Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Queens Half Marathon or why a PF is better than a PR

Since the Brooklyn Half Marathon on March 18th I have been somewhat fixated on improving my time for the Queens Half Marathon – which I ran this morning with the Hellgate Road Runners.

It was a beautiful morning in McNeil Park, cool air with a clear sky and a fair headwind. Just the right kind of weather to set a personal record and have a great race.

I had volunteered to drive a few teammates to the race and we met with what seemed like plenty of time. Disappointingly, the traffic on College Point Boulevard was a bit of a mess and didn’t allow much time to get ready at the start.

The gun went off before I was able to get into the starting queue. This unfortunately put me at a bit of a disadvantage as I was stuck way in the back with slower runners. I spent the first 1 or 2 miles zigzagging left and right, speeding up, slowing down, getting boxed in and finally cutting over and running on the sidewalks. I managed 7-minute miles but I wasted a lot of energy and was off my game plan before the race really got underway.

As the race course made its way through Queens I settled into a pace which was slightly faster than I had planned (I realize that this was probably not a great idea but I was pushing for another big PR) which worked out great for the first lap of the course. (Thanks to Jared for the photo)

Coming around Mile 6 “The Hellgate Cheering Squad” spurred me on (thanks guys!) but the lift was temporary and the hurt was coming. Miles 8, 9 and 10 were bad. I mean frothy mouth, snotty nose, mental malfunction, synapse misfiring, only enough awareness to keep me upright putting one foot in front of the other bad.
Seeing the sign marking mile 11 snapped me back to cognizance (the water and Gu may have played a role too).

With only a 5K to go I glanced at my watch and realized there was still a shot of achieving my goal... A sub 1:35:00. So I pressed on... but there wasn’t too much left in the reserves. The poor starting position, hilly course and the now damnable headwind had taken too much out of me. Regardless, I went for it.

Approaching Mile 13 the Hellgaters were there making noise for me once again but I knew that my 1:35:00 wasn't within reach. Still,I put my nose down and kicked. But it wasn’t there. My 1/4 mile kick wasn't there.

I crossed the finish line with a net time of 1:35:51 - an average pace of 7:19.

I suppose that I could blame the headwind and hills, or point a finger at the misfortune of a poor starting position but the real responsibility resides with me. My training has been too casual these past two weeks and lacks sufficient speed work. I need to focus and balance my training.

Long. Tempo. Speed. Recover.

Despite all the piss, vinegar, doom and gloom, there are a couple of points I would like to make before I sign off. They are:

  • A 1:35:51 is still a Personal Record by over a minute.
  • I've learned (or perhaps re-learned) that running a good race has more to do with a Personal Feeling of accomplishment as a result of hard work than with a Personal Record.

With that said, does anyone know of a good (and flat) half marathon in the New York area toward the end of May?

PS - An update on a prior post, the New York Road Runners posted pictures of the Adidas Run for the Parks... Yup, yours truly along with soggy running buddies Shayna and John.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head

Today was the Adidas Run For The Parks 4 Miler in Central Park. I also needed to work in my last long run in anticipation of the Queens Half Marathon. What to do…?

Well, combine them of course!

I figured that since the race didn’t start until 10:00AM that I would be able to get about 8 miles in prior without having to get up at some utterly ungodly hour. Harry, our alarm clock, er, I mean our Yorkshire Terrier was good enough to wake me up with time to spare. Thanks buddy.

Unfortunately for both Harry and me it was pouring rain this morning but I am happy to say that a little precipitation wasn’t going to deter us. Oh no. I have a personal record to set in Queens and Harry needed to ah, sniff, the neighbors’ fence.

After fortifying with a little breakfast, consisting of toast, I was off into the rain again. This time bound for Central Park, by way of the Queensborough Bridge. And oh the rain kept coming. First a drizzle, then a downpour, then a drizzle again, but never once did it stop.

As I got into Central Park and began to do a couple laps of the lower loop, I noticed that it seemed to be raining harder on the West side then the East. I’m rather certain that’s impossible since Central Park is probably less than a half mile from east to west but it did seem that way.

10:00AM approached and it was time to line up for the race. I cut through the park near the Mall to the start at Bethesda Terrace - 8 miles exactly. Nice.

