Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Countdown to Boston 2015: My Annual New Balance Post

Note: With the 119th Boston Marathon only days away (20 to be precise), I'm going to be doing  a countdown to Boston series as I did last year. 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.

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know to expect certain things as April draws near. First, you know my blogging is likely to pick up--last year 50% of my posts, or 3 out of 6, were done in April. Second, you know I will ramble incessantly about the Boston Marathon. Third, you know there will be a post about whatever special shoe New Balance decides to release for the marathon.

My usual trainer is the New Balance 890 and my marathon and long speedwork shoe is the New Balance 1400. For the past three years, New Balance, a Boston-based company, has released a special version of the 890 to coincide with the marathon. While I didn't buy the 2013 kicks (glow in the dark cool; purple shoes, not so much), in 2012 and 2014 I made a beeline to Marathon Sports to pick up a pair.

Well, this year New Balance has another pair of limited edition shoes, but the 890 is out and the Fresh Foam Zante is in. Now I haven't run in the Zante or any of NB's Fresh Foam line but most of the reviews I've seen have been generally positive.

For their Boston edition of this shoe, NB followed the approach they took with their NYC Marathon release--the shoe has the Boston skyline printed on the insole and it has "Boston" printed on the reflective "N" logo on the shoe's upper. One noticeable and cool difference? These shoes have "FASTAH" printed on the sole.

I really like the look of these shoes and since I've already decided I'm not buying this year's jacket, they seem like a tempting expo purchase. That said, I've been running in the 890 for the past 5 years and my motto is generally, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I guess I'll wait and see how impulsive I'm feeling in a few weeks.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Welcome to Taper Town

In spite of several curve balls, my final long run went really well yesterday and I'm now officially in taper mode!

Well over a month ago I began planning to do my last 20+ miler of the training cycle in Boston along the marathon course. I recruited a couple of teammates who are also running to join me for the trip, booked an Airbnb spot near the course in Newton, and worked on the logistics. The plan was to drive up early Saturday and do an easy run in Boston on Saturday afternoon. Then on Sunday we would take a cab to Ashland, run the last 22 miles of the course, and take the T back to our AirBnb so we could shower and drive home.

The first thing that went wrong with this plan was the forecast. Early in the week it became clear that it would be cold and snowy in Boston on Saturday. No big deal, we would do our respective runs in New York first thing in the morning and then drive up. Obstacle #1, easily overcome.

Then my wife and I decided somewhat last minute that instead of me driving to Boston with my teammates, I would drive up with her to see her brother and sister-in-law and their new baby, our adorable nephew Matthew, in Kingston, Mass. I could then take the commuter rail from there to Boston later in the day and meet my teammates who would drive up separately. Along the way, of course, we hit some snafus with our doggie daycare spot and had to adjust our departure time by a couple of hours. Again, not the end of the world: obstacle #2 dealt with.

The drive to Kingston was fine, just a little snowy, and we spend a couple of hours hanging out with our new nephew (who may in fact be the world's best-behaved baby). Of course, just as I was getting ready to leave for the train, I got a message from our AirBnb host that she had the flu. She was still more than happy to host us and tried to reassure us that our chances of catching her flu were minimal, but with Boston just over three weeks away, none of us wanted to take any chances. I did some quick research followed by some frantic phone calls and booked us a room at the Lenox Hotel. Obstacle #3 overcome.

The final obstacle was a pretty minor one. Since we were now going to be staying in Boston near Back Bay Station we decided that taking the commuter rail to Framingham made the most sense. Well, Framingham is only 20 miles from the finish and we wanted to get in 22 miles. What did we do? When we got there were jogged a mile west before turning around and tackling the rest of the course.

After all of those minor bumps in the road the actual run went great. All of us finished with extra energy, though of course we replenished our stores with a great brunch in Boston before heading back to New York. With that run out of the way I feel confident heading into my taper. I know a lot can happen over the next three weeks and race day itself can be unpredictable, but I'll worry about things as they happen. For now all I can say is, bring on the taper!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Haikus: Endless Winter

After a long final week of training before my Boston taper starts next week, it's Friday! This weekend I'm traveling to Boston with a couple teammates so that we can do our final long run on the course. I've made this trek four of the last six years and have generally had pretty good weather for it. In fact, in 2012, I remember wearing shorts to dinner the night before my run because it was so nice out. Of course, we remember how that heat wave played out on race day...

Given the winter we've had, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that it's supposed to snow all day tomorrow in Boston. Nevertheless, after running in near 60 degree weather last night, it's hard to accept that Old Man Winter is again rearing his ugly head. That sentiment inspired today's haikus. Hopefully you enjoy them more than I'm enjoying the weather.

