Posts Tagged ‘Team in Training’

That was the question of the morning, asked of me by NYRR staffers and fellow volunteers alike.  They all wanted to know if I was volunterring to fulfill the 2009 New York City Marathon guranteed entry requirements of nine qualifying races plus one race working as a volunteer.  As I’ve mentioned earlier in my blog, the plus-one requirement was recently instituted as a way (I cynically believe) to reduce the number of qualified entrants for the marathon, while also getting more free labor for dozens of NYRR-managed events.  From the grumblings of the other plus-oners I met today, it seemed they believed it to be a major inconvenience and a way for the NYRR’s to get free labor.  I think I was the only volunteer who wasn’t put-out I “had to” volunteer.

Today I volunteered at the MORE Marathon and Half-Marathon in Central Park, partly to fulfill this obligation and partly to be there to support my distance running and walking sisters.  I reported at 6:30 AM, checked in, grabbed my free bag lunch and an orange safety vest, and followed my newfound medal-dispensing colleagues to some yards past the Finish Line.  We hung the medals on these two giant racks, and they shone dully in the morning light, chiming pleasantly, as if we had a pack of bridled reindeer waiting in the wings.

 Medals for the half-marathoners

We put the two boxes of marathon medals to the side (blue ribbon with green trim), since those women would be finishing mainly as the walkers were coming through.  Around 7:15 AM we were released until 8 AM, and I went to get coffee with Chris, a very nice Aussie who ran NY in 3:56 last year.  Then we got the mylar blankets ready by unrolling them from rolls (like giant sheets of aluminum foil) and then stuffing them between the rails of the guard fence.  The event’s behind-the-scenes logistics were very interesting to me, the little that I glimpsed. Just in our finish line group, we were about 12 people on medals and maybe another 12 on mylar. 

At 8 AM the race started, and about 6 minutes later the half-marathon leaders whizzed by.  Loken, who finished second, is running the Olympic marathon trials in Boston in two weeks (as is Tormey, the winner). We later learned that there were over 6,000 entrants in the half, but less than 250 in the full.  While women of any age could enter the half-marathon, only women 40 years or older could run the full.  A beautiful thing.  A couple of mother-daughter couples ran by, bringing a tear to my eye, since they have truly captured the essence of the MORE event. We cheered for the women for the first hour and a half, until the first half-marathon finishers came thrugh our ranks and we began draping medals around many a sweaty neck.

“Caitlin Tormey (not pictured), 24, surprised the winning half-marathon team of Susan Loken, 44, and Jody Hawkins, 41, with a sprint finish. Though Tormey grabbed the individual win (1:20:13), Loken (1:20:14) and Hawkins (1:20:16) took the partners title—the first pair of over-40 runners ever to do so.” –nyrr.org

To be honest, my favorite part of my day spent as a volunteer was the prep work and cheering.  I enjoyed chatting with the other nine-plus-oners, hearing their running and training stories and swapping race reports.  I met a sweet guy who runs with the New York Flyers running club, another man who runs on his own with high weekly mileage, and a Scottish woman who was planning on her first NY in ’09–all people I’d be happy to meet again at a race in the park. 

Spectating is always a positive experience for me, as it reminds me of all the reasons I run and race.  We could hear the announcer counting down the minutes until the starting shot, and I felt excitement: for those wishing to PR, for those tackling the distance for the first time, and for the first-time racers.  I knew what awaited them on the course and at the finish, and was honored to welcome those first-timers into the tribe with medals. We cheered and clapped, and I praised their smiles, tenacity and general fabulousness. I was thrilled to see more than a few familiar faces in the crowd from Team in Training, including Coach S., who told me at the finish line that she PR’ed!  Best news I heard all day.