8 miles into a 12 mile run I had no intention of running all out, so after getting around the masses I settled into a comfortable, if quicker than I anticipated, pace of 7:21. My last mile was sub-7 minute (I just can’t resist picking up the pace at the end of a race!).

And the rain kept coming… At this point, I was soaked. My lightweight technical gear and expensive shoes probably added a good 10 pounds. So after chatting briefly with some teammates I headed to the Subway. I left a huge puddle on the floor of the subway car. The upside? Nobody wanted to sit next to me…

After a hot shower, lunch and a nap, Harry and I went outside again…In a mild twist of irony the rain had left and in its place was a beautiful day.

I suppose I could have looked at the weather report and waited out the rain. I could have enjoyed the morning, warm and dry.

My run in the rain was harder mentally and physically and thus more rewarding. Hopefully it’ll pay off in Queens.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's Been a Tough Week

Thus far Easter Sunday has been a very relaxing and quiet day and for that I do thank the Lord. The preceding seven days have been well, somewhat hellish and perhaps worthy of a little blog post.

One week ago today Salena and I drove back to New York from Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a nine-hour drive full of magnificent sights such as the New Jersey Turnpike, The Fort McHenry Tunnel and the Delaware Memorial Bridge, delectable meals at IHOP and Burger King and immaculate rest stop facilities. Oh, and least I forget, the fuse to the car radio/CD player fizzled out early in the trip. A trip truly worth the gas and tolls! We were in Virginia visiting Salena’s mother. Joining us were Salena’s younger sister Shonet who made the trek down from Kingston, NY with Salena’s Boston-based sister Susan and Susan’s significant other Joe. It was a nice visit and we all had a most agreeable time – enjoying plenty of good cooking and lots of yummy wine (thank you Shonet for the bottle of Ravenswood Icon!).

I had hoped that I would be able to leave the office on Monday with enough time to make it to hill work with the Hellgaters but my employer had other ideas. Instead it would be a 10 hour + day. We’re launching a new division of the business and it has become part of my job to make sure that they have everything they need… Including an office. Setting up an office for 13 people complete with real estate, office furniture, telephones, internet, computers, printers (and other ancillary items) in 5 business days while simultaneously doing your “actual” job is sort of like running a marathon at a 5K pace.

Knowing Tuesday would bring more of the same I got up early and got in a 30 minute tempo run at a sub 7 minute per mile pace. When I got in from my run I jumped in the shower and the phone rang. I knew it was not good news. A little before 8:00AM on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 my grandfather, Elmer “Old E.C.” Connelly passed away. He was an amazing man and will be dearly missed and is sure to be the subject of a future post to this blog.

Needless to say, the rest of the day was spent trying to hold back my emotion and focus on work. For the most part I was successful on both counts but still managed to put in a 10 hour day at the office before meeting Salena at a favorite neighborhood restaurant where I promptly put back a couple of Knob Creek Manhattans.

Wednesday was hump day and it brought the real joy of the week. I was at the office at 8:30AM to meet Donald MacDonald, our interior designer, before heading back to the Jersey Turnpike, this time to Elizabeth New Jersey – the home of Ikea! Countless hours and about $10,000 later we had our cargo van and what must have been about 3,500 pounds of unassembled Swedish office furniture. I got home from work sometime around 12:30AM Thursday. It was a 15 + hour day and vive hombre what a work out! Shout out to Bryce who helped unload the van.

I stopped keeping track of my hours Thursday but know that it was a long day spent with our bookkeeper approving invoices and cutting checks.

Friday was a somewhat long stressful day due to competing priorities between my Marketing duties, Finance duties and the task of setting up the new office space – Marketing won. Which meant that Saturday would be spent at the office on finance.

Before heading into the office Saturday I did get to go for a run on Saturday morning with the Hellgate Road Runners. It was a good long run at a solid pace from Astoria Park in Queens to McCarren Park in Brooklyn - 9.7 miles according to my Nike Traix v10. I spent the rest of the day (about 6-7 hours) generating and sending invoices. Exhausted, Salena and I went for dinner on Saturday night.

I had fully intended to get in some Easter Bunny speed work down at the track today but instead found that the only repeats I would be doing were naps.

