Archive for the ‘Team in Training’ Category

Mostly, I run alone, but last week I had three social runs, with MT, AG and LL.  When I started running, I did it for health and fitness, and it was a solitary pursuit for me, primarily because I didn’t know how to find other people to run with. Also, I was intimidated–everyone seemed faster than I was. Later, though, the social aspect of running was one of the primary reasons I signed up for my first marathon with Team in Training. At that point in my life, I had made some poor choices about who I was spending my time with, and I needed a new group of friends–quick! In so many ways, deciding to train with TNT is one of the most pivotal, life-changing choices I have ever made. Running has brought a steady stream of positive, good people to me. That first season, I became fast friends with KW and DT, and we are still girlfriends today. My second season with TNT, I met EN, who is one of my dearest friends now. Other special people have entered my life through the Green Mountain Relay, and through blogging and tweeting about running. I met all three of the above-mentioned guys because I blog about my running (MT is a podcaster, and AG and LL blog as well). If I was not a runner, my social circle would shrink down to a mere dot on the page, an ad hoc collection of (still remarkable) people who have stuck with me through the decades. I suspect that some of the runners I have met and am getting to know now will stick with me through some upcoming decades, too.

Sunday’s run was a solitary run, but I was thinking about the ripple effect my running buddies and friends who run (because we all know there is a difference) have on my non-running relationships. Sometimes, it’s a boon because it means my friends who don’t run aren’t subjected to my ceaseless yammering about my training, my body’s aches, my PR dreams, etc. Other times, it’s a drain. For example, I’ve invited Husband many times to meet my running friends but he always declines precisely because he knows all we’ll talk about is running, and that’s a big snooze to him. Sometimes it seems to him that I puff up my schedule with social runs, only to leave him home alone. It’s a tough call, as you all know. No matter what I gotta get the run in–so why not in the company of like-minded hoofers?

Sunday’s run was also a bust. I was supposed to run 8 at race pace but ran out of time and wound up with 40 minutes to squeeze in as many miles as I could. I couldn’t run at speed since my heart rate immediately spiked and I felt like I was going to pass out. Forced to slow down, I decided to meander through Sunnyside Gardens, a beautiful landmark neighborhood full of adorable houses and trees. I enjoyed this very much, and was on track to complete 4 miles until my left ITB decided to freeze up and I limped up 46th Street to Skillman Avenue, sadly aware I would have to walk the rest of the way home and bag the run. I didn’t panic; I’m not injured I am just tight. But I was crestfallen; in nearly every way my run for the day was a complete failure. But at least I’d given it a shot, and at least I was able to imagine my pack of encouraging running buddies as I headed home for a stretch and a shower.

3.17 miles in 31:20. Average pace 9:53; fastest mile 9:18; slowest mile 10:48.

Songs I ran to: “So Hard” by Pet Shop Boys, “So High So Low” by Ben Harper, “So Much for the Afterglow” by Everclear, “So Much to Say” by Dave Matthews Band, “So Nice (Summer Samba)” by Bebel Gilberto, “So What’cha Want” by The Beastie Boys, “Soak Up the Sun” by Sheryl Crowe, “Soft and Wet” by Prince, “Soma” by The Strokes

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Herewith, the entire text of an email Ramon sent out to all of us, his Team in Training alumni runners, on Tuesday February 10th.

Hola everybody!!

It’s me, Ramon, the coach with the accent, remember me? You better say a big YES or huge SI! I am at it again!! Read and find out.

As many of you know last year was a very amazing year for me, I had the opportunity of fundraising a good amount of money for a cause and a program I totally believe in and so proud to be a part of, a program that has given me so much, and a program you once were part of.

Some of you thought that doing that 100 mile race was crazy, and let’s face it, you are right, no news there, the coach with the accent is a bit loco!

Anyway, going right to the chase, I am here to tell you that I am doing it all over again, both the Vermont 100 mile race, and the fundraising!

Why? Because, hmmmmm, because ahh hmmmm, wait, I know, because I am crazy, yes! CRAZY about the many people I have met through my years of coaching that have been affected directly or indirectly by this illness, people that have changed my life and I want to do my part to help them and others to be able to be themselves !!