My expectations of doling out armfuls of medals to grateful, exhausted runners and walkers went bitterly unmet.  I positioned myself at the back of the line of medal-givers, and basically stood smily at droves of finishers, already fashionably draped in medal and mylar.  Perhaps I handed out 12 medals the entire day?  At around noon, Chris and I surrendered, each frustrated that all of our good will and pride for these women had gone largely untapped.  We turned in our orange vests and headed off to warmer climes (for me, the Shops at Columbus Circle).  I was disappointed with my experience as a volunteer, not realizing until afterwards it wasn’t abut handing out medals per se; rather, it was about showing up for the runners and supporting their efforts with an effort of my own.  No matter what, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the chance to cheer nearly 5,800 women as they claimed the loops of Central Park and marked this day as noteworthy in their own personal histories.

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Basic Equipment

Years ago, when I first tried out this crazy sport, one of the reasons I chose running as my form of exercise over any other was because it seemed the most uncomplicated by gear, gadgets, fees or fancy outfits. Frankly, I couldn’t even afford to join the Y, so no way could I try on sports like biking, or skiing. Little did I know then that running would not only take over my free time, my social life, and my decision-making process, but that the associated gear and clothing would fill up half of my dresser drawers and most of my hamper.

My first pair of running shoes were Nikes, I don’t even remember the style, poorly selected because I bought them from Foot Locker with absolutely no professional assistance.  (At this point, the only other running gear I had was a good sports bra.)  Then, eventually, I went to Super Runners Shop on the recommendation of a friend who was training for New York, and they did their magical thing, sizing up my foot, observing my running style, and then offering me a few types of shoes to try.  I settled on the Nike Pegasus and wore the style for years.  By then, I had added some running shorts with built-in panties and a key pocket.

Then, when I began training for my first marathon with Team in Training, I figured I’d better get my feet’s needs reassessed, so the great guys at Urban Athletics sized me up, and thus I became a dedicated Mizuno Nirvana wearer for a couple of years.  I wore the Nike Zoom Elite’s for my last marathon, which I loved until my left big toenail turned black. Now, I have multiple pairs of wicking pants and tights, various technical tees with all options for arm coverage, a running jacket with a gabillion pcokets, fancy sunglasses, gloves, face balm, shoe pockets, a Nike+, a digital watch, and a Fuel Belt. 

Bellieve it or not, I’m making two separate-yet-equal points here.  But first, how I got on the topic to begin with.  Husband most thoughtfully emailed me about a recent story in the New York Times about the threat running shoe chains are making to the mom-and-pop stores.  The article presents the value of the local running shoe store, staffed with experts who are longtime participants in the sport and who are also vested in their running communities.

Second, the stores have adapted through the years to a broader clientele of fitness runners and walkers, half of whom are women. They are not just for elite runners anymore.

Data from the National Sporting Goods Association for 2006 found that 20.6 million people identified themselves as frequent or occasional runners and 68.9 million as frequent or occasional walkers.

The specialty stores have also assumed a role in their communities, sponsoring races, clinics, training, medical referrals and social networks. Consider, for example, Saturday mornings at Common Grounds, the coffee shop next to the soundRunner in Branford, which is usually crowded with three dozen runners of all levels socializing after group runs.

(20.6 million self-identifying runners in the United States! Go us!)  My own experience with the guys from Urban Athletics corroborates what the article suggests.  First, they help all levels of runners find shoes for their training, and second, they are a gathering place for neighborhood runners.  They hold regular group runs, offer training programs leading into the New York City Marathon, and welcome the NYC Chapter of Team in Training to use their store as a bag watch location for weeknight practice. I love my Urban Athletics, and still trek up there to buy shoes even though, now that my TNT season has passed, it’s way out of my way. May I make my second point before I make the first? Which is, it’s worth it for more than one reason (more effective training, less chance of injury, a built-in community of runners, shopping local bolsters the economic health of your town) to patronize your local running shoe store. 

And, in summation, my first point: even though I love my technical clothing and my energy foods, even though I covet a Garmin, training is still possible even if the only thing you have to add to the material cause is a good pair of sneakers.   Simple-Lifers, take heart: it is possible to be a runner unencumbered with  things which require synching, charging, or special detergent. Some of my best miles were run in those Nike Pegasus (Pegasuses? Pegusi?), and you can be sure I wasn’t accessorizing my look with wicking fabrics, performance sunglasses, or a Nike+. The joy and challenge of pounding the pavement cannot be undone by a sopping cotton tee, or by a canvas baseball cab with a salt line as thick as chalk.  (But, if you want and can afford any of those fancy-pants options to soup up your training, buy them from your local, independently-owned running shoe store, please.)

