Friday, December 14, 2012

Back on the [Training] Wagon

Holiday season is in full swing and as of Tuesday so is Boston training. If it seems like only a few weeks ago I was running a marathon that's because I was.

I had planned to hold off training until after the New Year but on Monday one of my teammates sent out the following email:*

Hey guys,

A few of us were reflecting on how we can come together as a team and compete better in the NYRR points standings next year. We have a good core group of runners so I think half the job will be showing up to the races.  I see no reason why we could not challenge the 3 teams directly ahead of us.

Concerning training I know I have been guilty of doing most of my workouts/runs on my own. On many Tuesdays/Thursdays I contemplate going to team practices in the Park/6th Street track but when juggling my schedule I usually end up working out near my house. I figure I will end up running alone anyway so might as well run close to home. In the spirit of team camraderie I will start making the effort more often to workout with the team. When I know I can make it I will RSVP on the meetup site (will try a few days in advance) and drop you all a quick line via e-mail to let you know I will be there.

Hope all is well and see you out there (I will be in Park tomorrow for 7PM workout),
Obviously the guilt-trip worked because I showed up at both our Tuesday and Thursday workouts. Tuesday night was hill sprints, the first speed work I've done since Philly. Because we took a full rest period between each sprint, the workout itself didn't feel that tough, but boy was I sore on Wednesday!
Last night the workout was 5-8x800 at 5k pace. I got off work late and had to run directly to the track which means I ended up with a 3 mile warm-up. Apparently, that was a good thing because the repeats went  great. Along with two teammates, I did 7, though I'd planned at stoping at 5. We managed to do all of them pretty close to pace, though for the last one we kind of let it all out.
The point of this rambling is that I think my abbreviated recovery went pretty well because I felt fresh for Thursday's workout and on my Friday morning recovery run as well. I'm going to continue cutting myself a little slack for the next few weeks, but I think this training cycle has the potential to be pretty awesome!

*Edited for reader clarity.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What's the Deal?

Remember how last Friday I posted some amazing mediocre haikus and promised you I'd returned to the blosophere? Remember how I haven't posted since then? Oops!

Here's the deal: I've been enjoying this post-marathon period--sleeping in until 6am on weekdays, not worrying about mileage, staying out with friends on weeknights as well as weekends. I've even tried out a few new recipes in there--vegan butternut squash and kale lasagna, blueberry coconut oatmeal, and some decidedly un-vegan monkey bread--but haven't remembered to take photos.

Basically, I've been having a great time but have mostly been living the life of the non-runner and non-blogger. I've got Boston in the spring and my training for that will begin in a couple weeks. Once that starts, I plan to get back into my routine and my usual amount of posting.

Until then, I hope to find time for the occasional post, but expect a low volume for December.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Return of Friday Poetry (and Me)

After nearly two weeks of binge drinking and eating unholy amounts of refined sugar holistically balanced rest and recovery, I'm running enough that it's time to return to the blogosphere. What better way to say "I'm back!" than with some Friday poetry?

Should I stand or sit?
Sitting would feel so nice but
Then I can't get up

Late Night Run
Moonlight on the pond
Peace in the now still city
Central Park alone

The First Run Back
Set a new PR
But recovery goes slow
Nine minutes, maybe

P.S. Thanks to all who contributed to my fundraising efforts for Philly. I got all the way to $750 for Covenant House!

Monday, November 19, 2012

2012 Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

In my experience there are two kinds of PRs. The first occur in races when, for no explicable reason everything clicks and your new PR pace feels almost effortless. The second occur only after months (or years) of training and throughout the race the pace feels tough. My Philadelphia experience was decidedly of the latter type. Crap, I guess I just gave away the ending since now you know I PR'd.

As my faithful readers (and relatives whom I bombarded with requests for donations) know, I signed up for Philly only two weeks ago when New York was cancelled--the race, not the city most of which is still there. At that point I had already been taper three weeks for New York and so adding on the two weeks to Philly I ended up with a whopping 5 week taper!*

I didn’t really know what to expect. Although my not-so-secret goal for roughly the last 2 years has been to sub-3, I didn’t really feel up to it heading into this weekend. None of my runs have felt great the last couple weeks—I did 2 miles at goal marathon pace last Wednesday and thought I was going to die. With that in mind I sort of wrote off the race, thinking to myself, a PR would be nice but probably best to lower your expectations now.

