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Relocation

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, tense and anxious about everything that needs to get done over the next five days. You see, this Wednesday evening the lawyers finally delivered a closing date for my coop purchase (May 31st) and I booked the movers (June 1st). Just like that, my holding pattern was over and I was given permission to land! Tray tables and seat backs to their upright position, people–TK’s set for arrival!

It’s all good. I do need to vigilantly surrender through this process, though: if I let my control freak* take over, I’m just asking for the stress to be magnified, for something to go wrong, and for disappointment. I don’t want this wonderful experience–buying and moving into my first wholly-owned home–dampened. So, at 5:30 AM I held my eyes shut against the to-do list, prayed that my troubled thoughts be turned off, and I went back to sleep until 6:30, at which point I got up and got ready for my run.

I set out without a firm route in mind (all I knew was I wanted to hit Ditmars Boulevard), and it ended up being an out-and-back. I ran up 49th St (from 31st Ave) to Ditmars Blvd; right onto Ditmars, which I followed until it curves south and turns into 82nd Street. I ran to 37th Avenue, then headed home. This way was completely new to me, and I enjoyed the tree-lined side streets and even the hills. I also liked how, when you’re running west along Ditmars, the cross streets go from 81st Street down sequentially to 71st, but then jump all the way down to 49th two blocks later! That really gave me a mental perk at the end of this workout. To see it on a map, I traced an upside down U that took me through Astoria Heights and Jackson Heights.

Along the way, a few airplanes skidded loud and low across the sky above me; no surprise there since the entrance to Laguardia’s Marine Air Terminal is on 82nd St. Auto traffic was light, but the Q32–the bus I took in Sunnyside that takes me over my bridge into Manhattan–passed me several times as I trotted along 82nd Street. On my way home, a moving van from the company I hired in January and again for Wednesday’s move drove right by me. All of this relocation, this movement of people and things through the skies and roads felt like the lead-in to my personal “Price is Right” moment. Look, here comes Bob Barker! “TK, pack your bags, because you’re moving to… Woodside, Queens!” Cameras swing to me, jumping up and down, clapping and laughing with unbridled delight.

6 miles run in 53:36, average pace 8:56. Fastest mile 8:33, slowest mile 9:20.

*I was going to say “inner control freak,” but there’s really nothing inner about her–she’s pretty much in your face. Freak!

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Sprout

It’s been rainy and damp all week long, which is good for the seeds I planted earlier this month.

May 1 marked the first day of following a training plan set by my new coach. I’ve had to put my old stand-by workouts aside and adhere to her schedule. It feels a little like a surrender, putting my fitness in the hands of another (all I have to do is the running, not the planning nor plotting). Luckily, it also feels like a germination.

I have been running five days a week, consistently. Pilates fits in once or twice a week, and my mileage is solidly in the 20’s (30 miles per week is ideally where I like to hover when not marathon training). Perhaps best of all, I can feel it on the inside, that old flutter of excitement about setting a goal and training towards it. I triple-L lllove that flutter. Some days, it’s the best thing I’ve got going on. Anticipation: will my seed of hope sprout into an irrefutable PR?

Yesterday I ran with MP after work since our regular Monday morning run had been hip-checked by my PT appointment. We ran from my office up to through Central Park to the Reservoir, then back down around the lower loop. We finished with 4 x 1 minute of strides. The sky, though gray, was not gloomy. There was enough light so that as we ran around the Reservoir, the puddles reflected mercury at us until our sneakers broke the surface with a splash. The park was relatively empty–we did not encounter a single other runner while circling the Reservoir. Without adult witnesses, we ran through the puddles uninhibited like children at play.

The strides were challenging. On the fastest one my lungs felt tight and my legs slightly heavy. Granted, my glutes were still sore from the previous evening’s Barres and Bells Pilates class. It’s time to push my body back into strength and endurance. It’s time to pass hours out in the rain and the sun, allowing the elements–and gravity–to cultivate my marathoner self. Now that I think about it, she’s actually a perennial.

