Wednesday, August 2

July was actually a pretty successful month, running-wise. I did a couple of X-C races at Van Cortlandt (one a 2 X 2 relay, the other a 5K), and both were fun. Otherwise, I’ve just been training. I did one run of 2:00:04 on July 23 almost entirely in Mount Vernon. It was hot, so I didn’t want to get too far from home. So I ran on local roads; at one point I found myself in the Bronx, but otherwise it was completely in Mount Vernon. It included a couple of laps around the Davis track, which I realized is only a 200 meter track, but I used it to get a base time, which was about 7:00 pace.

Another long run of note was on July 9. I planned on doing 2 hours — I haven’t gone that far in in over 20 years — and it was hot. But I ran to Nature Study/Twin Lakes to do laps of the lake and the lake-to-Webster stretch a few times. I was at sub-7 pace (by a bit), and just was dead at 1:30. But I struggled and was able to get just over 1:50. I stopped and then slowly walked home. I got in a fair bit of trouble from the wife; I had told her I’d be home in 2 hours. She drove to find me. She did, when I was walking, slowly, past the high school. From that point, I’ve had to be more conscious of hot weather running. This includes limiting distances on really hot days. I’ve been driving to the stables and running laps of the lake. Each lap is 1.67 miles, so 3 is just 5 miles. Yet I’m never far from the car, and water.

Last Sunday, I met Charles and his daughter, Henrietta, at the lake. I told him about my possible Cape Cod Marathon plan. He suggested that I think of Philadelphia instead. His point is that you don’t want to be running alone so I should check prior results and see how deep the field was. If I get a 2:50, I’d be in the top 100 in Philly, but further up at Cape Cod. So now I’m thinking of heading south instead of north. Then I started thinking about age-group. I turn 50 in October, so I could actually get an age-group award if I run as well as I think I can.

Sunday, August 13

I got into New York. A clubmember works for a sponsor and she asked me if I wanted to enter, and I did. So I can focus on that. I did several pretty good workouts since my last report. The best was Sat., Aug. 5. I get nervous about long runs, spending Saturday worrying about Sunday’s run. So I’m going to try to do them on Saturday. I also read about long runs in the heat, and there were references to gels, which I have never used. I stopped at the Super Runners Shop in Grand Central and spoke to someone about them. I set it up so that I would run 4.5 mile loops at Twin Lakes/Nature Study and stopped after each lap. The first lap, I only took water. The next 2, I took PowerBar gels and water. Each lap was faster than the prior one, and the last was 31:06 against 33:27 for the first. This was a far cry from the trouble I had with the 2 hour run a couple of weeks earlier.

For speed work, I’ve been doing Tempo runs on Tuesdays. First we did 15 mins., 15 mins., and 10 mins., but a bit too fast. This past week, it was 6 X 1600 (with 1 min. between and 5 mins. jog between 3 and 4) and they were far to fast. Perhaps it was the relatively short distances. And yesterday, did 20 mins. plus 2 X 10 mins. tempo then 55 minutes. And today, ran from Hastings-on-Hudson to Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, about 9.5 miles. It was a nice run.

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Sunday, August 27

Today was the inaugural NYC Half-Marathon Sponsored by Nike. (The announcers made sure to add that last part. I didn’t do it. It was $70. And that was before I knew it was a 7am start. Apart from elites at the front, it seemed that not a lot of competitive local runners did it either. 1:20 was 80th place. It will be what the NYRR calls a “Marquee event,” with over 10 thousand, but more as a revenue-generator than anything. The weather was wet and it rained just over an hour into the race, but a warm August deal would be, as one person wrote on LetsRun, a “death march.”

Since my last entry, I’ve done some decent workouts. Last Saturday was 20 miles at 2:20:10 (not accounting for 3 1-minute stops). Was dead towards the end, but actually picked it up, with the last lap of the lake (the 1.7 miles to get to 20) in around 6:40. But it was pretty boring. Did see the Iona College’s X-C team towards the end. That’s close to the longest I plan on running. The next day was warm and I really struggled, stopping at 52 minutes, although I was dead from about 25. Then did a repeat workout on the track on Tuesday, including a 2:31 800 and pretty consistent lap times in the 75-76 range.

