Sunday, December 18, 2011

Birthday Run

Lately it's been hard to get out the door to run. My hip has been acting up since the Turkey Trot and there's been chiropractor drama. As a result I've been in some pain even while just sitting around and walking. That combined with short cold days has made it very difficult for me to run regularly. 

Sometimes when I'm not following a specific program if something goes wrong it becomes too easy to come up with reasons not to run. One day it's the throat. The next day it's the low temps. Then it's a faulty alarm clock. Or the rain. And before I know it, days go by and it gets harder and harder. I find it better to not think about whether to run, but just run.

But to switch that back on sometimes I need a reason to run. Without a race in the calendar, I found that reason in a birthday party brunch run.

It was my birthday yesterday and these lovely ladies helped me start celebrating my birthday right.  

Birthday run, not in our birthday suits.

It was very cold and the loop felt rough. I felt very out of shape and almost can't believe how I managed the Jingle Bell Jog just last weekend. But it was great being out there with some of my favorite running buddies.

The plan started low key and grew naturally. I bumped into Jess while commuting and we both wanted to get together and run on a weekend and the first available weekend was my birthday. Then I met up with Lindsay at the Jingle Bell Jog. Add Jess and we had a party. The four of us hadn't run together since Summer Streets and I was very excited about running with them. Then a couple of days ago Samantha asked Linna and me if we wanted to go for a run that evening. That didn't work, but how about run & brunch?

Brunch not pictured. Gone. There was an amazing sweet potato waffle, though.

People who run in groups used to baffle me. When I started running part of what I loved about it was the simplicity of it. Lace up and go. Whenever, wherever. The idea of running with others and having to coordinate schedules, hurry to meet, wait for someone to show up, seemed like an unnecessary complication. One I most definitely did not want to deal with. I was happy to run alone. 

What I didn't realize then was that running, like so many other things in life, becomes even better when enjoyed with good company.

Thank you for a lovely birthday!

Friday, December 16, 2011

NYRR Jingle Bell Jog Recap

Runners looking fierce in their Jingle Jog best.

It's hard to take themed races seriously. Particularly one where runners wear jingles in their shoes. This was my third year running the NYRR Jingle Bell Jog in Prospect Park. The first year I ran it in icy weather in a snow man hat and knee high red socks with white trim.

I was very happy with my festive outfit combining form (cute hat and socks) with function (running top & tights.) Then I started running. The socks were uncomfortable and the puffy ball at the tip of my hat was not so fluffy as it bounced against my head with every step I took.

The second year I wore an elf hat which I'd stuffed high with packing paper so it wouldn't bounce against the back of my head. It rustled, but it allowed me to run. It also made me very easy to find since it stood about two feet high over my head. According to unsubstantiated reports, it looked very funny  bobbing above the crowd as I ran.

This year I wanted a PR. I couldn't find my elf hat, so I wore the santa hat to the park but checked it before the race.

NYRR made PR'ing easy by changing the race from a 4M to a 6k. I didn't beat my Turkey Trot pace, but  I did manage to beat my NYRR time and got under 9:00min/min. I'm excited about my next bib with a lower best time listed. That might be one of my favorite things about NYRR races - watching the listed best pace go down.

Another win: my brightroom photo. I've been working on my breathing and, through it, in perfecting a focused emotionless stare. Working on it.
See? Getting there!
Other fun stuff: got to hang out with Idiot Runner and Lindsay before the race, I got to say hi to Michelle during, got a post race bagel and a quick hello from Lauren, and brunch with Don after.

NYRR races for Jan-March are now open for registration so I got to register with my new and improved time. Unfortunately, since I waited until after I had a chance to lower them I got shut out of the Manhattan Half. So go sign up for races right away if you want to make sure you get your spots.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sports Photography

The inaugural Brooklyn Marathon was this morning. It was a lovely event with the feel of a local 5k. It was so good that I found myself wishing I'd run it.

Since my duties as a marshal did not keep me 100% occupied, I decided to multitask by trying to capture pictures of the amazingly badass Samantha as she ran the marathon. Samantha had run the Staten Island Half with me and managing to get the PR that eluded me. Then she ran the New York City Marathon on Nov 6th. Since that must have been a piece cake, she decided to run another marathon two weeks later.

The Brooklyn Marathon course was multiple loops of the park. Since she was set to run by my eight different times, I was sure I'd be able to get at least a good picture of her.

Here she comes, here she comes!

Go, Sam, go! She's on the left. Ok That was a little too far. Next loop I'll try to catch her closer.

Not Samantha. I waited too long to snap this one.

Then I tried to capture the PPTC posse. It was fun to cheer loudly whenever a PPTC member ran by but this group was particularly exciting. They were running in formation for the first few loops and they looked formidable. 
Ok. They did look great. It's not my fault runner #245 blocked my view.
Then it was time to try to catch Samantha again.
There she is! On the far right. Still looking good on her nth loop.