5.25 miles run (until Little G’s battery died out right before the 4th repeat) in 47:46. Average pace 9:06, fastest mile 8:55, slowest mile 9:26. Pace during strides: 6:44-6:55-6:31.

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Soon, but not soon enough, I will be moved into my new, permanent home on the eastern edge of Sunnyside, Queens. My new apartment is down the block from my favorite cafe, a five minute walk from a wine bar, three blocks west of friend PJ, and five blocks east of my friend BP. Funny how that happened–I was on the cusp of moving to Greenpoint (Brooklyn, gasp!) and I made two new, dear friends in the neighborhood I’d lived in for more than 12 years. Funny how, as I am basebuilding and starting to pile on the mileage again, my running commute just got half a mile longer.

And what a beautiful half-mile it is. Those nine tree-lined blocks of Skillman Avenue will lead me up a hill past Sunnyside Gardens on the left and past some of my favorite places to eat in Sunnyside on the right. In warmer months I’ll run past men playing soccer and girls playing softball in the park. Any time of year I’ll be heading home with the knowledge that if I looked back over my shoulder, the Empire State and Chrysler Buldings would be there, winking at me from across the river. (I have a view of midtown Manhattan from the bedroom windows in my new place. Have I told you that yet?) When I imagine what it will feel like to run home to My Very Own Apartment that first time (or, perhaps even the 100th time), I want to cry: what amazing fortune, what miraculous progression–my life, starting to resemble what the December-me had to believe life would look like.

Monday I ran home from work, to my current home in Astoria, where I’m subletting a furnished second bedroom from a friend of a friend. My training program called for 4 x 1 minute of hill repeats, so I decided to ge them done on the 59th Street Bridge. Doing hill repeats on the Queensboro Bridge feels like have a quarrel with your best friend: you each remain intractable, you recite the same complaints and offenses over and over, no one wins, but yet it ends well because of your undying affection for one another. Or at least, that’s what it felt like to me, because I love this bridge and I believe that her inclines and climates ultimately help me become a better runner, much the same way my best friend helps me become a better person.

It was foggy, and the mist saturated my hair and wrapped itself around my skin. Visibility from the bridge was exceedingly poor; instead of looking around like usual, I focused on form during my multiple climbs up the eastern side (headed back towards Manhattan).

Earlier in the day I had an appointment with my old PT, Danielle. I finally decided to go because Betty had been griping at me long enough; marathon training would start in less than a month;, and I wanted to get this ache sorted now before it turned into an injury. Danielle put me through various tests of mobility and balance, and determined that my issues with Betty (my right adductor brevis, an inner thigh muscle at the upermost part of my leg) is possibly aggravated by the fact that my right foot and hip is highly inflexible. So instead of my foot and hip acting as a shock absorber and balancer, poor Betty has had to do all that work herself. (No WONDER she’s so bitter, I can totally relate.) For this issue Danielle gave me a few flexibility/mobility exercises to do, easy stuff that actually leaves me achy.

The other issue, which I have only recently begun to motice, is that my lower back hurts me when I run hard. In fact, it hurt me for most of my Forest Park race this weekend. That was confusing to me, since the Pilates and all that ab work should have erradicated the strain on my lower back.  Turns out, I have been engaging my abs incorrectly! This is mildly discouraging, but at least I can train myself now to do it properly, and I can get stronger. Danielle also wants me to do Kegels! Sadly, not because I all of a sudden have a sex life, because I don’t. No, the Kegels are to help strengthen my pelvic floor, which apparently running weakens in the ladies. (I am oversharing in the hopes that this might be helfpul to other lady runners out there, not because I actually at comfortable being this frank about my womanly muscles.)

By the time I’d made it back to Astoria, I was warm from the inside out, panting, and grinning. I’d just run up and down my bridge four times, then zipped through central Astoria with the knowledge that things were being handled, and that I’m still moving towards everything being better than just OK

5.21 miles run in 49:17. Average pace 9:27; fastest mile 9:12; slowest mile 9:44. Paces during hill repeats 8:01-7:55-7:53-8:01.

