Archive for September, 2009

Reach the Beach, Part 2

Out of the 207 miles of the 2009 Reach the Beach relay I ran 19.09 miles, divided into three legs, over the course of 24 hours with only two hours of sleep. It was tough mentally and physically but a lot of fun. Here’s a quick rundown of each of the legs I ran:

The Start at Cannon Mountain

The foggy 3:00pm start at Cannon Mountain

Leg 6 (8.62 miles):
When I started my first run it was still light out, but I was required to wear a flashing reflective vest and a headlamp. The vests our team brought had a ridiculous number of flashing lights that made each of us look like running Christmas trees.  A moving disco might also be an appropriate comparison. It was a good thing we had them, though — at least the rest of the team was able to spot me as I came down the hill to the transition area in complete darkness. I was lucky to be able to run in the New Hampshire mountains during a beautiful sunset, but this long leg, mostly downhill, was very challenging. Also, I was passed by two people. At first I was dismayed but then I found out that they were both on top-placing teams so I shrugged it off. At the very least they helped me quicken my steps a bit and I finished with about a 6:40 pace. My van then took advantage of the handoff to Van #2 and drove down the road to Conway to get some dinner.

Transition area at AMC's Highland Lodge

Transition area at AMC's Highland Lodge

Nervously getting ready for my first leg

Nervously getting ready for my first leg

Leg 18 (4.89 miles):
With my hardest leg already completed, I figured this would be a piece of cake. Not necessarily so, I soon learned. This was probably one of the strangest moments I had during the entire race: running through small, sleepy Laconia, New Hampshire at 3:30 am with no one in sight, not sure if I was going in the right direction (I was, thankfully). The tough part was that last mile, entirely uphill. I think this might have been the first time in my life that I went running that late at night (or that early in the morning, depending on how you look at it). Finishing this leg meant that my whole van got to take a short, well-deserved sleeping break.

Leg 30 (5.58 miles):
By the time we got to my third leg it was around noon on Saturday. And by the time we got to my third leg I was also functioning on about two hours of sleep. We were able to crash for a bit at the last van transition area, but were woken up a bit early by our over-zealous Van #2, giving us a 90-minute warning before their arrival. A few hours later, and still desperate for a coffee and a meal of something other than granola bars and pretzels, maybe something like the delicious breakfast I had at Polly’s Pancake Parlor the day before, I took off on my final leg. Of all my legs, the level of difficulty for this one was the lowest, but it ended up being the hardest. My body was pushed to the limit, but I held my pace knowing it was the last few miles I needed to do. Can’t let the team down! When I finished I was tired and starving but exhilarated. We made our way to the beach, got some food and waited for the rest of our guys to come in.

My Final Leg

My final leg. Tired. Trying to fake a smile.

It was great to leave the city for a couple of days and enjoy the fresh air of New Hampshire. My team did a fantastic job, completing the relay in 24:49:43 to finish 24th overall. The training paid off and recovery went well – and now I’m back to focusing on the NYC Marathon.

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Reach the Beach, Part 1

I am off to return to the great state of my birth, New Hampshire, to be part of a 12-man team in the 200-mile Reach the Beach relay. I will be running three different legs over the course of 24 hours for a total of 19.09 miles. To prepare I’ve made some interesting adjustments to my training over the past few weeks by running twice on some days. So for example, instead of running my mid-week 10 miler for marathon training, I would run five miles in the morning and five more in the evening. We’ll see how it works out starting tomorrow afternoon. Looking forward to it!

Good luck to all you other RTBers!

(The photo below is not New Hampshire, but it is a beach.)

Not New Hampshire

The Haribo Experiment

Around mile 13 of this morning’s 20 mile long run, two of my teammates and I decided to stop by a bodega at West 155th Street to get some Gatorade before we crossed into the Bronx at Yankee Stadium. I was getting a case of the shakes while running up the hill and knew that I wouldn’t be able to get through the next seven miles without putting something solid in my stomach – and gels were not going to do it for me. I’m usually pretty picky about what I consume during a run but I took a chance on the first palatable thing I saw – a bag of gummi bears. Somehow they spoke to me.

I knew I was taking a risk. Either it would make me sick within the next mile or it would be the perfect sugar boost to power me through the rest of the run. I ate the whole bag and washed it down with blue Gatorade. It was pretty darn tasty.

It turns out that those adorable little German wonders worked well for me. I finished the long run in pretty good time, averaging about 8:00 per mile. And not once did I ever think that I would vomit, which is a great sign. It’s funny what you crave during big workouts. Another member of my team has since urged me to give Clif Shot Bloks another chance – they’re not as cute as gummi bears but I’ll give them another try on the next long run.

