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.

 

Someone approached me the other day, objecting to one of my posts. I said I’d look into it, did, thought the post too smarmy, and took it down.

People should not have to rely on the fortuity of running into me to make their thoughts about what I write known. I want to set out some rules here, which I’ve tried to apply from day one.

  • I will post any comments people have. I will try to respond, as I have in the past. The exception: comments that are gratuitously cruel about someone else. And if someone views something I post in that light, I will respond, and if appropriate apologize and correct.
  • I will not publish anything sent to me via email without clearing it with the writer. I realize that the “email me” link may not work because it is coded for an old generation of email programs, but my email is joe.jpgarland AT gmail.com. If I get an email, I’ll try to respond.
  • If you disagree with me about something or think that I have my head up my ass, feel free to let me know. I may even agree with you (as I have in the past, see, e.g., posts on triathlons). I may not agree with you but I’ll try to explain why. The objective of this blog is to communicate, in a multi-party medium.
  • Anything I say that is not attributed to anyone else is what I have to say. The idea of a blog is to say what you think — if you’re worried about what others think there’s no point in doing it — but also to defend what you think or, if it’s the right thing, to acknowledge the fact. (Similarly, if my name is not on a post elsewhere (or, sometimes, “RunWestchester”, I did not post it (with one exception several years ago that will not be repeated). If I’m not willing to put my name on something, it’s not worth putting it out there.)

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.

With some early snow here in Westchester, my running, such as it is, is treadmill-centric these days. I’m looking long-term, so I’m not thinking of doing it every day. When I go to Brooklyn, it’s early or not-at-all, and I’ve been more of the latter than I should. That said, I am building confidence that I’m heading in the right direction for the late Winter/Spring.

I had toyed with joining VCTC but my fall during a Saturday run put the kibosh on being active with the group and in the end I decided that I’m more in sync with my old teammates on Warren Street, so it looks like I’ll be heading back there, if they’ll take me. Warren Street has a more-serious streak, notwithstanding its rebel-image and club motto — “they said sit down, I stood up” — and I think it’s a better fit for me. So as I get in better shape I hope to try getting in some Saturday morning runs with the group. It was a few years ago that I last did it, and some of those runs were really pushing it for me but I like the prospect of driving down to the City — it only takes about 15 minutes — and joining Paul off the train for a Central Park workout. Whether I’ll enter NYRR races again is up in the air, although the reality is that I’m not going to be much of a scorer.

Perhaps the worst part of winter is the snow. Fortunately there are areas near me where the streets are plowed early and the traffic is light — one of the objectives behind he NY Running Routes site was to identify such places (as an aside, BRC has put up some running routes, but they fail the first law of such routes, i.e., aiming for quiet, low-traffic streets (as a further aside, I don’t go there anymore after having been badly treated on my last two visits)) — which I’ll frequent. The problem is that my beloved trails, and especially my monthly (or more) trek to the Rockies, are off-limits unless we have an extended warming stretch because of not the snow but the ice. So it may be March before we get back up there.

Music

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time working on music. I’ve been playing the electric bass for about a year-and-a-half and have played the guitar since college. In the last six months, I’ve also tried writing, and I’ve posted a few things. Alas, unlike running, it’s hard to know whether one is decent or whether one sucks. In that vein, I invite people to hear some of my things. With the caveat that I CAN’T SING (as close family members who’ve heard some of this stuff have “observed”), you should be warned.

But what I do (generally) is record an acoustic guitar and singing. I have a bit of a problem I’m working on with rhythm, i.e., keeping the beat, so I’ve started to use a metronome. I’ve also learned that it’s hard to remember the words of a song I’ve written. I must write it down. Even then I miss things. So I put down, sometimes after several tries, a single guitar/voice track. Then I add the bass and one or more electric guitar things. I’ve found that even if the first acoustic track (I don’t use a pick) consists of plucking (as opposed to strumming), there’s no point in adding a strumming track. So it’s just electric fills.

There is a running one I did a while ago, but I’ve never put it down. Also, the levels can be all over the place. But it’s fun.

It was as we approached the red farm,, Bobby, Paul, and me. Suddenly to our right we heard a roar. They saw it go down. I only heard it.

It was a cold morning here in Westchester, with a wind chill of 9F in Mount Vernon. But it is the last Sunday of the month. So I got to Sleepy Hollow High School at the stroke of 9, or maybe a moment or too later, and Bobby and Paul were rushing for the shelter of Charlotte’s SUV. Wasting little time pre-run socializing, we headed out, Sham on her own (we’d see her on the trail) and Bobby in shorts since he hasn’t been home in so long that he had nothing long.

For Rockies-enthusiasts, the route we took is a great way to get 9.5 miles in. Nice and flat on the OCA for a couple of miles then a turn down into the Rockies proper, left along 13-Bridges ending in the switch-back climb (at the top of which is a tiny Buddha statute that one of the Rizzos pulled out — Charlotte was there with Meredith and Hilary) down and then a flat stretch before turning up to the Visitor’s Center (a steep hill that, thankfully, is steepest at its bottom), past the Visitor’s Center, up the hill to the northeast of Swan Lake, down to the Lake, past the red farm, under Sleepy Hollow Road, up one final hill, and the final great stretch to the parking lot. Three of the tougher hills at the Rockies, that one after Swan Lake was especially tough on my flatlander’s legs.

This was the first cold day. The sun, though, seemed to warm thing up and enhanced the beauty of the leafless vistas. It is what, or at least a big part of, what this running business is about. Followed by the Hungry Boy breakfast at the Horseman’s Diner down the street. Nothing like basic-diner fare after a run at the Rockies.

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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