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Tempo Two-Point-Five

Tempo runs are the bugaboo workout for me. They never feel right, they never give me confidence, they hurt like hell. If I attempt them on my own I can never settle into a pace, and if I run them with a group I am always annoyed and shamed by the stronger runners who pass me, or who have more kick/less gasping the final half a mile. I hate the way tempo runs make my lungs burn and my heart pound so hard I can feel it pulsing in my chest. Theoretically, tempo runs should be tough enough to wear me down, but not so hard that I am humiliated, and yet, I always feel like a schmoe at the end of a tempo.

Take Matt. He loves tempo runs because he gets out there and lets ‘er rip, running hard and fast while enjoying the zipzipzip. Then there are runners like EG who are so talented at locking into a rhythm  that others call them a “pace master.” I want to enjoy the zip, I want to lock in, but I am starting to suspect it won’t ever happen for me.

Oh and: did I mention that Coach Kate had us scheduled for a tempo run along the West Side Highway this evening at Nike Speed? Did I also mention that my buddy DT who pulls me along on these workouts thought he was being clever and went straight to the track on the Lower East Side, leaving me with no fellow tempo schmoe? (He ended up fartleking around by himself.) Oh and did I mention that I had to pee so badly that I left Paragon Sports after the rest of the group, so I actually got in a 1.5 mile faux tempo (do you like how I’ve found a few rhymes with the “oh” in tempo for this post?) as I trotted across West 20th Street with one of the pacers to catch up with the rest of the group?

All things considered–including the fact that I didn’t always get in three runs a week in March as I’d been planning so my base fitness is, shall we say, shallow–I am satisfied with my effort in tonight’s speed workout. There is, however, a big difference between satisfied and elated.

Coach Kate paced the 8-minute-5k-race-pace group tonight, and since Mile 1 was the only full one I ran under her guidance, I give her the credit for the nice 8:13 pace. That felt “comfortably hard.” After 1.5 miles, I peeled off from the rest of the pack, which was planning on a 4-mile tempo, and headed back on my own. So I was partially responsible for the pace of Mile 2, which was 8 minutes flat. By the time I started the third mile, I had cramps in both sides (is that even possible??), was hacking wetly, my heart felt like someone was squeezing it in a fist, and my lower back and shoulders were so tense and malformed I could hear my Pilates instructor’s voice scolding me. “Shoulders down! Tailbone tucked!”

Dudes and dudettes, this is what’s called “I Haven’t Done a Fucking Tempo Run Since October.”

The only thing I remember about the last half mile was the clamorous noise in my head as I tried to psych myself up to complete the entire mile. At 42nd Street I got real, and promised myself that if I continued to give it my all through 36th Street (completing the half-mile) I could walk a little then trot it in. Hi, yes, I feel humble. Hi, yes, I have a lot of work to do. Hi, yes, I am up for the challenge (7-minute pace group, I’m gonna get you!). The last 0.52 miles of the tempo were run at a 7:51 pace, which makes the workout more of a progression run than a true tempo. Yeah, progression THIS, suckers!

Related: I have officially put these speed workouts in the No-Go Zone, which means I skip them only for some other running-related event, or a death in the family. I backed out of a work obligation next Wednesday because I didn’t want to miss my speed workout. NB: this work obligation involves a cookbook, a cookbook author, preparation of recipes in said book by said author, all while surrounded by elegant and esteemed foodies–normally I’d cancel a date with Daniel Craig* to be in such esteemed culinary company. The intractable prioritizing of my training has begun its slow, merciless takeover of my life. Bring it!

*Not that he’s asking. I mean, it’s likely that if he met me he’d so totally want to date me. But, we haven’t met. Yet.

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Last week I asked my readers and running buddies on Twitter to chime in with their suggestions about what strategy I should take for qualifying for the Boston Marathon. My dilemma revolved around the deadline for registration–my original goal race fell after the September deadline, so if I BQed there, it would be under the procedures and standards for the 2013 marathon. Boston, it seemed to me, kept moving ever-further out of range.

