New York Colon Cancer Challenge 15K/9.3M (Q)
Central Park, New York, NY
Sunday, March 9, 2008

Official time
1:09:08 (7:26 pace)

Mile marker: lap/split
Mile 1: 7:30/7:30
Mile 2: 6:38/14:09
Mile 3: 8:02/22:11
Mile 4: 7:13/29:24
Mile 5: 7:31/36:55
Mile 6: 7:35/44:31
Mile 7: 7:19/51:51
Mile 8: 7:44/59:36
Mile 9: 7:21/1:06:57
Finish: 2:15/1:09:13

This morning I was dealing with a pulled shoulder muscle, continuing left foot ache, and poor sleep — things were not looking promising. For breakfast I had what’s evolving into my standard pre-race breakfast: croissant, apple, PowerBar, and Gatorade.

With plenty of time to start, I lined up in front of the 8:00 minute pace marker. I figured that in a smaller field at a 15K race, the pace would be truer. For the most part it was.

Today’s 15K sets my personal record for longest run. With no experience at this distance, my goal was consistent mile times with strong, steady effort. I think I did this very well; except for some irregularity in miles 2 and 3 that I think was due to an incorrectly placed mile marker (anyone else notice?), I didn’t fade through the race. I did expect some deviation since the Central Park loop is unevenly hilly and wind was a moderate factor.

As a volleyball player I used to sleep with a volleyball; now I sleep with the race course map. I purchased two Gu gels yesterday, one for testing and one for the race. At mile 3 I started sucking down the gel packet so that it’d be finished in time for the water station at Central Park South. I planned a second optional water stop at around mile 7 at the 102nd St. transverse and took it.

The running itself was uneventful. I didn’t suffer any cramps or stomach aches which would have been disastrous. I finished the race with tight hamstrings and chaffing on my neck from my jacket but nothing too serious. I occupied my time by trying to draft behind other runners and finding pace buddies. Yeah, someone really needs an iPod!

I’m satisfied with my performance today. I kept it together and made a good first 15K showing.

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Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks Run 5K/3.1M (Q)
Washington Heights, New York, NY
Sunday, March 2, 2008

Official time
22:06 (7:08 pace)

Mile marker: lap/split *
Mile 1: 7:30/7:30
Mile 2: 7:17/14:47
Mile 3: 6:45/21:32
Finish: 0:37/22:09

It was a bit chilly for a run, so before I left home I took a lap around my block to make sure I wasn’t over- or under-dressed, taped my foot, bought a croissant and apple, drank a little Gatorade, and headed uptown.

I arrived at the starting area around 8:30am, 30 minutes before the race start. I wasn’t sure how you warm up for a 5K, so I walked around a bit. All I really wanted was a tissue (I settled for my sleeves). By my quick survey there were far fewer people than I had become accustomed to seeing at Central Park races (confirmed by the NYRR race summary). I lined up at the 8:00 minute/mile marker, but in the antsy minutes leading up to the race the runners compressed forward.

Just as in previous races, the first mile was a maze of runners. I think some people line up how they dream of running, not what they’re actually capable of; it’s an interesting strategy that I should consider in the future. A few weeks ago NYRR announced that starting corrals will be preassigned based on previous times at races beginning April 20, 2008. It’s one thing when you pass someone running a minute or so behind pace, but when you’re passing walkers in the first mile, something’s not right.

Washington Heights is an ever-gentrifying neighborhood near the northern tip of Manhattan. The route followed narrow Fort Washington Avenue heading north toward The Cloisters (a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and then looped back around the other side of the street. In this area the buildings are all about 6 floors high and the common architecture blends streets together. There are very few storefronts along Fort Washington Avenue, just one residential building after another.

A nice bonus to this race were the bands playing music along the route. It wasn’t booming spin class music, but I can appreciate an Irish jig. How ingrained are my city skills — it took me a few blocks before I stopped paying attention to red stoplights!

It was relatively flat course with small rolling hills at first but then the route plunged toward the halfway mark. The run back up the hill went better than I expected and mentally made the rest of the course that much easier.

Just as with previous races, I couldn’t help wondering whether I gave it my all. I have no doubt I am capable of a better time than what I ran today, with or without the slow start.

* This race was debut of my new Timex Ironman watch, which I used to time my split times listed at top. The chronograph is the only function I’ve had an opportunity to test.

The Competitive Runner’s Handbook
by Bob Glover & Shelly-lynn Florence Glover
641 pages; $19.00

I’ve been using my lunch hours to carefully browse the many running books at Borders and finally purchased this title. I can certainly learn about running by trial-and-error, but why? Recovering from my first injury, I use my bandage instructions as a bookmark so that I remember how much I have at stake; that, or maybe so I learn how to wrap ankles really well.

The Competitive Runner’s Handbook is both a running narrative and reference manual. What it’s not is cutting-edge science.  At times, the author, Bob Glover, comes to mind-numbing conclusions such as dress warmly in winter and running is hard for fat people. Some material is repeated several times across chapters, but that’s almost required. In general, the book’s attitude to running is listen to the body.

While the book cover says “now completely revised,” this most current edition is copyrighted in 1999. The material is very relevant, almost timeless, but there’s only a short chapter at toward the end of the book on heart rate (instead of throughout) and there’s no mention at all of newer technology such as watches with foot pods or GPS, which are quickly becoming standard equipment for competitive runners.

The reader most likely to get the most out of this book is someone who has entered a few races and knows what the experience is like but wants to take a more rigorous approach to running. It’s also a good learning base for terminology and methods that may get brushed over in Runner’s World or trendy fitness books. Do you know what a fartlek is? This book will tell you.

This is a book that you’re unlikely to outgrow. It covers information from how to get into running to Elite training. I have no intention of ever winning a race, but the book shares even the psychological aspects of taking down your nemesis. Out of the thousands of runners at each NYRR race, I’d be lucky to recognize a familiar face let alone have someone out there to get me. Nevertheless, it was interesting to read what gunning for number one might be like.

Not surprisingly, my favorite chapters were on marathon training and competition. The Marathon Strategy chapter dissects every component of the marathon from what to eat to pacing to mental toughness. I feel better prepared for what’s in store for me after being primed by this book. I liked the numerous references to New York Road Runners Club — to which I belong — and Central Park, but it’s introduced so casually that it’s unlikely to annoy anyone not lucky enough to live in New York City.

I’ll definitely reference the book’s many ideas on workouts, training/mileage schedules, nutrition, and injury prevention (obviously), among many others over the next few months. The chapters are short and well-organized so it’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for quickly.

The author’s ‘I’ perspective is occasionally self-congratulatory and has been criticized in some reader reviews, but I think it makes the book more personable. Bob Glover’s many successes helps establish his credentials as a running expert and coach, but at the same time it’s balanced by his setbacks and what he’s learned from them.

Overall, I highly recommend the book.