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.

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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.

Hey There Delilah

February 28, 2008

I though this article was really interesting. Who knew?

Cohen, Adam Buckley. “There There, Track Star.” Runner’s World. March 2008: 34.

Hey There Delilah

Foot fault

February 25, 2008

The “tweaked foot” as I called it before has kept me from running for SEVEN days — unacceptable! After an initial misdiagnosis, Dr. Michael now says it’s an abductor hallucis strain. (It hurts most when I push down at the top of my arch just below the small bone protrusion on my left foot.)

I resumed lifting and spin class in the middle of the week and walking in more recent days, but this is something I never want to experience again. As you can imagine, I read endless websites on foot injuries that caused me more than one cold sweat. I’m really thankful I may entirely escape this injury and not have it reoccur. It happened early in the season and wasn’t running-related; once my foot heals I hope everything will be back to normal. I’ve been keeping it taped and otherwise not doing anything too adventurous, like yoga!

Injuries are nothing new to me. Having played indoor and beach volleyball for many years, injuries — especially foot/ankle injuries — happen all the time. (I’d say volleyball ranks alongside tennis as the most injury-prone sport where you’re never actually contacting your opponent.)

For whatever reason, I have never cared to get back to running as much as I do now. This morning I ran with my foot taped for 25 minutes at my normal pace without compensating my stride.

Untimed Run

February 22, 2008

Without a watch I feel like I’m running blind. I’ve never owned a sports watch because I never really cared how fast I ran. At most, I’d check the time before I left the house and check again on my return (if I hadn’t already forgotten the time I left). As I mentioned before, my marathon training retroactively started on January 1, officially started in early February, now officially officially begins when I get a watch — there will likely be another official start along the way.

I’ve been shopping around for a watch that can tell time, distance, and heart rate. There seem to be a few major brands that can do it all: Suunto, Polar, Timex, and Garmin. Because GPS was important to me and I didn’t want the inconvenience of GPS accessory pods as with the Suunto and Timex, the soon-to-be-released Garmin Forerunner 405 was the obvious choice. The previous versions of the Forerunner have had excellent reviews.

While the official release date for the Garmin Forerunner 405 was 2008Q1, the Garmin blog specified it’d be available by the end of February. Now, according to dealers, the date has been pushed back to March 20. I’m already in line for one! I purchased the Garmin from Amazon.com on February 7 [currently showing out of stock].

Update 3/2/2008: The Garmin Forerunner 405 release date was pushed back to 2008Q2 and Peg’s Posts on the Garmin blog says the Forerunner should “hit the ground running at the Boston Marathon,” which is on April 21. I’m still in line!

In the meantime, I decided to buy a basic Timex Ironman watch that’ll be helpful until my Garmin arrives and then will serve as a trusty back-up.

My first yoga class

February 16, 2008

I figured that if yoga was good enough for Tom Brady, it was good enough for me. Today at Equinox I tried yoga class for the first time.

My experience with yoga was so new/interesting/unusual that I feel like I might be spoiling it for others writing about it here. The instructor was tipped off that I was new right away by my problems opening the door — how could I have known it was sliding?

Required class materials were a yoga mat, foam block, and colorful blanket, all which were neatly stacked against the wall. The class started with the instructor offering a prayer-like testament to honor President’s Day. Then the class chanted after the instructor in a mystical language. Amazingly, it seemed most everyone knew the words. The instructor progressed into a series of yoga poses; those poses I remember include “Downward Dog,” “Plank,” and “Warrior I”. When I wasn’t spying on what my neighbors were doing, I managed to align my spine, neck, and legs as required, but aligning my soul will certainly take more practice. I just went with the flow.

Obviously I didn’t get very much out of the class, but I can’t discount yoga entirely. Just as with running, it’d be foolish to expect benefits right away, especially when as unprepared as I was. I did find some of the stretches interesting and potentially relaxing. The real question is whether my one hour of time might have been better spent running or lifting. Maybe Tom Brady can help me out with my poses and I can show him how to handle the Giants’ defense.

Later on, sometime between yoga and an evening walk, I managed to tweak my foot. Dr. Scholl’s Arch Supports: -$10.99.