There were several more attempts after that, but you get the idea.  I did manage to get a picture of her where she's not only in the frame but also clearly visible. But that was after she was done running after having completed her second marathon PR in November.

Read her recap here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New York City Marathon

It was the biggest and most fun block party in the city and not even a seriously compromised MTA scheduled would keep New York from mobilizing to cheer for its runners. I'd decided not to run it this year, but that didn't mean I wasn't going to participate.

First I'd be cheering, then running. Spectating on 1st Avenue where runners are starting to get tired but are still far from the finish line was inspiring. Strangers cheering for strangers. And then, I recognized some blue hair! It was Luau a fellow dailymiler. He stopped for a picture with my run twitter sign then went back to running.

I was cheering with a few members of our twitter book club, while cheering for other member of the same book club who were running. But cheering for the New York City Marathon is a needle in a haystack enterprise that fancy running tracking apps and congested networks haven't been able to conquer.

Most of the people I was hoping to cheer for must have run past me without my noticing. Fortunately  I did manage to spot the one friend I was determined to find: Lizz. My dear Lizz. Running buddy, broomballer, fellow Ragnar and PPTC teammate and member of our local neighborhood brunching mafia was running her first marathon and I wanted to help.

I'd peeled off my outer layers until I was dressed as a runner, leaving my bag behind. When Lizz got to where we were I jumped onto the course and we ran/walked through Upper Manhattan and the Bronx and back to Manhattan. At some point deep in the Bronx when Central Park felt like an impossibly faraway place, Lizz said in a half whimper "this is hard."

If it were easy, everyone would do it, was my response.

Running with Lizz.

Back in Manhattan, Amy was able to catch me banditing with Lizz.

Check out Luau's video for a fun on the ground perspective of the New York City Marathon. Congratulations to everyone who ran yesterday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A walk in the woods

Running path
Sometimes it takes a walk to find a good run. I'd allowed myself to take a week to recover from the NYRR Staten Island Half. I've been biking instead and I've been allowing ideas of what's next to tumble freely in my head without coming up with a specific plan.

I'd been experiencing loop fatigue. It's a common ailment among city park runners and its most dangerous symptom is a reluctance to run.

I'd managed to avoid this last year while training for the ING New York City Marathon by staying away from running the main Prospect Park loop. Instead I'd come up with a variety of street routes. This year, as I work on developing a smooth pace, I've running most of my mileage on loops that don't include multiple corner stops, hopping over supermarket crates and dodging live chickens.

Unidentified mushrooms
Yesterday I went forging for mushrooms with Jess and though we didn't find what we were looking for, as we walked through Prospect Park exploring the ground I found myself seeing the park in a different way.

Everyone knows the Prospect Park time-space continuum expands when you're running through its backwoods. It turns out the same thing happens when you're walking. Though at first we didn't see any mushrooms. After  while space expanded and we started seeing them everywhere and we found paths I'd never taken before.  I was jealous of the runners on these paths.

Other unidentified mushrooms
I went out for mushrooms and came back with a run. I'm looking forward to finding that path by the water again on my run tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Staten Island Half Marathon

Sunrise over Manhattan

This was the view at the start. Something faraway you could see only if you squinted through the fog. Like my PR.

I'd been training for what I knew was an ambitious PR - I was looking to knock twenty minutes off my half-marathon time. Between my first and my second half marathons I chewed up thirteen minutes and spit them out nonchalantly by the side of the road. I figured if I worked hard enough I could get close to a two-hour half. I'd worked hard and gotten faster; the weekend before the Staten Island Half I ran a 5k and bested my time by two minutes.

As I walked into the corral last Sunday I was listening to the muppets playing Mahna Mahna and was excited to run my best half to date. I was missing my training partner Lindsay who had gotten hurt and Samantha who had a ferry difficult time making it to Staten Island but when the corrals collapsed and we started to move, I was ready to roll.

Pacing is not my strong suit and I have a tendency to get carried away so I was trying to focus on not going faster than a 9:14min/mi pace, but also no slower than 9:30min/mi. I managed to sort of stick to that and was having a great time until about mile 8 when my stomach decided the race was over.

With a high sun on course with no shade, temperatures creeping up near 80 and my stomach being squeezed from the inside out, I decided to slow down for a couple of miles. I thought if I rested from miles 8-10 by going down to my easy pace I'd cool down, recover, then race the last 5k of the course and still get about a 2:05 for a fifteen minute PR.

Slowing down didn't do the trick. I felt my body was either going to explode or I was going to pass out if I kept running. So I started run/walking hoping I'd start feeling better and be able to go back to running. At around mile 10 Samantha passed me and urged me to join her, I waved her on and wished her luck (she went on to an amazing breakthrough PR). Later, a fellow PPTC member from my speed group joined me. I tried to keep up with her but after a few yards I knew that would not be possible.

