Monday, April 30, 2012

A Low Key Weekend of Running

This weekend we had two beautiful days in New York with lots of sunshine and seasonal temps. I still haven't returned to long runs yet (next weekend?) but I did manage to get out and enjoy the weather. On Saturday I woke up early to get in a quick easy run around Harlem and Morningside Heights before heading out to Brooklyn.

Photo Credit:
Continuing my volunteer kick, I signed up to volunteer at the Verrazano Half Marathon, put on by the folks at Somehow, I slipped through the cracks and as of Saturday I hadn't heard back from them but since I had a friend running I figured I would show up and see what happened. Sure enough, the organizers were only too happy to have another hand. I had a blast! I helped with baggage check, setting up the post-race food, and most important I cheered runners on at the turnaround point. I love these small local races because everyone seems to know everyone and the folks are all friendly. There's nothing fancy about these kind of events, they're just running for the sake of running. Still, they're well-organized and you can't beat the real Brooklyn bagels that have at the end.Of course, what really made the morning fun was a post-race visit to Spumoni Gardens for some of their famous Sicilian slices.

Sunday, I got a late start after a bit too much wine Saturday night (oops!) but I didn't let that stop me from getting in a run along the East River Esplanade. After the run, I picked up a bagel from Bagel Mill and ate in Carl Shurz Park, one of my favorite spots in Manhattan. It wasn't a super exciting weekend but it was a nice break from an intense training schedule. Now, however, it's time to get back on that training bandwagon since it's only three short weeks until the Brooklyn Half.

Friday, April 27, 2012

No NYCM for Me (This Year)

First things first, I wasn't chosen in the  New York City Marathon lottery. That means that 2012 will be the first time since 2009 that I haven't done this race. Am I bummed? Yes and no.

Yes because this is an amazing event. There's really nothing like running over the Verrazano Bridge with 45,000 people while Sinatra's "New York, New York" is blaring at 100 decibels, or reading the creative signs along 4th Avenue, or making the turn off of the Queensboro into the 1st Avenue wall of sound.

No because, like last year, I'm signed up to run Chicago. While running two marathons a month apart is doable, the recovery period after the second one sucks. Last year it meant that my whole fall was either taken up by marathon training or by marathon recover (look at October which was a combination of both!).

When I first moved to New York I went to watch the race in Central Park and had an amazing time. This year I have tons of friends who will be running it so I'll have even more reason to cheer. As for next year, I'm working on my 9+1 so I plan to be back. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two Great Runs

Now that I'm not in marathon training mode anymore I also have more flexibility with my schedule so this week I've been trying to get in [easy] runs with other folks.

Last night there was a run from the Upper West Side Jack Rabbit Sports hosted by Baker (of Beyond Defeat), Erica (of Erica Miss America), Abbe (of the Lewis Report), and one of the folks from the owner of Zensah. I always love meeting new runners and it didn't hurt that there were giveaways too. I scored some new Zensah compression sleeves. Zeeve, their repowner, called them Carolina blue, but I'm calling it Columbia blue. (Maybe I'll post a review in the future). Anyway, the run was a nice four miler around Central Park and I got to chat it up with some new acquaintances. Hopefully they'll put together another one of these runs soon. I'm especially looking forward to one of Claire's infamous beer runs.

Image credit:
This morning I met up with some Whippets for an early morning run in Central Park (can't tell you the last time I ran in the park two days in a row was). They meet every Wednesday morning at 6am and yet somehow I've never made it this group run. There were only four of us so we got to stray from Park Drive (always a plus), doing a loop of Harlem Meer, running through the North Woods, and along the bridle path. It was one of those mornings that reminded me why spring is my favorite season: the sun was out, the trees were green, the flowers in bloom, and the air crisp. It was definitely a perfect start to the day.

Now I just have to try and get some work done while I wait for the results of the New York City Marathon lottery drawing at noon!
Yesterday's Run: 4.7 miles at 7:58 pace
Today's Run: 9 miles at 8:08 pace.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'm Famous! (Okay, only sort of)

Last night I met up with fellow members of my running team for an easy downtown run. We met at Alamo also known as "the Astor Place cube." This run was a little different from normal runs, however, because we were followed by cameras! Somehow the folks at Vitamin Water heard about our group and asked if they could film us. (Confession: I'm not a Vitamin Water drinker, I'd rather have tap water.) Apparently their slogan is "Water, only better" so they wanted footage for a clip called "Running, only better."

The whole experience was kind of surreal. They outfitted one of our members with backwards facing camera on his head and he led the way. For much of the run we were tailed by a mini-van equipped with cameras. If you've never run along a New York City street while someone slowly follows you with a camera, let me tell you, you get a lot of looks! There were also two cyclists, one with a video camera on his helmet, who followed us since they could go places the van couldn't.