This year I am going to run for a few people:

  1. Lauren Chiarello, a super amazing young woman, who I met during last season while training for her first half marathon, Disney 2009, she is Hodgkin Lymphoma survivor who only a couple of weeks after a great experience in Disney found out that her cancer is back and is now about to start treatment again. That’s just NOT FAIR!!  Read about Lauren.
  2. Suzanne Donaldson, a person that has enriched my life in ways that she would never know, a friend for life, a survivor that is going through tests right now and hoping that next Wednesday February 11th the news she’ll receive will be the good kind (let’s all keep her in our thoughts). Read about Suzanne.
  3. And of course I am also running in honor of the little girls that got me to the finish line last year, Kate, Emma and Olivia, what can I say? I just love them!!

These amazing people remind me that the fight against cancer still continues, we are not done yet, the race continues, and I want to be part of it!!

So here where all of you come in, Please donate and help me reach my goal of $50,000, just go to my website. Anything and everything counts, you all know it!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

Ramon Bermo
TNT NYC Head Marathon Coach

PS–If you decide not to donate you have to come back to us and run another event (or run your first event), you choose!
PPS–Read about last year’s adventure.

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Med school bound TNT Coach Steve H. is training for his first triathlon (a half-Ironman! Steve, are you gonna shave your legs?) as a way to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Click here to help him reach his $10,000 goal…. Alan and Shayne Culpepper have opened their running shop in Louisville, CO (of  Boulder County), Solepepper Sports. I’m going to visit Brother & Co. in Lafayette later this month and will stop by…. I love how Olympic marathoner Magdalena “Chewy” Lewy-Boulet won the USA Half-Marathon Championships in Houston; and I like how Andrew Carlson came in fourth (setting a PR; this FloTrak video from after the race also tells about how he’s now coached by Greg McMillan and sponsored by Brooks), less than a minute behind winner Meb Keflezighi (ever since I saw Carlson race in Central Park I’ve been a fan). Crazy though to think that the first place finishers won $12,000 each – that’s about $916 per mile…  The USATF announced that the 2009 Men’s Marathon Championships will be run at the ING New York City Marathon. Excellent, as it will (hopefully) bring some of the best American distance runners to my city in November; and frustrating, as I’ll be running the course with Brother this year and once again missing out on quality spectating….I’m looking forward to this weekend’s Bronx Half-Marathon with excitement and nervousness. It will be my first race since the New York City Marathon, and I don’t expect to PR but I would like to finish with a respectable showing. Still trying to figure out what “respectable” adds up to…. My running buddy from my first season with Team in Training, BS, is training for her first triathlon (are you sensing a trend here, people?) and raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you’re balking at making a donation in these tough economic times, BS argues that “People don’t stop getting cancer when the economy is in a slump.” A sad yet valid point. Click here to help her reach her $3,000 goal…. And, better late than never, I’m linking to Running USA’s 10 Best Moments for U.S Distance Running in 2008. My favorites are #10, #6, and # 2.

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Fortunately for me, I can claim my rest day on this icy, windy Monday. That’s right, folks, I’m officially in Week One of training for the Flora London Marathon. Thank fucking God…. I love this service, which will wrap your presents as if a real guy actually did it. What’s it called? CRAPWRAP. Yeah!… One other thing I love is this international bookstore in Chelsea. Idlewild Books sells travel guides, but they also sell books set in foreign lands, books in translation, and things like globes. I could spend hours in their, dreaming of everywhere else I’d rather be (on days like today, it’s kind of like anywhere but here). I urge you to pat the store a visit (& buy a book!) if you live or work in  New York City. The owner, David, and his team will also pull together destination packs–baskets stuffed with guides, novels and nonfiction prose all themed to wherever your plane is scheduled to land. Mexico, anyone?…. Speaking of books in translation, a few months ago I picked up my UK edition of Javier Marias’ A Heart So White, looking for a specific scene. When I opened the book, out fell a 5×7 photograph from April 1998. I was with a group of friends, at a wedding. At the time, I was recovering from a break-up which had broken not my heart, but my spirit, and I remember how healing that day with my friends had been. Has anything ever fell out of one of your books, and told you a very different story than the one you were looking for? This essay from the New York Times Book Review kind of gets at that phenomenon…  If any of you still haven’t read A Race Like No Other, I suppose you could hope to get it for Hanukah or Christmas… I, on the other hand, only want peace and quiet, perfect runs through the Poconos, and no backtalk from the peanut gallery, all of which are in fact too much to ask for. Instead, I will inevitably try and drink my holiday cheer. Husband has lived through this before, so he’s already forwarded me helpful hints on how to cope with the aftereffects of nine-too-many warm brandies… It would mean so much to me if you’d VOTE FOR ICE CREAM if you haven’t already…. More on-topic, I got my first issue of Women’s Running in the mail a week or so ago. I can’t say it offered me any new insights into the sport, but it has a cool guide to snowshoeing, which is something I’ve wanted to try for a while (with a feature on Utah mountains, where I skied last year), an article about running for charity (TNT prominently featured, yay!), and a sports nutrition article with tips from pro runners like Tera Moody, Amy Yoder-Begley, Jamie Donaldson, and Jen Rhines…. Special thanks to TB in Atlanta, who emailed me this article so I wouldn’t feel so freakish; in fact, I know have a term for the blue feelings that spur my Scrooge-yness: “intimate isolation”…. And because it’s always best to end things on a high note, the Village Voice recently covered the stealth runners of big city marathons–the Kenyans & Ethiopians who are still greased lightning, but have no sponsors nor recognition as elites. They routinely finish in the top 20, but have to share a bed the night before the race. Thanks to my Green Mountain Relay teammate TW for sharing the link.