Please let me get out of here before I puke.
For the first eight miles I'd managed to stay on target for the PR I wanted and had even managed be about a minute and half under. As I shuffled along I kept re-calculating and trying to make deals with myself. I was done racing, but if I could stick to my easy pace I could still finish with a decent time. C'mon! You can still shave 10min! You can do five! But doing the old lady shuffle was all I could handle without turning into sludge and even then I had to take walk breaks. By the time I approached the finish line and heard Jenn, another PPTC member, cheering for me I was starting to feel disoriented enough not to understand why she was calling me.

It took me two days to recover from the wicked race hangover I got from this.

My final time was 2:19:09 for a not too glorious 51second personal record.

It's a bittersweet new personal record. It's not the one I wanted but getting so sick in a race feels like a sort of accomplishment. Maybe it's a rite of passage, or maybe it's the knowledge that I gave it everything I could give it that day.

It also means I still have a huge record ahead of me.  I'm looking forward to my next half-marathon and I plan to get to the starting line with the same Mahna Mahna energy.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


The Liz Padilla Memorial 5k is one of my favorite races. It's for a good cause so it get points right there and it's in Prospect Park. Sure, not exactly a flat course but it's where I run weekly so I have the home team advantage. I know where the turns are, when to speed up, when to slow down, and Zoo hill doesn't scare me. It's debatable how much of an advantage it is to know a course that consists of a loop where you'd have to work very hard to get lost, but still.

Secondly, it's an under-advertised quirky race with a small field and it's beginner friendly. On the walk to the start line one teenager told another: "Dude, there's a ton of people behind us! We can win this!" I managed to restrain myself from patting him on the head.

And lastly, besides the traditional ugly race tee (not too ugly this year) it's got the best swag bag. See exhibit A above. That's a real fabric tote in hunter green. It included: a recycle-this-not-that decal, a Road Id leaflet with a discount coupon, a miniature pen, a travel sized toothpaste & toothbrush kit, and a "Need a lawyer?" magnet. Who doesn't want one of those for their fridge?

But that's not all!

There was also a packet of BBQ popchips (gone!), a Vitamin Water bottle, a Butterfinger which is something I've never tried, a plastic cup from Deno's Wonder Wheel in Coney Island, and a John Mayer cd. Isn't he pretty?

In past years I've traded CDs with other friends running since there tends to be a nice assortment including holiday music, but I didn't have a chance to do that this year.

This wast the last item in the bag: there were three Rebootizer packets. It doesn't have anything to do with booty but it's supposed to Reboot you. It's a weirdly floppy package with water at the bottom, powder on top - a squeeze, shake, tear and drink situation. According to the information on the back it helps "prevent the after-effects of food and drink over-indulgence by supporting your body's natural detoxification process." Made in Spain, it looks like it's mostly water, Vitamin C and few easily recognizable and pronounceable herbal supplements (dandelion root, licorice root, angelica root, etc...) For best results, it says, drink before bed or after a meal.

This reminds me of a diet obsessed aunt. While I was growing up, there was a period of time when if she overate, she'd have two clementines on top of that. She swore it helped her.

Since I missed my chance to have it after brunch - not saying whether I missed my chance to overindulge or to try the Rebootizer after the celebratory post-race meal - I might try it before going to be last night. The question is, should I eat a lot to give it a fair try?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Overheard at Tunnel to Towers

The full race recap is on the NYDailyNews Running Dialogue. You can find it here.

The race was a memorable one and there were a few things I didn't mention on the guest post for lack of space. One of my favorite details from the race was a conversation I overheard while waiting to be herded to the starting line.

Him, telling her, both of them wearing sneakers with still sparkly white soles: "So when you run a lot, you have to be careful with your skin. If you watch a marathon you see guys with red streaks down their shirts from their nipples bleeding. So there's this thing that runners use. It's called GU and they put it all over themselves to keep from chafing. They smear it all over!"

No wonder I haven't been able to tolerate GU. I've been doing it WRONG!

But beyond that, I found this exchange both cute and funny. They were speaking of half marathons and marathons as these wild things they've heard of on par with alligators in sewers and flesh eating bananas. It wasn't really that long ago that I'd lived blissfully unaware of GU, Body Glide, and the shower test.

Though part of my was laughing at this, it was also a good reminder that we're all experts and newbies and that the distance between both is small. Where you stand on that line is not only relative, but is also always changing which is why it's good to be nice to those just getting started.

I hope they had a good race.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ready for the worst, hoping for the best

As most of you know, there was a hurricane on track to become the worst natural disaster ever to hit NYC. It was due to hit us on Sunday morning and the city swiftly went into a state of high alarm, all permits were canceled including the one for the NYRR Bronx Half Marathon.

I was ready to run the Bronx Half. Sort of. I'd made plans to stay at Tracy's the night before - two stops away from the starting line - so I wouldn't have commuting problems. In order to make it fit into my Runner's World Sub 2:00 plan, I'd taken miles here and there throughout the week so my long run could add up to 13.1. I was planning on running it at the 10:30 pace the program dictated for my easy runs on that week. I was not going to race it, but just run it as a long training run.

The thing is that though that pace is now an "easy" pace for me, if I had run the Bronx Half like that, it would've been a PR.

