Friday, September 27, 2013

Taper Time

It's hard for me to believe it, but two weeks from today I'll be leaving for Chicago to run my 11th marathon. (Why didn't I stop at one? One has such a nice ring to it, doesn't it?). That means I've begun my taper, sort of. I always feel like the first week of the taper is a rip off. Yes, you've reduced mileage to about 80% of your peak, but often it's not that noticeable.

I go into the three-week tapeI always take three weeks, though some folks do twothinking that I will instantly feeled refreshed and ready to go. The truth, that first week is still difficult. Your legs are still tired from you last week of real training and if you're tapering correcly, while your mileage has dropped a little, you're still keeping the quality and intensity of your workouts relatively unchanged.

Since I'm sure I'm not the only person in America who is tapering for a marathon right now or will be doing so soon, I figured I would offer a few words of wisdom. While this may be especially valuable for someone who's training for their first marathon, veterans may benefit from what I'm about to say as well.

Photo courtesy of
The taper is a serious mind f*$%. No matter how many marathons you've run, no matter how well your training went, when it comes time to taper you will experience some degree of self-doubt. Did I log enough miles? Are my shoes the right ones for the marathon? What's that weird pain in [insert body part]? These kinds of questions are normal but you have to ignore them. You've put in the work (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here, you did train for this, right?) and now it's time to trust yourself and your training plan.

Keep it simple. Don't try anything new during the taper. Now isn't the time to try some new workout you just heard about: it's not going to make you faster at this point in the game. Now isn't the time to try to make up for a missed long run or to start cross-training. Stick with what you've been doing all along, just allow for a gradual reduction in mileage. Nothing you do in the two weeks before the marathon is going to improve your running, but it can hurt it.

When in doubt, rest. If you find yourself questioning whether you should do an easy 5 miler because you're tired or you legs hurt, take the day off. This doesn't mean you should blow off all of your scheduled runs, but taking an extra rest day here or there isn't going to hurt. If your body is telling you to rest, listen to it. Wait until marathon day to fight the voices in your head telling you to slow down or stop.

Do something that isn't related to running. Especially during the final week of the taper, you need a distraction. If left to your own devices, you would probably think about your marathon until your head exploded. That's not good for anyone (read: you or the people you interact with on a daily basis). Is there a book you've been wanting to read? A series on Netflix all your friends have been telling you to watch? An apple pie you've been meaning to bake and FedEx to me? Now is a great time to do one of those things.

Lastly, Visualize success. Whenever you have any doubt, just picture yourself crossing the finish line looking good and feeling strong. Running 26.2 miles won't be easy, but you've trained for this and if you believe you can succeed, it will make it much easier to run a good race.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Blog Spotlight: Running Dog

This may be the closest thing to advertising I've done on this site. I know that many of my readers are affiliated with or at least aware of the team I run for, the Dashing Whippets. DWRT has a pretty good presence on the web--the team started back in 2009 because one of the founders, Rich, works for Meetup and had a free Meetup to use. The team has also had a Facebook page, a Twitter account (@dashingwhippets), and an Instagram account for quite a while. What DWRT has not had was a blog, that is until a couple weeks ago.

We recently launched a team blog with pieces by various team members. It spotlights races, workouts, and the personalities that make up our team. With several hundered members and workouts in both Brooklyn and Manhattan, it's difficult to get to know everyone so this blog is helpful in that respect.

It's definitely still a work in progress but if you're looking for another way to waste time at work additional interesting running commentary, it might be worth checking out. I expect it will continue to evolve over the coming weeks and months as the team tries to get a feel for what people are interested in reading.

Oh, yeah--I guess it would be helpful if I told you where to find it. Here's a link:

Monday, September 23, 2013

A 5th Avenue Mile Race Report

This weekend I had my final long run before my Chicago taper; I also had a race...on the same day. or the past four years, I've run NYRR's 5th Avenue Mile. It's always a ton of fun, getting to sprint down 5th Ave and then watching your teammates and pro runners to the same. Unfortunately, the race always falls during fall marathon training which means there's always a long run to do on the same weekend. Some years--like this year--it's doubly unfortunate because the mile falls on a Sunday.