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JJ: Humming

Last week’s workouts (I had quadruplets of Poconos Loop x 2, and I named them Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) were just what I needed to snap me out of marathon recovery phase. Jumper cables for the battery that keeps my motivation engine humming, if you will. 

One of the first things I did when I got back to the office on Monday was to pop open my Outlook calendar and schedule in my runs for the week. Ah, that’s better. 

Monday, I ran home from work, tired, sad, and grateful to be on the road, on my bridge, sweating and breathing and consoling. 

Tuesday was booked for a morning run. Because I haven’t had any luck getting up early to run since eleven-two, I was extra-vigilant Monday night. I went to bed earlier than usual, and reminded myself how lovely the sparkle and hum of predawn New York is (as long as it’s not garbage collection day). Happily I was up with the alarm on Tuesday, refreshed and ready for my over-bridge-and-back 5-miler. The run itself was less than spectacular, but I remain encouraged by how congenially I roused myself at 5:45 AM. Once I start training for London, I’ll have plenty of morning runs to get through, so better for me to get back in the habit now. 

After work, I had bevvies with cute-as-a-button TNTer SA at the Oyster Bar Saloon. As happy hour hummed around us, we toasted our respective Fall marathon successes (SA ran Marine Corps), and swapped training strategies for our Spring marathons (SA’s running her hometown race, the hilly Pittsburgh Marathon the first weekend of May). Add in a dash of mutual adulation over our TNT coaches, two glasses of wine and a bag of peanuts per, and my evening with SA turned out to be the second weight in the pair that pleasingly bookended my day.

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Manhattan, Again (Miles 21 to 26.2) 

I remembered this part down Fifth Avenue clearly from my training run–lots of scenery, and freaking interminable. This was the tract where I was grateful for all the familiar faces–crafty PS with her smile; TNT coach LW pointing right at me (she helped me with race day strategy–thanks Coach!); and TNT coach CL, out there with her baby bump (and completely surprised to see me), she told me “one mile at a time,” which proved invaluable advice for the last three. As we rounded Marcus Garvey Park, I shouted back to EN, who was right on my heels, with Josh, You stayin’ with me? “I’m gonna try!” came back at me. 

That’s all I needed to hear. Jets: On! 114th Street was the final location I was expecting my folks, and they came strolling up at the exact moment I was running by. Once again, my father shouting my name was the only thing I heard, surely everyone on the course now knew who I was. I was so elated at this point, completely juiced with endorphins, that I took two steps BACK and jumped right into my dad’s arms. He lifted me off the ground and held me tight for a brief moment, then just as quickly I said OK, and I zoomed off to return to my great race. Love ya, Dad

After that, I never looked back (and I lost EN* somewhere behind me). I ran as hard as I thought I could sustain for however many miles were left–3, 2, 1. That gradual, mile-long hill up Fifth Avenue is a subtle, potentially demoralizing challenge–runners were dropping off to my left and right, I could feel the inertia building around me, and it took all I had to tuck my chin, pump my arms, and turn on the tunnel vision. Once I finally hit the top (nota bene: I passed a slew of other competitors on that hill), my determination sharpened even more, if such a thing was possible. I felt a gritty toughness, an isolation, a sense that the race had only just begun for me. I took my final Clif Shot, this time with caffeine. Giving in even a little to the way my legs were starting to tire wasn’t an option. 