Lifting, running, spinning…

February 14, 2008

It took me a few weeks to settle into a workout schedule. I go to the gym twice a day. Mornings I alternate between running on the treadmill and spin class. In the evening I follow a three-day rotation: legs/shoulders, triceps/chest, and biceps/back. I do at least three exercises targeting each area and abs work every other day. Sure, rest is important, but I don’t schedule it since there are enough days when I can’t make it to the gym. I entirely expect the twice-daily regiment to end once I start increasing mileage.

It’s cold outside so I run on a treadmill; par for course is 25 minutes of either a flat, fast run, or the treadmill Cascades program, which is constant pace over two severe inclines.

My best discovery so far is spin class! The concept is easy: the instructor shouts whether to pedal fast or slow; set resistance easy or hard (simulating hills); and stand or sit. However, there’s plenty of room for improvisation. Are those numbers resistance or speed? How do you go from 70% to 80% resistance when the dial has no numbers and no arrows? And most commonly, what did the instructor just say?? I might have started spinning to spare my knees, but I continue it for the music! The tunes are typically remixes of popular dance music and at Equinox, the bass pounds so hard, you might think you’re at Abercrombie & Fitch.

Not much to love

February 13, 2008

Let me just say it, I don’t love running and I maybe never will. Running is monotonous, solitary, sometimes painful, and requires significant time dedication. This list is not exhaustive.

When I tell friends about my marathon ambitions, the first question is typically “Why??” I hope to provide a well-constructed argument soon; for now, it’s because running is hard. Ironically, all the reasons I dislike running are the reasons why I do it. If marathon running was easy, it wouldn’t be worth my time.

It’s hard to imagine running for hours at a time, so I hope there’s some trick. There’s probably good reason why books on motivation and books on running are paired together.

Running can be made fun, like the real kind. When I lived in Stockholm, Sweden, near my apartment was a long winding dirt trail that dove between trees and flirted with the water’s edge. The trail had blind corners, rocks, steep elevation changes, and embankments. Everyday I’d try to run it faster and the fancy footwork kept it interesting. Trails are to running what moguls are to skiing – amazing!

Love it or hate it, in the end – we’ve all experienced it – the satisfaction from completing a long hard run is incredible.

Official races thus far

February 12, 2008

This is a catch-up entry describing the three runs I’ve completed this year. Before this year I had run two organized 5ks, both when I was in junior high school.

Emerald Nuts Midnight Run 4M
Central Park, New York, NY
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

This New Year’s Eve 4-mile fun run is where I retrospectively mark the start of my marathon training. In the days leading up to the run I made sure I could survive 4M because returning from a long break from running, I wasn’t so sure. This race is a New Year’s party with DJ, costume contest, give-aways, and a countdown to midnight that kicked off the race. It was all quite remarkable: we ran as fireworks exploded above and alcohol-free champagne hydration was provided at the 2-mile mark. I’d definitely do it again. The race was not officially scored; my net time was 31:52 (7:53 pace).

NYRR Fred Lebow Classic 5M (Q)
Central Park, New York, NY
Saturday, January 12, 2008

The 5M Fred Lebow Classic was my first official qualifying race. Not knowing how well I’d run 5 miles and not wanting to be nuisance to faster runners, I started inside the 9:00 pace marker. Instead, I think I became a nuisance to slower runners. My official time was 39:18 (7:51 pace).

NYRR Gridiron Classic 4M (Q)
Central Park, New York, NY
Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Gridiron Classic is a 4-mile race held in the spirit of the Super Bowl! It was amazing to see so many runners. I again started at around the 8:30 pace marker after already twice demonstrating I was 40 seconds faster – fast runner, slow learner apparently! The first mile was spent weaving around people, but at mile 2 the road opened up. My official time was 31:12 (7:48 pace).

Prediction 1

February 11, 2008

I have a habit of soliciting people’s guesses and predictions. So here is mine….

I’ll complete my first marathon in 3 hours 50 minutes (8:50 pace). I figure if my current pace is around 7:50 for a 4-5 mile run, tacking on a minute per mile seems reasonable.

It’s been easy running a few miles at a time, but once I cross 8 miles it’ll be unchartered territory. While the running will turn longer and more difficult, the biggest challenge will be staying focused and to not let my next big idea become my next big distraction. Marathon training will take eight or nine months of almost daily dedication. Knowing this, I started this blog to keep me accountable.

By far, by farrr, my biggest concern is getting hurt. Pretty much anything can be overcome; injuries are the only show-stopper.