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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.

Not much to report on this one. Same old, same old. The big thing was that JS had signed on (he who whipped me a few weeks back at Scarsdale) and John Nelson was at the start which meant that we had a three-man 50+ team. The bad new was that this meant that I had no excuses and had to finish. In the event, I would be our third man, with JS well ahead and JN only a bit.

A bit of trepidation heading in. Just before my exit on the Deegan, traffic backed up. A multi-vehicle accident had just occurred, and NYPD cars and FDNY rigs were coming up behind. Three lanes became one, and the vehicles were a mess, but it didn’t take long to get to Marcus Garvey Park, although the delay meant I had to take the subway down instead of walking.

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This morning saw me driving into Manhattan and going into Central Park as I’ve often done on Saturdays this past month-and-a-half. But in this case it was not to run but to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, a requirement for admission to the Connecticut Bar, at 94th Street. The test tests one’s knowledge of the rules of professional responsibility, things like how one handles client money and client confidences (very carefully in both cases), what a judge can and cannot do off the bench, how to address client conflicts and a witness who is likely to be testifying falsely, and such. They actually set out realistic situations in which a lawyer might find herself. Sixty multiple-choice questions.

We’ll see how I did. I had thought of going for a run in the Park afterward, but my left IT Band has been acting up over the last several days, so that wasn’t going to happen. It was no problem on Thursday’s run but hurt yesterday — no run — and less so today. Because this happened to me recently, I think I have a handle on how to deal with it, and confess to have gotten lazy about the preventative exercises. So it’s a minor set-back, not of great concern.

While I was walking back to my car and in the Park, the temperature had reached the shorts range and the smell of Spring was in the air. Solo runners and small groups were passing on the Park Drive, and I regretted being unable to join them. Soon I hope, and I’m very pleased about discovering how easy it is for me to get into the City for the Club Saturday morning run.

Tomorrow is the year’s first Club race, the Coogan’s 5K in Fort Washington. A straight up-and-back run with a steep downhill right before the turn-around — and an up immediately on the way back. I’ve done it once. But I did not enter this year.

I am further down the depth chart on the Club’s roster, although when Jim S. turns 50 in a few months WSSAC will have a competitive 50+ team, and then I can’t duck any of these races.

Each week I receive an email from Paul Thompson. Paul, to whom I’ve referred many times before, was named the other day as the runner-of-the-year by NYRR in his age group. He is now the men’s co-captain. (Our women’s captain, Jean Chodnicki-Stemm, was a co-winner in the 50-54.) Paul’s email includes workouts for the week. It also includes as a weekly “reminder” the list of the year’s Club races, which, after tomorrow, consists of:

  • Apr 3 Scotland Run 10K
  • May 15 Healthy Kidney 10K
  • Jun 12 NY Mini 10K (women only)
  • Jun 20 Father’s Day 5M (men scoring only)
  • Jul 17 Run for Central Park 4M
  • Aug 7 Club Team Championship 5M (double points)
  • Sept 11 Fitness 4M
  • Oct 2 Grete’s Half Marathon
  • Nov 7 NYC Marathon
  • Dec 5 JoeK 10K
  • . . . to join a club

    Paul lives in Peekskill. All that need be said about that is that it is way the hell up in Westchester. Yet virtually every Saturday he takes the 7:19 train to 125th Street, does 20 or 22 miles, often with me aboard for a portion, and then heads to Grand Central for the hour-plus ride home. Often, the time and latitude change means that it’s nearly 15 degrees warmer when he gets off the train than when he got on board.

    His wife’s a saint.

    This comes to mind in the context of the special characteristics of clubs. All happy clubs, as it were, are happy in their own way. But at its core, each has several runners who are beyond passionate, who make dedicated folks like me feel like laggards but who cause us to be a bit less laggardy, and who pull us along, to run a wee bit harder, a wee bit faster, a wee bit longer, a wee bit better.

    If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Runners should join clubs.

    NYC Marathon Update. Speaking of which, I see that the deadline for registering for NY is the Ides of March. That gives me nine days to decide whether to do it. Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.

    Olympic Trials; Houston? We have a problem. Also, I was off LetsRun for a few days (amazing how little I missed) and when I came back I saw that the men’s and women’s OT will be held in Houston in January 2012. I had thought NY would get the women’s race — hoping to meet at least one person likely to qualify — but I was misinformed. USATF awarded the races to Houston unanimously. They’ll start the day before the Houston Marathon, using separate starts, as New York and Boston now do. But I don’t know how big the gap will be.

