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Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Ndereba’

Last Burst of Speed

Tights. Tee shirt. Jacket. Gloves. Little G. Okay, go run two laps, doing strides along the straightaways (mmm these felt gooood), then a mile at marathon goal pace (basically a 9 minute-mile). Of course, my race strategy includes a negative split, so who knows if I’ll run more than a few miles right at 9. Tonight, try as I might, it was impossible to slow the pace much below 8:45. My first two laps were run at 8-minute pace, even though I felt as if I was ambling along. I finished the 4 laps in 8:23. I didn’t stress it; rather it was an excellent object lesson in how slow my race pace is going to (hopefully) feel the first few miles. All told, for this last Nike Pacers speed workout of the year, we ran 5 miles, and my lower leg muscles bothered me just the tiniest bit. (Much better that the great big bother they gave me yesterday.) 

Back at Paragon, guess who was waiting to meet us? Catherine “the Great” Ndereba!! Wow wow, this is exactly the kind of thing I needed to jump start my enthusiasm for race day. She signed a postcard for me, I got an extra one for my friend TS, and then had someone snap a quick picture of me and Catherine. What a boost, completely inspiring! I congratulated her on her Olympic medal, and wished her luck in Sunday’s race. It’s so cool to think that I’ll be running (hours) behind this legendary marathoning woman on Sunday, over the same course. 

I thanked the Nike Pacers for their training this season, shook hands with chatty Kevin (No hard feelings about me teasing you? — “Nah!”), and floated out the door to get the 4 at Union Square to Grand Central, to transfer to the 7 local to my home in Sunnyside. This workout was a turning point for me: I’m starting to get pumped!

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The Berlin Marathon marked the beginning of the Fall season, it being the first of the three World Majors (Chicago and my NYC follow) that occur in the second half of the year (Boston and London are in the Spring, which you should all already know)… Haile owns this race, having set the world record there last year; and now he’s gone and set another world freaking record while also ensuring himself a spot in history as the first man to run 26.2 miles in under 2:04. Hubba hubba, who needs the Olympics?… I am psyched to see Irina Mikitenko win again, I watched her win London last year on my computer…  The elite field for NYC is nothing short of spectacular, Mary & Corps have really outdone themselves this Olympic year…. As I mentioned earlier, my girl Kara will be debuting her 26.2 mile chops… Also joining will be Paula to defend her title, 2007 World Marathon Majors winner Gete Wami, 2008 Boston Marathon winner Dire Tune, the majestic Catherine Ndereba. Among the male elites, I am most excited about Paul Tergat, Marilson Gomes dos Santos, and Abderrahim Goumri (he came in second after Martin Lel last year)… With each new name the NYRR’s releases, I feel a pang that I won’t be at my usual spot in Queens to watch these inspiring athletes flash by…. I ran my last 20-miler of training on Sunday, actually logging 20.33 miles in 3:09, wow. Ideally October 12th would have been my last 20-miler before taper, but I am determined not only to run the Staten Island Half-Marathon, but to race it… As my training winds down, I can already sense the post-race blues which await me. My friend and colleague EG recommended I read A Race Like No Other to get myself psyched for race day, since oddly I’ve begun to lose enthusiasm for this race I’ve been dreaming about for over a year… Has anyone read A Race Like No Other yet? I know I sent out some free copies… The reviews have been very positive, with an excerpt in this month’s Runner’s World, and an early mention in the New York Post. Library Journal says the book “is poetry for runners; pulsing and energizing in its immediacy, and as raw and persistent as its subject.” Now if only I could get someone to say that about Pigtails FlyingBenjamin Cheever writes in his review in The New York Times that Liz Robbins “packed her book with scrumptious details…” I expect more book coverage as marathon madness heats up in the city; early last week I received my info booklet in the mail, and today I saw my first subway ad as I headed down into the E/V at Fifth Avenue to go to acupuncture… My little G was a perfect running buddy yesterday, it amazed me when I ran past the point in the route I’d always sensed, viscerally, was the 10-mile point. I looked down at little G, who told me: 9.95 miles! See, he and I already have a special connection…One of my industry contacts works support crew in ultramarathons, even though she herself specializes in 5- and 10k’s. She passed me an article by Sunny Blende from the September 2008 issue of UltraRunning magazine that explains why I sweat more now than I ever have before during my runs: “you will sweat sooner and more as you increase your miles and become more fit.” Sweet!… Husband spent the weekend at the Pennsylvania house, leaving me pining away for the mountains’ Fall foliage. Fittingly, Manhattan User’s Guide has raked together all the links we need to get our peep on… And, will someone please give me a massive pile of cash so I can redecorate my apartment entirely from West Elm? Browsing this catalog is like staring at Clive Owen behind glass–he’s right there, and so, so gorgeous, but I just…can’t…touch.