Guilt

I was so excited when I got up this morning and remembered that today was going to be a rest day for me with nothing actually planned. I was thinking that maybe at some point today I’d buy a tub of ice cream and catch up on my Netflix queue – and that would be about as productive as I’d get. But after about an hour of enjoying my morning coffee, checking emails and watching the morning news, I noticed the cover of the latest issue of Runner’s World, still untouched, sitting on my desk.

REST RIGHT
Make the Most
Of Your Days Off

I flipped to Alyssa Shaffer’s article on page 47 and read it over a bowl of Lucky Charms. Along with eating properly and getting enough sleep, the article advises the exact opposite of what I wanted to do today. Instead of having a lazy day with a bag of chips, it is recommended that you take in some light exercise. Guilt got to me and I could no longer justify sitting around watching TV all day. I have the time to get out there, after all. So I ended up taking a trip to the pool (which just reopened after being closed for two weeks) for an easy half-mile swim. And as a bonus, I was rewarded with a fairly empty lane, which is one of the benefits of swimming mid-day. I’m glad I went in the end, but out of guilt? I’ll call my mother if I want a healthy dose of that.

Out with the Old

This morning I took a look at you, Old Shoes, and with a rush of nostalgia remembered all the good miles we had together, the storms we weathered and the hills we climbed. But you are flat, falling apart and, frankly, you don’t fit that well anymore.

So I tossed them.

And went out and got myself a new pair.

Men's Nike Zoom Vomero+ 4The shoes I tossed were a pair of ASICS that I had for almost two years that I would occasionally take out for a shorter run, but I finally got rid of them to make space for something new. The new pair is actually the second pair of Nike Zoom Vomero+ 4 that I bought this summer. I still have the first pair, in blue, which I bought in June  – but they are rapidly reaching the 300 mile mark and will probably only last another month. I am pretty sure that this is the fastest I’ve ever gone through one pair of running shoes. So it looks like the new red pair might be what takes me through the marathon in November. I already took them out for a few miles this afternoon just to give us a chance to get to know each other and I think we are going to make a good match.

It may be sad to toss an old pair, but there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with it – those shoes represent hundreds of miles that I ran on my own two feet. And the new pair represents hundreds more that I will run in the coming months.

One great thing about running is that it’s a fairly inexpensive sport – but the cost of shoes can be painful in these tough economic times, especially if you are putting on some serious mileage. Do you have any advice on how to be a Running Recessionista? Any tips on recycling old shoes? Feel free to comment.

Second Month Roundup

September is here and that means that we are staring Fall right in the face. There are only a few days left to wear white acceptably and even the weather in New York is quickly shifting from summer humidity to cool autumn air. And I noticed on my run this evening just how much shorter the days have already become while I watched the sun set over the Central Park Reservoir as early as 7:30 p.m.

It also means that Month 2 of my RUNemployment has come to a close. I look back on a summer with strange weather that made fun outings difficult and an economy that made those same plans nearly impossible. The job search is still going on for me and at least there are a couple of prospects, but I am very eager to see this job market start to repair itself. For my sake and for anyone else who might be in the same position.

Hey – where’s that silver lining? Oh, yes, my training. Focus on my training remained very strong during August and I finished the month logging a total of 170.4 miles. I’m in a place where I already feel prepared for the NYC Marathon and I still have a few more weeks of training to get me in an even better position. Two months to go and I’m very ready.

But if I learned anything in August, there’s this one light-bulb moment I had. So usually I prefer to run alone because it gives you time to think, reflect and work through some ideas. You can also run when and where you want at whatever pace you want. But this one realization I had from last month is that running with friends is unbeatable quality time. Obvious, right? But it’s recession friendly, too: in this expensive city where socializing often means drinks and dinners, a long run with a friend is a cheap and healthy way to catch up. Example: I just finished a great 19 miler with my friend and teammate Kevin early on Monday morning. It gave us time to talk about what we did over the weekend, about what’s happening next week and how much we both like this new grape flavored Gatorade. (I’m also admitting publicly here that he is faster than me, and that pushed me to run at a speedier pace than I might have done solo. So, thanks, Kev.) We had social time that was better than a day of exchanging emails and, as a bonus, it cost far less than an evening of multiple glasses of bourbon and ginger ale.

And that’s what I take away from Month 2. Running and racing can be a great way to challenge yourself, but in this age of impersonal socializing through Facebook and Twitter, running with a friend is a terrific way to really connect with others.