Perhaps the best part came after the run when they gave us free Vitamin Water interviewed several of our members. Because it was getting darker, the film crew had to bust out some bright lights. They also had a boom mike. In other words, it looked like a serious shoot. As we stood huddled around each other and the film crew, random folks came up to us and asked what was going on. Basically, we all got to play celebrity last night. If an when this thing airs or gets posted to Youtube, you can bet I'll mention it here.
Yesterday's Run: 6 miles at stop and go pace.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Giving Back to the Running Community

Whether we realize it or not, races are a big production. From organizing logistics to distributing numbers and t-shirts, from watching bags to handing out cups, there's a lot that goes into even a 5k. While I obviously love running in races, I feel it's important to give back to the local running community through volunteering.

This weekend, since I knew I would be racing (and probably not running much, either), I signed up to volunteer with New York Road Runners for their Run for the Parks 4 Miler. In order to take advantage of NYRR's 9+1 guaranteed New York City Marathon entry for members, you have to volunteer at one race a year so the spots can actually fill up pretty quickly. They're an incredibly well-oiled machine so the volunteer tasks are always clearly defined and the communication is great. However, because they're so professional, sometimes volunteering seems a little formal. I've also found that since most people view volunteering for NYRR as an obligation, they're not always super friendly and outgoing (please note, I'm talking some volunteers; most are great!).

Another alternative to volunteering for more established groups and larger races is volunteering for small local events. I find that the smaller the event, the more ownership you feel when you volunteer. You also tend to get more interaction with the race organizers and occasionally there are other perks too (free beer, a free future race entry, or even a special volunteer t-shirt). Generally speaking, the people who volunteer at these events tend to be real running enthusiasts. It can be a great opportunity to get to know other local runners, expanding your knowledge of the local running community.

At the very least, by volunteering you gain a new appreciation of the folks who hand you water, distribute race bibs, or time your event. Running may be a largely individual sport but racing takes a village.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Beer Review! Sam Adams 26.2

Usually after running a marathon I indulge in several rounds of beer and nachos. This year, because I was pretty darn dehydrated, I decided to play it safe even after finishing 7L of sports drink. Still, there was no way I could pass up trying Sam Adams special 26.2 Boston Brew which they made special for the marathon. Since they only distributed this beer to a limited number of Boston spots, I figured a review would be in order so those of you unable to make it to the Hub over Patriot's Day weekend could live vicariously through me.

26.2 is a Gose beer, a relatively obscure style closely associated with the German city of Leipzig. One thing that makes this style so special is that it departs from the standards of the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law).* Gose is a top-fermented beer, brewed with more than 50% malted wheat and finished with malted barley. So far, sounds pretty standard, right? Well, in addition to hops, the beer is spiced with coriander and salt--yes you read that correctly, salt. It's also relatively low in alcohol, with the 26.2 interpretation coming it at 4.5%. Now you see why the Sam Adams folks figured it would be a good post-marathon beer!

I had this beer on tap at Fenway during the post-marathon open house so I was drinking from a plastic cup. It had a nice light golden color and was a little cloudy (though since my cup wasn't completely clear hard to say how much of this was the cup). I could certainly smell the coriander, but also some citrus rind. Anyway, I was far more interested in drinking this one than smelling it--I was still very thirsty.

At first taste you certainly notice the citrus notes and the breadiness of the wheat. Next, though, you notice the salt which gives the beer a nice dry finish. This is really perfect on a hot day and Monday was a very hot day. The brew was moderately carbonated which helped to add to the overall refreshingness (that's not a word, but I'm using it!).

My overall verdict? If you're in Boston in the next few days and see this on tap, it's certainly worth a try.

* The Reinheitsgebot was a Bavarian law while Gose hails from Saxony. That means Gose brewers weren't subject to the law's restrictions until the unification of Germany by which point the style was so established as to be effectively grandfathered in.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Monday by the Numbers

I'm still recovering from the marathon and I have family in town--oh yeah, there's that whole job thing too--so the posts will be light for a few more days. Hey, after reading that race report you deserve a break too! I promise I'm almost done talking about Boston...until next year.

This year's marathon field was much faster than last year's. Last year my bib number was 3203 with a registration time of 3:06:14. This year, even with a much faster 3:01:44, my bib number was higher at 3309. In spite of the faster field, I managed to place better in every category this year than last year simply by running smart on Monday. Here's a look:

Finish Time

Let's hope I can continue this trend next year with a finish time to match!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I Ain't Dead Yet, or my 2012 Boston Marathon Race Report

I had more fun on this visit to Boston than I've had on any previous visit, though I also also experienced my toughest race yet. How is that possible? Read on and find out.

