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Posts Tagged ‘central park’

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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The Media Challenges have been cancelled so many times this summer due to crazy heat that I don’t even know which one this was supposed to be, the third maybe? Whatever–it was the last one of the year, which meant it was my last chance to run a best time for the season, and maybe to set a new PB for the distance. I was so rushed after work that I left Little G at home, forgot to check my course times, and had to hustle to get to the starting line with only two minutes to spare. Defaulting to my If I’m not going to win, I may as well look cute in philosophy. I wore my red London Marathon tee, spandex shorts, and my adiZero racing flats. Spontaneously, I decided to race with my nano so as to avoid aggravation (the music distracts me from idiots).

There was an annoyingly large contingent of big guys from the New York Times–all in their royal blue team shirts–mucked right at the front of the starting line. I decided to stand smack in the middle of them, a lone red dot in a swarm of blue papermen. And then we were off. I smugly held myself in check as everyone else tore off full speed down the hill. Honestly, haven’t they figured out by now that killing the hill early kills them for later? This happens every race! I was pretty tense  from my work day, and could feel my shoulders up around my ears. I tried to lower them but gave up after a mile or so, deciding to concentrate on quick turnover instead, since that seemed to be what my body wanted to do: short rapid steps. I liked that, it felt good. A little past the halfway mark, the timekeeper called out my split for slightly more than 1.75 miles — 13 minutes plus. The second loop is slightly shorter than the first, so I was curious if I could possibly break 26 minutes, but then somewhere around Mile 2.5 I could feel myself working twice as hard to run a little bit slower than I was in the first 2 miles. I thought of DT, who theorizes that the third mile is the most physically painful and the most mentally challenging in these 3.5 milers. It’s the point where we start to seriously wonder if we can hang on until the finish line. I definitely fell off my pace; I can’t say by precisely how much since I was running watchless. I had stopped passing people, but I didn’t care since I’d passed plenty in the first 2.5 half miles.

Later, on my walk to the subway, I called my dad to tell him about my race. He commented that the distance was a walk in the park for me, but I had to clarify that the effort was quite the opposite. My legs were burning, I had an awful cramp in my side, and my vision was blurry. My dad laughed for a moment and then said, “Well butter, it sounds like you had a fun time.” I had to giggle too. Running: sublime, yet ridiculous.

So there I was, at the crest of the final hill before the lovely decline that drops into the finish line. I was pushing it. Dig deep, woman. You are actually only at the beginning of a long hard road, and I know you’ve got more grit inside. Carry yourself forward. I opened up my stride, but frowned when I heard “26:31” come through the finish line bullhorn. I didn’t even come close to breaking 26.

Regardless, I was still satisfied with my effort: I gave everything I had that day and got in my speed workout for the week. It was only later, when I got home and checked PF for my 3.5 mile PB, that I realized I’d set a new course record for myself. 26:31 is a 39-second improvement over my best time from 2 years ago. And, that 7:35 pace is my fastest per-mile pace in any race (not counting the Fifth Avenue Mile).

YOU GUYS! I am super excited to see what’s going to happen next! How fast can I get? Just how freaking fast can I actually go?

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Last weekend I was at the Pennsylvania house, where it was 10 to 15 degrees cooler than what my running friends in the city had to suffer through. Consequently, I wasn’t as oppressed by the heat during my two 10.3-mile runs, even though the humidity still left me wondering if I hadn’t spontaneously contracted a chest cold. I was still unprepared for the deleterious effect the heat would have on my 4-mile pace run on Tuesday morning. I should have known it was going to be bad when the second I stepped out of the air-conditioned bedroom I broke out in a sweat, the rest of the apartment was stuffy and hot from the heat that had clamped down on New York since the previous week. My splits were horrifying, no where near my goal pace of 8:05’s. After a 3/4 mile warm up, I bullied my way through the humidity up 37th Street in Astoria to Ditmars and back and all I had to show for it were 4 mediocre miles at 8:40-8:35-8:32-8:22. Not only that, I was so wrung out from the outsized effort I had to put in for such crappy splits that I walked the last half a mile home rather than jogging it as a cool down. Fuck that.

Later that night, as I walked east to the subway home after drinks at Trestle on Tenth, the city had cooled noticeably. There was a slight breeze, and the hospitable temperature created one of those quintessential New York evenings when I could walk forever and never overheat. I reluctantly headed down into the closed, fetid air of the subway.