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I’d set three different reminders for myself about the Women’s Olympic Marathon, so I would be sure to not miss a minute of coverage. As if I could forget! Even Husband had the schedule burned into his brain, since I called dibs on the TV for this Saturday night (and next Saturday, for the men’s) weeks ago. (Yes, we only have one TV. Cool, right?) My friend TS, the woman I met when Deena, Magda and Blake came to sign autographs at Central Park in June, had since moved to London for work (lucky bitch) but we’d vowed to BlackBerry each other throughout the marathon to compare US and UK coverage. She started the marathon countdown a week ago, god love her.

After my 8-mile tempo run, and hours of restless puttering, Husband took pity on me and we went to Wilkes-Barre to catch an afternoon showing of Batman: The Dark Knight. A fantastic movie, my only complaint being Christian Bale was shirtless in only one scene. On the way home we played “Who’s Hottest to You?” For me, Clive Owen trumped Bale and Johnny Depp, and Husband settled on Natalie Portman over Pam Anderson and Scarlett Johanson.

We quickly slapped together some dinner, and I planted myself in front of the television. TS and I started emailing frantically back and forth — Can you see Deena? Oh there’s Blake on the right! Liz Yelling is still leading. Please don’t mock me when I reveal to you: I cried for Deena when she had to drop out due to a foot injury at the 5k. Not sobbing, but tears of shock, disappointment, and sympathy. I wanted to hug her, but instead I commiserated with TS, who was just as broken-hearted as I was. (This morning, reports confirm she broke her foot.) Huge wishes to Deena for a swift recovery and return to form.

But, the race went on, and we rooted for Blake, and Magda, who dropped out somewhere between 15K and 20K with a knee injury. Again, NBC coverage sucks — I had no idea until I read that this morning; I clearly have givne them too much credit for at least covering our US atheletes. At some point, TS emailed saying that Liz Yelling had taken a tumble and had a huge bruise; again, we never even saw that here. When Constantina made her break, I was thrilled–someone had to do it, and Constantina Tomescu-Dita provides plenty of reasons to root for her. First, she’s 38, the second-oldest woman in the field that day. Also, she’s had a splendid career, winning Chicago in 2004 and coming in second after Deena in 2005 (if you’ve seen Spirit of the Marathon, you’ll recall that gutsy finish), but never quite getting that first-class reputation. I got choked up again when Constantina entered the Bird’s Nest Stadium, hearing the roar go up from the crowd, her blowing kisses. Catherine “the Great” Ndereba summarily dismissed Chinxiu Zhou when she made her move for silver; I swear Ndereba made it look so easy to outkick that Chinese woman around that track, as if she were swatting a fly, I wondered why she hadn’t tried to catch Constantina.  Blake Russell finished in 2:33:13, well within the top half of the field. I can’t find video yet, but if you fast-forward through the shots of Paula crying, you’ll still see a few images of the marathon. NBC has posted official results and split times. And I really like Burfoot’s opining about champions, injuries, and class acts (although he doesn’t himself use that term).

Even though it was only 10 PM, I went straight to bed, exhausted from my tempo run and needing a solid eight hours before my 16 this morning. After watching the women’s marathon, I was even more excited than usual for my Sunday long run. It was so relaxing, slowing down the pace, it feels like I’m misbehaving. I ran up Route 940 (yet again; my creativity has failed me here in the Poconos) all the way to the on ramp for I-380, then turned around and came back. When I started, the car thermometer said 55 degrees; by the time I’d returned, it said 76. My 10:25 pace felt just right, and I completed the approximately 16 miles in 2:46:37, imagining Constantina the whole way.

Curiosity is starting to get the better of me: how well will I run at the Queens Half in a month?

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Last weekend was the New York City Half-Marathon (sponsored by Nike). In an earlier post, I complained about the fact there’s no way to pre-qualify for this race, and about the way in which members of the NYRR’s were notified they hadn’t been selected. While I still hold these truths to be self-evident, I was nevertheless looking forward to spectating. The pro field was strong (my faves: Ritz and Catherine the Great) and international in scope; and I could also count on recognizing dozens of running buddies on the course. As schedules would have it, I had to get my long run in on Sunday. So far, I  haven’t found anywhere in Queens where I can get in an unobstructed long run (no way am I dodging traffic for 13 miles), so I knew I’d have to at least head in over the bridge and go up the East River. This made me consider, much to my surprise, about jumping in and running the Half-Marathon course. I could jump in at 0.1 miles, which would enable me to see Dathan and the other elites dash by, and most of the field. But, I have strong opinions against banditing a race, not wanting to take the race amenities and resources from the paid participants, nor to take advantage of all the vounteers and cheering spectators, and also believing that a race run without a bib doesn’t count towards my personal race results, pure & simple. These dog days of summer are getting to me, though, and while logically I know that 13 miles doesn’t even really qualify as a long run in my marathon training, it feels interminable in this humidity. When I decided that I would go against my anti-bandit policy and jump in, it was because I was more afraid of running in the heat all alone than of my guilty, post-race-stealing conscience. 