The crowds at the entrances to, and throughout, Central Park were a single solid, wall of noise. I registered them in a blur, knowing I was running the most historic miles of the race, the miles where champions had surged to triumph or fell back in the shadow of another’s glory. I passed The Plaza Hotel, Columbus Circle, and my first-season TNT mentor KW screaming out my name so loud she actually shook me out of my zone. It was cold; these last few miles I wore my gloves, and it was the first time since Staten Island I wished I had something more on besides my thin singlet. I was breathing so hard, pumping my arms, remembering DRC Matt’s evergreen advice for a strong finish: stay relaxed and maintain form to conserve energy. Along Central Park South I saw a sign that said “Pain Is Temporary.” A perfectly-timed reminder: none of it mattered, the cold, my tiring legs, my maxed-out lungs and pounding heart. It would all be over in less than 18 minutes, and then I’d know, you’d know, if I could bring all my months of training, dieting, and planning to come to balance on the head of a pin. 

At the “One Mile to Go” sign, I glanced at little G and actually gritted my teeth. I wished someone would cheer me on, but instead I turned on my mantra, and let it repeat: Strong. Beautiful. From all of the Media Challenge events I’d run this summer, and last week’s Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff, I was very familiar with the terrain leading up to the Tavern on the Green. I saw the “400 Meters to Go” sign and thought, just one more lap around the track. Strong. Beautiful.  Arms helping as much as they could, breathing as hard as I ever have during a race, and now here’s the Hill of Spite we must climb before we can cross the finish line. I can see the finish line… back straight, collar bone up, shoulders down. I’m running, Strong I’m moving right towards exactly where I want to be, Beautiful little G tells me I’ve got it, my sub-3:55 but there’s no way I’m not still charging towards that finish line Strong with every single shred of energy, spirit, Beautiful and heave of emotion I have left. And then, in a final flash of speed and heat I was across, I could stop, I could walk, I could look around. Breathe.

Finisher Area

A race official in an orange jacket took me by the arm, asked me if I was fine, and walked with me a few yards until I answered him (I was a little lightheaded). Finally, I turned to him, looked him right in the eye and said, Yes, I’m fine. Meaning, I am fucking amazing. He gently released me, sending me into the river of finishers, to get my medal, my food, my mylar, and my baggage. It was then that I gave in to my traditional post-marathon weepies, impressed and in awe of myself, grateful, overcome. Soon I pulled myself together, and marched right up to a smiling woman to have her drape my finisher’s medal around my neck. My medal, I love my medal. The circular gold medallion is embossed with the image of the great Grete Waitz, breaking the tape. It means a lot to me to have a woman on the medal for this race, my first New York City Marathon, with my new PR time affixed to it forever. Also, Grete is a favorite because when she raced, her hair was always tied back in two pigtails, and you can see them clearly on the medal. I like having this in common with her. 

You already know it. And I’ve got it memorized. But I’d be happy to tell you all again. I ran the 39th ING New York City Marathon in 3 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds, meeting my A Goal with 19 seconds to spare and running a negative split, with my last 13.1 miles 2 minutes and 35 seconds faster than my first. I improved my time for the distance by 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

Reuniting with my family on Central Park West was just as I’d hoped. Big, long hug and kisses from Husband, a whispered “I’m very proud of you, sweetie.” My mom, beaming. My dad, rowdy but also still touched by my leap into his arms at Mile 22+. And surprise, here were SS and DS, older relatives of mine who on the spur of the moment hopped on the train from Long Island and stood at Columbus Circle to cheer. (When told how the whole timing chip & mat system tracks the runners, an astounded SS said, “And they can’t find Bin Laden?”) 

We filed into the subway (marathoners ride free!), and I relished this, too. Ever since I moved into my first NYC home (Avenue C and 14th Street) in September of 1996, each Marathon Sunday I’d consider the mylar-clad runners on the subway with admiration and jealousy. I wish I could do that. It’s one of those quixotically New York things–the racers, patiently standing on the subway to get home just like every other citizen in the city. So, part of the enjoyment of my marathon day was taking the subway home (the 7 line, at which I’d waved just hours before), nodding at my comrades in solidarity and respect. My mom said to me later, “Everyone was looking and smiling at you.” I think she loved escorting a mylar-clad one as much as I loved being one. 