No matter how calm I like to pretend I am, I usually spend the week before any marathon freaking out about the weather. This time around, though, the race organizers did the worrying for me. Before I had even begun packing, I received the first of several emails from the BAA warning of "higher than normal temperatures on the course." I quickly realized that I would not be treating Monday like a goal race. Once I accepted this fact, my pre-race nerves virtually disappeared (though thankfully my excitement did not!). This meant I was able to enjoy Saturday and Sunday, exploring Boston without worrying about tiring my legs. I saw much more of the city than on previous visits which was a huge plus.

The night before the race, while we were enjoying a delicious homemade pasta dinner at Restaurant Dante in Cambridge, I decided on my goals for the race. They were simple: (1) finish and (2) don't walk. I promised myself that I would not "race" Boston, but would just try to enjoy myself.

Now that we've got some background, on to race day...

On race morning, I woke up at 5:05 feeling ready to go. I had plenty of time to fix my usual pre-race bagel with peanut butter and gather my things before making my way to Boston Common to meet with several other Dashing Whippets members. Once everyone arrived, we huddled for a quick pep-talk from one of the members, Simon, who was volunteering with the BAA at the finish."No heroics," he told us--excellent advice for the day!

On the long bus ride to Hopkinton I alternated between gabbing with other runners and listening to my pre-race energy mix. It took almost an hour to get to the Athlete's Village, but time flew by thanks to all the excitement on the bus. 

Once we arrived we staked out a spot underneath the giant tent so we could stay out of the sun as long as possible. It was only 7 am when we got there which meant we had plenty of time to kill. I used it to (1) apply two coats of sunscreen, (2) visit the port-o-potties roughly 73 times, and (3) write my name on my arm in sharpie. I thought about wearing compression socks, but a quick foray into the sun to use the bathroom convinced me that 80 was too warm for black knee-high socks. Eventually, it was time for wave 1 runners to start making their way to the corrals. Five of us in corals 3 and 4 heading to the start together. 

A few minutes before the start they lowered the rope separating corals and those of us in coral 4 managed to weasel our way up to where the coral 3 runners were. I knew the others were planning on running for specific times--faster times than I wanted (in my head I was thinking 3:30 would be a respectable finish and the slowest anyone else seemed willing to accept was 3:10) but I figured I would start with my teammates. 

The race begins after the jump.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I'm Back!

To all my loyal readers, I'm back in Harlem after a great weekend in Boston. I'll have a recap of my race in the next day or so, but for now, in case you're wondering, I'll just say that I met my two goals for this race: (1) cross the finish line; and (2) no walking during the race.

Let me also give a huge public thank-you to the people of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston for their awesome support and hospitality this weekend.  Alright, time to get back to recovering...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shipping Up to Boston

Note: As if my title hasn't been dropkicked to death.... Haha. Don't worry, I won't quit my day job.

Somehow I've managed to focus on Boston this entire week without really talking about running. Funny how things go... Well, with just over 48 hours until the race, I guess it's time to evaluate how things have gone these past few months.

This training cycle has been different for me than my previous 6 marathon cycles*:
  • It's my first full cycle as a member of the working world.
  • It's the first time I used a 12 week training plan instead of an 18 week plan.
  • It's the first time I've been "injured" during training.
But I've put in the miles, got in some on-course training, and had some fun tune-up races along the way. There's really nothing I would change about my training this winter.

Originally I was hoping a PR might be in the cards for Monday, but the current weather reports are not looking promising, calling for highs in the 80s. (My guess, this is nature's payback for our mild winter!) That means it's time to start rethinking my goals and expectations.

Above all else, I want to enjoy my experience Monday. This will be my third trip from Hopkinton to Boston and I want this time to be just as enjoyable as the first two. One thing I don't want is to seriously blow-up in the second half. I haven't decided on my exact strategy yet--that may have to wait until Monday morning--but I can tell you that I'm going to come back with a finisher's medal, a big smile, and, hopefully, an entertaining race report.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank all my readers from the first fourth months of my blog. With any luck this will be merely the first of many training cycles I document on this site.
All right, wish me luck! I'll be back in Harlem on Tuesday.
*I've run 7 marathons, but New York was so close to Chicago the two didn't get separate training cycles.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Countdown to Boston: A Beacon of Hope

With Boston only days away (3 to be precise), I'm going to begin a countdown to Boston series of posts. In the final days of the taper, it's hard to get my brain to focus on much other than the upcoming race, but with plenty of Boston-related topics, hopefully I can at least keep the blog interesting.

In the final miles of the marathon, having physical landmarks to focus on can really help. By breaking the course down into smaller pieces, you make it seem easier to manage. Obviously, one of the most famous landmarks on the Boston Course is the 60ft-by-60ft Citgo sign near mile 25. For years this sign has been calling runners to the finish, but if you have an inquiring mind like I do, maybe you've wondered about what it's doing there.