After a little bit of angst (I won’t qualify before flipped into the next age group, 40-44, the horrors), and a lot of consideration about what everyone had to say, I am sticking with my original plan of racing the Empire State Marathon on October 16, 2011, and I will try to race fast enough to qualify and gain entry to the 2013 Boston Marathon. Because of the new tiered registration process, simply qualifying is no longer enough. I’ll have to hope that whatever my time is, it will be fast enough to get me a bib after all the women who qualified with a greater buffer than I. Also, using an October 2011 race as a qualifier for Boston 2013 means I’ll have to live in suspense for 11.5 months until I know for sure if I have actually got in to the big show. Despite these few less than ideal details, I am really excited about the Empire State Marathon for many reasons.

First, racing the Lehigh Valley Marathon in early September would have jeopardized my performance in several key ways. I would have truncated my basebuilding by a whole month. I would have been dealing with much warmer, more humid weather on race day. The course is partly on trails, so as DT succinctly wrote, I would get a “lower return on mechanical energy” by running on uneven surfaces. (That’s not even mentioning how much Betty hates those kinds of surfaces.) More than one runner testified as to how difficult running on a net descent course can be on the body, and while I could (and would) have trained for that, I’d rather not add challenges to this endeavor.

The bottom line, for me, is that it’s a difference of 36 days between the Lehigh Valley Marathon and the Empire State marathon, yet the BAA has set two different sets of standards for me. The irony is that as the standards flip down, my age bracket flips up, so my qualifying time remains the same. I think this is what you call a zero-sum game, though for whom I am not exactly sure. On second thought, it’s not irony, it’s absurdity. But whatever, clearly I imbibed the Kool-Aid: I want to race the Boston Marathon as a time-qualified participant, so I am willing to jump through their hoops. If the BAA told me my BQ would count only if I was photographed crossing the finish line in a pink tutu, I would go out and buy a pink tutu. What can I say? Even though I agree with other runners who have made the case that the Boston standards are much more arbitrary and bullshit than any time goals I might set for myself based on my own past performances, I still want to be a Boston qualifier! I want the frikkin blue and yellow race gear, OK?

Not to mention, it is very unorganized to have run all but one of the five World Marathon Majors (another goal of mine. I’ve two down, with three to go). I like complete sets, and having all the boxes ticked off on my to-do list.

These are the reasons I am excited about the Empire State Marathon:

  • This will be the first-ever small field marathon I’ve run. My past two have been massive, crowded, aggravating experiences. I have learned my lesson: on the race course, hell is other people. Considering this, the EMS should be heaven.
  • It’s the premier running of the race. I know that could mean there will be SNAFUs that might affect my ultimate performance, but I have faith that instead I’ll just be an insider until others cop on and run it next year.
  • It’s in Syracuse, which is about a four and a half hour drive from where I live in Queens. I’ll have to hotel it, but I don’t have to deal with the dehydration and disorientation that comes from trans-time zone air travel. Also, it means that if I plan well enough, I can drive up there one weekend during my training for a long run to test part of the course. This will give me a big mental advantage and a confidence boost heading into the event.
  • It’s in October, which means I’ll be able to cheer on all my friends running the New York City Marathon without stressing about my own training. During my taper, I have two fun events the weekends leading up to race day: The first weekend of October I’ll be cheering AC as she competes in her first half Ironman triathlon. It’s here in the Poconos, so she & her man will stay here that weekend, replicating the fun I had with AG when he raced the Pocono Marathon. The second weekend in October, I’ll be celebrating the wedding in Denver of one of my first-ever running buddies, KW. Also in attendance to party with us will be my other first-ever running buddy, DT. Two excellent events to reinforce my motivation, inspiration and confidence going into my goal race. It will also be nice to have things to distract me from the taper, which I always find nerve-wracking. Hell, I might take that whole week of October 10 off from work and spend part of it with my brother and friends in Colorado!