Early in the AM, I headed into the city with my house keys, Metrocard, and stocked Fuel Belt, determined to tread as lightly as possible on the course. The race course is seven miles in Central Park, and six out through the city, down through Times Square to the West Side Highway to end in Battery Park. I entered the park not really comfortable with my shifty and devious plan, sure that everyone could see I was going to steal the race. But then Ritz came by, in the lead pack, and I was hit with a rush of excitement so strong I almost took off after them. Now antsy, I waited as runners streamed by (I saw one guys with a GMR shirt on), until the 2:20 pace group showed up and I jumped in, looking nervously over my shoulder. The whole time in the park I tried to run behind bunches of runners, in the middle of the course, so race volunteers and officials would be less likely to see that I wasn’t wearing a number. Seriously-I was sure I was going to get thrown off the course and stripped of my NYRR membership card (not that I was carrying it, or any ID, for that matter; if caught, I would identify myself as Jenna Bush). 

By the time we exited the park (which couldn’t have come soon enough-the hills were annoying, and the trees blocked any chance of a breeze, leaving the first seven miles airless and numbing as we all trekked the loop we’ve run on hundreds of times before), I was a little more relaxed. I had come across some training buddies I knew, chatted with a few women who were running their first ever Half, and seen my old TNT coaches cheering from the sidelines like mad. I tried to demurely trot by these cheering squads, hoping they wouldn’t recognize m-since I wasn’t racing I didn’t want to steal any of the encouragement intended for real competitors. In the same vein, I apologized profusely whenever I bumped into anyone with a number, and tried my best to defer to them on the course-I didn’t want to get in the way of their race when I was just there to rack up the miles on the way to November 2nd. Are these attitudes too much? Maybe I took them on to hide the plain fact that I was a hypocrite; stealing the race even though I have so vociferously argued against that very thing in the past.

I ran the last few miles with SR, a TNT teammate from the Winter 2008 season. It was great to catch up with her, and have someone to chat with. I passed MZ, the team captain from our Green Mountain Relay and ran with her for about half a mile; she was in town from San Francisco for work and was a jump-in runner just like me, except without the guilt. My old student (and fast marathon runner) AL was cheering for his teammates on the sidelines, so I trotted over to him for a quick hug & hello. (Props to AL for hugging my sweaty self.) And then, we were at the finish line, just like that. I let SR run ahead and cross the finish line; she had a fantastic race and has gotten so much stronger as a runner since Disney. My training run took me 2:16:51 for 13 miles, about where I wanted to be given the heat. 

Once out of the recovery area, I walked straight to the subway, where I stretched on the ride home. It gave me a taste of what it must be like after the NYC Marathon – all these sweaty runners splayed all over the subway cars, congratulating each other, snacking on potato chips, sipping Gatorade and apologizing for leaving puddles of perspiration on the seats. Man did that AC feel good. I got home, ate, drank, showered, and took a three-hour nap. So did my guilty conscience.

I have to say, I am glad I tried banditing. It’s definitely not for me–I really did feel badly for taking up even the tiniest bit of anything that was intended for the racers. But, at least now when I get on my high horse about it, I can speak from experience.

Here are some race reports by other bloggers. Run Dangerously welcomes a guest blogger, Marathonomy created his own half route, NYC Fly Girl gets in her mileage and her spectating, Kat wears her purple proudly, Runner NYC reviews the music on the course, Famous Ankles gives two fantastic spectator reports (part one has photos of the elites), Trakmaniac at Crazy Bandana races (and bonks) just a week before the San Francisco Marathon, Quinto Sol runs his half in the same model sneaker as Haile Gebreselassie, and Cowboy Hazel sets his speed at “full intensity.”

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I was hoping for more. Now, granted, I am a tough critic because of my publishing insider status, so I’m jaded and suspect of pretty much any book that comes with a prefab concept or theme. However, I thought my skepticism of a collection of essays about women bonding through running would be balanced out by my own passion for running, and the romantic view I admittedly have of the sport, as both participant and spectator. Alas, that was not quite the case.

I started reading Sole Sisters several months ago, when I was training for the Disney World Marathon, but didn’t pick it up again until this week, when I decided to approach it like a point-to-point run and Just Read It. Unfortunately, after about four essays, the stories of these real women began to blur together. Most of the women profiled were running through some traumatic event, and they leaned on the support of their all-women running groups to get through it. I’m not saying this to diminish their struggles, or triumphs.  But I think these stories would have been more inspirational if I’d read one at a time, bit by bit, more like interval training.

Unsurprisingly, the essays that were most interesting to me were the ones that focused on elite and champion runners. I loved learning more about Joan Nesbit Mabe, Cheryl Treworgy, Grete Waitz and Catherine Ndereba and her sister. (I was delighted to discover is that Grete wore her hair in two pigtails as she ran, too!) The Quirky Award goes to Colleen Cannon, who runs flanked by her two horses.

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