    Viscerally it seems a step backwards. Perhaps I exaggerate the significance of New York, but sending it to Houston seems like relegation. From the racers’ perspective, though, it makes sense (albeit screwing up Spring 2012 race schedules). Gives plenty of time for recovery, more than the gap between Boston and London and the Olympics. I had fun in 2007 for the men’s race. I would have enjoyed 2012’s women’s.

    A while back I announced my retirement from Facebook and Twitter. An amendment to that is appropriate.

    Twitter: I have not returned to Twitter. But I have created a new Twit (Twitterer?), “RunWestchester.” The purpose is simple. Notwithstanding a light response to my let’s-meet post, I figure I’d give it a try, and one way to expand the scope of those who are made aware of it is to post something on Twitter. So I’ll use that account to post (tweet?) proposed meet-ups (including at the Rockies) as well as other items that might be of interest to runners in Westchester, such as races. If you want to follow, you’re welcome to. I’ll also tag items “#RunWestchester” for search purposes.

    Facebook: I’ve returned chiefly to follow family and Warren Street mates. I also created a “RunWestchester” page, to which my blog entries go.

    My friend from last week thought better, apparently, of a repeat of his performance of last Saturday and he remained absent from my jaunt around Central Park this morning. And a beautiful morning it was, temp in the high 30s/low 40s, a fair number of people running in shorts, albeit with reddened legs.

    As for me, tights were the order of the day. There were but four this week, Paul, Fabio, Robbie, and your correspondent. Wondering chiefly on the bridle path, in fine condition. Lots of people going lots of paces. 1:34:10. Longest in who knows how long. And struggled the final 10 blocks, alone, from Central to Marcus Garvey Park, where I parked. 20 minutes in, 20 minutes out.

    When I ran for Sound Shore, we had a regular Saturday morning 5.5 miler. Took me about 20 minutes to get there too; much closer, but no highways. Now I’m the guy holding on at the end, longing for the turn-around point on the bridle path at its southern end.

    So a good stretch of running this week, very good in one respect. Yesterday’s was nice and easy. But Wednesday’s and Thursday’s were unusual in that in both cases, I simply decided as I approached home to add on another five minutes or so. So Wednesday was 55 minutes and Thursday and even hour. On Thursday, I wore my Garmin for the first time in quite a while, and the pace was where it should be, not too fast.

    I should note, returning to today’s run, that it is a weekly Warren Street get-together (and Paul regularly heads to the Rockies on Sundays). It picks up folks at 5th and 90th at 9 am. Anyone interested can drop me a line. Club dues, by the way, are $0. Annually.

    I’m in the City only infrequently now and I’ve perhaps lost a bit of my edge in the hustle and bustle of the place. So I was a bit taken aback when a guy almost hit me as I descended the Harlem Hills heading south on the west side of Central Park with Paul Thompson.

    A foot, maybe two above me came soaring a bird too large to be a pigeon. It was, indeed, a red-tail hawk, and it soared below us to a tree by the small pond at 102nd Street. As we passed, I made out the red in its tail. (That’s not a picture of this one; it’s from Tlinn.com.)

    At that point I was in desperate straits. Paul, the top local Masters runner, had taken the train from his home in Peekskill. I had driven down. I’ve been meaning to join Warren Street for its Saturday run for a while, but was unsure of the logistics. Giving myself plenty of time to meet Paul at 8:15 at the northeast corner of Marcus Garvey Park — the park around which the marathon goes as it heads south on Fifth Avenue — I found that there was plenty of parking around the park. It took about 20 minutes for me to get there.

    Now, Paul is much faster than I am and by the time we hit the Harlem Meer at the entrance to Central Park, I was winded. I could still speak, but I was winded. You know you’re in trouble when that happens in the first two miles. Fortunately the uphill gave me a chance to gather myself. Paul said it was likely that Jim Stemm would meet us as we made the turn south, but he was nowhere to be seen. This was bad for me because Jim, I hoped, would have gotten the pace a tad slower. But then, after the hawk incident, we met Fabio and things got a bit more relaxed.

    From that point, we stuck to the bridle path. It had stretches of iciness which required care, but it was quite a pleasant course. We picked up folks along the way, including Pascal, who had just run the NYRR five-miler, and ended up as a pack of seven.

    I never ran on the bridle path when I lived in the City. I was a road and reservoir man. But it is now a fairly popular place to run, and we passed loads of other folks, alone or in groups. Lots of pretty women.