Wednesday morning I awoke refreshed and excited–it was Run to Work Day! These mid-week long runs are something I’ve come to look forward to even though it requires a little bit of pre-planning (bringing my work clothes and toiletries to work on Tuesday). Typically I head into the city over my bridge, up First Avenue to 72nd Street, and across to Central Park. Once it the park, I adapt my route based on how many miles remain to be completed for the run at hand. I love the gradual transition from Queensboro Plaza, noisy and gritty with the busses, trains and autos that all cross and converge at the base of the 59th Street Bridge, to Central Park, active with runners and cyclists yet mostly quiet and peaceful with its acres of landscaped nature. And I love feeling accomplished, healthy and when I walk into my office building thinking, That’s right, I ran to work. Beat that, suckers!

Even anticipating all this goodness, I was not prepared for the lift I would get when I walked out my front door. The air was cool and crisp, it felt clean and light as a feather, as if a crew of purifiers had rolled through in the night and sucked all the humidity and weighty heat right out of the neighborhood. I lifted my knee and pulled my fists in and exclaimed, Yeah! Then I looked around to see if anyone had caught me in my display of exuberance but at 5:30 AM the coast was mostly clear (except for the itinerant can lady, collecting redeemables and piling them high in her grocery cart like some sort of urban bedouin merchant, and really who gives a shit what she thinks). So anyway I was off, so excited to be running through the cool weather, I felt as light and sprightly as the air. A grin had taken hostage of my lips and I spread my arms wide to airplane my way onto the pedestrian lane of the Queensboro Bridge. I was gonna fly over that bridge, I could see the river sparkling at me and the sky spread clear and shiny above Manhattan. Energy infused the morning.

I’d originally planned to run 7 miles but by the time I’d completed one lower loop of Central Park, I still wanted more so I circled again for a second go-around.  I felt strong, sure I was breathing hard but it wasn’t that wheezy labored panting from my pace run. These breaths were deep and even and I recognized my body performing as it was designed to do. Two times around the lower loop of the park is exactly the course of the Media Challenge races, and I wondered if I’d be able to PR again in the two races that remain for me, as I weighed my performance at the Wall Street Run with the workout I was in the middle of. The last three miles of my run (I love when my long runs naturally become progression workouts) were the splits I should have run yesterday — 8:15, 7:49, and 8:06. Fuck yeah.

I stopped running about 10 blocks north of my office at exactly 8 miles, and enjoyed the walk down Fifth Avenue. I took the time to fantasize about the frocks and footwear displayed in the Fendi and Ferragamo shops, and took note of the cool breeze drying the sweat off my body. My spirits were lifted by the reminder that it’s not always me, sometimes it’s just the weather bringing my speed down. 8 miles ran in 1:09:57. Average pace 8:44; Fastest Mile 7:49; Slowest Mile 9:29.

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Central Park Squeeze

Yesterday I squeezed in a run between work and a later-in-the-evening engagement. Left my desk at 5 PM on the dot and was running by 5:50 PM (had to stop at gym first since I needed to shower & change again after the workout). In a delightfully ironic move, I cabbed it to Central Park for the 4-mile loop I wanted to run because I was avoiding adding extra miles to my workout my jogging over there.

I’m struggling a bit these days knowing at what pace I should hit for my recovery runs, my pace runs, and my long runs. I suspect tonight’s 4-mile loop of the park was too fast at an 8:48 average pace. But I will say this: I didn’t even notice. I didn’t even realize I ran up Cat Hill until I looked at my splits and saw the first mile (which included Cat Hill) was the slowest at 9:13, and my HR the fastest at 164. Mile 4 was pretty cool, as I swooped down the west side and back across the 72nd Street Transverse to the east side–8:26 with HR of 158. (4.29 miles in 37:45.)

Based on this week’s pace run, I am going to try and run sub-8’s in next weekend’s Haiti 4-Miler. In preparation, on Tuesday morning I will head to the Astoria track and do a workout suggested by one of my Twitter buddies. 3 x 1-mile repeats at 7:45 pace with 800 meter recoveries. It’s gonna be tough but I have a little flutter of anticipation in my stomach.

But back to Central Park. There was still the palest hint of daylight when I began my loop, and I passed a fair amount of runners but no one I recognized. The air was crisp, with the trees blocking most of the wind. I tell you, readers and runners, there are few sights that make me feel as possessive of my city as the view you get running down the west side of the park. There’s that stretch, especially when the branches are bare, where you can see the reservoir on the left, snow-covered grounds on either side, and ahead of you in the distance the glittering skyline of Midtown West’s skyscrapers and tall buildings. This is my park and this is my city. Where else could I possibly be a runner?