My new attitude gave me the perfect excuse to play around with carbo loading and so I did. I had way more carbs in the two days before thank I usually do. Just to scare you, here’s what I ate Saturday: 1 small bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios; 4 blueberry banana pancakes with maple syrup and a side of tempeh bacon; 2 plain bagels; tons of Clif Bar samples at the expo; 1 baguette (yes, you read that correctly); and a bowl of rice noodles with red sauce. I also drank Gatorade or PowerAde throughout the two days prior to the race.**

Since I was already testing new pre-race strategies, I figured Philly would be the perfect race to try a new pair of shoes (not new as in I just bought them, but new as in I had never raced a marathon in them). The shoes, the New Balance 1400s, are lighter shoes with less cushion than the shoes I worn in marathons before and I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up in them for 26.2 miles.

On Sunday morning I drove to the start with my host for the weekend, Larissa, who was also running the full. By the time we got to the staging area there were only 20 minutes to spare, but after my gluttonous experiment scientific fueling I really needed a portapotty visit. The lines were so long that I finished by business with less than 5 minutes until the start—talk about a recipe for stress. Somehow I made it to my corral about 45 seconds before the gun.

The First Half

Just ahead of me in the start corral I saw the 3:00 hour pace leader. Although I thought my sub-3 prospects were somewhat dubious, I hope to follow the pace group initially. The horn sounded and I crossed the line at around 15 seconds. It felt like we were going downhill as we ran along Ben Franklin Parkway towards City Hall, cutting around the fountain at Logan Square. We passed the Christmas Village in “Love Park” which was fun to see. As we turned onto Arch Street, the course narrowing, I completely missed the first mile marker.

It was fun to run by the Convention Center and Terminal Market, both of which I had visited the day before. Unfortunately, with the crowded field, it was difficult to tell when turns were approaching. There were also some parked cars that hadn’t been towed, making for a bit of an obstacle course. We hit the Mile 2 marker and my watch read 14:36 which made me think something was wrong.

As the I turned onto Columbus Boulevard the field opened up again. I could see the 3 hour group not far ahead and I also spotted a North Brooklyn Runner, Miriam, to whom I said hello. When we got to Mile 3, it became clear that Mile 2 had been long and Mile 3 short—I didn’t let it phase me.

In order to avoid the crowded water stops early in the race I had a water bottle with me. As we passed through the water stop around 3.5 a guy who was also carrying a water bottle commented on our shared brilliance. I quickly got to talking to him and learned his name was Frank, that he was from South Jersey, and that last year he did Philly in 3:02. Since we were both shooting for around the same time, we decided to run together. He helped alert me to several of the upcoming turns as we settled into our pace. I really enjoyed running along South Street, just a couple blocks from where I had stayed with my friend Mariah in October.

Once we got to Chestnut Street, the race crowds really thickened and I truly felt like I was running an urban race. The pace, while not effortless, didn’t feel too tough as Miles 5, 6, and 7 went by and we crossed the Schuylkill into University City. My new friend Frank was keeping me honest, reminding me not to speed up.

Around Mile 7 the longest hill of the course began, but I had been warned about it and it was a lot less steep than I had anticipated. We were running through the Drexel Campus and things leveled out just as we reached their frat houses, before taking a dip downhill. I guess it was around here that the pace leader began to pick things up. Frank wisely told me We’ll catch up gradually which kept me from foolishly charging forward as we neared the Zoo.

The steepest hill on the course came just after the Zoo, following Mile 9. I love hills but I had no intention of charging this one and I dialed it back, watching as Frank drifted forward and the pace team disappeared from sight. It was at this point that my legs began to hurt and I first seriously doubted my ability to sustain a sub-3 pace. I tried to push those thoughts to the back of my head and continued on.   

When we passed an impressive Beaux-Arts building shortly after Mile 10, I asked a runner near me if he knew what it was. He didn’t. He was also from New York. (The building, I later found out, is the Please Touch Museum). Running south along MLK Drive, I had pretty much lost sight of the pace group. At this point, my main focus was on reaching the turn-off for the half. I figured if I could make it to Mile 13 then I could reevaluate my strategy for the second half.  Crossing back over the Schuylkill River and looping around the Art Museum I saw my friend Mariah which gave me a huge boost. 