In 1940, the Cities Service Company erected a large sign above its Beacon Street regional services office. In 1965, when the company re-branded itself as Citgo, it replaced the sign with the now iconic triangular logo.

During the energy crisis of the late-1970s, Citgo actually left the sign dark for four years as a symbol of energy conservation. Unfortunately, the 1980s saw the sign deteriorate and Citgo prepared to tear it down. When the demolition crews arrived, however, the public outcry was so great that the company agreed to refurbish the sign.

In 2005 the more than 5 miles of neon tubes used to light the sign were replaced with LED lights. Those lights were replaced with newer, even more energy efficient lights in 2010. The good news is, this sign should be guiding runners to the finish for years to come.
Today's Run: I'm taking a rest day today and tomorrow so there was no morning run. My next run will be a pre-race warm-up in Boston!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Countdown to Boston: Patriots' Day

With Boston only days away (4 to be precise), I'm going to begin a countdown to Boston series of posts. In the final days of the taper, it's hard to get my brain to focus on much other than the upcoming race, but with plenty of Boston-related topics, hopefully I can at least keep the blog interesting.

One of the oddities about the Boston Marathon is that it's run on a Monday, whereas nearly every other major marathon is run on a Saturday or Sunday. Actually, the race is tied to Patriots' Day, a holiday in Massachusetts and Maine that commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolution back in 1775.

The holiday was first celebrated back in 1894, only three years before the BAA first held its annual marathon. Initially there was a spat between the towns of Lexington and Concord, with the citizenry wanting to call it "Lexington Day" and "Concord Day" respectively. Cooler heads prevailed at the state house and the Patriots' Day moniker was chosen as a compromise.

Here's another bit of running trivia: The BAA Marathon isn't the only longstanding race to be held on Patriot's Day in the Greater Boston area. Since 1914, the town of Lexington has held it's own race to mark the holiday. Although the 98-year-old race was originally dubbed the "Paul Revere Marathon Race," in its early years it was simply a 3-mile race. Today, it's a little longer and is now known as the Patriots' Day 5 Mile Road Race.

After running, the sport Bay Staters most associate with the holiday is baseball. The Red Sox first began the tradition of playing a morning baseball game on Patriots' Day in 1903 with a 10 am game. During many of the years when Boston was a two-team town (the Atlanta Braves got their start on Comm Ave), the Red Sox played Patriots' Day home games only in even numbered years. Since 1960, however, the team has played a home game ever year except two. To this day the morning start time remains a tradition with the first pitch at 11:05 am.

And just in case you thought Patriot's Day was always a Monday, it wasn't! Originally the holiday was celebrated on April 19th, no matter what the day of the week, and so for years the day of the marathon changed as well. It was only in 1969 that the Commonwealth declared Patriots' Day to be the third Monday in April.

Today's Run: 5.4 miles at 7:50 pace.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Countdown to Boston: A Wicked Good Guide to Boston Speak

Note: With Boston only days away (5 to be precise), I'm going to begin a countdown to Boston series of posts. In the final days of the taper, it's hard to get my brain to focus on much other than the upcoming race, but with plenty of Boston-related topics, hopefully I can at least keep the blog interesting.

Like many great American cities, Boston has a language all it's own. Since the marathon brings so many people to the city for the first time, I figured a little language primer might be in order. I'm not talking about the kind of speech they teach at Boston Latin, either.  If you read this helpful guide, you might be able to fit in, or at least understand what the locals are saying.

The Boston Accent

In a nutshell, the Bawstin accent is basically the broad A and the dropped R. For the broad A, just open your mouth and say ''ah,'' like you do when you visit the doctah. Now, the dropped R sometimes reappears at the end of words, but only when the next word starts with a vowel. Here's an example: "Befoah the race, I'm having pastahr and meatballs." But, if you're a vegetarian, you would say simply, ""Befoah the race, I'm having pasta."

Getting Around

New York may have a numbered grid, but Boston is generally a hodgepodge of 17th century streets with few straight lines. However, much of the action race weekend takes place in Back Bay and there you are in luck--the streets are in alphabetical order from west to east (Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, and Hereford). If the streets are named after trees, you're in Beacon Hill. Otherwise, look at a map or ask a local. 

Some streets have long names, so Bostonians shorten them. Here are three of the most common abbreviations:
Mass Ave = Massachusetts Avenue
Comm Ave = Commonwealth Avenue
Dot Ave = Dorchester Avenue 

Southie = South Boston ≠ South End (If someone means the South End, they'll say the South End. It's south of Back Bay and northwest of South Boston) 

Common Mispronunciations (and How to Get them Right)

It's Boston Common, singular not plural!
Tremont Street is pronounced Treh-mont, not Tree-mont.
The marathon ends near Cop-lee Square, not COPE-lee Square. 
If you want to check out the Bill Rodgers Running Center, you're going to Fan-you-ull Hall, not Fan-ell Hall.
The fourth town on the marathon course is NAY-dick, not Gnat-ick. 
Lastly, remember there's no 'G' in Hopkinton.