I hope it's not this bad on Sunday. Source: http://modernsurvivalblog.com/
Melted ice and snow
Reveal four hundred meters

Tights are packed away
Shorts and tees at the ready
Spring weather is here

False alarm it seems
Cold is back with wind and sleet
I'm so over this


Monday, March 23, 2015

One Weekend -- Two Great Runs

Those of you on the East Coast know we had one more taste of winter on Friday when NYC and the rest of the Northeast were hit with several inches of snow. This necessitated a quick re-think of the route I'd planned for Saturday's long run since I knew part of the route would covered in slush. The easy thing to have done would have been to have headed to Central Park or the West Side Highway, either of which would have been cleared, but after weeks of being confined to the same stretches of pavement because because of the weather, I wanted something different.

Saturday's route
Before heading out the door Saturday to meet the two teammates I had talked into a 7a.m. long run, I checked my favorite winter resource: PlowNYC. This site shows how recently each street in the city has been plowed. Since I knew we'd be doing most of our run on city streets, I wanted to make sure they'd been serviced in the last several hours.

Thankfully, it didn't end up being that bad out and we got in a great 18 mile run. We started at the Manhattan Side of the Queensboro Bridge, ran across it and then north to Astoria Park, before heading south through Woodside, Maspeth, and Blissville. Then it was over the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge into Brooklyn, where we ran through Greenpoint and Williamsburg before taking the Williamsburg Bridge back to Manhattan.

By the end of the run my legs felt pretty shot, but it was great to get out and see some different areas of the city. I also managed to get my weekly Trader Joe's shopping trip out of the way early which was great since it saved me from having to battle the epic Saturday afternoon lines. I spent the rest of the day doing chores around the house and running errands in the neighborhood so I was happy that I'd covered some different territory during the long run.

On Sunday I joined my wife on her long run. She's training for Ironman Lake Placid in July so her long runs aren't in the double digits yet which meant I could still tag along with her the day after my 18 miler. We ran west along 59th Street and took the West Side Highway down to Chambers Street, right at the top of Battery Park City, before heading inland.

I loved the second part of our run, taking various city streets up through TriBeCa and the Village, scoping out new or unfamiliar restaurants and bars to try now that it's actually warm enough to go outside. We ended the run at a gym on 14th Street so we could shower and change rather than head all the way home since we had errands to run around Union Square. These are the best kinds of runs, the ones where you get to kill two birds with one stone. Hopefully spring will stick around so we can do more of these runs in the coming weeks!

Friday, March 20, 2015

My 2015 NYC Half Race Report

After last Friday's post, I'm sure you've been waiting with bated breath to learn how the NYC Half went for me--that is, unless you already looked up my time on NYRR.com or, perhaps more likely, you just don't care.You're here, though, so I might as well tell you about it.

Last Sunday proved to be near perfect racing weather. Although it rained all day Saturday and I got soaked on my shakeout run, the weather gods saw fit to close the heavens sometime around midnight. The temperature also cooperated, hovering around 40 overnight and holding into the early morning hours.

Even though I live very close to the start, I still set my alarm for 4:45 a.m., almost three hours before gun time, to give myself plenty of time to eat and digest my typical pre-race bagel with peanut butter.

In addition to the bagel, I tried something new this time--and yes, I know you're not supposed to try new things on race day--I took a Red Ace concentrated beet juice shot. In the two weeks before my last several marathons I've had one to two glasses of beet juice a day, but stopped the day before the race. This was the first time I actually took one of these shots pre-race, as the bottle directs.1 I was a bit worried about possible GI issues, but I seemed to do fine. In other words, I did not see an increase in the half-dozen trips I already make to the port-o-potty pre-race.

I left my place at 6:30 a.m. to make it to Central Park South before baggage closed and bumped into a couple of Whippet friends who were also running. We chatted as we passed through security but split up when it was time to "do our business." I made it my corral several minutes before its 7:10 a.m. closing time and made my way to the front where I'd arranged to meet up with a few teammates--Steve, Jonathan, and Will--looking to run a similar pace. In the corral I also bumped into one of my good non-Whippet running friends, Helen, a member of Athena New York. Having folks to chat with definitely helped to pass the twenty minutes of idle time.

Friday, March 13, 2015

An Almost Spring Update

Here I am more than half way through my Boston training and I haven't posted in almost two months! So, how is everything going? For those that don't know, the entire eastern seaboard was trapped in a mini-ice age for virtually all of January and February. Despite its exceptionalism, New York did not escape the arctic air. While I managed to do all of my weekend long runs outside (thanks to peer pressure), I did most of my mid-week workouts on the treadmill. This did not a happy runner make.

The East River begins to thaw near Sutton Place
Mercifully, the onset of daylight savings appears to have broken Old Man Winter's icy grip on Gotham with the mercury forecast to be above freezing for at least the next 24 hours (I won't look ahead any farther than that because the weatherman has burned me too many times this winter). This has brought about the seasonal banishment of running tights, as shorts once again safely enter the outdoor rotation. Of course I'm happy to be able to run outside without the dangers of black ice, slushy curbs, and frostbitten fingers, but I'm also relieved that my laundry bill will take a nosedive--winter running clothes pile up fast!