But I since I'd been having a lot of minor and not so minor problems running lately, I was also preparing for the worst. I was fearing having to quit mid-race, ending up in a medical tent, or ending up so beaten up that I wouldn't be able to continue with my ten-week plan.

That didn't happen, but neither did the best. The best would've been having an amazing race.

What I got instead was a lost weekend. It didn't have the drama of catastrophe, but neither did I manage to make it an amazing weekend.

Kind of like Irene. A lot of people are joking and even complaining about how lame it was, or how much of an overreaction all the preparation was. I was prepared (see hottie in the poncho pictured above - I got him to keep me company during the storm) and the relative mildness of the storm left me restless.

The hype, combined with the all the preparation had left us all expecting something. When that didn't come, most of us expressed it as disappointment. The storm was a let down. But I don't think anyone is really sorry it didn't hit NYC hard. It's just that we all lost this weekend and didn't get much in return.

Including those of us who signed up for NYRR races this weekend. No returns, no refunds. But not having to live through a major disaster, and not having gotten injured running a half-marathon - I think that's pretty good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Ten-Week Plan

Between placing my minimalist experiment on hold due to Achilles problems and having problems figuring out pacing, my running was suffering. I was randomly going on runs here and there. Some were fun, but many more were unsatisfying mostly because I'd set out to go for distance and find myself going out too soon, too hard and having to stop after a few miles.

I had to toss my five borough goal out the window when I realized I was too hurt to run Queens. As the last week of July drew to a close, I realized that if I didn't get my ass in gear I wouldn't reach any of my goals for the year.

With that, and an automated email from Bart Yasso, I was back in training. I'd signed up for the Runner's World Challenge and decided to go for a big goal: run a sub 2:00 Staten Island Half. An excited tweet about it led me to find a running partner working towards the same goal and off we went.

Aided by ice and a Strassburg Sock, the first couple of weeks went by without much of a hitch. I skipped some of the scheduled speed workouts in favor of speed training with my team, and I shifted the workouts around, but I mostly stuck to the plan.

And the plan was working! I was getting noticeably better. The "easy" pace with which I'd struggled at the beginning of the first week, was a breeze by the end of the second as I passed other runners on the Brooklyn Bridge. The third week had me scheduled for a tempo run, which I'd never done.

This workout called for me to warm up, then run three miles at a specific pace. The problem was that this pace was 9:09min/mi. That's faster than my fastest race and I'd have to do it without cheering crowds and without a finish line. The fear of not being able to do it almost kept me from getting out the door. Halfway through the workout as sweat flew from my elbows and I felt myself struggling to breathe, that fear almost made me quit.

I was running at a fast, challenging pace. I didn't have long to go and I was sure that even if I didn't make the exact goal, I'd be close. But it was a very hard pace for me and the idea of running thirteen miles at this pace seemed impossible. My body started tensing up, my mind getting ready for defeat, when I had to remind myself that no one was asking me to run thirteen miles at that pace now. All I had to then was three miles.

Stick to the plan is all I have to do. If I look at what the plan calls for in a few weeks, I start freaking out and I have to keep reminding myself to give it a chance. Give myself a chance. Assuming it's a good plan, as long as I focus on what I have to do each day, and then the day after, and do it, slowly, what once seemed impossible will be within reach.

Which is probably why self-help books are so appealing. Do this, and you'll get that. But outside of running and other athletic pursuits, ten week plans with clearly defined goals are probably no more than powerful marketing preying on the wishful.

Maybe so is this plan. Maybe all of my plans and nothing more than cotton candy wishful thinking that will melt away before I get a chance to taste success.

But I'd rather aim high and fall short, than not give myself a chance to fly.

With that tempo run, I got a clear taste of it.

Read the training report on that tempo run here.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Governor's Island 10k Recap

Ferry rides are a good way to start a race. Running this one was a last minute decision mostly based on being able to also volunteer for it. I'd heard good things about it - fast, flat course, gorgeous views - and I'd been jonesing for a race since Ragnar NY and the Brooklyn Half were like over a month ago.

A ferry full of runners is even better than the subway and the 360 view from Governor's Island was a treat. The course had so many turns I could never remember what was coming up next so I kept being surprised: the Verrazano! The city! NJ? Brooklyn!

It had a small race feel - only 758 participants - but with big guns behind it. A lot of people complain about big corporate races. As long as they don't stamp out the other races, I'm not only ok with them, but I like them since these races tend to be friendlier towards newbie runners. Also, since it was so small, it was easier to find others and I got to hang out for a little while with twitter dailymilers Linna, Mike, and Eva, in addition to the usual suspects - Michael and Steve.

There was a small festival area with a D.J./emcee. There were bike blended smoothies and a composting site.

Seriously. They were teaching the kids how to compost and the garbage bins differentiated between different kinds of recyclables, food waste, and actual garbage. Swoon!