Other Useful Tips

If you're going to take the subway, it's called the 'T.' After the race, if you show your medal you ride for free.
If you order a 'regular coffee' you will get coffee with cream and sugar. 
Don't get the Garden (where the Celtics and Bruins play) confused with the Public Garden, a public park next to Boston Common. 
Today's Run: 7.1 miles at 7:38 pace. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Countdown to Boston: A Moveable Finish

With Boston only days away (6 to be precise), I'm going to begin a countdown to Boston series of posts. In the final days of the taper, it's hard to get my brain to focus on much other than the upcoming race, but with plenty of Boston-related topics, hopefully I can at least keep the blog interesting.

No matter what his or her specific goals, every runner who lines up in Hopkinton next Monday will be hoping to do the same thing--cross the finish line on Boylston Street. Although the painted line midway between Exeter and Dartmouth streets has an air of permanence, the finish has changed several times during the races 116-year history.

For the first running of the Boston Marathon back in 1897, BAA officials wanted their 24.5 mile course to mimic the Olympic marathon which had finished in a stadium. The closest thing Boston had to offer was the Irving Oval, a 220-yd track near Copley Square.

The second site of the finish line
After two years, the BAA moved the finish line for the first time. Shortly after the BAA was formally organized on March 15, 1887, the association spent $50,000 to acquire a parcel of land at the corner of Exeter and Boylston for a clubhouse. In 1899, the stretch of Exeter Street in front of the clubhouse became the new site of the marathon finish line.

The BAA was not untouched by the Great Depression and in 1936 it was forced to sell its clubhouse to Boston University, which renamed it the Soden Building. It continued to serve as race headquarters and site of the finish line until it was razed in 1959.  At that point, the BAA moved its race-day operations across the street to the Lenox Hotel allowing the finish to remain on Exeter Street. 

When Prudential Insurance stepped in as title sponsor in 1965, the tape was moved for the first time in years so that runners could finish in front of the newly-completed Prudential Tower. After 20 years, however, the marathon got a new sponsor and a new finish. In 1985, John Hancock signed on as the new title sponsor and so the 1986 finish was moved down the block to it's present day location.

While today's finish line might not be the same one that made Amby Burfoot, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar famous, it's much closer to the historic one cross by Clarence DeMar, John Kelley (both of them), and other historic victors from the event's first half-century. Maybe I can channel some of their energy next Monday!
Today's Run: 7.3 miles at 7:57 pace.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Countdown to Boston: Doing it All for a Bowl of Beef Stew

With Boston only days away (7 to be precise), I'm going to begin a countdown to Boston series of posts. In the final days of the taper, it's hard to get my brain to focus on much other than the upcoming race, but with plenty of Boston-related topics, hopefully I can at least keep the blog interesting.

Next Monday, the top male and female participants in Boston will be vying for a $150,000 first place prize. In addition to the official prize purse, the runners also receive appearance fees and bonuses from their sponsors. All in all, major marathons are pretty lucrative for the top contenders. Of course, Boston wasn't always like that.

Go back in time just 25 years and the winners were competing for something very different--a bowl of beef stew, and a laurel wreath. All you have to do is look at the post-race photos to know the laurel wreath is alive and well, but beef stew is longer part of the spotlight.

For many years, every runner who crossed the finish line received a bowl of beef stew, served in the basement of the BAA's old headquarters, the Sodden Building, at 84 Exeter Street. Later, once Prudential Insurance began sponsoring the race, the stew was served in the company's cafeteria.

With the running boom of the 1970s, however, giving beef stew to every finisher became too big of a hassle. Soon only the winners were receiving this former-fixture. As a vegetarian I'm just as happy to receive Gatorade and a Powerbar instead, but it's fun to imagine the days when victor and weekend warrior alike sat down together for a bowl of beef stew.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Run

I'm out in Rockland County for Easter weekend which means I got to do my final double-digit run in less urban surroundings. Since today will be filled with friends, family, and food, I opted to get the run out of the way yesterday (though the weather was so perfect this morning I couldn't help but sneak in a quick 3 miles).

With 13 on tap yesterday, I mapped out a run on roads that looked runable (there aren't many sidewalks here) and hoped for the best. I was not disappointed! After a couple initial miles through the Village of Suffern, NY, I made my way across state lines into Ramapo County, NY.