I am resolving to work fewer hours this week and make it to the 7:30PM Hellgate workouts on Monday and Wednesday at a very minimum which means that I will need to leave work at 6:00PM. Not all that unreasonable I should think! After all, how am I going to PR at the Queens Half Marathon if I don’t get some speed work in?

For the moment, I am going to enjoy my dinner, pour another glass of Veuve Clicquot and let the bubbles work their magic!

Happy Easter to all.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Product Endorsement

I was recently gifted a Nike Triax v10 Pedometer. My first inclination was something to the effect of "wow that's very nice - but do I really need another watch?" After all I already have a Timex Ironman Triathlon watch and a Polar Heart Rate Monitor watch. Truth be told, I did sort of have my eye on the Garmin Forerunner GPS watch.

After briefly thumbing through the instruction manual I figured I'd take it for a test drive on my Monday evening hill work out session. Unfortunately, I was late and rushing to get out the door and didn't take the time to fully familiarize myself with the operation of the watch. Though I had a good workout, I had no idea what my time was because I kept pressing random buttons on the watch. Alas.

When all else fails, read the instructions.

So I did. I took the watch (and instruction booklet) down to the track to properly calibrate it, which turned out to be a very simple process particularly since I followed the step by step instructions.

The watch comes in two parts: the actual wrist watch and the Pod that attaches to your shoe. The Pod measures your rate of acceleration and deceleration 100 times per second and transmits a signal to the watch which in turn calculates your distance and pace. The Pod is small and light. Nike claims that when properly calibrated the watch is some 97% accurate. I must confess that in road tests the pedometer is actually very much spot on.

On Thursday I went out for a long run in a route in Virginia that I am not familiar with. The Nike Triax showed that I ran 11.11 miles. I then retraced the route in my car using the odometer. The car odometer showed 11.2 miles - a difference of less that 1% and when you figure in the fact that I may have cut a corner or two while running... Well, let's just say the watch is pretty darn accurate.

In summary the Nike Triax v10 is pretty nifty and in addition to being a good pedometer it boasts a full set of features you would expect from a quality timepiece. Big props to both Nike and the giver of this gift.

Side Note: I am in Virginia at my mother in-law's. The community she lives in is wooded and surrounds a lake. It's quite nice but the 11.11 miles of Virginia hills are killing me. See the photo on the right. Seriously, I am talking about 11.11 miles of rolling hills. AUGH!

Also, I have come across deer twice more. I have now seen more deer in the past two weeks than I have in the past 10 years.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I Love Runners

I love runners.

When I am out running and I cross paths with another runner going the opposite direction I cannot help but to at least glance at them if not make full eye contact, smile, head nod and perchance offer up a cordial-but-not-too-friendly “hi” or “morning” (this is New York after all. One cannot be too friendly).

When I am driving and see a fellow runner I slow down to see if I know them and strain my neck to take in their stride. It’s amazing how you can identify a running buddy just from their gait...

take a certain pride in being an active part of the local running community and that makes me quite happy. From the tall, skinny Asian guy in the faded pink warm-up to the woman with the brown curly hair and powerful stride who’s always got her headphones on to the ultra-marathon guy who chews on sticks and runs effortlessly day and night. I feel fellowship and community with these people even though I have hardly ever said more than “hello” to them.

I love runners.

I mention this because I was in Upstate New York over the weekend and went for a 10 miler on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail which essentially runs north and south along the Wallkill River between New Paltz and Rosendale, New York.

It was a beautiful morning complimented by the beauty of the trail itself. Morning sunlight poured through the budding trees and you could feel that spring was just around the bend. I ran past blue jays, cardinals, robins and a variety of other birds I’m unable to identify due to my ignorance (did I mention I am not a member of the Audubon Society?). I breezed by squirrels and even a few chipmunks (Alvin, Simon, Theodore!). I strode past a chicken coop, horses and some cows. The real shocker was when 4 deer loped across the trail just a few meters ahead of me. Imagine my surprise.

It was a terrific run but also challenging in part because I haven’t been logging too many runs of this distance and also because it was a trail run and the soft earth absorbed a lot of the energy return I am accustomed to by running on concrete. Oh yeah, and the terrain is somewhat uneven.

Regardless, something was missing and I think I know what it is. I missed the dozens of anonymous Astoria Park runners. I missed my friendly local running community.