Yesterday was probably the best workout I’ve done in a very long time. I had to do 10-12 miles at Marathon pace, which was 6:20-6:ru30. Because I haven’t run that fast for a long-run in a while, I was unsure what would happen. I measured a 2-mile course in Larchmont, and started 11 miles at 6:13 and dropped it down to 6:01-6:04 with 5:53 for the last mile. The workout set up so that the first 8 miles were smooth but the last 3 became a struggle. But I was able to pick it up. But I felt completely spent afterwards, and my stomach was not good for the rest of the day. I was completely blitzed. I worry that the pace was too fast. Next time, I really have to go a bit more slowly, although 11 miles in 67 works out to a 1:20 half pace. The weather was nice; it rained off and on and was relatively cool.</P

So my time-goal in New York is sub-2:50, and top 3 in my age-group (I’ll be 50). The conversion charts say I can do it, and my recent workouts say I can handle it, as long as I continue the way things are going. The biggest concern I have is injury. I figure that I’m at the point where I could lose a week and still be OK.

On a non-running related subject, I just finished a wonderful book, Agincourt, Henry V and the Battle that Made England, by Juliet Barker. Henry V is not the character Shakespeare makes him out to be. He was much more, especially in the adminstrative aspects of governing. A nice read, although it is not so strong on the ultimate impact Henry’s victory had on England and its position on the Continent.

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Friday, September 8

Been a while. I am out at my sister’s place in Sag Harbor, and have gotten some nice runs out here, including on the Northwest Trail in East Hampton. Some two-a-days in prep for the Marathon, but I am really stiff in the morning, and those have not been particularly pleasant. But I run to get the paper in town. After each run, I get into the pool. We came out here in the Spring, but the weather was awful, so we left early. Now, we were supposed to go to London, but we decided to postpone that until the Spring.

That Northwest Trail run was very nice, going out for 25:12, but then coming back at 23:30. The trail itself is windy at times, with slight ups-and-downs. I planned on doing it nice and easy, but you really can’t on a course like that. Also ran along a very nice 1.5 stretch along the water, and that was a typical run when I am feeling good; the pace gets picked up. I had planned a 40-minute tempo run, but that run was quick enough to amount to the same thing, so I did some easy stuff instead.

Last Saturday, in an off-and-on drizzle, I did my first 20 miler on the roads, this time to White Plains up the parkway and down 22. I mapped it at 20.5 miles, and that gave me a 6:50 pace, which was faster than wanted. I felt pretty good with 20 minutes to go and started to pick it up, but then struggled the last 10. I took a gel at 1:10, and I think I ran a little low towards the end, but the run was good and I had no lingering after-effects, although felt absolutely awful on Sunday during my run.

This coming Friday and Saturday I have the Reach-the-Beach 210 mile relay, with each of us doing 3 legs. I am legs 1, 13, and 25, with leg 1 being a run up a ski slope and then down the ski slope. They say the downhill beats you up for the later legs. We have a mixed team of various paces. We’ll see what happens. I’ll be doing a minor taper for this.

Although I have made some money running and don’t wear New Balance, I like this commercial:

Saturday, September 9

Last day in Sag. Ran out to the Northwest Trail and by the time I got there I was pretty tired. It’s a bit over 2 miles on Route 114. Felt better on the trail itself, even if both knees hurt a little bit. But of course had a 2 mile run on the road, the first part of it slightly uphill, to get back. Dip in the pool, and that’s it. A bit of taper now for Reach-the-Beach.

That’s a Beach and We’ve Reached It

I’ve been running for a while, with what I consider some accomplishments. But nothing comares to the experience at Reach-the-Beach. The concept is simple. Start at Bretton Woods, NH, take up to 12 runners, lay out 36 legs, and Reach the Beach. We — Sound Shore Runners — started with the 12 runners. Teams start at different times, with the fastest teams going last (at 3), and the first at 8. We had a noon start. We had 2 vans, and some of us drove up to Conway on Thursday afternoon/night during a light rain and most of the rest left Mamaroneck at about 6. It’s about 6.5 hours up. Greg S’s mom has a place up there, and he was already there. (I put some pictures on Flickr.)