Once we were back in Sunnyside, Dad treated us all to a pub lunch at P.J. Horgan’s Tavern around the corner from my apartment on Queens Boulevard. I had a cheeseburger, fries, and a Yuengling draft (I’d begun fantasizing about this meal at Mile 16). Husband sat next to me in the booth, and I kept gratefully slumping against him, tired and happy. I didn’t tumble into bed until nearly 11 PM–I just didn’t want the day to end. It was magical and perfect, like Christmas and my wedding day, all wrapped into one.

*This race report wouldn’t be complete without a Thank You and a Congratulations to EN, for hedging my excitement so I could blast the final miles, and for setting your own PR during this race. Well done, on both counts, friend.

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Last weekend, AG ran her first-ever marathon, the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, CA, as part of the NYC chapter of Team in Training. Not only is she EN’s girlfriend (which is a sterling recomendation), but she is also funny, thoughtful, a talented baker, and an admirer of the elites (yes, she knows their names and can match them with faces). She is also supportive, having come to Staten Island just to cheer EN and the rest of us on a few weekends ago. Because of all of this, I invited her to write up a race report, which follows.

But before I launch you into her report, I ask you this: can you imagine running the race of your life–a race in which you finish under 3 hours, and beat the elites invited to the course–but yet do not receive proper credit? You don’t get to break the tape as the first finisher, you don’t get to be acknowledged on the podium, nor do you get any of the prize purse? I can’t imagine ever being that fast, but I can imagine the crushing humiliation, and the subsequent anger, of being completely overlooked and underestimated. As it turns out, the winner of this marathon was a talented runner (outrunning the declared winner by 11 minutes), but Arien O’Connell was not an elite, and therefore her winning time was not credited as winning. Click here to read about the gross mishandling of the situation by race officials, who finally declared Arien a winner just today.

Without further ado, onto AG’s account of the race, which is much more uplifting.

Dearest TK, 
I pasted a few emails together in hopes that some part of the following ramble might be useful for Pigtails Flying.  Seeing John Bingham was super-duper awesome and I am glad my notions of celebrity are understood by others. [“Others” being me–PF]
Happy Thursday,

The 2008 Nike Women’s Marathon, and my own first marathon, began on a very chilly and cloudy Sunday morning, only to end on a very chilly and cloudy Sunday afternoon.

I was part of the early start and hit the road at 5:30 AM, after my mandatory double-shot of espresso and Clif Bar.  The group was bubbling with excitement and thinned out early as we navigated the darkened streets of Fisherman’s Wharf.  I picked up my pace at mile 3 and trotted up to the front group by mile 5.  The first 10 miles ticked off pretty easily, but goodness was it cold!  Passing toward mile 11, I caught site of a few firemen [Firemen! Yummy!-PF] in tuxedos making their way to the finish line to get those medals ready for the finishers.  That was the second-best site of the day (of course the best was the Finish Line!). 

Funny moment: Mr. Pace Car hit the brakes and stopped quickly just before mile 8.  As the road was super narrow, yours truly was right on the bumper and ran into the back of the car.  Cross my heart, there is a bump on my knee to prove it! 

The back half of the course was very lonely and one of the most physically challenging tasks I have encountered (can you say “hills?”).  As the elite runners starting breezing by, a few took a moment to wish me a good race and offer a word of encouragement.  Thank you, elites!  At mile 15, I did a quick check of my watch and some pseudo mental-math to learn I could break 5:30, my achievable goal.  Around the rear of Lake Merced, my watch read 4:22 and I thought of some friends who would already be finished running if they were here in San Fran.  So, EN/TK/CN/DH, here’s to you.  I figured ya’ll would be eating up all of the post-race food and I should hurry it up to get my fair share.  That pushed my pace a bit and I came off the lake with a fury to conquer the last 4.2 miles.  Back on the highway I saw that the ocean and the sky were still melted together in a curtain of misty grey fog, which seemed to be unconcerned with the fact that I like a bit of sunshine in my runs. 

The course teased a small amount of flat ground on the last mile.  Lost in the dream of warm clothes and a cup of coffee, I looked up to see our head coach, Ramon Bermo, clanging his cowbell at the 0.2 mile mark.  I caught his eye and saw him check his watch and raise an eyebrow in surprise.  Either he didn’t recognize me or he was shocked to see me actually still running at that point in the course. 