Quietly cursing the half-marathoners who were finishing, I hit the marathon’s halfway point in 1:29:57. I was on pace for sub-3, but that was a problem—in my previous 8 marathons I had always run a slower second half by anywhere from one to five minutes.  

The Second Half

Best race photo. Ever. (Mile 26)
The second half of Philly is essentially a long out-and-back on Kelly Drive along the Schuylkill River. Rather than thinking about the 13.1 miles ahead of me, I thought about the 6.9 miles until the 20 Mile mark (which comes just after the turn-around).

I was still chatting with the fellow New Yorker, as well as a somewhat recent Philly transplant by way of Chicago. The New Yorker was hoping to BQ. Like me, he had a half PR of around 1:22 but hadn’t been able to reach his marathon potential. He said he usually cramped around Mile 18. I told him, get past 18, and you’ll be fine. I wasn’t feeling fine, but running with these guys helped. The pace team was long gone and I’d given up on catching them. Somewhere in these miles I also saw my teammate Patricia who’d come to Philly to cheer—that was awesome!

Shortly after mile 18, we made our way towards Manayunk. Although Manayunk is part of Philly, it feels like a small town, kind of like Natick or Wellesley on the Boston course. In addition to the water stops there were unofficial beer stops and there was plenty of music blasting. Although I was getting more and more worried that the wheels were about to come off, I tried to do some fist pumps to “Play that Funky Music White Boy.”

Finally, I saw the turnaround and shortly thereafter I hit the 20 Mile mark. Only 10k to go! I now broke the race down mile-by-mile. Using my standard mental trick, I told myself, if you can keep the pace for this mile, you can go to X pace next mile and still finish with a BQ. I tried to pick up the pace whenever there was even the slightest hint of downhill, though I felt like crap. A cramp that had been simmering below my rips for some time kept threatening to derail me and I found myself practically punching my stomach to keep it at bay.

Somehow I did Miles 21 and 22 in 6:48 and 6:42. It helped that more of teammates were out cheering and I saw my friend Mariah again. I managed a 6:48 Mile 23 and now I knew I had just over 5k to go. I realized that even if I slowed to an 8 minute mile I would still finish with close to a PR and another BQ.

On the way out I had noticed medical markers along Kelley Drive, numbered 1 through 15 and spaced roughly 1/10 mile apart. Coming back in I began using these, instead of the mile markers, as my check points. My left hip was actually starting to hurt and my feet felt like they were on fire (though above the waist I felt great) so I needed to concentrate on these manageable portions to keep going.

Although I ran Mile 24 in 6:48, I could feel myself slowing as I approached Boathouse Row and Mile 25. When someone yelled my name, my brain was too fuzzy to realize it was my teammate Jeremy until he was already out of range. I clocked Mile 25 at 6:58 and knew I was in serious trouble. I was really hurting and I remembered from the way out that Mile 26 was mostly uphill. I couldn’t afford any more of a slowdown if I wanted to cross in under 3, something that still seemed possible. Although my legs were doing the physical work my brain was expending enormous amounts of energy trying to ignore the feeling in my lower extremities.

It worked. I did Mile 26 in 6:57. I rounded a corner and with .2 miles to go the finish line was in sight. I could see the clock and hear the announcer saying that finishers were struggling to come in under 3 hours. I gave everything I had and did that .2 in 1:27, a 6:38 pace!

As I crossed the lines I raised my arms high and smiled as wide as I could. I knew I crossed with a gun time of just under 3. Walking forward through the chute I tried to hold back tears of joy but decided that with my sunglasses on it didn’t matter. I let myself sob—a feeling I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before. Moving was incredibly painful, but it was worth it.  

My net time, I found out later, had been 2:59:43, just over two minutes faster than my Chicago time of 3:01:44, also making for my first-ever negative split!


Almost as rewarding as my own time was seeing the guy from New York (I was too out of it to remember names at that point) who thanked me for running with him, telling me he'd run a 3:03 and finally qualified for Boston.  Unfortunately walking was so difficult that I wasn't able to make it to the charity tent to meet the amazing folks behind the Philly Chapter of Covenant House. I also missed meeting up with some friends immediately after because I hadn't brought my phone.

I did eventually meet up with Larissa (who, unfortunately, didn't have the race she'd hoped for that day) and later with several of my teammates, all of whom gave some incredible performances. We had a great brunch at Sabrina's Cafe (thanks Larissa for the tip!) before heading back to New York. I don't know that I've ever had a better 24 hours.