Last year, with the race on Saturday, I was able to do my long run the following day. This year, I opted against going into the race with tired legs so I took Saturday off.* Of course, last week was my peak week of training, so one measly day of rest didn't mean all that much. I even had two weekdays last week with over 15 miles--not exactly a recipe for a solid mile time.

I knew going into the race that I wasn't in the best shape for short speed. While last year I practiced the mile several times leading up the race, this year I hadn't done any speedwork at faster than half marathon pace in over a month.

Also going against me was the fact that I raced the previous two weekends. Knowing all of this, I set a modest goal for myself of running a sub-5:30 mile. (Four years ago, I ran this race massively hungover and still managed to eek out a 5:25 so I figured sub-5:30 was realistic).

I didn't get to do my usual warm-up because I didn't get back into the city until an hour before the race and had to cab to the start. I did manage a couple strides and a couple form drills, but that's a far cry from the 2 to 3 easy miles I usually like to do first.

Feeling less than warm-up, I made my way to the packed starting area for the Men 15-29 heat. I managed to get relatively close to the front but didn't seen any teammates.

When the gun went off, I took off, trying to avoid slower runners in front of me while not tripping up faster runners trying to pass me. The race is market every quarter mile and the first 400m are downhill. I looked at my watch--1:17--I could have been pleased, but instead I was concerned. I was sure I needed to slow down in order to finish standing upright. 

The second 400 contains the only real uphill on the course. The combination of the incline and my worry about my pace meant I reached the 1/2 mile at 2:45. This was a little too close for comfort if I wanted to break 5:30.

I got my legs to move a little fast, but not much. With no real recent speedwork, I simply couldn't find a higher gear to shift into. My team was cheering at the 3/4 mark, which helped mentally but didn't give my legs a boost. I ran the third 400 and the final 400 1:22 a piece, meaning my finishing time was 5:29. It was my slowest time on 5th Avenue, but given my lack of specific training I feel pretty good about it.

The hard part came after the mile when it was time to run 19 more miles. Thankfully, several of my teammates also had long runs to do so I had company the entire way. I actually finished feeling pretty strong, but I am definitely ready for my taper!

*Full disclosure: I spent Saturday helping my girlfriend's parents move, so while I didn't run, it's hard to count that as a total rest day.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Good Weekend

Here it is almost the weekend again and I'm just getting around to writing about last weekend! It was a great two days running-wise, though, so I figure it's worth recounting. (Plus, let's be honest, I didn't have time to come up with any poetry for this week).

A beautiful sight in my inbox!
First, on Saturday I got my Boston confirmation email from the BAA.  Last Friday, Boston Marathon registration opened for people who had met their qualifying standard by five minutes or more. Thanks to my time at Philly last November, I was in this camp for the second time.* I can't say this made me any less nervous--I spent most of Friday afternoon constantily checking my inbox--and when the email finally came in, I did a little dance breathed a sigh of relief.

My heart goes out to all of you who registered this week and have to wait until this weekend to find out whether or not you're in.

On Sunday I ran the NYCRuns Narrows Half for the second year in a row. Last year I ran it as a tune-up for New York and ended up surprising myself by finishing 12th overall and winning a 3rd place age group award. This year I wasn't expecting to do as well but I really wanted a flat course as a tune-up for Chicago so I decided to return.

The Whippets (runners and cheerers)
In addition to allowing me to practice racing on a flat course, the half forced me to get up at an unholy hour let me practice waking up at 4:30 a.m. for an early race. I will likely be waking up at 4:30 for Chicago, which also starts at 7:30, and New York, which doesn't start until 10.

I also managed to recruit several teammates to run this year which made waiting for the start a lot more fun, even if none of us ended up racing together. We couldn't have asked for better weather either: it was in the low-50s with clear skies and a very light breeze.

How did the race go? I ran fairly even splits, averaging a 6:32 pace for the race which led me to a 1:25:38 finish. That was about thirty second slower than my time from from last year.

I felt good the good the whole time, though I wish I had been able to push myself a bit more. Honestly, I'm not sure what kept me from going faster. Part of the issue is that there was a long distance between me and the runners ahead of me. After the first 5 or 6 miles, I couldn't even really see them. I also had a very comfortable lead on the runners behind me. (I won't have either issue at Chicago). Without no one around to really "race" it was all too easy to settle into a steady relaxed pace.
Somehow my time was good enough for a 5th place finish and a first in age group award (I'm guessing all the faster runners were in Philadelphia this weekend). I've come in second or third before, but I think this might have been my first AG win.