When all was done, I came through the finish in 5:14:30….not bad for my first attempt.  To the joy of my sweetheart, I barely noticed the firemen with Tiffany boxes and made a beeline to ice, water, and bananas.  A quick stop to the medical tent for some ice was highlighted by my first celebrity encounter.  As I sat with a bag of frozen water on my already frozen leg, I looked up to see the face of John Bingham.  He dropped in to stow a bag and chat with the doc, and graced me with a few words of wisdom after hearing I ran the course in over 5 hours: “Good, then you got your money’s worth.”  After picking up my jaw off the ground, I decided to close this chapter on my first marathon and joined the pit of stretchers behind the medical tent and congratulated myself, as I’d just entered the small circle of runners who have successfuly completed a marathon. 

Of all the competitors, about 25% were associated with TNT.  The national total for this event’s fundraising was $18 million!  Thank you all for helping us get to that finish line.

[Congratulations AG on a race well run, and on contributing your portion of the money raised to find a cure for leukemia!–PF]

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I post this race report of the Staten Island Half-Marathon concerned that you are all going to roll your eyes and say, “Here she goes again, we’ve heard this song before.” Granted, my nearly uninterrupted stream of PR’s could seem a bit repetitive. But isn’t that the kind of repetition we all want in our running? 

Two hours before my alarm was set to go off, I was wide awake, fretting over the challenge which lay before me. How on earth was I going to break 1:53:34 today? It was a Charlie Brown Argh Moment, if ever there was one. 

Finally, finally 6 AM came and I could leap up with purpose, distract myself with race preparations. I cabbed it to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, where I was meeting EN and his girlfriend AG (who was there to cheer) at 7:15. The terminal was full of runners, which was a pretty [cool] sight. I also ran into one of my TNT coaches, SH, and we all trooped onto the ferry en masse. I ate my breakfast (whole wheat English muffin with almond butter and apple jam) and drank my coffee and became decidedly non-chatty. I am a nervous talker, but apparently I’d entered a whole new realm of pre-race jitters. 

After we’d gotten our bibs and joined the TNT base camp (EN is mentor captain), we went for a very easy 10 minute warm-up run, then stretched. I’ve never done this before a race before, always figuring it was better to conserve my energy for the course, but today I decided to move the warm up out of Mile 1, since I needed to run strong from the start if I was to PR again–my first mile pace couldn’t lag more than 15 seconds. 

As EN and I stood in our corral, he generously offered an alternative race goal: let’s just run it as we feel it, have fun, and not try to PR. Even though this was an unacceptable plan for me, simply having him put it out there without judgment relaxed me enough so I could focus on what I needed to do to hold our goal pace of between 8:33 and 8:38 per mile, which would bring us in just under 1:53. Modest improvement: it’s all I dared ask. 

And, we were off, as luck would (not) have it, I somehow brushed the wrong button on my Garmin and didn’t end up starting my watch until about 30 seconds or so into the race. Another Charlie Brown Argh Moment, as I was totally looking forward to recording my first race on little G exactly. But finally I got him going, and just hit the lap button at each mile marker to record my splits, knowing Mile 1 would be the only one off. 

Even though conditions were much more hospitable than at the Queens Half (60 degrees and 65% humidity compared with 73 degrees and 83% humidity), nevertheless the bright sun beating down, coupled with the late 9:40 AM start, bothered me the first five miles or so–I even came away with sunburned shoulders and nose, despite applying sun block (wrinkles, no thanks). I was also a little dehydrated, and a little hungry–I ate breakfast too early. Gatorade didn’t show up on this course until Mile 4, which felt late. (This season I’ve been insistent on “Gatorade only” during my long runs and half-marathons. I think it actually maintains my hydration more effectively because I’m not diluting the electrolytes.) After I drank that first 8 ounces of Gatorade, though, I felt much better, and was much less affected by the sun, although we did run in the shade at every opportunity. If I do say so myself, I’ve developed quite an efficient water station technique over the years, and lose very little time drinking and eating. EN, on the other hand, slowed down every time to drink his water, and had to burst his speed to meet me up ahead. I felt for him, surely that uneven pace was exhausting.  He commented later via email, specifically for Pigtails Flying:

I have to learn how to drink water while running.  At every water station, I would deftly maneuver around the crowds, grab the water and slow down while hydrating. All the while, TK maintained her aggressive pace, forcing me to sprint to catch up; the uneven tempo finally took its toll around Mile 9, where I could feel exhaustion creeping in. 