* If that doesn't sound long to you non-runners, keep in mind that I generally abstain from alcohol, caffeine, and, let's be honest, fun in general during the taper.

** I may have carried this mission a little too far, forking over $3.50 for a 20oz bottle of Gatorade at Reading Terminal Market.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The [Ph]inal Stretch

It seems like I've been tapering for over a month--oh wait, I have! It's hard to believe that I'm actually going to be running a marathon this weekend, but each time I've looked at my calendar the last few days there it's been: November 18, the Philadelphia Marathon.

I'll be a long ways behind this guy but just as happy.
What am I most looking forward to on Sunday? The finish line. Even worse than extending my taper has been delaying my recovery. At one point this fall I had a whole plan mapped out for how November was going to be basically a month long recovery. I'd included several nights of debauchery and several weekend afternoon of hazy stupor in this golden vision of my November.

Now that dream will have to go unrealized. With Houston only two months away and Boston training set to being in mid-January I won't get the same amount of down-time I had planned for, but I'll still get some. That just means I'm going to have to make the most of the last days of November.

In other words, after I cross that finish line on Sunday--no matter what my time--I plan on celebrating. If you're in Philly this weekend, please join me (or at least point me in the direction of the nearest bar).

Oh yeah, if you want to stalk me during the race (no promises on speed), my bib is 1439. See you at the finish!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Feeding the Runner: Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad

In the bible of running, Once a Runner, Quentin Cassidy lives by the mantra, "If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn." As much fun as that philosophy may be, it's not the approach most runners take these days. With that in mind, here's the newest installment of my occasional posts on healthy recipes for runners (and other people too). Bon appetit!

One of my favorite parts of being a runner is all the new friends I make. First, there's my teammates, a great group of people, and second there's the larger running community. Whether it's chatting with someone during or after a race, or meeting folks while volunteering, there are so many opportunities to make new friends.

If there's one ultimate way to make new friends, however, it's through food. Bring something delicious to any event and suddenly there's a whole crowd just waiting to make your acquaintence. Except, maybe if that food is salad.

There's a classic episode of the Simpsons, "Lisa the Vegetarian," where Bart and Homer taunt the newly-turned-veghead Lisa with the refrain, "You don't win friends with salad!" That may be true if the salad in question is some limp lettuce, but it's sure not true with the salad I'm posting about today. This warm butternut squash and chickpea salad is extremely filling and perfect for a cool fall day. It's easy to make ahead and reheat so you can have it waiting for you after a run.

It's only downfall? With all the raw onions in this salad you probably won't be kissing any of your new friends.

Get the recipe after the jump.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I'm Still Here!

Things haven't been too eventful around here running-wise. I've still been getting in my runs, but since I'm still in taper mode there's nothing too exciting to report.

I'm getting excited for Philly but I'm also a bit nervous. With the exception of last year's Chicago, I've never run a marathon whose course I wasn't familiar with before hand. I've also never had a five-week "super-taper" before.

Somehow I've also felt really tired the last week or so. It's as if my body thinks I already ran a race and should be in recovery mode. Hopefully, as the week goes on I'll snap out of it and dust of some cobwebs, but if not, that's okay.

I'm going into this race with different expectations than I would have gone into New York. My goals are less time goals than they are experience goals.

Goal #1: Finish.  
That better not be setting the bar too high.

Goal #2: Have a great time.  
I'm pretty excited about seeing more of Philly and I want to make sure I enjoy myself out there.

Goal #3: Make the Home Team and Covenant House proud.  
I've never run for a charity before but knowing that I'm running for others takes a little of the pressure off because even if I don't PR, the race will still have meant something.

Goal #4: My A, B, and C time goals which you'll just have to wait to hear about later.

P.S. Thanks so much to all the friends and family who've helped with my fundraising so far! Including offline donations I've hit $700 so far so only $300 to go!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Making Some D*mn Fine Lemonade

If there's one thing runners don't like to do it's sit around. We're an active bunch and when you tell us not to run that only makes us want to run that much more. That has certainly been evident since Friday.

As you already know from my Sunday post (not to mention about a million other bloggers, running magazines, and traditional media), runners in town for the New York City Marathon didn't let the race cancellation stop them. Instead they created impromptu marathon courses, gathered in Central Park with donations in toe, or headed to places like Staten Island and Red Hook with shovels, canned goods, water, and a host of other needed items to aid in relief and recovery.

