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Things did not look good early Friday evening. Running on the B’ville track I felt a sharp pain in my left ankle. I immediately stopped and walked home. But I feared that the Sunday Rockies Run — it’s the last Sunday of the month — would be undoable. So no run on Saturday.

I decided not to test it before driving up, figuring that would tempt fate. I also thought that if it turned out to be a problem, I could still go to breakfast.

This despite the forecast of rain, rain, and more rain.

But the rain had stopped by the time I had gotten up. But the radar was ominous as it showed a new  bit of rain scurrying across Philly and headed our way. It looked like even if we could start in the dry we’d end in the wet.

I arrived and we had a group of 5, with Paul, Bobby, Chris (from the Greenwich RC), and Mike (from the B’ville RC). Off we went. I struggled from the get-go although it wasn’t that fast. First mile was very tough for me. After that, though, I relaxed. No signs of ankle pain. There were muddy spots, but not like the mud on, say, Twin Lakes where there are pools of the stuff through which you have to run. No, just some narrowing of the running surface. Paul, Bobby, and I fell into a nice rhythm behind Chris and Mike. Paul has done 19 yesterday so having sown his wild oats he was restrained. Bobby was his typical loping self.

In the end we hit only one major hill — 13-Bridges (going clockwise) — and while it was a bit of a struggle up I was aided by the knowledge of the nice, gradual descent on the way down. There are a couple of other hills on the course, which took us up around Swan Lake via the Red Farm, where we saw two calves, but not the lung-wrenching sort. And it stayed dry for the duration, and has remained so. Shorts and a long-sleeve NYCRuns shirt was perfect. I learned my lesson from last Saturday, when I overheated in tights with a temp in the 40s. F.

We finished easily, just over 10 at 1:15 or so. That’s the longest timewise I’ve run in a while. It was worth it as we meandered down to the Horseman’s Diner, where we were joined by Sham, who had done her own 10-miler with a friend.

And so it was, a fine, fine adventure. Over three months since running at the Rockies. It was a long winter.

Saturday

Here’s how I put in on Facebook:

So, an Italian, two Frenchmen, two Brits, and two Americans run in the Park. They were all chatting amiably except for one of the Americans who was tired and unable to speak a coherent statement without having to pause after every third syllable. The others feared for him, as he was old and might fall easy prey to someone from a lesser club, and came back to collect him.

Alas. It was but temporary and after the passage of but one more mile he fell permanently off the back, never to be seen again.

Our ancient American, though, was not so easily daunted. He was determined to do a complete loop of the Reservoir on the bridle path before heading out of the Park at 110th, and so it was that alone and fearful he soldiered on, covering the final four miles in 27:52 and feeling stronger and stronger and younger and younger with each stride until he crossed 120th Street and his Garmin crossed 10.00. He could not have done so well without his smörgåsbord of mates.

(Paul Thompson identifies them all; in addition to him and me, we had master-pacer Sebastien Baret, Fabio Casadio, Pascal Lauffer (with whom I’ve had my share of Facebook battles but who I was quite happy to see, with him coming off a 2:51 last week-end), Charlie Baily, and Sam Lynch (the other Yank, who I had not met earlier but who was too fast for me to speak to much).)

I’ve noted before the strangeness of finding it more difficult to run with people than to run alone in that going at about the same pace alone seems easier. But as I’ve also noted I wanted to take advantage of the Warren Street run to get some quality work in. And I did. We run on the bridle path, except for getting to and from the Park. This eliminates the hills.

As an aside, last year I ran a number of times with VCTC with the objective of keeping things under-control and I was pleased with the way things went. But in the end I didn’t think it had quite my type of running DNA. I was miffed at WSSAC because I hadn’t been deemed  worthy of sponsor-shoes. And I may not have been given my limited-to-non-existent racing in the last few years. Another issue, though, was the betwixt-and-between one in which, as evidenced by yesterday, I am no longer as fast as I was only a few years ago. Then I could stick with the group, albeit for distances less than Paul and others did. And I would feel the runs. But Warren Street — which is really just the people — is more to my liking so I’m back.

I found out yesterday that I’m not strong enough now to do it either because I’m not yet in decent shape or because I’ll never be able to. It’s a sobering thought. Yet one deserving thought.

It’s not that yesterday was a disaster. To the contrary, I’m incredibly pumped by it. My splits were pretty even except for the one that killed me: 7:05 (not much of a warm-up there), 7:03, 7:07, 6:46 (that’s what did it, heading down the westside), 7:04, 7:15 (heading back up the westside so I’m thinking that was hillier than I thought), 7:00 (this is where I fell off and headed my own way but decided that while I was dead I had to do a loop of the Reservoir or that all would be for naught), 7:02, 7:01, 6:49 (this is heading down the hill by the Lasker Rink and out onto Lenox Avenue and then Fifth to Marcus Garvey Park, where I had parked).

Two weeks ago in the Park I did a solo (entirely on the roads) 8.5 miles at 1:00:06, a 7:04 pace. Last Saturday it was 1:10:51 up the BRP, for 9.57 miles (7:24). I had hopes to increase that to 1:20 yesterday, but it was a tad too quick early for that. At times, I thought I’d have to stop. But I held on by my fingernails and once I took the decision to do that loop of the Reservoir, legs screaming (I was overdressed in tights and a long-sleeve shirt, hat, sunglasses, and gloves), I took advantage of the slight downhill on the bridle path heading south above 90th Street to recover and from that point on I felt stronger and stronger so that when I hit the road again I was sold.

Sunday

Not having done any speedwork in a while, I headed to the Bronxville track this morning. A 1.25 jog down. A little chilly, but compression shorts and long-sleeve were the order of the day. (I wore my WSSAC outers there and back.) Not sure what pace to aim for. Was thinking 6:30ish. But just let it flow. Lap 1 was typically fast but then fell into a consistent 97-99 pace so that I got in a solid 20:25 for 5000 (6:35 pace). Importantly (and the same is true of yesterday) although there were times when I felt the strain, I was able to push through, hold it together, and recover. This has long been an issue for me, especially at races, where I’ve too frequently taken breaks. I think breaks can be useful, but they can also become a bad habit.

I have the Scarsdale 15K in two weeks and the last time I ran it I stopped a number of times. I need to avoid that. These workouts are a good sign.

This is a lazy post. Video.

Note the contrast with the picture at the top of the page. A change of seasons. You see the vehicles at the start of the video. Because there was a horse show going on, the lots were full so some people parked there.

For the record, today was the first time on this trail (or any trail) for months. Yesterday I got in 1:10 along the Bronx River Parkway path, which has been off-limits for a while, again with the snow. It looks like we’ve turned the corner. And I did see my first robin yesterday morning.

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.

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.

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