The miles seemed to zip by. Part of that impression is surely due to what I remember of the course, which I ran two years ago in 2:22:27. At that race, I simply spent more time at each mile. The segments along the water, through the warehouses, and the out and back all loomed as endless in my mind, when in actuality EN and I handily picked the middle miles off, 8:00, 8:02, 8:04, etc. Mile 8 to 9 was one massive hill, and I motivated my way up it by looking for someone attractive in front of me to ogle. (I think I found the only hot guy on the course, but I can’t be sure as he powered up the hill and I never saw his face. He did have fine arms, however.) That was our slowest mile, at 8:46. 

Mile 10: I sang a little “chicka bow bow” (split–7:57). It’s at this point I quickly did the math and pondered how fast we’d have to run to break 1:50, instead of just breaking 1:53. Mile 11: picking up the pace as much as EN will let me, still feeling like I’ve got plenty to give. EN was hurting at the pace I set, but it was time to reverse our roles from Brooklyn. I urged him on, reminding him that his girlfriend, AG, was waiting at the finish line to give him a big kiss and a homemade banana walnut muffin. Mile 12: ready to go! I’d been steadily picking it up, but when we made the final turn into the straightaway, I though of my declining ladders at 6:40 pace and knew I had it. It was definitely a Hells yeah! kind of moment. EN and I played our How Many game from the Bronx Half, and passed about 36 runners in the last half-mile, but I couldn’t be sure because we both stopped counting. I think we ran the last mile in about 7 minutes, because when I looked at my watch at Mile 12, I thought, there was no way we were going to finish sub 1:50 unless we really laid the hammer down. (Which, apparently we did.) 

EN and I crossed the finish line together, per tradition. It’s possible I knocked into a couple of runners, which is bad manners, I know. (In my defense, a pet peeve elaboration: runners who pull up before they cross the finish line. Don’t they understand that every second counts? If not, then A: Why are you here? and B: Get out of my way!) No swells of emotion for me this time, I just was feeling like a bad ass tough chick. Gave a few hollers of “whoo hoo,” EN and I gave each other a big sweaty hug of congratulations–for running a strong race, for completing the Grand Prix cycle, for running dozens and dozens of miles together. The next time we run a half together, we’ve decided, it will be to break his PR, which I think is 1:44-something.  I really like EN’s take on the event, again from his comments written for this post:

TK later told me I bitched like a little girl but nevertheless, I’m proud of the effort…we set out with a challenging goal and kicked its posterior.  We executed our race plan perfectly, had a ball along the way and started our finishing kick with 1/2 a mile to go.  We completed the Grand Prix with panache and now 26.2 awaits. 

In two shakes we were flopped out on the grass overlooking the water, two cold beers cracked open, toasting all of the above. AG showed up with her banana nut muffins and bubbly personality, and after a good stretching-out we were on our way back to the ferry. It took me nearly two hours to get home, but it was good chill out time, I even napped for a second, my head on AG’s shoulder as we headed uptown on the 1 train. 

It wasn’t until I turned on the home computer and checked my results on nyrr.org that I knew my official time – 1:48:50 (averaging 8:18 minutes per mile). Not only did I break another personal record by nearly 5 minutes, I broke 1:50 (which seemed so far-fetched 24 hours earlier it hadn’t even been suggested as a goal), I came in 24th out of 218 women in my age group, and 176th out of 1429 women overall (not quite in the top 10%, but darn near close to it). 

Oh yeah, and I can check off another one of my Five Worthy Goals.

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Believe me, dear readers, when I say what a soft consolation it is for me to spend some time writing on Pigtails Flying right now…

A week or so ago, I received an email notification that we can all pre-order the DVD (signed by the director, no less) of The Spirit of the Marathon. It’s on sale October 7th. If you haven’t seen this movie and you are reading this blog, there’s little to no excuse for you (GO SEE IT). Yes, harsh, but if you have seen the movie I am sure you’ll be inclined to agree…. I can’t remember if I ever posted the link to the Road Running Information Center’s 2007 Marathon Report. It’s not new anymore, but if you haven’t read it, it could still be news to you…. In January 2007 I ran my first marathon, P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, and more than 20 of the miles were run side by side with KM. She’s raising money again with Team in Training, with a goal of $20,000 as she trains for the Nike Women’s Marathon. Do a good deed and donate your Starbuck’s money, willya?….