We had a nice drive up. It was Guillermo (in from Paris), Pierre-Antoine, Lisa (Club Pres.), and Tom (who was in charge of the team). The Club has rented two cabins and one room in the main house of a B&B in North Conway, and after dinner (Italian) and checking the weather forecast (likelihood of rain), we bunked up. Literally; the guys shared 2 bunk beds, and Lisa had her own room in one of the cabins. In bed at 11:30. The other group would get there much later.

I had volunteered for Leg 1, which is the most difficult. It is a 5K up and then down a ski sloop. How hard can it be? I heard others who finished the leg say they walked, but I would’t have to do that.

The weather is perfect. Our Van is me, Patrick (an investment banker at Morgan Stanley), Tom (sales at GolfDigest), Dave (IT guy at McGraw-Hill), Joe M. (trader at Goldman), and Erin (does marketing for Poland Spring, and provider of much water for the trip). Before the run, I am my usual nervous-Nellie. Finally we (20 teams starting) are off. I take it easy, but am towards the front of a nice little climb on a road. We cut through some woods on a trail and then, BOOM, you turn right, and the hill just goes straight up. Nothing prepares you for it. You can’t see the top. There are race signs pointing up. I aim for one, and say I can walk when I get there. This is depressing. I won’t be finishing for a while, and my whole team will be waiting and waiting. I look back. Everyone else is already walking (except for one guy, who I later speak to, who slowly and steadily runs all the way up; he is Peter Allen, wearing a CPTC singlet, and would be running 6 legs in an Ultra.)

I put in maybe 20 or 30 running steps now and then before walking some more. There is a race sign ahead, and I hope it is pointing to the left. It is not. Straight up. Now I can see the building at the top of the slope for the ski lift. At least it will have to end there. But over a slight crest before that, and I see a truck and a guy and realize that we are near the top and about to go down. Two guys, including Peter, are ahead of me. We start the descent, but it is somewhat winding so it is not a plummet. But you look down and it is so far to go. Two young guys go whizzing by, with there young legs. I am trying to be conservative, because I have heard that the downhill kills you for the later legs. My left hamstring begins to hurt, but I go down pretty relaxed, only once fearful of crashing. I give the “baton” (actually a cool wrist-bank) to Patrick and he is off. I am actually about 20 seconds quicker than the projected time for the leg. (There is a chart that rates the difficulty of each leg and you apply it to your expected half-marathon pace. This leg added 1:15/mile to the pace.)

I do a little warm-down and go to the port-a-san, and suddenly realize that I can’t just dawdle because the van has to get to the next transition area, or “TA,” for Patrick to give the baton to Tom. We race there on the road, and have plenty of time. There is a nice cool pond/lake, and I go in up to my thighs. Unbelievably refreshing.

Thus begins the routine of the race. After we hang for a while, we drive to the next TA, where Tom gives to Dave and then to where Dave gives to Joe M., and Joe M. to Erin. From Erin, we give it to Van 2, with Guillermo leading off. The first of these transitions is at Echo Lake, a beautiful lake, which Van 2 couldn’t enjoy because none of them had yet run. No problem for us, though, and we all go into the lake. But then we have hours to kill before Van 2 give it back to us. So we drive around and find a pizza place. We decide to get pasta and marina sauce, but all they have is “Spaghetti and Sauce” and we order 6. We then head to where Van 2 is to finish, but we get lost and overshoot it, which turns out to be a blessing, because we go right through my next leg, which has a slight uphill, but is relatively short.

By the time we get to the TA, it is dark. We park behind the school and everyone else pulls out their sleeping bags and tries to get some rest. I just walk around because I’m next to go. We then hear some bad news. Jerri Lynn, who had come into the race nursing a sore hip, has been injured on leg 11. She finishes it, but she is now out. That means that people will start moving up, so that instead of a notoriously difficult leg 25, I drop down to leg 24, but I also have to do an additional leg, 35. Patrick will also get another leg, plus he now gets leg 25.

