.
This was a turning-point for me. I followed it with a 40 minuter on the roads and 37 from home onto Nature Study and back, both in high humidity. Beautiful weather today. But there was no one from the club who would be going fast enough so I headed out on my own. I did the same as last week, hitting the 25 minute mark at almost exactly the same spot as last week but continued until just past 30. The paved path in Westchester is flat at first but then begins a gradually up-incline. (This is the South County Trailway and you can take it all the way through the County.) I turned just past 30 minutes and now had a very nice slight downhill. Of course this meant that my pace started to pick up and I found myself locked into a pretty solid pace.
It’s amazing how free one can feel on a path in the Bronx. Low 7s/high 6s but I felt great. The feeling that sucks you into this whole running insanity. Off the trail and up to the parade grounds, now with numerous college and hs teams milling about in their matching warm-ups. This, of course, meant that there could be no easing back. I decided t complete the counter-clockwise loop and finish at the XC finish line. That last half-mile from the north edge was not pleasant but when I crossed under the banner I stopped. 55 and change.
this bell’s been run many times before. Like running, though, this stuff can only be taken one step at a time.