In addition to these events many runners also looked for alternate marathons. A small number managed to get to one of the other races held this past weekend (a big shout-out to my teammates Kirby and Sarah, both of whom ran their first marathons on Sunday), while others looked for ones in the coming weeks. A lot of small town races have seen a boost with Richmond and Harrisburg (both this coming weekend) setting record participant levels.

Something else really cool is happening too. Other races are taking this opportunity to help NYCM registrants and the victims of hurricane Sandy: The Soldier Marathon in Columbus, Georgia is offering FREE entry to NYC runners; the San Antonia Marathon is offering NYC runners a 20% discount and donating 20% of their registration fees to hurricane relief; the Malibu Marathon is offering NYC runners their early bird rate and donating 25% of their registration fees to AmeriCares; and the Myles Standish Marathon in Plymouth, Mass. is donating half of its registration fees to food banks helping with Hurricane Sandy relief. These are just a few of the races taking big strides to help runners and hurricane victims.

So now you're probably wondering what I'm doing. Well, I've decided to run the Philadelphia Marathon for Covenant House's Home Team. Covenant House is the largest privately funded organization in the U.S. dedicated to helping homeless youth. These kids are at the margins of society in good times and so when natural disaster strikes it's more important than ever to make sure they're not forgotten. I'm really excited that I have the opportunity to do some good with this run.

If you're interested in helping me meet and surpass my fundraising goal, there's a link at the right side of the page. If not, I still encourage you to get involved somehow. If you live in the tri-state area, there are still plenty of people in need of assistance and the Red Cross is in desperate need of blood donations.

I can't wait for some things to return to normal (like the L train and the heat in my office), but I hope this sense of community and togetherness that we've discovered over the past few days (as long as we ignore all of yesterday) doesn't go away.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Knowing that a tough decision was the right decision doesn't necessarily make it easier to deal with. By the time Friday afternoon roled around I knew that cancelling the New York City Marathon was the right move, a move that should have been done on Tuesday or Wednesday. That doesn't mean that waking up this morning to no race was any easier.

Yesterday I went to Hoboken with two runner friends to find a way to help with the recovery. First, it was truly incredible to see how different the scene is just a few miles away. While Harlem looks as though nothing happened,* Hoboken suffered serious water damage, with as many as 20,000 residents initially stranded by flooding. Walking to Hoboken High School which was serving as a donation collection center, my friends and I struggled to comprehend the magnitude of the damage. Much of the town is still without electricty and heat, many of the streets still choked with debris.

Second, it was also truly incredible to see the outpouring of warmth and kindness by so many people. Homes that had power put power strips on their stoops, many also providing hotwater and food. Restaurants and other local businesses that could offered free hot foot in front of their darkened store fronts. Volunteer sites were so packed that my friends I and were turned away from two before finding one where we could be of use (I can only hope that with this manpower at the city's disposal, my two college friends who live in Hoboken and who are getting married next weekend can concentrate on their upcoming nuptials).

Given this scene in Hoboken, I can only imagine what things look like in coastal Staten Island, the Rockaways, and Coney Island, areas directly exposed to the Atlantic Ocean. I just don't see how a marathon held in the backyard of these disaster areas could be justified.

Those who read this blog (or the blog of any runner who was planning to run today's race) knows how much time was spent training over the past four months. You also know how much runners were looking forward to what for many is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For many runners, committing to New York is also a big financial decision as well. For those coming from out of town, the hefty race fee combined with hotel, travel, and dining costs amounts to a sizeable chunk of disposable income. Yes, cancelling the race was without a doubt the right move, but that doesn't diminish any of the sacrifices runners made in preparation for the race that wasn't.

It was impressive to see so many runners in Central Park this morning, but it was even more impressive to see so many runners and their families in other areas of the city and region this afternoon, putting their presence to use. I can only hope that when next year's race rolls along, people remember the positive efforts of runners, the donations made by NYRR, and the other ways in which the city came together, rather than the two days of controversy between Wednesday's premature decision and Friday's attempt to rectify an grave mistake.

With that, happy running and rebuilding everyone.

* If you live in Harlem and suffered damage from Sandy, I apologize profusely. I simply mean that in my neck of the woods, the streets look virtually the same post-Sandy and they did before. No one that I know of in the area lost power, though there were plenty of downed tree limbs and even some toppled trees and shrubs.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What a Difference A Day Makes

Update: See my new post-script for an update.