There were no corrals so everyone went with the canine method; guess your own pace relative to those around you by checking each other's butts. It was all very friendly. I chatted with runners near me and found out for many of them it was their first time doing that distance. Some had done a 5k before, many had never done a race and everyone was very excited.

I was also nervous. The problem is that since the Brooklyn Half thanks to the barefoot bug I'd only been running one to two miles at a time. I knew I wasn't ready to run that much in my new no-shoe shoes, so I chose my racing flats.

I used to love them. They were light and fast compared to my other shoes. Unfortunately, my bright yellow Brooks Launch now felt big and clunky compared to what I've been running in lately. My feet felt wrong in them and it was hard to keep my form.

Though I generally prefer to run alone, I ended up tacking myself to a runner wearing vibrams and matching his form. He turned out to be the best running partner ever. I picked him up at around mile two and I think I was able to hold my form for the rest of the race. He was gracious about it and the miles flew by all the way to a 5min PR.

My favorite thing? First place finishers male and female got a real hand hewn axe instead of a trophy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Toe down

It happened while I was getting ready this morning. I dropped a very heavy mug on my toe and it went into technicolor mode. I jumped around and cursed and swore at the pain, but continued with my morning routine. But when I started to get dressed for my run I realized it was hurting to walk on it and I went into full twitterpanic.

I felt like such an idiot. I've been trying to be careful with my feet. I've been holding back and steadily building strength. My biggest fear with this transition into minimalist footwear is a stress fracture so of course I had to go and drop something heavy on my foot!

Fortunately some nice people on twitter reminded me to ice it. The advice was mixed between running and not running. Part of me wanted to run anyway. Yesterday's run was so amazing I was eager to get back out there. I'm also very stressed out and going for a run would have helped. But I know that if I'm angry and frustrated I'm more likely to want to push through. And pushing through pain today might do more damage.

I'm not good when I'm injured. Blood I can handle - pass me some tape and I'll butterfly stitch myself. Impact pain I can take - it was a week before I realized I'd fractured my eye socket. But give me something that feels like an injury even just a tiny bit and I start manically swinging from panic to despair. The world is going to end because my pinky toe is a little bruised.

No it's not. At least I know it's not, but I feel like it is and I need to keep myself in check. Heck, I have friends battling actual injuries who could give me a reality check. Still, inside I'm thrashing like a wounded animal. I feel like a cat I had. He used to howl in anguish like someone was pulling him apart limb for limb whenever he had to ride in a car in his carrier.

That's kind of how I feel right now.

It's probably just a little bruised and I should be able to run tonight. Amy says I don't need my pinky anyway even while running barefoot.

So if you see me howling on a corner, please tell me to knock it off and go for a run. And if you were wishing I'd run less, or at least run less on lonely trails (I'm looking at you, Evan) quit it! If something else falls on my feet I'm coming after you!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prospect Park Trails

After two weeks of alternating between holding steady and slowly increasing distance, my calves have finally started to adjust and I thought I was ready to jump to about three miles. So I laced up the minimus and decided to hit the trails. I biked to the park to conserve mileage so I could do as much of the distance as possible off road.

I parked by the Pavilion and headed East on the bridle path next to the main loop until an opening into the trails appeared. From then on, I just followed a trail until it ended or hit a road, then I backtracked until the last fork and kept going until the next end.

It was a little bit like running in a maze. I tried finding trails I'd explored last year but found them closed. I was worried I'd run out of trails too quickly but instead I found paths and arches I'd never seen.

Off-road Prospect Park seems to shift in shape as trees trick you into running in loops and making you go up and down until you feel you're in an area much bigger than the park. Also, it's so dense and quiet it's like you've left Brooklyn. Even though this was during the morning workout rush, I only saw a couple other runners on the trails. Both of them looked as giddy as I felt.

I might have to work on my self-portraiture skills if I'm going to keep this up. The shoes, the calves, the form were such a non-issue I was just having fun running and I was not looking forward to having to turn back. Since I'd decided to run for about thirty minutes I hadn't brought water with me.

The one fountain I found when a trail met the road failed me and I got lost and couldn't find my way out of the woods and back to where I had left my bike on time for my running cut-off. Instead of about three miles, I probably did about four and a half. I swear I didn't mean to!

When I came out of the woods I landed in off-leash central.

Which is exactly how I felt after this run.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vibram it again

Since nothing broke after my first run, I went ahead and held it steady. Sure, my calves were sore but not in a scary I'm going to break kind of sore but in a pleasant I'm getting stronger way. For my second run I decided to skip the injini socks. With them, the vibrams had felt a little tight and I wanted to know if it would be more comfortable to run without them. It was. But I also felt the ground more.

The night before I'd helped out a friend by acting as her makeup artist for an appearance on British morning TV show Lorraine. Breakfast TV, they call it. The only problem is that breakfast there is the middle of the night here. By the time we were done and in a car coming back to Brooklyn it was close to four am. I decided to come straight home, catch what sleep I could and deal with my bike later.