Before long I began thinking, It smells like Central Park, why is that? I rounded a corner and the answer was clear--horse poop! Of course, I got to see the horses two. One horse, and three ponies (only two are in the picture) just enjoying some time in the field.

I continued along a winding road, hugging the shoulder and hoping no one would hit me. Although I missed one of the turns I had planned on taking, I didn't mind running a little further because the weather was perfect. When I finally made the turn I was in for a treat--a long climb up a winding road. I couldn't see the end because of the curves, but I figured this was a good final practice for the Newton Hills.

Eventually I found myself back in familiar territory as I entered the town of Ramsey, NJ. I had a final long climb and then the run evened out. With a couple miles to go, two wild turkeys ran across the road. I tried to snap their picture but they were faster than me. Oh well, I guess that's how they made it through Thanksgiving.

I finally crossed back into New York and picked up the pace for the final stretch. The whole run felt restorative. Not all of it was particularly rural, but the whole time I felt like there was nothing between me, the sky, and the various animals I saw along the way (thankfully there was a fence between me and the dog that went crazy around mile 4!).

I'm now ready for my final week of the taper, but first, time for some Easter brunch!
Yesterday's Run: 13.6 miles at 7:30 pace.
Today's Run: 3.7 miles at 7:35 pace.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Countdown to Boston: New Kicks!

Note: With Boston only days away (9 to be precise), I'm going to begin a countdown to Boston series of posts. In the final days of the taper, it's hard to get my brain to focus on much other than the upcoming race, but with plenty of Boston-related topics, hopefully I can at least keep the blog interesting.

It's a common piece of advice that the last thing you want to do is run the marathon in a new pair of shoes. By the time race day comes around you're supposed to have done plenty of training runs in your shoes so there are no surprises on race day. I have no plans to mess with that this time around, but that doesn't mean I won't be picking up a new pair in Beantown.

One of my training shoes and the that pair I've worn in my last two marathons is the New Balance 890. They're the company's lightest neutral trainer at 9.7 oz and I've found them surprising comfortable, especially since I was used to a more cushioned (and therefore heavier) shoe. They have a seamless upper which is great because it means there's not much that can rub your feet.

This year, in honor of the Boston Marathon, New Balance is releasing a special limited edition of the 890v2. Adidas may be the race's official sponsor, but New Balance is Massachusetts born and bred. I don't really buy into gimmicks like limited edition shoes (Asics has offered NYC Marathon editions of some of their trainers the past couple years) but since I'm in the market for a new pair post-marathon, I might just pick these ones up.

I wish I had a better photo, but here's why these shoes are wicked awesome: the tips of the shoe laces say "run fastah"; the inside is decorated with Boston icons like Heartbreak Hill, a pint of beer, and the ducklings statue from the Public Garden; the heel has a lobster on it. I know I'm going to squander some hard-earned dough on a race souvenir, so it might as well be something I can use, like these shoes.
Today's Run:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Countdown to Boston: The Eliot Lounge

Note: With Boston only days away (10 to be precise), I'm going to begin a countdown to Boston series of posts. In the final days of the taper, it's hard to get my brain to focus on much other than the upcoming race, but with plenty of Boston-related topics, hopefully I can at least keep the blog interesting.

The Eliot, just before it closed (from Sports Illustrated)
1996 marked the 100th running of the Boston Marathon, but it also marked the end of another Boston institution, the Eliot Lounge. 25 years earlier, in 1972, the same year that Frank Shorter won the Olympic Marathon in Munich, a man name Tommy Leonard began tending bar at the the Eliot.

Tommy was a runner--he had run the Boston Marathon as far back at 1956 and he founded the the Falmouth Road Race in 1973--so he set out making the Eliot a welcoming place for runners.

The bar was located in the Eliot Hotel, at the corner of Mass Ave and Comm Ave, just blocks from the marathon finish. Starting in 1973, Tommy gave every marathon finisher a beer on the house. He covered the walls in race bibs, photos of famous runners, and even had a pair of Bill Rodger's running shoes. There was even an electric sign counting down the time until next year's running of the marathon.

In 1975 after winning the Boston Marathon, Boston Billie told reporters he was heading to the Eliot to celebrate. In 1980, the year that Rosie Ruiz initially fooled race officials, Tommy invited the real winner, Jacqueline Gareau of Canada, to the bar where she was treated to a dozen roses and a spirited rendition of O Canada.

Unfortunately for us younger runners, the Eliot closed in 1996, the victim of a greedy landlord. There's no shortage of great watering holes in Boston from what I've seen, but I don't think any place has stepped up to fill the void left by the Eliot.
Today's Run: 4.9 miles at 7:57 pace.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Track

Today was my last "hard workout" before Boston. I've used Pete Pfitzinger's training schedule for several marathon cycles now (although this was my first time using the 12-week plan instead of the 18-week one) so I know what to expect. That said, his final track workout always gets me a little nervous--it's mile repeats. 