If you'd asked me last week how I would be spending the Wednesday before the marathon I would have looked at you funny and then said, I'll go to work and then come home. I would not have answered, I'll be moving boxes. Of course, last week I didn't foresee that Sandy would leave half of Manhattan in darkness, shut down the trains and my office, and nearly cancel the marathon.

So where was I yesterday? At the Javits Center helping set up the marathon expo. Even before Bloomberg had officially announced that the marathon would go on, Jack Rabbit Sports--the folks behind much of the expo--put out a call for volunteers.

A look at the Asics area after several hours of work.
Usually expo set-up begins the weekend before the marathon, but because of Sandy no one had access to the Javitts Center until Wednesday. To make things worse, because of all the cancelled flights, cancelled trains, and generally difficulty getting into and around the city, many people who were supposed to come work set-up were unable to get into Manhattan.

Thankfully my friend Helen, who was also volunteering, has a car, so we were able to get to the convention center even though there was no subway service yesterday. We actually had a pretty good time helping with the set-up, though after being at home all week, I was surprised at how tired I was after a few hours. Thankfully, the folks from Power Bar were there early and they hooked us up with some Harvest Bars (actually really good) and eventually there was even some pizza.

Even though there were a ton of us volunteering, when Helen and I left around 2 it was hard to see how they were going to finish everything in time for today (Thursday) by the expo's 10am opening.

Looking picture perfect this morning.
Well, when I went back this morning, I was amazed! Not only did the expo look almost as good as it did last year (there were a few small empty boothes), but there was a huge line that seemed to be comprised solely of Europeans. Some how these people found a way to get here and some how the organizers found a way to get the expo set up in time.

I'm not sure what to expect this weekend, but I have faith that NYRR, volunteers, and the city will pull through.

P.S.  After seeing the damage that Sandy did later in the week I felt kind of bad for spending my volunteer time at the expo, but at least now I know it wasn't totally in vain: Asics donated all of the proceeds from Saturday's sales to the recovery effort.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Feeding the Runner: Fall and Oats

In the bible of running, Once a Runner, Quentin Cassidy lives by the mantra, "If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn." As much fun as that philosophy may be, it's not the approach most runners take these days. With that in mind, here's the newest installment of my occasional posts on healthy recipes for runners (and other people too). Bon appetit!

As I posted yesterday, Sandy (or Frankenstorm) has necessitated a lot of indoor time in front of the TV enriching my brain. It turns out, however, that there's only so much reality television self-enrichment one can handle in a day so I turned to cooking for a little distraction.

Normally I'm a cold breakfast kind of guy. I like cold cereal, iced coffee, granola and yogurt mainly because these things are quick to prepare. It turns out, though, that not only does being trapped inside due to a hurrican mean that hot breakfast sounds good, it also means you have all the time in the world to sit in front of the stove.

Since last year's visit from that unwelcome guest Irene, I've had a few canisters of steelcut oats sitting around (though I'm not sure why that's what I decided to buy when I heard a hurricane was coming through). Yesterday, I got a little creative and decided to mix some fall flavors into those oats and the result was surprisingly delicious.

While steelcut oats take a while to make, they make great letfovers and are extremely filling. You might be able to make something similar with rolled oats, but don't steelcut oats sound a lot more badass?

Anyway, I recommend this recipe even if you aren't faced with a natural disaster anytime soon.

Pumpkin Spice Steelcut Oatmeal
Adapted from my really bored self

4 cups boiling water
1 cup steel cut oats
4 tbsp pumpkin butter*
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 or more tbsp of maple syrup
1/4 dried fruit

Bring four cups of water to a boil and stir in your steel cut oats. Add in your pumpkin pie spice and dried fruit. I like to add the dried fruit early (I used a mix of cranberries and raisins) so that they soak of liquid too.

Once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the pot, for roughly 25 minutes. Kind of like risotto, you can add extra liquid as needed and the oats will continue to slurp it up.

Finally, add the pumpkin butter and maple syrup to taste (obviously you can add more than I did if you want it sweeter), keeping on the stove for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Spoon into a bowl and serve with milk, cream, more syrup or any other toppings you feel like. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for several days, though you will likely need to add more liquid when reheating.