With the KSO's on my feet, I walked 1.5 miles, then ran the rest of the way to her place - about 1.2 miles more. Towards the end, I felt like sole on the balls of my feet were starting to get raw. I definitely missed the little extra protection the socks gave me.

By Grand Army Plaza there's this area where the ground is covered in these little tiles set out in a parquet formation. I'd barely been aware of it before. It's kind of pretty, I guess. Is it tile? Whatever it is, my feet hated it! All those little sharp edges attacked me, but they did help me speed up the pace.

Calves, achilles, the rest of the legs, all fine. Something I've noticed in these two weeks is that the only aches I've had have been soreness. No tightness (more on that later) and I haven't felt some niggling issues I'd been having (left hamstring, ITB). Granted, I'm running a lot less so it could just be all that rest I've been getting but it doesn't feel that way. I'm also not starting out with sore stiff joints and needing two miles to get my body going. I'm only doing a couple of ankle jumps and going.

My feet were fine. No blisters, no rawness; the skin was just a little sore. I put some moisturizer on and that was the end of that.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vibram running

My first stop looking for my new stride was finally daring to run in my vibrams. Though I love how they feel when hanging out, I'd heard such horror stories about achy calves and upset achilles tendons I'd been too scared to try. Particularly since I had a pretty serious achilles tendon injury in 2006. It was not an injury from running, but it's one of those old injuries that flare up every once in a while.

So. First run.

I thought I'd wear these toe socks. When you've got so little between your feet and the mean Brooklyn streets, every little bit of fiber counts. I'd heard you needed to start slow, so I decided to go for a mile. That's a short distance, right? So I went on a wonton soup run. I ran a few blocks north and did a short loop that ended at my favorite local Chinese restaurant.

The first few steps when I started running were terrifying. I was afraid I'd hit the pavement hard with my heel and it would crack. My heel, not the pavement.

Fortunately, it seems I'm not as much of a heel striker as I thought I was. I've been deliberately avoiding a heel strike for the past year or so but since I hadn't tested I wasn't sure whether I could keep it up.

Running in the vibrams felt a little skinny dipping. It's the same, but better. You feel everything more and it's exhilarating to the point of almost feeling naughty. It surprised me how much fun it was to feel the ground below me in such detail. Pavement unevenness was much more noticeable as were the changes in surface.

Also, my stride felt springier than I thought it would. In a way, I felt my run was lighter and kind of bouncier than usual. I left all gadgets behind and tried to focus on form. Stay on the forefoot. Make sure I lift my feet as if I'm stepping over logs. Calves going whoa!

Because I was doing such a short distance and was having so much fun I found myself going at what felt like a much faster pace.

Day after: nicely sore in the calves and glutes. The kind of pain you get from muscles you haven't used much, not the kind of pain that signals injury. I like that kind of I'm getting stronger pain. I might have to forget about ever fitting into knee high boots again.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Looking for my mini

I've had these Vibram KSO's for bout a year. They got to hang out a bit here and there, mostly indoors, and they got to travel to Colombia for some beach and hiking fun, but until I heard Chris McDougal and Eric Orton talk last Saturday at Bookcourt and participated in the Naked Run I hadn't dared to run in them

The transition from motion stability to neutral to minimail has been slow, but I've decided it's time to take a leap and I'm ditching my regular shoes.

While I found myself a pair of minimalists I went on a few runs in the vibrams. They were unexpectedly fun, but I think it will be a while before I'll be able to run a half marathon in them, if ever.

I'll blog about the transition, the Aha! moment, and my first few runs with the KSO's later, but for now I'm going to jump straight to the shoes.

I went to Jack Rabbit Brooklyn looking for a non five-fingers minimalists. I tried and discarded two. The Merrel Pace Glove felt great on, but felt awkward running. The New Balance Minimus Trail felt great on and off the treadmill, but there seemed too much of a gap at the heel.

Enter Zappos.

I ordered the Sauconi Hattori (above). Extremely light, but I could tell it wouldn't work for me. It has a some outer arch support protection. It was fine on my right foot, but my left one has suffered some abuse in the past which affected the fit. I've torn my plantar fascia. That sometimes makes my left foot chub and squish out to the side. With the Hattori, my foot spilled over that support and I could tell that would be a hot spot while running. If you look at it carefully, you can see a tiny skinny red arrow pointing to the spot. Clearly I need to work on my photo editing skills.

Otherwise the shoe felt amazing. Wish it had fit me better at the arch.

Next was the VivoBarefoot Neo by Terra Plana. The sizing is different and even though I used the chart, it was clownishly big. The shoes seemed very nice - flat, light, comfortable - but because of the size I had to return them without even trying them on a treadmill.

Running in my vibrams was going well, but I was too impatient to wait to return the VivoBarefoot to get new ones - and my wallet could not stand carrying too many shoes at a time while the returns went through. So I decided to hit some running stores on Friday. Will tell you about that next. For now I'll just leave you with a gratuitous picture of mud. The KSO's do very well in the mud. Everyone else's shoes were shucked off their feet while I got to keep my grippy ones. This was while hiking with my brother in the Parque Tairona last December.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Woodstalkers in the news

For those of you who might have missed my post-a-link fest yesterday, my race recap is on the NYDaily News blog Running Dialogue.