Leg 13, 3.9 miles: This is straight-forward. Out to the main road, one slight uphill, into a school. It is really foggy when I get off the main road, but the leg is pretty quick. It’s my first road leg and short, so I go pretty hard. I pass a few people and then it’s back to the van. After we get all of our legs in, we head to an improvised campsite, because we are switching vans not after leg 24 but after leg 23. The parking lot is quiet, with only a few vans from some of the early starters there. We park the van across three spaces and get in out sleeping bags in the parking lot. I get about 20 minutes sleep. Tom’s phone goes off. Lisa has started leg 23. I get up, tired and very cold. I don’t know if I can continue. I contemplate telling Patrick He’ll have to take my slot. But after a few minutes I warm up and am OK.

Leg 24, 6.9 miles: I am waiting for the baton when someone comes up to me and says, “Joe, What are you doing here?” It’s Tom P., who I know first from the train and then from running. He is a very good runner, and I’ve not beaten him, although I’ve come close and he is a year older. He says he’s Google’s No. 8 and that they’re in second, having started at 3. I have to go. This leg is supposed to be somewhat rolling, but it feels incredibly downhill to me. After the race, I check, and it was pretty rolling. I don’t know how it felt so down. I do just over 42 minutes, which is right on pace. This is the dawn leg; it starts in the pitch black, but by the time I near the finish in a park it is light. It seemed warm when I woke up, but I was told by Van 2 that it is pretty humid, and I finish the leg drenched with sweat.

Leg 35, 6.5 miles: Throughout all of this, we are eating PB&Js and PowerBars whenever we can. We cycle through leg 29 and then are off to our final Van-to-Van area. It is a school in Rye, NH, and we are among the first arrivals. We pass a number of pretty fast teams that started 3 hours after us on the road, and they think we’re a fast team as we pull in. But we’re just there to hang out for a few hours. We clean up the van and hang as teams come and go. Finally we have word that Lisa is on the road. It is now very sunny, and I put on a cap (which look incredibly geeky in the photos I see later). This is a 6.6 mile leg that is flat. Most of it is along the ocean.

I go out thinking of doing a tempo pace, but I don’t know if I can hold that, so I am not that quick. The prior runs have taken their toll. After a bit, I check my watch and it says “5:39.” I thought I had run farther, but there it is. But when I check it a bit later it still says “5:39” so I know I’ve screwed up. Now I have no idea how far I’ve gone or, more important, how much longer I have to go. But I am the runner who first sees the beach, and I am passing someone and say, “That’s a beach and we’ve reached it.” Earlier when I passed people, I didn’t say anything. What do you say when you’re going by someone? But now I tell each person I pass that we’re almost home. I pass one guy and then one of his teammates, who is silent when I go by but says “Four miles” to his guy. That was the only non-supportive thing of the whole race, and I call back to the guy I passed, “he couldn’t tell me?” By then, though, I’m well past him, but now I can look at the time on my watch and figure I have 15 minutes to go. So I keep looking at that. The course is very flat, until there’s a slight hill. I am hoping, hoping for the finish, and if there’s another hill I don’t know if I can make it. But while there is one more hill, it goes down, and I know I’m near the end, and I am. I give off to Patrick, for the last leg, and hop in the van for the drive to the finish.

Finished! Patrick finishes it off. We get our medals, some lunch, and a massage, and head to the ocean, where we go in. Most get completely wet, but it’s cold and I can’t bring myself to do it. We drive up to a motel in Portsmouth and the club goes to dinner (without Greg S., who heads home with his mother (who has tended to Jerri Lynn, now on crutches and back with us, while we were finishing)) at a lobster restaurant in Maine. I haven’t had lobster in many years and can say I won’t be having it again. Sunday is a long drive home.

The team came in 29th overall (out of 292 finishers) and 5th in the Mixed Open category. We got a write-up in the Larchmont Gazette. As both a running and social experience, it was wonderful. We had a great van, as well as a great team. Insofar as I helped anyone prepare, I am proud. Fini

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