My teammates also did very well: we had two big PRs, one teammate finished 3rd overall, and another also placed in her age group. Certainly not a bad showing from my team!

After the race I had brunch with my friends Jeff and Michelle (of Tiny Kitchen fame). If I didn't feel like a winner when I crossed that finish line, I sure did after eating their delicious cooking.

After such a great weekend, I have a feeling I'll be back at this race again next year.

P.S. A shout-out to my friend Emily who posted all the photos from Sunday.

Horsing around after the race.

*The first year that the BAA introduced the new staggered registration, they kept the old qualifying times. That meant I needed a sub-3:05 to be in the BQ-5 camp, last year I was in the BQ-3:** camp so I had to wait until the second week to register.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Wonderful Run

Last night I had one of the best runs I've had in a while so I decided to write about that instead of any poetry or song lyrics this week.

Since moving to Sutton Place I've stopped running in Central Park as much. Whereas before I was just three uptown blocks from the uncrowded northern end, now I'm several avenues and a full mile away. This may not sound like much but at rush hour it often just doesn't feel worth the effort when I've got the East River Greenway and the Queensboro Bridge mere blocks away.

MCNY: Vintage shot of the reservoir at night
Well, last night, for no good reason, I decided to do an unstructured run in Central Park. Traffice be damned, I made my way across town and entered the park at Merchants' Gate by the Maine Monument. This where the marathon enters the park so it's one of my favorite spots. Rather than run on Park Drive as I do every Tuesday, I opted for the Bridle Path and its soft packed dirt.

I certainly don't take advantage of the Bridle path enough, especially in the fall and winter when, because the path is unlit, it's hard to use before or after work. After snaking my way northward through spotty drizzle, I decided on a loop of the reservoir. I actually can't remember the last time I ran the reservoir but it has some of the best views of the Midtown skyline, especially at twilight when all of the buildings are illuminated. The threat of a more forceful rain seemed to have kept the tourists at bay--I had the loop almost to myself.

During my return trip, lightning began to pick up. At first it was alsmot indistringuishable from the lights on 7th Avenue coming from Times Square. As I head east, however, I could see large bolts over the river. It was incredibly impressive, to see mother nature outdoing the lights of Manhattan. The skies did eventually open up, but somehow I made it home just in time to avoid the worst of it.

I have absolutely no idea how far I ran last night, but I know I felt mentally restored when I got home. I also slept like a baby. If only every run could feel that good.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Another Friday with Mumford


Because of all the positive feedback the lack of negative feedback I got after last week's attempt at tailoring a Mumford song to running, I've decided to try my hand at again. (I thought about doing another band, but figured since I have this great GIF, I might as well get some extra mileage out of it--pun intended). I'm kind of surprised how easy it was to change the lyrics of this particular song, "Hopeless Wanderer." Also, if you haven't checked out the video, do yourself a favor and click on the link.

Without further ado, here's my take:

Marathon Runner

You had a voice
You signed up for this race by choice
For this one day you have trained
But the distance now seems so far

You did not work for this in vain
But you must remember there will be pain
So set out with a plan, a steady pace
Twenty-six miles, the distance you will race

So when your foot's on fire
But it’s too soon to tire
Don't stop, give it your all
Run steady and controlled
You will not hit the wall
You will run your road

But you run far, you run far
'Cause you’re a mar—a—thon—er
And you run far, you run far
'Cause you’re a mar—a—thon—er

You've passed the halfway point
 There's a dull ache in every joint
 But tell yourself that all is fine
 No doubt in your head, now is the time

You did not work for this in vain
 And you mustn't concentrate on your own pain
 You trained alone in the cold
 Now, hang in there, hang in there and be bold

So when your foot's on fire
But it’s too soon to tire
Don't stop, give it your all
Run steady and controlled
You will not hit the wall
You will run your road

But you run far, you run far
'Cause you’re a mar—a—thon—er
And you run far, you run far
'Cause you’re a mar—a—thon—er

You will cross, you will cross ev—er—y finish lin*e
You will cross, you will cross ev—er—y finish lin*e
Every finish lin*e