On Thursday morning in between frenzied packing and last minute shopping for van supplies, I was trash talking with @linnaf on twitter. I was letting her hear all about how her team @doubleknots was going to get Woodstalked. Lauren from @NYDNrunning piped in and asked if either one of us wanted to write something for her blog.

I let her suffer for about a minute and a half before I jumped in and volunteered to send her pictures and write something.

What I didn't realize at the time is that I'd be trying to do this from a moving van. I haven't reached that skill level with my phone swiping. Plus, my phone was also the van's official safety phone and it had to stay in the van and be accesible to everyone in the van in case the organizers needed to contact us. (If any of you got any weird messages this weekend, it wasn't me. Must have been the woodstalk.) My phone was also being used for GPS navigation. Between picture taking, tweeting, assisting with GSP and being available for emergencies, my poor phone ended up even more exhausted than the runners and needed frequent charging.

I managed to send a couple of brief dispatches, but the bulk of the reporting ended up taking place as a recap, back in Brooklyn on Sunday night before the work week swallowed me.

Read the recap here!

But don't worry, I'll write some more about it later. I haven't told you yet about our interactions with the police.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Woodstalking, again

The Wodstalkers ran Ragnar New York again. Last year we ended up winning the prestigious Nom de Plume award with "I'm Woodstalking your Girlfriend." This year we dug deep and decided to question ourselves and others. We went with "Is That a Woodstalk in your Pocket?"

Ragnar tried to veto our name because of morality concerns. We went with the Dr. Seuss defense. Plus, with such a cute logo who could really object? (Thanks again, John!)

Pre-race drama included an injury flare up on one of our runners who didn't know if he'd be able to run at all, another runner dropping out the day before and last minute relay leg and van redistribution. After sorting all that out we managed to gather up - a full team of twelve - and set out to the real start of our race: team dinner.

The team in Williamsburg, ready to head upstate.

Pasta dinner and a few hours of sleep later, Van 1 showed up at the start line ready to go. Everybody quieted down for the safety briefing: to please follow all rules and don't get run over. Once that was done we got back to the music, the freebies, the costumes, the decorated vans, and the port-a-potties.

Van 1: Big Pappa and his ladies.

Something else that was fun about the start line, I discovered the whereabouts of Seal Team 6. They weren't going by that name and I'm not sure I got to see them of course, but I'm pretty sure it was them.

Race recap coming soon, both here and on the NYDaily News blog Running Dialogue. Yes! How cool is that? I was the NYDaily News Ragnar correspondent this weekend.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Some things can't be hurried

Like digestion. This morning I thought I'd skip my usual pre-run breakfast in favor of a bowl of cereal so I could get out for a run faster. Everything seemed to be moving along fine and I was ready to hit the road in record time.

It was a gorgeous morning. A little nippy but you could tell the cold had lost its heart and that spring was on its way. My feet were itching to eat some miles. With Mr. Timberlake in my ears, I was ready to bring Sexy Back.

The first mile went smoothly but soon after I started to doubt my choice for breakfast. All that fiber!

I managed to stick to my planned route, but my stride was clenched towards the end. Not sexy.

Sorry, Justin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's not you, it's me

Garmin, I know it could be awesome between us. I know it's my fault. I haven't tried hard enough. Even worse, I keep forgetting you exist but then expect to be ready to go out on a run with me the minute I grab my shoes.

You've tried. You've valiantly stood outside my apartment building scanning for satellites with your best "beam me up, Scotty" smile only to then realize you were out of batteries and not up for a run. Sure, I'd had my energy all sorted with shot blocks but I'd forgotten to charge you. Other times I'd be a few miles into a run when I realized I'd left part of you - the heart monitor! - at home.

I've heard great things about you. I know you could help me get faster. I know your beepy company could help me stay on pace for long runs and I'd love to get to know you better.

Sometimes I can be stubborn and set in my ways. I've loved and lost before only to find again and I'm having trouble adjusting to new buttons, but please give me a chance.

Would charging you nightly help? How about going on double dates with other runners and their Garmins? Would you like that?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Will run for cupcakes

You'll have to take my word - it was delicious.

While volunteering at the PPTC Cherry Tree Run I found myself jealous of runners. Though I was having fun cheering, I wanted to run. Later, while discussing race plans over brunch I realized it was time to get back in a training plan. NYRR's Coogan's is around the corner and Ragnar is just a little over 10 weeks away.

The hills of Fort Tryon Park would laugh their inclines off if I showed up for Coogan's without training. Besides, a neighbor had promised me a key lime cupcake.

So I hit the hills yesterday afternoon. It was a moderate workout to ease back into it, making sure I left enough in the tank for another run today, but it was still a five miler worthy of a cupcake.

It was a great cupcake.

