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.

Sebastien 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.

Whatever.

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.

CAM00250I 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.)

Twin Lakes Oct 13 2013Perhaps more important than the single-race angle, though, is, as I posted on FB, “A series of good runs in the aftermath of a bad race is a good way to re-kindle the spirit.”

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).

As my wife and I drove down Empire Road in Copake on Saturday, we came upon a yard sale. I saw, on top of a stack of books, “Slaying the Badger” by Richard Moore. I had heard of the book during an interview with Andy Hampsten. It is subtitled: “Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault and the Greatest Tour de France”. (Moore discusses, at the end, whether it was the “greatest” TdF.) The Badger is Hinault and most people in the book simply refer to him as “Le Blaireau”.

It is the story of the 1986 Tour, in which Hinault was seeking his sixth win and LeMond his first. I use “seeking” advisedly because a central, and never quite resolved, theme of the book is whether Hinault was trying to win or whether, as he insists, he was helping his teammate LeMond to get the win (as LeMond had helped Hinault get his fifth win the year before). I remember watching bits of the event. I think by then, with LeMond and the appearance for the first time of an American team, 7-Eleven (with Eric Heiden among its members), it was carried in a stand-alone show on CBS. (NBC had earlier put highlights into coverage of other sports.)

The book is divided into two parts, the background of the participants and the 1986 race itself and, strangely, the second part is somewhat anticlimactic, in part because we know the outcome.  Were that all this book was about, it would be interesting but not much more.

What makes it more is part 1. Moore interviewed most of the major players, including the protagonists in their native habitats of Brittany (Hinault) and Minnesota (LeMond). We hear from Hampsten, Aussie Phil Anderson, Canadian Steve Bauer, Urs Zimmermann (of Switzerland, who would finish 3rd), and Jean-François Bernard (thought to be Hinault’s successor, he never quite made it), among others.

You would think at the highest level, there’d be a villain or two. We know that Lance Armstrong was a jerk, but although Hinault was a predecessor of Armstrong as Le Patron, or Boss, of the Tour, he comes off well. His motives in the 86 Tour may be suspect, but the Badger is seen as a incredibly motivated and stubborn fellow but ultimately a pretty nice guy. LeMond is universally seen, including by himself, as a flake, who proudly says he was “diagnosed” as having ADHD. There’s a hint of “Greg’s first thought was always Greg” but he too comes across as a really nice guy; he’s a great interviewee. (The one person who’s not so great is Bernard Tapie, owner of the team on which Hinault, LeMond, Hampsten, Bauer, and Bernard.)

Drugs? They’re not mentioned, but it seems plain that these guys were not using, although this is a reference to LeMond riding “with one leg”, which could be taken to mean he was not using while others (not Hinault) were. Indeed one of the funnier items is how LeMond dealt with drug-control at the 86 Tour. Not to cheat on it but to make sure that he had proof that his sample was untainted including by using spring water to rinse out everything into which his piss went and putting his fingerprint on the “B” sample vial because he was afraid that the French might spike his sample.

The big what-if of the story is what would have happened if LeMond and Hinault were on different teams in 85 and 86. That they both rode for La Vie Claire made things difficult. And it creates an air of artificiality in both Tours because it suggests that LeMond let Hinault win in 85 and Hinault agreed to let LeMond take the 86 title. Moore points out this tension and the fact that people don’t go into cycling as a team sport yet in the end they can end up being subject to team rules (while, it needs be said, benefiting from the strength of a strong team, as La Vie Claire was, a team built for the GC without a sprinter in sight.

There are a trio of books on the recent years of the Tour that tell the various stories. There’s David Walsh’s “From Lance to Landis” and Tyler Hamilton’s “The Secret Race“, the latter a must-read for those who want to know just how it was done. “Slaying the Badger” is about the era before the drugs took over. Naive? Hampsten has long been among my favorite riders. In interviews, he talks of how in the early 90s he was in the best shape of his career and suddenly he couldn’t keep up with the Peleton on the climbs. That’s when he knew there was a new world in professional cycling. That didn’t happen to him in 86, or in 88 when he won the Giro. I think of him as the Spotted Owl of the field.