*You can use puréed pumpkin, but the flavor won't be as strong and you'll need to add extra maple syrup for sweetness. You can also make your own pumpkin butter if you're really ambitious; I wasn't.

Monday, October 29, 2012

An Unscheduled Rest Day

Well, Frankenstorm is fully upon us here in Harlem and after taking today off, it doesn't look like I'll be running tomorrow. Normally I would be freaking out about two days without running but for once the taper crazies are working in my favor.

On Saturday I did my final pre-NYC double-digit run, 12.4 miles including the final 10 miles of the marathon course. I had planned to take Sunday as a rest day but since it seemed unlikely I'd be running the next two days  I snuck in an easy 5 last night. Again, I worked it the final miles of the course, getting in one of the last runs in Central Park before the Parks Deparment shut it down.

Right now NYRR expects everything to go on as planned and so do I. Last year they had to deal with the aftermath of a freak Halloween snow storm that damaged nearly 400 acres in the Park, leading to the loss of approximately 1000 trees. The Central Park Conservancy worked around the clock and by the time runners began to arrive for the festivities later in the week the Park was ready to greet the world.

As for me? I'm keeping myself busy with cleaning, reading, and cooking. Oh who am I kidding? I'm glued to the TV watching images of the carnage around the tri-state area. Stay safe everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Runner's Guide to the Bridges of the New York City Marathon

Since the New York City Marathon is just over a week away, I figured I would take a break from Friday poetry to post something that could potentially be useful to runners. For those readers not running New York, I'm sorry, but poetry will make a triumphant return in the near future.
During the course of the New York City Marathon, runners visit three different islands (Staten Island, Long Island, and Manhattan Island) with only the briefest of visits to Mainland, U.S.A. In order to get from island to island, runners pass over 5 different bridges, two that are somewhat well-known and three that get short shrift. Because I like to mentally divide the course using the bridges, I present to you my runner's guide to the bridges of the New York City Marathon.

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
Length: 13,700 ft
Type: Double-decked suspension bridge.
Year Opened: 1964

The Verrazano Bridge marks the start of the marathon, carrying runners nearly two miles from Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. For blue and orange runners on the top, it provides sweeping views of New York Harbor; for runners on the bottom…forget the views and stay in the middle. The bridge also forms the biggest hill of the race, something to remember when you encounter the Queensboro

Pulaski Bridge
Length: 2,810 ft
Type: Bascule bridge (a.k.a., drawbridge)
Year Opened: 1954

The Pulaski Bridge, named after a Polish general in the American Revolutionary War, connects Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens. It crosses Newton Creek, one of the most polluted bodies of water in America. But you don’t care about that. You care about that fact that the Pulaski Bridge comes at the halfway point in the race. Congrats! Only 13.1 more miles to go.

                                                 Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge
Length: 3,724 ft
Type: Cantilever truss bridge
Year Opened: 1909

While the Pulaski Bridge marks the halfway point in the marathon, for many runners the race truly begins on the Queensboro Bridge. That's because runner's must climb roughly 130 ft as they cross the East River before beginning their descent to Manhattan's 1st Avenue. As you get closer to Mile 16 and Manhattan you begin to hear the crowd. The trick is in enjoying the crowd's energy without speeding up and wasting too much of your own.

Willis Avenue Bridge
Length: 3,212 ft
Type: Swing bridge
Year Opened: 2010

After 109 years of service, the Willis Avenue Bridge was replaced in 2010. The roadbed of the old bridge was made of open steel grating prompting marathon officials to cover it in orange carpeting for the race. With solid deck that no longer requires carpeting, the new bridge may no longer stand out for its odd appearance but it’s still notable to runners because it comes at Mile 20, the point when many runners hit “the wall.” It also carries runners out of Manhattan and into their final borough, the Bronx.*

Photo credit: Steve Boyle Photo

Madison Avenue Bridge
Length: 2,893 ft
Type: Swing bridge
Year Opened: 1910

The shortest and second-oldest bridge on the course, the Madison Avenue Bridge carries runners out of the Bronx, depositing them on 5th Avenue in Manhattan at Mile 21. Yes, the Madison Avenue Bridge connects to Madison Avenue too, but since that’s not part of the marathon, who cares? If you make it over this bridge you know you're going to finish the race!

* After the Bronx, runners return to Manhattan, but by that point they have already run through all five boroughs.