Last night, I slept like a baby, people. With a city like that at my back, how else should I sleep?

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The original plan was 7 miles in Central Park with EN, except he threw his back out “working in the shop” and had to bail. This left me with the perfect opportunity to jiggity-jig it, and oh how I love my bipedal commutes. Time-savers and stress-releasers all at once, running home from work is the perfect solution to long days at work. It’s 3.5 miles on the nose from my office to my apartment, which meant that I’d have to double the mileage home to meet the demands of my training schedule. It’s always better to add miles at the front end, because it’s a total bummer to arrive at my corner in Sunnyside only to have to run past home. So, the new plan: Run up Fifth Avenue from the office and enter the park at 59th & 5th, run a lower loop, cross town to the 59th Street Bridge, and then finally home as per usual.

I was dying for the alone time. Surely you know what I mean. Even though I’m one of those reluctant extroverts (in theory, people aggravate me but then in practice, when I get in a group I end up having so much fun), I definitely need time to myself on a regular basis. I was also happy to have my iPod along with me on this run; I never bring it with my on my long runs (trying to train the brain so it knows what to expect on race day), but will induldge on shorter runs if it will get me out the door.

I fought my way past the tourists and bicycle rickshaws clogging Fifth Avenue, and jogged onto the lower loop (you know, the 1.72-mile one). There are moments when I would rather not seen any other runners, but when I am in Central Park I welcome their presence. I feel like part of a (not-so) secret society of people who know something the rest of the city doesn’t: running rocks, and running in the park is the quintessenial NYC running experience. These are my people, my community. Whenever those speedy club runners pass me, they leave me in a wake of aspiration and inspiration.

Lower loop completed, I passed the Apple Store and the Plaza Hotel before cutting east, running over on 58th Street in the hopes of avoiding heavy pedestrian traffic. I hate darting around sidewalk amblers. They are a hazard–oblivious on their mobile phones, or waiting to trip me up with their dog’s leash, or letting their child zigzig ahead of them, right in my path. Before I knew it I was ascending the western approach of the bridge, and I was surprised how frisky I felt. The hill barely had me panting, and Little G told me I was moving at a faster clip than I’d have guessed.

Before I knew it I was home, sweaty, panting, and feeling like a million bucks. What work aggro? What time crunch? I was buzzed. 7.14 miles in 1:06. Average pace 9:14; fastest mile 8:50; slowest mile 9:43.

Songs I ran to: “Lyla” by Oasis, “Made Me Hard” by the Whitlams, “The Maestro” by the Beastie Boys, “Maggie May” by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, “Magic Carpet Ride” by Bedlam, “Magic Number” by De La Soul, “Make Believe” by Matthew Sweet, “Make Me Believe” by Angel Taylor, “Make Me Smile” by Chicago, “Make Out Alright” by Divinyls, “Make the World Safe” by the Whitlams, “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele, “Make You Feel My Love” by Billy Joel, “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan, “Make You Teel My Love” by Joan Osborne (**CONTEST! The first person to post a comment correctly guessing why I have the same song four times in a row wins a copy of A Race Like No Other by Liz Robbins**), “Making Out” by No Doubt, “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend” (LIVE) by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend” (STUDIO) by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, “Mama’s Trippin’” by Ben Harper, “Mama Help Me” by Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians

I ran past Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park

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Even though the weather is frightfully cold, and it’s dark at 5 PM these days, I really do enjoy this Wednesday night routine of running in Central Park. I head up there from the office, usually with a  friend but I’d still do it alone, and run whatever mileage is dictated by my Higdon Intermediate Marathon Training Plan. This Wednesday it was 7 miles, and lucky me EN was up for the auspicious number. He met me at work, we locked our stuff in my office, then set out. I’d forgotten my running jacket so I was running in just a tank top layered under a long-sleeved tee, plus my tights. I couldn’t wait to get moving but Little G took the entire walk up to Central Park (10 blocks) to find a satellite. Just as we were about to take off running, we bumped into JD and RJR from our 2009 Green mountain relay team, also meeting up for a run. Since they are about 2 minutes per mile faster than we are, we chatted for a few minutes and left them to it. 