A final point. One of the twists in the 86 Tour was that the riders had no radios. LeMond and Hinault agree that they make race more of a test for its participants, even though LeMond missed an attach by Hinault which he would have learned of had he a radio. Riders nowadays say they need the radio for safety, and can point to the disarray this year when a bus got caught under the finish banner and the race finish was moved up. It takes one more thing out of the race. I think that’s bad.

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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.

For a while I’ve been playing with an acoustic meetup group in Larchmont.  I bring my guitar, but generally play electric bass. The format: each participant brings copies of a song, passes them around, and away we go. Often, the first run-through is pretty ragged so we do it again. Then it can sound quite good. I find a bass-line, most of the guitars get the rhythm, and the rest put in nice fills. It’s something you can do with acoustics but more than a couple of electrics is really hard to pull-off. Neil Young, Stones, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell. That kind of thing. A broad range of ages. Ten or more guitars and the bass. Last night, I brought in Jackson Browne’s “Late for the Sky”. In college Browne and Springsteen were the pillars of my musical tastes (and when Browne was inducted into the hall-of-fame it was Springsteen who introduced him).

After everyone finishes after an hour-and-a-half or so, there’s a “performance” segment. When I was last there, I wasn’t willing to try one of my own songs. I thought of Julie doing her stuff on stage but wimped out. You see, doing so means I have to sing, and I’m not confident in that.

This time I was determined. So I went through my stuff and came out with my sappiest one, “Awake”. It’s a simple song and not too long, which is why I picked it. I wrote it after awakening from an involuntary nap on a Saturday afternoon. When Guy asked “does anyone want to perform?” I said I did.

It’s a slowish piece, although it picks up towards the end with a key change. (Nothing fancy, from C to G.) It starts with a simple finger-picking (I don’t use a pick) of the melody into an Am, G, F, Em, F, G line. The playing didn’t go as well as I hoped. There are folks at the meetup who really can play the guitar. I’m not one of them.

Fortunately, the song turns into basic chords, so that was when I felt more comfortable. C, F, C, F, C, G. I soldiered on, emotions mixed between enjoying the fact that I was doing it and hoping it would just be over. To me the performance is not the performance per se but the chance to perform my music and my lyrics. People did say nice things about the song, which I like to think were heart-felt.

AWAKE

C
Did I fall asleep?
F C
Did you wake me up?
F C G
Did you tell me you love me?
C
Or am I dreaming still
F C
Am I all alone?
F C G
Far From where I should be
G Am G F Em F G
I’ve known what it’s like to be lonely
G Am G F Em F G
I’ve known what it’s like to be loved
C
When I am by your side
F C
With feelings no dream can hide
F C F C
Will you tell me you love me?

On many mornings
On many evenings
I reach to be sure you’re there
And when I can
Hear you breathing
I know I’m safe in the bed we share
I’ve known what it’s like to be lonely
I’ve known what it’s like to be loved
So when it’s true
That I’m next to you
I can sleep because you’re there.

G
With you I’m no longer the dreamer
C Em Am
Who fears waking up every day
Dm G
Who finds things so much cleaner
Em D D7
Without reality to get in the way

G
When I fall asleep
C G
Please wake me up
C G C D
And tell me you love me
For no matter what the dream
I’ll be all alone
If you’re not next to me
D Em D C Bm C D
I’ve known what it’s like to be lonely
I’ve known what it’s like to be loved
I’d rather stay awake
With your love to take
And know you are next to me
G b ccc d e f e c def ec e d

Not me:

This is me, recorded at home. 2013_07_20 Awake Electric

I thought of doing a program on RunnersRoundTable on building a running-trail site, like WestchesterTrails. I realized video would be the way to go. So I tracked down a site that allows for making videos of screen activity, ScreenR.com, and away I went.

This is how to build your own running-trail web-site from scratch in 25 minutes.

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