Apart from race-specific reasons why I’m happy to have settled on a Fall race, I am going through all of the typical satisfactions us marathoners have in this honeymoon stage. I’ve made a suitable match, so I’m feeling a little pleased with myself. I have been listening to people tweet, blog and talk about their long runs, races and PRs for a whole year now without really having (m)any of my own–I’m JONESING to be back part of the Distance Training Tribe. I love the laser beam focus the training plan gives me, the sharply defined shape it gives to my life. I just surrender to the plan, I take a vow. OK plan, do with me what you will, I am yours. I will retreat from my (non-running) social life, I will bid a sad farewell to my red wine, I will swear off  excess quantities of dairy, processed sugar, simple carbs, and late nights.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Hi Matt,

it’s been a while since I’ve given you and your show a proper shout-out on my blog (actually, it’s been a while since I’ve done anything properly on my blog). Yesterday driving over to my house in Pocono Lake, PA, I listened to three back-to-back episodes of your Dump Runners Club podcast, and it brought me back when I first discovered your show, and how the DRC kept me engaged in my training and motivated for my race during my prep for the New York City Marathon in 2008. It was nice to remember back to that time, since that training cycle and race experience remains my best for the marathon to date.  I’m gearing up for what I hope will be a marathon to supplant NYC ’08 as the best, so I can use any kind of positive associations possible.

Your last three episodes were all really strong. Even though you were talking at me, I have some questions and comments. Humor me? So, episode #188… Which half-marathon are you running in May? I was nodding as you were talking about the Boston Marathon hill simulation workout. One of the things that helped me so much to have a positive experience in the New York City Marathon was being familiar with most of the course, and part of my reason for choosing the Empire State Marathon for this Fall (more on that in a separate post) is because Syracuse is close enough that I can get to the course for one of my long runs, to give myself that mental advantage. What you shared about having your gait analyzed by an expert was riveting and so helpful regarding my own efforts with about whole-body fitness and running form. The feedback you were given, about looking at the whole leg instead of just the injured area when treating a sports injury, is amazing and makes so much sense especially in the context of what I’ve learned in Pilates this winter. I thought Pilates class would be all about my core, an hour straight of all different sorts of ab workouts. And while those muscles are constantly engaged (meaning, consciously poised into a specific position), Pilates classes work every single muscle in my body. We do several exercises to strengthen the back and shoulders, and when we exercise the quads, sure as shit the next muscle group we work on are the glues and hammies. Now, no doubt my running form is a wreck compared to yours, but I was encouraged to hear that at least I was on the right track by augmenting my road training with Pilates class. It was interesting that your arm swing compensated for weakness in your glutes–I wonder if my own unsymmetrical arm swing is a result of Betty’s failings. PS thanks for sharing your foot strike video–and I wish your form a return to 2003.

Episode #189 was like candy, I really enjoy your recaps of pro racing. Even if it’s news I already knew about, I like to hear your take on the races and records. I love that many women from our 2008 Women’s Olympic team were all back together on the courses. Oh, and, you casually mention that you are seriously thinking about going to the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston this January 2012. I will be there (I’m staying with @tejasrunnergirl), too! I’ve been planning on this trip for over a year to spectate the trials, since my experiences with the Men’s and Women’s Marathon Trials in 2007/2008 were so exciting and motivational. I haven’t thought about running the half-marathon while there, but I think it’s a great idea, and I just might do it! (Registration opens June 1, 2011.) I’m also going to Eugene, OR for the Track & Field Trials as well.

While you were talking about your training, you suggested that after Boston, you won’t run another marathon for a few years–but then in episode #190 you said that you want to one day run our New York City Marathon. What’s the deal? For purely selfish reasons (it would be so much fun to cheer you on as you run through Queens), I must insist you come run New York as soon as possible.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the new Boston Marathon qualifying standards, since I am hoping to run a qualifying time this year, even though I realize that a qualifying time no longer guarantees there will be a bib for me (is that the short story called The Loneliness of the Not Quite Fast Enough Long Distance Runner?). Mike’s comments in the “Dis and Dat” show about how the new registration process is bullshit made me feel a little validated. The new standards and process are what they are, and if I want to compete in the Boston Marathon by qualifying (which is what I want), then I have to fit into the new protocols. But Mike’s objections to the tiered registration process (especially that if the faster runners don’t register during their exclusive days, they still get priority over slower runners even if they register on the last day) makes complete sense to me. I think that the Boston Marathon brand was a little diluted even before this revamping process. It started the first year that registration closed months before race day–rather than keeping itself separate from the hoi polloi, the BAA was brought down into the muck with the rest of the mob-mentality races.