    It was chilly, perhaps 25, but I was a little warm in a long-sleeve shirt with short-sleeve t-shirt over it. Conversational pace. As we headed along the 103rd Street transverse, I bid everyone adieu and headed north. Out at the Meer and up to the south tip of Marcus Garvey Park. 1:20:20. Don’t know the mileage, but I’m putting it at 12 because I’m pretty confident we kept to a sub-7 pace throughout.

    I had my trusty iPod with me. When we stopped to pick up Mike G at 90th and Fifth, this is what it saw on the bridle path, by the Reservoir. It was cold and windy. That’s Paul who keeps flitting about. Pascal is wearing the race number.


    I’m out of (racing) action, but tomorrow is the final race in NYRR’s year-long club competition. Entering that race, the Men’s Masters competition is:

    • Warren Street: 128
    • Urban Athletics: 128

    While there are those who find this competition quaint and silly and pretentious, (see, e.g., LRC), it creates intra- and inter-club bonding for the NYC-area folks. I’ve noted elsewhere recently that the series provides a focus for the non-marathon-centric folks. (While the NYC Marathon is one of the races that score, it is not more important than any other. (Being a Club-member has its advantages at that race, however, as those with certain times get to start in the “local competitive” group.) Double points are awarded in the August Club Championship five-miler.)

    I’m well past contributing except as a back-up to a back-up. (With one more 50+, we’d be in pretty good shape; three score in that AG.) But there’s something about putting on a club singlet, however childish it might appear, and being part of that something larger.

    So tomorrow we have JT and JS running CIM in Sacramento and Warren Street attempting to repeat as Masters Club Champions.

    Edited to add: Results:

    1 Warren Street S&AC 1:42:00

    • Paul Thompson 32:19
    • Jorge Pardo 34:04
    • Daniel Rupert 35:37

    2 Urban Athletics 1:44:31

    • Matt Chaston 33:09
    • Adam Kuklinski 35:38
    • Richard Temerian 35:44

    This morning saw the Club Championship Five-Miler. It’s perhaps the most competitive local five-miler you’ll find anywhere, but that is no longer relevant to me since I’m a good ways to the rear. With only 810 men in the race, I barely made the top 25%.

    In the mid-80s, there was no year-long race series. The Club Champs was it, and Warren Street did quite well in it. Now it’s an important race, offering double-points for each team. Plus several clubs that don’t deign to race in other club races show up, such as NYAC and the Manhattan Track Club on the men’s side. [Edited to correct: As Tim Sullivan of the NYAC points out, NYAC’s men’s team has been doing quite well in the prior races. In fact after a LetsRun dust-up on the race, I took a look and saw that even the NYAC guys whose addresses are well outside the NYC area have been running in the prior club races. I knew, of course, about the women’s team, and can only plead my ignorance of the men on the ground that they are well on their ways home by the time I’ve been finishing. I must also correct something Tim says about Warren Street. Although it appears to have won the Masters race, that is because of the incorrect inclusion of a runner who now runs for UA. WSSAC was second in the race.]

    Normally the weather is brutal, and in the past few years I’ve done poorly in this race. Today’s weather was quite good, however, although I did poorly.

    Course: The start is quite narrow on the 102nd Street Transverse. It goes counterclockwise and finishes on the Transverse.

    Race Report: I was surprised to get a 1000 number; I’ve always gotten blue numbers since the corral-system was started. But when I saw faster guys in the 1000s I realized that the blue numbers were fairly few.

    This is a nasty little start. It’s narrow and one has to take a quick left-hander to get on the Park Drive pretty quickly. I did not feel comfortable and was struggling. I knew I was our 7th Master — for this race five score, plus 10 for the team — so I didn’t feel much pressure, but you can’t let that influence you. While my left Achilles tendon was hurting a bit by mile one, I decided to keep going.

    That mile split was about 6:02; slow but hard. Next mile was about the same, although it was chiefly downhill. So Two in about 12:05. Then as we passed Tavern on the Green, I began to feel much better and stronger. From that point on I don’t think anyone passed me and I started to go by group after group, especially up Cat Hill (and I waved). By then, with 1.5 to go, I felt very strong and light and just started to crank. I wasn’t going super fast, but it felt good.

    Left turn onto Transverse, see the finish, get through strongly. The clock said 29:59 as I looked up, but the official time was 29:55. I was shocked to get under 30 given how slowly the race had begun. I was 190th place, 7th age-group, with an age-grade of 82.8. I was Warren Street’s 9th Master and 10th overall (so I scored for the big club; had I DNFed, it would have cost the club 2.5 minutes).