I dread mile repeats. Last night I lay in bed thinking, Do I really need to do these? I know what a mile feels like... Couldn't I just run 800s instead? Or better yet, skip the speed work altogether? Well, I conquered that inner voice, though not until this morning when my alarm finally went off. (I'd probably been awake for at least an hour wondering when the misery would start.)

As with a lot of my speed work, I do mile repeats around the Central Park Reservoir. Because it has markings every 20 yards and is clearly labeled 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, and so on, it works pretty well. You don't get the same hamster feel that a track can sometimes give you and it's easier for me to get to than the nearest track.

As much as I was dreading today's run, it went pretty well. It was definitely brisk out this morning, but I got to enjoy the sunrise over Central Park about halfway through my run. Even before the sun comes up, the pre-dawn reservoir is a nice sight to behold:
Photo from Central (You think I do speed work with my camera?)
The repeats went pretty well. I started out aiming for 10k pace, but probably ended up closer to 8k. They were 6:07, 6:04, and 6:02. Those are better than I did last cycle and my legs felt pretty fresh. Hopefully after a week of easy running they'll feel even better.
Today's Run: 8.3 miles at 7:28 pace (that includes the mile repeats and recovery jogs).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Training Essentials: The Jury's Still Out on KT Tape

Note: As we get closer to Boston (only 13 days to go), I'm going to highlight some of the things that have been "essential" to me during training. Now, for all you literalists out there, by essential I simply mean things I wouldn't want to train without.

One of my favorite part about big races is the goodie bag. I know there's tons of crap in the bag that no one will ever use and countless trees are killed in the process, but I still love dumping the contents out on my bed or the hotel room floor. Sifting through them, you find things like energy bar samples, coupons, race flyers, and sometimes something useful. A year or so ago--I don't remember which race it was now--I received a sample of KT tape in a race bag. I had no use for it, but I decided to hold onto it. Now I'm glad I did.

A few days after I started having Achilles pain I saw someone running in Central Park wearing KT tape. I remembered my sample and decided to try it out. Well, that was 2+ weeks ago and I'm hooked on the stuff. Now, big disclaimer, I have no idea if this stuff works. As I explained earlier, following the initial onset of pain, I immediately took several days off of running, iced my Achilles twice a day, and took ibuprofen. It was only after doing all these things that I tried the tape and tried running again. In fact, there are a number of studies that suggest the tape may not be all that effective.

Now that I've called the stuff sufficiently into question, if you're still interested in trying the stuff, here's my two cents. KT Tape is widely available at sporting goods stores and running shops but I don't think it's as good as the original Kinesio Tex Gold tape. In my experience, KT doesn't stick quite as well and so you don't get as long of a use out it. Kinesio Tex tape seems to last longer. 

Also, although KT makes uncut rolls, most of their tape comes in pre-cut strips. The problem with pre-cut strips is that they don't fit every use. If you're going to buy tape from either brand, I recommend buying the uncut rolls and cutting them yourself. You'll get more bang for your buck and have a wider range of options.
Today's Run: 4.2 miles at 8:00 pace. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Taper Time Changes

Well, it's official--the taper is here! Technically my Boston taper started last week but with the Cherry Blossom race, a midweek medium long run, and a track workout, it didn't feel like a light week.  This week's drop in mileage, however, should be a whole lot more noticeable.

Now that I'm cutting back my mileage, I've made some other changes in my routine to make sure I'm at my best on Marathon Monday.

1. More Sleep - I'm usually pretty good at getting a full night's sleep on weeknights, but come weekends I let myself stay up later. From now until the race, however, I'm sticking to an early bedtime. Having an established routine will help come the night before when I'm desperately trying to fall asleep.

2. More Vegetables - I do eat a lot of vegetables already, but during the taper I try and replace more carbs and fats with vegetables. Since I'm not running 70 miles, I don't need the same amount of food. I find I eat more sensibly when I just temporarily replace some other foods with fruits and veggies.

3. No Alcohol - Starting three weeks out I cut out all booze. This serves two real purposes, it helps me keep caloric intake in check as I cut down my mileage and it helps me get more or at least better sleep.

4. Dialing Down Cross-Training - Cutting back on running doesn't mean anything if I just pick up the intensity on cross-training. I usually cut out cross-training two weeks before and cut out strength training one week before.