Other short notes on episode #190: 1) two-week taper, without a doubt. Love it. 2) race directors taking participants for granted, this is a huge reason why I maintain a loose boycott of New York Road Runner races, especially the ones in Central Park. Since I don’t need guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon, why would I pay upwards of $20 (much more for a half-marathon) to run a loop of the park I can run any day of the year for free? No, thanks! I am the consumer, as you say, and I prefer to support smaller races run by smaller organizations. 3) Andrew Carlson! I’m a fan. 4) La maratona di Roma, I’ve always dreamed about running this marathon since it happens in my favorite country and it falls on my birthday every several years. Imagine the deliciousness of the carbo-loading I could do for that?!

One last thing, your closing comments keep getting drowned out by the exit music. Lower the volume on the tunes, dude.

Looking forward to seeing you when you’re on my coast for the Boston Marathon. I’ll be cheering you at the finish line on the runners’ left side. Will you be wearing all yellow again this year, like a dashing banana? Enjoy the taper, and the tempos.

Your friend,

TK

 

 

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Whoooooohoooooo

It’s just midnight on a school night and I am only now starting to feel like maybe soon I’ll be ready for bed. This from the woman who is normally in bed by 10 PM and wishing she’d gotten there half an hour earlier. Why, why, why such energy at such a belated hour? Two words:

Downward ladders.

Nooo, not a downward spiral. [Begin Valley Girl accent.] I’m like soo totally past that stage of my life. I said, “Downward ladders!” It’s a speeeed workout, like on the track? (Du-uh!) [End that accent, god that was awful.]

This is one of my all-time favorite track workouts, second only to Pyramids. You start long and slow….and you end up short and fast. That’s basically it, except it’s not naughty like it sounds. Though, at the end of the workout you feel so good you could perhaps forget for a moment that you weren’t naughty. At least, for me, the afterglow is kind of the same. Um….!

It was 48 degrees when I left the office to head down to Paragon Sports for my first Nike Speed of the year (the first session was a week ago, but I was a little busy). By the time we made it to the Lower East Side track, the chill evening had won me over and I was ready to wax poetical about what a perfect night it was. On our first loop around that perfect orange oval, DT rightly pointed out that the usual wind that hits us head on off the river was mercifully absent. I hadn’t noticed the wind (or lack thereof) because I was too distracted by the gorgeous slate gray striations of the clouds and sky that hung lightly over the East River. This is the sort of thing my senses pick up in the seconds I allow them to focus elsewhere during speedwork.

I aligned myself with the 8-minute pace group (this is based on an estimated 5k race time, taken from my Cherry Tree Relay results). Our pacer kept us honest. I definitely felt challenged, though without that searing, gasping, tense exertion I recall from my hardest efforts in past summers. There is time enough for such suffering; indeed, if I come regularly to these speed workouts, I’ll have six months of weekly interval training under my belt before my goal race. That will be my longest stretch of regular speedwork ever.

The splits were like this: 1200-1000-800-600-400, with 200 meter recoveries except after the first 1200 interval when we ran a whole lap recovery. The times were like this: 5:55-4:56-3:50-2:52-1:43. The paces were like this: 7:47-7:47-7:40-7:30-6:38. Talk about a confidence booster! Even though on the 1.75-mile trot back to Paragon Sports I was a little tapped out, putting my hands on my knees at one red light, I still felt elated about the whole thing. We ran nearly 7 miles total–I can’t remember the last time I’ve run further than 6 miles, so it’s no shocker I was pooped.

Here is something I can carry with me through the season: Shoulders back and down. Abs up. Eyes straight ahead. Knees high. My mind has hooked into my body, and I can feel the interior flow that only comes with that connection. There it is again: recognition. With any luck, soon I’ll hit the trifecta and when my mind and body connect up, so will my spirit. Together, we will run forward, slingshot around the outside curve and cut it loose until we’re flying up the straightaway.