    Review: This is a tough one. I felt sluggish early. It was not as though I went out hard and died. I was trying to stay relaxed and simply did not have the speed to do that at a decent pace. But when I finally got to that point, it was very, very good. Not super-fast. But light and easy. Strangely similar to how I feel in the last stages of a good half-marathon. So this was a good effort in the overall scheme.

    Post-Race: After a warm-down with a bunch of the Warren Street crew, I showered at Stephane’s place and then he and his daughter Adele with Paul Thompson and his wife Sham cabbed over to another member’s place on the East Side for a BBQ. Burgers and the like. It’s an annual thing (many clubs have post-race picnics and the like), but I’ve never gone. It was good fun, and I got to meet a bunch of members whose names I recognized, but whom I had yet to meet.

    Time flew and I only got home — I had driven to the train and taken it in — at about 4:30. Now, an hour later, as I write this, I am pretty tired.

    It was a bit warmer and more humid than expected at 8:35 this morning as we headed out from the Sleepy Hollow High School parking lot onto the Old Croton Aqueduct trail, the “we” being a goodly portion of Warren Street’s Masters team, Paul, Stéphane, Peter, John, and me. The Park was fairly crowded, with some folks going mighty fast. (I saw my friend Jay Duggan of WTC afterwards, who was just setting out, suffering from a knee issue that has been causing him a good chunk of trouble.)

    Here’s a view familiar to most other Masters teams:

    Heading Out to the Rockies

    I cannot believe how much thinner the other guys are than I am.

    I was able to hold on until we stopped at the Visitor’s Center at 65 minutes, where we got some water. By then, we had climbed a goodly number of hills, and I was spent. The group split shortly after we started up again, with me heading back to the parking lot while the other 4, aiming to do two hours, headed off for more hills. My left Achilles tendon, however, was bothering me a bit and then a bit more so I stopped at 76 minutes, walking the rest of the way.

    Before that, however, I paid attention to how we and others we saw were striding. The subject of a possible post, I didn’t see anyone landing on their heels. Our group were all mid-foot strikers, as were all the others I noticed. Granted, this universe may have been on the faster-than-average side. At that level, the natural, efficient foot-plant appears to be mid-foot.

    Now Stéphane warned everyone that I was go to be the Boswell of the run, recording all of the thoughts and words of the participants, but I was struggling too much to take note of that.

    I do recall, however, that as we approached the Hudson near Rockwood Hall, Paul mentioning that people frequently come up to him — he’s the top masters runner in the area — and ask him what the “secret” is. To which he responds, that there is no secret, as well all know. I said that of the bloggers I followed, who vary in speed and experience, virtually all know that the secret is that there is no secret.

    Which brings us to breakfast at the Horseman’s Diner in Sleepy Hollow. Joined by Sham, Paul’s wife, who had done 1:40 while we were out, the talk turned to training. John brought up marathon training, and we veered into three areas.

    • First, how long is long-enough? I’ve tapped out at twenty miles. Should I go farther?
    • Second, what about speedwork?
    • Third, what about rest?

    John’s argument is that the key to marathon training is to train the body to get through the point during the race, at 21, 24, or whenever, when readily usable fuel sources become exhausted. One aspect of doing this is to be running for the time-period you’d be running the race. Subject of course to conservative mileage-increases so as to avoid injury. I’ve never gone longer than 20 miles. Definitely food for thought.

    JG, Stephane, Peter, John, Paul

    JG, Stéphane, Peter, John, Paul

    More interesting was the discussion about the role tempo and interval runs play. As to the former, a good type of workout is what he refers to as a “TLT,” or tempo/long/tempo, in which you do, say, a 5K tempo run followed by an hour run followed by a 5K tempo. This would be a core training workout, with the length of the tempo run gradually increasing.

    I’ve done similar workouts based on Daniels. I’ll restore them this coming season.

    More more interesting was the interval concept. It was mentioned that Warren Street workouts sometimes lag in terms of recovery. By that I mean the recovery is too long. The key to “intervals” is the “interval,” i.e., the period between runs. You want to keep the recovery short enough so that you’re able to get into your VO2max point quickly and thus for the longest time during the workout because that period is when the work is done. This is pure Daniels as well.

    John suggests, and Paul agreed, that you need to keep the length of the run to at least a 1000 and the interval at no more than 50% of the run. 4 minutes running/2 minutes break.