I neglected to include my usual bloggers’ race report round-up when I posted mine on the Queens Half last weekend, so here you go… Jbowers gives the visuals… Over at My Road to the 2009 NYC Marathon, this participant in the Worldwide Festival of Races spent her time “LOL”ing through the Queens Half… I’ve recently heard the term “worst PR ever,” and I think My Rambles would understand what that means, too… We all know what My First Marathon blogger Prakash is training for; and he met his personal goal last week… NYflygirl also PRed, (except not in Queens) she is fast, no joke, people….. 4:30 or Bust really struggled through the heat and humidity… Anyone else have a race report? Please post the permalink in my comments section, I want to hear from you.

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What should have been the second-quietest week of the year at work (after the week between Christmas and New Years) ended up giving me four intense days of presentations and emergencies. Now, in favorable contrast, I’m in Pennsylvania, in the middle of four peaceful days of sanctuary at my house in the woods, plus running. Being here–where the phone never rings, and the only sounds are the hum of the birds and insects and the regular crack of Husband chopping wood–is good for me. Pity I won’t be back until after the marathon.

I did manage to get in most of my scheduled miles, although not necessarily the way I’d planned for. Tuesday’s run was by far the best of the week, the kind you never want to end. 8 soothing miles through Central Park (jammed with other runners all training for the same race as I), a fantastic breeze, and the surprise of a late-summer sunset that arrives before 8 PM. Wednesday I had to scrap my plans to join the Nike Speed Workout and just got in 3 miles. Thursday morning I ran over the bridge and back for 5 miles, which I hadn’t done in ages and enjoyed despite a lingering Ambien fog.

My Pennsylvania running shook out like this: 9-mile tempo run on Saturday, and a 12-mile long run on Sunday (this being a step-down week as I move into my six toughest weeks of training). Friday night I whipped up the custard for a batch of Tea & Sympathy ice cream (Earl Grey tea leaves steeped in milk and cream, with crumbled scones folded in at the last moment of the churning process), and a scoop of this frozen delight was to be my reward for nailing the tempo run. My goal: 9 miles in 81 minutes. I hit the road strong, and held my effort level all the way to the turn-around point, where for some inexplicable reason I slowed way down and that middle half-mile took me seven minutes to run. Yikes. Refocus, still trying to get to my green road sign (Blakesleee 4M; Thornhurst 8M) in under 1 hour hour and 21 minutes.

Somewhere along the way I was passed on the right (so, on the other side of the street completely) by a man who was unbelievably fit. I know because he was running without his shirt, and he was moving at quite a clip. He reminded me of the runners I saw all around me when I went to Boston earlier this year to spectate at both marathons. His form was amazing, so fluid and relaxed. In about five minutes he was completely out of sight. I see plenty of folks on bicycles when I run 940, but this was only the second time I’d ever seen another runner, and that it would be someone so well-trained, so clearly an endurance athlete, was both totally cool and totally surprising.

Scenic views notwithstanding, I still had to run up the hills of the last two miles to complete my tempo run. I started complicated mathematical equations in my head to see if I still had a chance at coming in under 81 minutes. For example, 81 minus two 10-minute miles equals how many minutes?  (For some reason, when I’m running, even simple math becomes a nearly impossible task.) I decided to give myself the tiniest of breaks on the inclines, but cook it on the declines. This worked, and I pulled up at my finish line in 1:20:58. That evening, after dinner and after clean-up, I sat down with my scoop of homemade ice cream and focused as intently on each creamy bite as I had on each mile of my run.

This morning I couldn’t wait to run my 12, since they’d be done at long-run pace, which means no faster than 10-miute miles. These are my favorite kinds of long runs–leisurely, relaxing time spent with myself, free to let my thoughts wander. I listened to Steve on Phedippidations, thought about Ryan Hall and his 10th place finish in the Olympic Marathon, wondered what he’s doing now (does he eat ice cream?). I did some race visualizations for NYC. On my way out, I encountered two women in their early 40’s who were both sporting TNT shirts. I pulled up, crossed the street, and we all chatted for a while. They’re run-walkers, tapering for the Philly Distance Run in a couple of weeks, are basically done with their fundraising, and are also going to train for the full marathon on Philly in late November. Clearly, a different type of athlete than the guy I saw yesterday, but equally gratifying to see them out there. We said good-bye with a mutual “Go Team.” I finished my approximately 12 miles (never 100% sure of the distances out here) in 1:56:35, never having to breathe too hard or cajole myself up a hill. As I clicked off my watch, once again at my green road sign, I thought, Piece of cake. I know they all won’t be this easy, so I’m savoring this “cake” the same way I savored my ice cream.

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