Here I come.

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I Misunderstood. Now What?

Home sick with a sore throat, stuffy nose, and achy body today. Missed this morning’s run, this evening’s book club, a whole day of work, and have already cancelled tomorrow morning’s acupuncture appointment and tomorrow evening’s Pilates class. I spent all morning blogging for work, then spent all afternoon sleeping. I suppose it would have been asking too much for my birthday week to roll into a fortnight.

While running with BG around Lake Naomi on Saturday, I mentioned my marathon plans–to race the Empire State Marathon on October 16th in the hopes of qualifying for Boston 2012. BG pointed out that qualifying times must be run by September 23, 2011, when registration closes. Basically this I have two choices. One, I can train for and race a marathon earlier in the Fall– a September marathon, for example– in the hopes that I’ll run a qualifying time (sub 3:45, which requires shaving 4 minutes off my PR) and still be able to get a bib after all the faster runners have registered. Or two, I can stick with my original plan of racing the Empire State Marathon and try and qualify under the new standards for the 2013 race. The thing is, in 2013 I jump an age group, because I’ll be 40 for that running of the Boston Marathon, so the qualifying standard would be the same for me (instead of dropping down to 3:40). This makes me a little sad, since I had hoped to qualify before I was 40. Gosh, suddenly 40 seems uncomfortably close.

Racing a marathon in September seems dodgy–there’s that east coast humidity to deal with, and it crunches my base building into a shorter window than I’d been counting on. Right now I’m considering the Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon for Via, on September 11, 2011. It’s a net downhill course but not by much–initially I thought i’d feel like qualifying on a net descent course would feel like “cheating” but I’ve heard from a lot of marathoners who testify that downhill races pose their own challenge as they are killer on the quads. The reviews on MarathonGuide.com are strong. The field is limited to 500 marathoners, and including the relay and the half-marathon there will be fewer than 3,000 runners on the course that day. The size is just right for me, since I have finally accepted the fact that I am not fond of races jammed with crowds and competitors. Regarding my concerns about the weather, this is what BG said when I emailed him Sunday night:

Lehigh Valley Marathon is largely run on a towpath along the Lehigh River – semi trail-like conditions. It’s a dirt and cinder path – low impact, but in some areas there are some tree roots and rocks to watch out for. I know the course well, having run it in pieces on relay teams, but never ran it as a marathon. A friend at work has, and I’ll get his take on it and let you know. One consideration is it’s all pretty much down in a river valley, and is often pretty humid early in the morning.

I once ran a marathon in early morning humidity–the Disney World Marathon (Orlando, 2008)–and I hated it. But I hated that marathon for many, many other reasons, too. I could stick with the Empire State Marathon and try and qualify for 2013. If I did that, then I could maybe run Berlin in 2012, as that would give me a nice window to recover before having to begin training for Boston (assuming I even get in). Of course, this is all bizarre speculation, since I know too well what happens when I make these sorts of plans. I get excited, I build my years around them, and then nothing turns out the way I’d planned!

I have a month before I need to commit to a training plan for a September marathon–so i’m happy to toss my options around until then. One thing I know for sure–I won’t ever train through the winter for another marathon again, unless it’s for Boston. What do you all think? Do you have any suggestions of smaller races within decent driving distances of New York City I could try out? What strategy would you take in trying for a BQ, given my last PR and my goals? I welcome your thoughts.

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I Beckon Thee, Oh Balmy Breeze!

Day 7 of 7 in the Blogging My Birthday Week Series

Birthday cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, but MJ was a little sleepy. Nevertheless we made it to the library parking lot only eight minutes late to meet BG for a mellow run around Lake Naomi. Before we hit the road, I passed BG some wrapped pieces of banana Nutella cake, since MJ and I had only eaten two slices out of a cake that held at least ten.