    They were also of the view that shorter, faster stuff is too dangerous. I, on the other hand, like to do Repeat workouts periodically to help with my form. For me, at least, the pace for these 200s and 400s has not created an injury issue.

    I also chimed in that I thought lots of Marathon Pace runs are important, particularly in dealing with “race management” issues. By this I mean my experience in NY 2006. I went out too fast and knew I was going out too fast but was powerless to do anything about it. I figure that by doing longer MP workouts, I’ll be better able to keep things under control on race day.

    And, finally, the consensus was that a second longish run during the week is important.

    We then ventured off into what seems to be a touchy subject, rest days. I take one day off a week. Stéphane doesn’t. The rest of us were in the middle. This, I think, is a real whatever-works-for-you thing. Stéphane argues that he feels stale if he takes a day off and is concerned about the slippery slope of getting accustomed to doing so. Paul is more flexible. John wanted to pay Stéphane to take a day off for recovery. He takes days off. (He and I were the only 50+ guys at the table.)

    We finished by talking about group running. Fortunately, although I am the slowest of the group, the range is close enough so that even if I am at the faster-range of an appropriate pace and Paul is at the slower, we can all run together (assuming I can get my mileage up).

    To some, the year-long Club competition may seem a bit silly, grown men, and women, donning their colorful singlets — Warren Street blue or green, CPTC orange, NYAC red — and racing around Central Park. During races, I sometimes wonder what tourists in Hanson cabs are thinking as we go by. And the whole NYRR team-competition. Warren Street won the male masters category last year and much of our talk today was about this year’s competition, who’s still in, who’s too far back. Yet Paul (who’s our franchise-player) trains in part for the team competition. I run races on the off chance that the team will need me. Yet if you go to the finish-line of any of the NYRR team races you’ll see adversaries invariably congratulating one another afterwards.

    The NYRR has been putting on the Club Championship for many years; I ran it in the early 80s. The expansion to the year-long system is one of the best things NYRR has done.

    Added to that is the notion of training with clubmates.

    For the record, I had the “hungry boy” breakfast (eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, toast, and homefries, with coffee) and while two ordered Eggs Benedict, the Frenchman among us went Mexican.

    Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

    Run for Central Park four-miler. Kind of warm, kind of humid.

    Given my lack of speedwork, I went into this as a good way to get some. I knew I wasn’t needed for the Club (it’s a team-scoring race), so that took pressure off. Got there in plenty of time, but the sun was beating down on the start, so held off until about 8:47 to get into corral 1. Stayed farther back than normal.

    The course: start on the East Drive south of 72nd, up Cat Hill. Mile 1 at the start of the straight between 87th and 93rd. Left on 102nd transverse, where hit mile 2. South down west side, with mile 3 at about 87th Street. Finish with a left turn onto 72nd Street transverse.

    Race began at 9, and it took me quite a while to start moving. I probably was too far back as I had to fight my way through for a while. But I didn’t feel great, didn’t feel fast. Up Cat Hill (with a wave to Cat) and grabbed water before the Mile 1 mark. Past the mark: Clock read 6:17, although my watch had it at 6:11. This is slow, even with Cat Hill.

    But I started to feel OK. Cutting the tangents like crazy (and virtually alone in doing so) and into a groove. Not super-fast, but feeling solid, good form. 2 at about 12:10. Grab water. A solid mile 3, which has three slight ups. Picking off plenty of people. See Lara of NYFlyGirl, who I met at the recent get-together, but she doesn’t recognize me; I recognize her because she cheers for a NY Flyer right ahead of me.

    Final mile is largely downhill, but it still always hurts. I see a couple of older-looking guys ahead and don’t think I can catch them. But I start picking it up a bit, and I get them both. Sharp left — one of the two cuts me off a little so I give him a chop. Finish is not as deep into the transverse as it used to be, and I’m grateful for that. Run all the way through. Final time: 24:09. 161st overall, 6th AG, 81.0% age-graded, the lowest age-grading I’ve ever had in a road race. (Some, but decidedly not all, of my clubmates also ran poorly.)

    Jogged up to 125th Street Metro-North station with a bunch of clubmates, which was fun. WSSAC’s Masters, though, only finished second (although it remains in the lead).

    I’m not surprised by this since I’m working things through and have only done one speedworkout recently. So get in a solid Tempo run this coming week and regular speed after that and I should be fine.

    Next race: Club Champs. Aug. 8.

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