The plan was to run the 6-mile loop, then back down to my company’s building at 53rd and 5th. It was excellent to talk to EN, who I haven’t seen since the Ted Corbitt 9k nearly a month ago. He’s in early training for a triathlon, which he’ll do this Summer. I’d been a bit freaked out & stressed out on Wednesday, so EN gamely tried to distract me and make me laugh the entire workout (which included querying every woman who ran towards us if her name was “X”–“X” being my most recent nemesis). Somewhere between Cat Hill and Harlem Hill, I heard some yips and snarls and said, Whoa dog fight! I assumed that a couple of canines out for their evening walk were having a doggie moment, until we saw two gigantic racoons claw their way down one of the trees between the reservoir and the road. They were hissing and growling at each other. I had some irrational fear that one of them (or both!!) was going to launch itself onto my head. I uttered a big yellowbellied shout and practically jumped into EN’s arms. Ohmigod ohmigod. He laughed at me (natch!).

Once we’d put enough distance between ourselves and the racoons, EN suggested that we pop out at the NorthWest corner of the park and jog down to see the building where he’s considering buying a co-op apartment.  We ran down to 97th Street–the building is literally right across the street from an entrance to Central Park. Hello, bag watch! On the way there, we passed this gorgeous castle-like building. It sits on the park between 105th and 106th Streets, and has only been renovated for habitation in the past several years. When I was in grad school (September ’96 to January ’98), I used to live at Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, and would walk by the building nearly every day on the way to the subway. It was crumbling, boarded up & inhabited only by wild animals, but even so its beauty and grace was obvious. I would fantasize about living in one of those gorgeous turrets, looking out over the park like a princess. I’d line my walls with floor to ceiling bookcases, and get thick carpets, leather and velvet furniture, elegant table lamps that cast yellow pools, and leave the blinds up and the lights on so that everyone could look in and see my fabulous room when they came by at night. Running by that building with EN brought all those memories and dreams back. I had a bit of melancholy, remembering the girl I was then (certainly not a runner), and what sort of life I thought I would have.

EN’s building looked good to me, too, and I hope that he eventually gets settled into the right apartment for him. At 97th Street we went back into the park, and completed a great run. Despite running through stress, fright and melancholy (I was so distracted), we wrapped it up strong. 7 miles in 1:04:26. Average pace 9:12, fastest mile 8:51, slowest mile 9:27.

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Just the Two of Us

There were stretches of the 4-mile loop in Central Park where I ran without the disruption of a stranger, where no runners could be perceived coming from ahead or behind. This is the gift of winter training: the virtuous solitude that surrounds us when the fair-weather runners head to the gym, and fall marathoners are taking it easy. Even though it means training through snow, ice, stiff breezes and frigid temperatures, it also means the priviledge of an intimate moment with Central Park, with the Queensboro Bridge, with my Sunnyside Loop.

I most definitely run faster in the cold, there’s no question. And here I’ve stumbled upon another benefit of winter training–the encouragement of quick paces, even during Week 1. I am stronger than I think, and I’ll only get stronger. Believe me: I do not take that lightly.

Even at 6 PM the park was dark, the streets now completely clear of Saturday’s snowfall. The fields and gardens alongside the road were still covered in snow, though it was no longer fluffy, and the trees had already shook off their layer of white. At night, the snow takes on shades of gray and blue, it loses its flirty sparkle and lays there, hushed and subdued as we run past.

4.49 miles takes 39:57 minutes, my body perfectly heated from the exertion. More, please.

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Snow Play

I love my city generally, but it’s the specific kind of love that really makes my heart twist with joy. Today, I was reminded how much I specifically love Central Park when it is dressed for the a Winter wedding, draped in acres of flouncy snow and bejeweled with sparkling icicles. In January I was lucky enough to run through the park during a heavy snowfall, and it nearly moved me to tears with its fleur-de-sel beauty. So Saturday night, as I tramped through the snow to get to a Greyboy Allstars concert at Irving Plaza in Union Square, I had already resolved that no matter what I was running the Central Park the next morning.  Such a spectacle of fresh snow over Olmstead’s masterpiece comes but once or twice a year, and there was no way I was going to not get a glimpse.

And oh, Central Park was no blushing bride today, but rather the perfect hostess for her thousands of delighted and grateful guests. We walked into the park at West 86th Street, instantly swept up in a mass of sledders. They were each three feet of pure precious, with their pompom hats and overstuffed waterproof pants. The loop was plowed by the time we got there, around 11 AM. The sun, not to be outdone by the blizzard, was shining as if it had just won a cash award. I could not wait to circle the park and see her from all angles.