BG was kind and plotted a course that was the flattest possible route, even though hills in the Poconos are like sand in the desert. MJ’s sister can tell you it’s tax season, but there was nothing taxing about this trot through the relatively posh development of Lake Naomi. We definitely kept it at chat pace, and even though it was about 20 degrees, the forested properties kept us sheltered from the wind so we all warmed up pretty quickly. I admit it was disconcerting to be running along snow-lined streets for my birthday weekend–usually, in the city it’s just starting to defrost, the streets are clear and I catch a hint of a balmy breeze. But this weekend, I ran through a dazzling winter wonderland. Evergreens iced in snow pilings and icicles. Snowdrifts piled against stacked cords of firewood. Mountain cabins snuggled under roofs blanketed in (you guessed it) snow. MJ was impressed by the beauty of the landscape; I appreciated it; BG had clearly had enough, since he’d been snowed in since November. Understandable!

With luck, this conversational run through a landscape that made me think it was Advent rather than Lent will be the last real winter workout I’ll have until well after my goal marathon for this year. The weatherman is prognosticating temperatures in the 60’s for this week–oh how glorious a big thaw would be. It is time for the melting, it is time for reemergence.

5 miles run in 56:11. Average pace 11:13; fastest mile 11:01; slowest mile 11:24.

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Day 6 of 7 in the Blogging My Birthday Week Series (today being my actual birthday)

As I was running around the Timber Trails loop this morning, it occurred to me that we only have one truly tactile experience of our birthday–and that is at the actual moment of birth, when we are seconds old. Forever after that initial instance of our life, birthdays will be remembered by the intangibles: feeling happy, lonely, loved, forgotten, unique, sad, grateful.

I am over at the Poconos house with my friend MJ, continuing to celebrate my birthday with two days off work and a whole lot of laziness. I started the celebration on Sunday, with my first blog post. Simply making the time to reflect about running and my life, and then write about it, is a gift. Monday I went for a run and got a facial. Tuesday I had a killer Pilates class and then met up with a trusted group of women for some great conversation.

And Wednesday, Wednesday!, I threw myself a little birthday party in my favorite wine bar. This year of all years it was important to me to gather those who have supported me, comforted me, cheered me up, and just maintained their faith in me as I pulled myself through the past seven months. I wanted something to look forward to, I wanted a reason to get dressed up, I wanted a small moment in the spotlight, and yes–I admit I wanted a few presents to unwrap. But those were just convenient perks of the party, because what I really wanted was a moment to stand on a chair and tell my friends and family how much I felt their affection and good will, and to thank them for it. I did exactly that, right before they brought out my cake. 

Thursday I woke up with an epic hangover, but in an astoundingly good mood. I felt full of fortune and gratitude. The circle of light at the end of the tunnel is getting wider and brighter with each passing day, allowing me to see everything more clearly–and I mean everything. Lessons that other people seem to have figured out ages ago I am only absorbing now, like: Life will never be just the way I want it to be; nothing will ever be perfect, starting with me. There was once a time when that news would have angered and frightened me, but now it’s a curious sort of challenge–how does one enjoy something that isn’t perfect? I want to know the answer!

And here we are at Friday. MJ and I had a lazy breakfast followed by a beautiful run along a road basked in sunshine and bordered with glittering snow. Then we dedicated ourselves to food: grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and the baking of a banana Nutella cake for dessert. After I assembled the cake, I was a little disappointed because it leaned precipitously to one side, and the cream cheese icing was marred by smears of the Nutella filling and cake crumbs. But MJ reminded me of my revelation: thought it wasn’t perfect, my cake was as it was meant to be. It seems that this year, my lessons in abundance are intangible AND tactile: I will have my cake and eat it, twice! (Apparently, in this case, one enjoys imperfection by eating it.)

Each mile of my four-miler around Timber Trails this morning was faster and more fluid than the one before. My breathing remained steady as my heart did its pittery-pattery thing. My thoughts remained fixed on not what I had lived through, but on that which awaits me, and on all the special people with whom I will share it with.

 

Prosecco 1; Gruner Veltliner 5; Sauvignon Blanc 10;  Montepulciano 8; Cabernet Sauvignon 15; Nebbiolo 12; Stella Artois 2.

4.16 miles run in 40:09. Average pace 9:38; fastest mile 8:55; slowest mile 10:21.

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