Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day 15K

According to Wikipedia “Decoration Day” was first observed in the years following the Civil War as a way to mark the end of the war and honor those soldiers who had given their lives. As time went on “Decoration Day” was expanded to honor not just Civil War casualties but all service men and women who gave there lives regardless of the conflict. In 1967 Decoration Day became Memorial Day by way of a Federal Law. Interestingly enough the small town of Waterloo in the Finger Lakes region of New York is credited as the “official” birthplace of Memorial Day.

While not really anywhere near Waterloo, I spent this Memorial Weekend in Woodstock, NY visiting family and getting ready for the Woodstock Memorial Day 15K which was presented by the Onteora Road Runners.

The field of runners for the 15K was relatively small when compared to a NYRR race but was fairly well organized with a clearly marked course, police at most intersections, several water stations and best of all, a decent race tee shirt.

Hoping for a 1:05:00 PR I set out on a strong pace of 6:30/mile at the start. Knowing that the race was “very challenging” (read: lots of big and steep hills) I wanted to build a little cushion early in the race and on the flat sections. For the first mile or so I was able to keep the pace vehicle in sight, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

As it turns out, the “flat sections” consist of the first half mile of the race and the last half mile of the race. Augh.

As the pace vehicle and lead pack slipped away I changed gears and focused on running my race. I knew early on that a PR wasn’t in the cards but tried to keep as near to a 7:00/mile pace as possible.

The roads twist, turn, zig and zag through some very scenic neighborhoods but all the while the hills came. What I lost on the way up the hills I tried to gain on the way down but by mile 6 I was starting to hurt as you can see from these splits:

Mile 1 - 6:50
Mile 2 - 7:05
Mile 3 - 7:03
Mile 4 - 7:02
Mile 5 - 7:04
Mile 6 - 7:22
Mile 7 - 7:34
Mile 8 - 7:33
Mile 9 - 7:10
Last Bit - 1:58

While shy of a PR I still feel as though I ran a strong race over a difficult course and was able to have a little left over for the finish with a time of 1:06:41 (watch time - official time not yet available).

Most importantly the Woodstock Memorial 15K gave me time to reflect on the veterans who have sacrificed so much for this country – particularly my grandfather (a World War II Marine who was lucky enough to survive the war and live a long life). His courage and the ultimate sacrifice that so many of our war heros have made over the centuries makes running up rolling hills along back back roads of Woodstock, New York a considerable bit easier.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Rookie Blogger

While I maintian this blog for fun and a way to help organize my thoughts on running, I have to admit that for the past two weeks or so I have been somewhat dissapointed that recent posts were not receiving any comments. I thought to myself "self, no one is reading your blog. Why bother?"

Then yesterday morning I got an email from Yvonne inquiring into why I have comments disabled on my blog. Clearly, I am still a rookie blogger and as I pointed out to Yvonne, a dolt.

I've since approved all of the "comments in waiting" and have turned on the "allow comments" feature.

Thank you for reading this blog, particularly those of you who take a moment to post a comment. Your feedback is appreciated.

Happy Running!


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Shrieking Children and a Healthy Sheikh

Saturday afternoon and I sit outside my uber cool and totally unpretentious neighborhood cafĂ©/wine bar on this glorious day. A pale blue sky punctuated by the occasional cloud and highlighted with a cool and refreshing breeze - what could be better…?

Perhaps some freaking silence! The deafeningly loud (and far too near) children and their armor piercing shrieks are driving me nuts! Even more irritating, if that’s possible at this point, is the fact that they are ruining my enjoyment of not only this peaceful afternoon but a rather nice Albarino... Damn children! I suppose I aught to be pleased that they are actually outside running around rather than eating Hostess Cupcakes, playing PS2 and sending other lethargic and borderline obese children nonsensical text messages, but I digress. Rather than ranting about ill-behaved children I shall focus on what I had intended to do which is to write up a race report on the New York Road Runners Healthy Kidney 10K.

I must admit that I was a little surprised that the Embassy of the United Arab Emerates was the primary sponsor of this event. What could the UAE have in common with the New York Road Runners Club? As it turns out Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, former president of the UAE had a kidney transplant here in the United States and is very thankful. I am very thankful for the fancy technical race tee shirt. (More here)

In short, I am pleased with the race and my performance. I was able to run a PR, not by much, but a PR none the less. I can’t really complain about my time in light of the fact that the guy who won, Austrailian Craig Mottram, missed a bonus $10,000 purse for breaking the course record by 3 seconds. (More here)

This race drew a larger than normal crowd and the chute was especially tight, even at the front. I spent the first half mile dodging race walkers and 10-minute milers but the pack eventually thinned and I turned in a 6:50 mile 1. I then settled in and focused on running my race.

The course made its way through the Harlem Hills in Central Park, which, for those of you who've not run them are pretty tough. Head down, eyes up, I leaned in and grinded them out. At the 5K mark I had a time of 21:23 and the more difficult half of the course was behind me. I finished the race with a time of 42:12, a personal record by about 30 seconds.