Runners riddled the street, we all got the memo! We’d entered a secret party, we were participants in a rare and unique New York moment. I didn’t even begrudge the tourists blocking my way past Bethesda Fountain and the Bandshell, because they had finally managed to pull themselves out of the plastic conveyor belt of Fifth Avenue and Times Square to have a story of something real to take home with them. Conversation was sporadic, it was just as pleasurable to run and hear our sneakers padding through the snow. As we moved clockwise around the park, up the back of Harlem Hill and then down Cat Hill, laughter and happy chatter would rise up to us whenever we passed a hill besieged by sledders. Doggies frolicked with their masters, snuffling in the fluff with concentration, or rolling around with unbridled glee. We stood at the top of the steps at the East 90th Street entrance to the reservoir to take pictures, and took in the view. The reservoir was textured with small choppy waves, the base of the steps was swarming with families, runners, and couples out for a frosty promenade. A yellow cab rolled down Fifth Avenue, brightly reminding us that yes, we were in New York City even though all the signs within Central Park would indicate otherwise.

The Upper Five-Mile Loop took 46:36 (it was actually 4.95 miles). Even though I was feeling a bit fatigued still after my race the day before, I didn’t want to stop and risk losing sight of some other tucked away bit of powdered landscape.  Instead I memorized the point and gesture of the trees, the only dissenters to the unabashed whiteness of the park. For some reason, it felt like I’d just taken my first run of the year, my soul scoured clean by the night’s precipitation and carefully led out by the hand for its first tentative steps through the driven snow. Walking to the subway, I gave a few skids down the footpath, because that’s what you do when it snows. You play.

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Ted Corbitt 15k

I knew going into it that no matter what, I was going to PR. Apart from a major blowout that would cause me to walk miles of the Ted Corbitt 15k race, I was going to finish stronger than I did the last time I ran a 15k  (NYRR’s Hot Chocolate 15k on December 1, 2007 in 1:40:01). Even untrained, I’d have PR’ed; I’m not being arrogant, that’s just how much I’ve improved in the interim. Based on my last few long runs, though, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hit my A-goal, which was a two-minute per mile improvement over the pace from the Hot Chocolate (10:44). Could I pull out 8:44’s for 9.3 miles? Probably, but I wasn’t sure.

Last night, for shits & giggles, I played with the McMillan Running Calculator, plugging in my 8k time to see what would come back as a potential 15k time.* 1:17:58 at an 8:22 average pace. Yeah, right! Well, that was a useless exercise, I thought, even though a running partner did say he believed I was faster than even McMillan said.

So, the race. Walking there I met Leo, an 80 year-old man who placed second in his age group at the NYC Marathon this year. I liked the idea of racing alongside the running heritage of my city, especially since Ted Corbitt is such an important part of that. Yes, it was fucking cold, but so what. Not that my non-running friends and family need further proof of how crazy I am, but I still love to accumulate these stories. I ran at 5:30 AM in the driving rain! I ran a 9.3-mile race in 25 degrees! I ran a 200-mile relay and didn’t sleep for two days!

I skipped shivering into my corral and made a general announcement: Group hug for body heat! I got a few chuckles. Then EN appeared! EN Baby! It’s been far far too long but there he was, all smiles and long lashes, wrapping me up in one of his famous bear hugs. He was two corrals forward but waited with me since he was planning on taking it easy. We made plans to meet for brunch afterwards.

So, now I’m racing. I’m jazzed, I’m ready, I’m feeling that special kind of awake that only comes around on race days. The first mile was very crowded–thus my split of 8:52. The second mile felt interminable, I wondered how I’d make it through the race without dying of boredom. But then something kicked in during Mile 3, my thoughts settled down onto one constant thought, and I just simply knew I could sustain the effort (8:12 split).

The course took us up Cat Hill twice, and because of Joe’s admonishments I was careful to wave both times. But honestly, it wasn’t until the second ascent that I actually realized I was running up a hill. I know I adjusted my effort for the park’s hills, but they didn’t bother me as much as I’d thought they would. The water stations were tricky, since the spilled water froze to ice and made the areas dangerous to negotiate. I lost proabably about a total of 30-45 seconds hydrating safely; by the time I wanted to ingest my Espresso-flavored Hammer gel around Mile 7, the thing was congealed from the cold making it nearly impossible to squeeze into my mouth. I pushed out a few blobs, which I had to chew! Lesson learned: on frigid days, run with gels tucked into my gloves so they stay soft.