All my trameframes listed above are subjective. They're what has worked for me in the past so I'm sticking to them this cycle. If you've got different changes that you make, or different schedules for incorporating similar changes, I'd love to hear them!
Today's Run: 9.1 at 7:56 pace.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Race Report: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

I'm back from another exciting weekend getaway, this time in DC. Originally I was going to take the train down but during a group long run a couple of weeks ago, one of the other runners told me she was doing the Cherry Blossom race as well and offered me a ride. Who was I to say no to door-to-door service? After a fun trip down Saturday morning in her Smart Car, we got into DC early Saturday afternoon and went straight to the expo which was at the National Building Museum. The Museum is housed in the former Pension Bureau Building and has a huge main hall (316 × 116 feet!) which made for a much more inspiring feel than your usual convention center expo.

I spent the rest of afternoon leisurely wandering around Dupont, Adams Morgan, and Columbia Heights, before settling down with the book 2 of the Hunger Games for a couple hours. My host was one of my good friends from undergrad and since her parents were in town they took us both out to dinner, a big treat! We went to a nearby Italian restaurant where I ordered some of the best homemade gnocchi I’ve had in ages. Unfortunately the wait was long and the service was slow so I didn't get to bed until pretty late. If this had been a goal race I would have been pretty nervous, but I was relaxed and fell asleep quickly.

My alarm went off at 5am to give me time to eat my usual bagel with peanut butter. I puttered around my friend's apartment, killing time until 6:15 when I left for the start. Since it was only two miles away, I decided to "jog" (run slowly) as a warm-up. I passed the White House on the way, which made me remember how cool running in DC can be. The weather was absolutely perfect, high-40s and overcast.

At the start I met up with another Whippets Member and we did a short warm-up together. Since the lines for the port-a-potties and bag check were long , we wished each other luck and parted ways about 20 minutes before the start. I dropped off my bad and made my way to my packed corral.

The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler is a pretty big race with nearly 16,000 people and each "wave" (read: corral) has around 2,500 runners. This large field meant that when the gun went off we started somewhat slowly. That was probably a good thing, though, because I wasn't trying to race. My goal was to run the first 8 or so miles somewhere between half- and full marathon pace. The first mile was a 7:09 mile, but I would much rather have gone out too slow than too fast. 

Mile two involves an out and back over the Arlington Memorial Bridge so at this point we got a great view of the leaders flying by on our right hand side. I seemed to be settling into a groove at this point myself. As we came back over the bridge we turned left and headed north along Rock Creek Parkway. Mile 3 involves another out and back, this one a much sharper turn underneath the Kennedy Center. As we passed the official 5k clock it read 21 something and I was feeling great. 

The course then continued along the Potomac, going under the Arlington Bridge before doing another dog leg along Ohio Drive. It's at this point that you begin to realize what a large race this truly is. I had passed mile 4 and there were still thousands of runners on the other side of Independence Ave, just arriving at mile 1. We continued along Independence, running around the tidal basin, giving us glimpses of the Jefferson Memorial, though there weren't many cherry blossoms left on the trees. I passed mile 5 in 33:42, roughly a 6:44 pace, before continuing onto East Basin Drive. At this point I heard someone shout my name and I turned to see one of my runner friends, Brian, who lives in DC. I wasn't expecting to see anyone on the course so that was an awesome surprise.

The route then continued to East Potomac Park, home of the infamous Hains Point, basically an isolated peninsula island with a flat 3+ roadway. In the old days, this was home to miles 15 to 19 of the Marine Corps Marathon and one of the toughest parts of the course mentally since its emptiness followed the crowds of spectators along the mall. Yesterday, however, it was downright pleasant. There was a live rock back, a DJ, and I even saw some friends cheering on the sidelines. Once we rounded Hains Point and hit mile 8, I gave myself permission to start picking up the pace. I had a couple of folks say things like, "Looking good!" or "Finish strong." and I felt a little like I was cheating. 

As we got closer to the finish there was a sign marking 1200m to go. I starting pushing it now, keeping my eyes open for my friend Brian. When I heard him that gave me more of a reason to push up the final hill. I wasn't going all out, but I was no longer trying to bottle up energy. With the finish in sight I realized I could come in under 1:06 (I had been thinking that coming in under 1:07 would be nice) so I decided to sprint the final 200m or so. I heard them announce my name--"from Seattle, Washington"--I forgot that's what I registered under!

My net time ended up being 1:06:00 (a 6:36 pace--meaning I did the second half at a 6:28 average). It felt pretty good to know that I beat 22-year-old by almost 3 minutes and still had energy to spare. Some year I'll have to come back and actually race this course all out.

I made my way to the baggage pick-up and Brian came and found me. We ended up doing a nice 4 mile cool-down through Rock Creek Park, bringing me to 16 for the day. He still had some miles to do so he kept running but I needed a serious caffeine fix. After a hot shower, I met up with a high school friend for a leisurely brunch and then it was time for the drive back to NYC. This was definitely a great weekend getaway!

See my splits after the jump.