Disclaimer: Not in any way affiliated with @run4cupcakes though I probably would enjoy running (for cupcakes) with her.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Can you hear me now?

It's not that I've fantasized about having my voice heard booming everywhere but I enjoyed being in charge of the bad boy pictured above.

As a member of the Prospect Park Track Club - the best and smiliest running team in New York- I was asked to volunteer for today's race. It was the Cherry Tree 10M race or 3 person relay. Since I'd decided not to run, at about the third email I caved in and agreed to do my part for club.

A group of us was assigned to the relay exchange area. We needed to keep the runners doing 10M out the area, the relay runners organized. Part of keeping the relay teams organized was to be further ahead on the course calling out runners' numbers as they approached so their team members would be ready to start running.

Enter the bullhorn.

The other volunteers seemed shy to be in charge of it, so I did my part for the team and grabbed the bullhorn by the handle. I welcomed runners, pointed them towards baggage, told them to hurry to the bottom of the hill for the race start, gave instructions to the relay teams, and got ready to cheer runners and call out team numbers as the front runners finished their first lap of the park.

This happy state of affairs lasted as long as the battery which unfortunately was only a little over an hour. After that I was told transmission got increasingly warbly until it was lost and the number calling continued by radio. After that it was just me and my voice.

Volunteering for the race was a lot of fun and I got to see plenty of friendly faces but after standing around in the cold for a few hours I was jealous of the runners. They looked toasty. And I might need to be on cough drops for the rest of the day.

I'll start after my run.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Halving Marathons

Time moves more slowly for some. For me, it's time to go public on my New Year's resolutions. I have noticed it's February, but I figured it was time set my running goals on blog.

I'm not running any marathons this year.

I loved training and running the NYC marathon last year. I loved the excitement of having such a big project ahead of me and I loved giving Hal Higdon a run of my schedule. I basked in the sweet tyranny of early mornings and enforced soberness combined with the weekend night camaraderie of twit-runners preparing for long runs.

And the long runs! On Friday nights I had a standing date with myself at my favorite restaurant to carb up. It freed me from social commitments and it gave me an excuse a reason for a quiet evening with great food and a good book. The long runs gave me views of New York and of myself I'd never seen and it was intoxicating. Running from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back to Brooklyn I felt strong. I felt I could do anything.

Which is why I'm taking that I-can-do-anything feeling and applying it elsewhere.

I'm still going to run, but I want to apply elsewhere the focus and determination required for training for a marathon. I want to put that focus back into my writing.

So this year instead of running marathons, I'll run half-marathons. Five of them. One in each borough. Plus Ragnar, of course. The gang is getting back together and going Woodstalking.

One half-marathon down: Manhattan. It was fourteen degrees. The windchill was four degrees and it was sunny with a chance of awesomeness. With spotty winter training slowed down by a lung that's giving me trouble, I had no idea what to expect of this half. My longest run in a while had been my easy five-ish miler on my birthday and though I'd been running five miles regularly, I'd gone on no long runs for this.

It was fine. It was better than fine. It was so much fun I might even write a race report.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gridiron report: Why I race

The blog police is very active around the track at the Park Slope Armory and I got a citation from them last week. Even though the strongest complaint was about the missing post: NYCM Report Part 4 and I'm missing five more reports from races I've done since, I'll risk a more serious summons and skip ahead to the Superbowl, or rather the NYRR Gridiron Classic 4M.

I run so I can race. The solitary and meditative qualities of long distance running regularly provide me with a quiet mind that makes me happy. My long runs and their encounters with butterflies, ducks, swans, unexpected trails and views of bridges keep me sane and I'm looking forward to going back to running on more varied routes once the ice is gone. But right now I run so I can race.

In most races there is a moment - often on a hill or a curve - when the view of the course opens up and I get to see hundreds of the thousands running with me. The power of the crowd sweeps over me and I feel myself part of a human stampede. I see the beautiful variety of runners, running for different reasons, but all of us running for the same finish line.

We've all felt lost and alone at some point in our lives. We've all ached for love. We've all mourned loss. We all want to be loved. We all dream of a better tomorrow, through a better now. We're all putting one foot in front of the other hoping to gain something from it. Maybe it's the strength of knowing the courage and stubbornness required to finish a race will help us accomplish our goals.

Everyone is different, and yet, deep down, stripped of the superficial, we're all the same and we can all relate to great joy and great pain and it is in the joy and pain of races that I'm humbled and reminded that I'm just like everyone else. The camaraderie of the pre-race corral, being cheered by strangers, the struggle through the rough spots and the thrill of the post-finish bagel line - all in the anonymity of spandex - put me in touch with some of the most basic pleasures of being human.

Yesterday's 4Mile race gave me that. The feeling was so intense I ended up pushing myself harder than intended, harder than my training allowed. For the last quarter mile I pushed myself so hard that for the first time ever I crossed the finish line looking for a bucket. Dry-heaving by the side of the road from great exertion was one of those pleasures and a privilege.