I thought about Meb Keflezighi, running in the opposite direction on his way to victory earlier this year. I thought of Ryan Shay, a hero who fell during the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007. I thought of DT, my friend and colleague who was surely ahead of me on the course. I ran with TT, a relay teammate, for a few paces as we discussed if it was this year or next that actually ended the decade (I said 2010). I recalled how crappy I felt when I ran the Hot Chocolate 15k as the middle 9 miles of a 20-miler, training for the Disney World Marathon. I compared November & December 2008 to November & December of 2009 (I feel much stronger now). I ran; and I kept my splits well below 8:30’s.

By the seventh mile I knew I’d had this one in the bag, but if anything that’s a reason to go faster. Mile 9 (my favorite, always) took me just 7:44. I pressed myself; I impressed myself. I repeated to myself Stay Relaxed Hold Form. And then there I was on the 102n Street Transverse, crossing the finish line with an official D-tag time of 1:16:51, with an 8:15 pace. I spent the next ten minutes catching my breath and muttering to myself, Well would you look at that, since I was still in a bit of shock. Once it sunk in though? Oh London’s going to be rich. Bring it!

*Interestingly, my marathon time came back as a 1:56:06, just a little over a minute shy of my PR.

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Tuesday evening was spent in Baltimore, attending CB’s speaking engagement at our alma mater, Loyola College in Maryland. She stood humbly before a room of about 150 freshmen students and a dozen of her past professors, thanked them for a remarkable education, and then read from her memoir Not That Kind of Girl.  She read a passage about her search for a religion (pp. 110 through 120), relevant to her audience because she describes the chapel on campus, and how attending mass there had a hand in her conversion to Catholicism. I share this bit from her reading with you, because it is beautiful:

You had to forgive God for putting us all here on earth instead of blowing us into small glass creatures and then setting us immediately on the high-up shelf that was heaven to cool and grow fragile, to be nothing you could handle roughly.

She had these fidgety, cow-faced freshmen in the palm of her hand. They were captivated, silent as they listened hard. What a woman she is, my best friend. I am so proud of her, I love to see her triumph. Another not-at-all-slight benefit of her reading was that we got to spend an hour or so with Dan and his wife, as they attended the reading as well.

We took the train back to New York on Wednesday morning, feeling hung over even though we hadn’t really drunk but hardly at all. It was delayed, as the Amtrak regionals are wont to do. By the time I made it to the office, I had just enough time to grab my running clothes and immediately beat a hot path home for a 3 PM conference call. I was going to take the afternoon off, mostly, and then cap my evening with a Central Park run with EN, who I haven’t seen in entirely too long.

I wanted to run about six miles, though, so I headed in to the city early and decided to catch the sunset show at the rreservoir. Twice around would give me enough mileage to make it to six, including whatever I did with EN. And, I absolutely love the views of the city from the reservoir. The setting sun reflects off the buildings that face the park, and creates dazzling panels of pink, purple and silver in front of a navy sky. My aloof city gives so much back to the sharp observer. And so I set out. My sneakers crunched in the cinders as I ran just hard enough to warm up, breathing lightly. Little G beeped sweetly at me as my few miles passed by. It was a perfect run, propelled by the heat of the moment and the promise of things to come. 3.18 miles in 31:48 minutes.

As soon as I finished that warm-up, though, I had am email from EN that he missed his bus from Jersey and wouldn’t be able to meet me for our run. Bummer! So I took the cross-town bus from 57th and 8th to 57th and 3rd and ran home for another three miles. Hey, there ain’t nothing I can’t do if I’ve got my running shoes on and a MetroCard in my pocket! By this time it was dark and much colder; I ran fast simply to warm myself up. Up Third Avenue, across 59th Street, up First Avenue, left onto the pedestrian path at 60th Street. Up the short, steep hill towards Queens. Run run. Then, the long, sweet release of the downhill. It can demoralize racers as they trudge up it during the NYC Marathon, but when you’re swooping down towards grungy Queensborough Plaza, that hill is a gift. I ran through a darkness broken by streetlamps and headlights, through the plaza, over the Sunnyside Rail Yards, and then up the final half-mile hill towards home, on 43rd Avenue. I finally came to stop at 41st Street, warm. 3.02 miles in 27:47.

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