My next race is on Memorial Day in Woodstock, NY. It’s a 15K and I think I will try to run at a 7 minute per mile pace which would give me a finishing time of about 1:05:00. This may be optimistic for this distance particularly given the “very challenging” course but what the hell, aim high!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Feet in the Clouds

With 400+ miles on my current pair it is most definitely time to buy some new running shoes which is always a thrilling time filled with many pitfalls and difficult questions… Do I go with the New Balance 1060’s or try the Brooks Radius 6’s that are getting such good reviews… Perhaps I stick with my Asics… What’s a guy to do???

For the past couple of years I have been wearing Asics and I’ve been rather happy with them. First I ran through a couple pairs of Asics Gel Kayano’s but got a little put off by the price tag – at $135.00 a pop they ain’t cheap.

So I moved on (or down) to the Asics Gel Cumulus which is also a fine shoe but perhaps lacks some of the cushion and responsiveness of it’s more expensive counterpart – the Kayano.

Now I find myself poised to begin ramping up my training (mileage) for the NYC Marathon and flustered about which shoe I want to accompany me along the way. This is further complicated by the fact that I should probably buy 2 pair for the journey so that I have an identical pair of fresh shoes to switch to come autumn and race day.

Option One – Cumulus
Stick with the Asics Gel Cumulus. I have been wearing them for about 5 months and have been pretty happy with them. They’ve also seen me through a couple of PR’s. The Cumulus also has the added benefit of being far less expensive them the Kayano’s or even the Asics Gel Nimbus.

Option Two – Nimbus
I recently visited one of my favorite running stores, The Super Runners Shop, and tried on the most recent editions of the Kayano, Nimbus and Cumulus. I have to say that I liked the feel of the Nimbus best of all. In terms of price, the Nimbus bridges the gap between the top of the line Kayano and the more budget Cumulus. Perhaps I split the difference and go with the “non-road tested” Nimbus – they did after all feel very good.

Option Three – Kayano
Pony up and buy the Kayano’s. They’re great shoes and probably worth the cost. I am going to be doing a lot of long, hard miles in them and my arches, heels, ankles, knees and everything else will surely appreciate any additional advantages.

So now I put forth this question to you: What shoes should I buy and should I get one or two pair of them?

Which Shoes Should I Buy?
Option 1 - Cumulus (one pair)
Option 1 - Cumulus (two pair)
Option 2 - Nimbus (one pair)
Option 2 - Nimbus (two pair)
Option 3 - Kayano (one pair)
Option 3 - Kayano (two pair)
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Good Times on Rikers Island

Today marked the 9th annual Rikers Island 5K Challenge. Yes, that’s right… The Rikers Island, as in New York’s largest jail facility. Fortunately, New York’s Boldest let me off the island after the race for good behavior.

Before starting the race, all participants and visitors have to get a special hand stamp, that is, if you want to leave the island. Once registered, stamped, stretched out and warmed up it was time to race.

In a typical NYRR race in Central Park there are thousands of runners so getting a good position in the chute is important. Here however there only a couple hundred runners so I lined up right in the front – which isn’t all that unreasonable considering I was going to try for a 6:20/mile pace.

The race actually begins in Queens and immediately goes over the Rikers Island Bridge (see red arrow in below image) which is probably about 3/4 of a mile long and has a pretty hefty incline. At this point I was probably running at or maybe just better than my target pace but the hill was difficult and my breathing had already become labored.

As you come down off the bridge you enter Rikers Island proper and pass through a series of gates patrolled by some seriously armed corrections officers! The course flattens out and I was able to find my groove even if somewhat forced.

“Where’s the 1 mile mark” I asked myself. Glancing down at my watch I realized that I’m 8 minutes into the race. I either past it without noticing, there are no mile markers or I am way off my pace.

The race then wrapped around a couple of jail blocks and the catcalls from the inmates began. I cannot confirm it, but am told that there may have been some lewd comments offered up. The one that sticks out most to me was a rather innocent, if uninspired, “Run Forest! Run!” Given the circumstances it still made me smile.

As the race made its way along the back stretch very near a Laguardia Airport landing strip (see yellow arrow in above image) I strained, pushing to stay toe to toe with Mike while keeping an eye on Jeff who was maybe 25 meters ahead. Around a bend, up another hill and there it is - the finish. I noticed the official clock time – 19:50. I wanted to come in under 20 minutes. In a bad way. So I kicked up the last little incline and to the finish.

My final time… 19:58. Roughly a 6:26/mile pace and a 5K PR by over a minute.

The good people of the Department of Correction had a barbeque and were making hotdogs and hamburgers. Hey, who doesn’t want to enjoy a burger at 10:30 in the morning in the parking lot of one of the toughing prisons in the country? I certainly did!

Good times on Rikers Island indeed! Maybe I’ll come back. Then again…

Friday, May 05, 2006