Matilda, Keeper of the Mizunos

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I left for work this morning planning on getting in a treadmill workout at the gym, because of the afternoon torrential downpours my weather guy assured me would come.   So, I packed shorts and my favorite race tee, the one from last year’s Healthy Kidney 10K (Dathan Ritzenheim won that race, setting a race record, too).  However (and this is a good however), when I pressed my nose against the glass of my office window, there was no rain.  Promising, but.. Never one to believe the weather I can see from the 9th floor, I logged on to weather.com — Cloudy, 63 degrees (feels like: 63 degrees)!  My heart gave a little leap of joy as I thought, I will run home tonight.

And so I did.  3.5 miles, 38 minutes (approximately; I hadn’t brought my watch since I was anticipating the treadmill).   I had cement-block feet the first mile, I think my body is still in that post-marathon, clunky-monkey stage. I got out some of my stress by shouting a pizza delivery cyclist off the sidewalk, and then by shouting at a motorist making a left-hand turn who almost took out a whole swath of pedestrians.   As soon as my feet hit the base of the 59th Street Bridge, it started to rain, and I tucked my ipod into the torso strap of my sports bra, under my arm, having already lost one ipod to water damage from a rainy run.  By the time I trotted off the bridge and my foot touched the sidewalk in Queens Plaza, the rain had stopped, making it seem like I’d passed through some sort of cleansing passage as I moved from one borough to another, from one island to another.

The whole way, I was accompanied by Steve Runner, and his Phedippidations podcast #131.  He spoke about the running boom, and about the coaches, runners, books and track events that came together to push running and jogging into the mainstream.  I always want to learn more about the history of my sport, the elites, and the innovators of distance running, and inthat regard this episode definitely decreased my ignorance.  (For example, I thought Bowerman was just the guy who invented the running shoe, not the famous college coach who brought jogging to America from New Zealand; now I know better.) Steve Runner also touched on the second running boom, the one that started in 1997, and still continues today.  This is my boom, the second wave boom. 

But, as far as I can tell, he credits the second running boom almost entirely to the growing numbers of office workers (who want to be more active when not in front of their computers), and an increased awareness on healthy living.  I was waiting for him to mention the huge surge in charity runners as a main contributor to the running boom, but (unless he mentioned it when I was shouting at the pizza delivery guy) he didn’t. 

My personal experience has convinced me that runners for charity have a lot to do with the growth of our sport.  I ran my first and second marathons as a member of Team in Training, one of the fundraising arms of the Leukemia and Lymphona Society.  Every comparable training season (e.g. Winter 2008 to Winter 2007), TNT’s NYC Chapter recruits more and more runners, and raises more and more money.  And this is not a trend for just one chapter of one organization.  TNT nationwide pulls in more and more runners each year.  This year’s New York City marathon saw more participants running on behalf of a charity than ever before. In the NYRR’s Offical Results Magazine for the 2007 ING NYC Marathon, they write, “running in support of chaitable causes is mushrooming.”  Part of this is because it’s harder and harder to get a bib for the NYC Marathon, but it doesn’t change the fact that most of those Fred’s team or Team for Kids runners are first-time marathoners.  And, certainly, just anecdotally I can say that more and more of my friends and family are inviting me to contribute to their own fundraising goals, which they are setting in conjunction with road races. 

Steve Runner, maybe there is a show in your archives solely about folks who run for charity, and in almost every episode I’ve ever heard you share the story of someone who is running for charity.  But, if you haven’t done an episode on runners who pick up the cause and run for others, I’d like to suggest that you should. 

Episode #131 wrapped up with a guest call-in podcast from “JD from Toronto,” who spoke about why he trains so hard.  His answer to that question made me cry, because he expressed the very reason why I run, and transported me back to the finish lines of more than one race.  JD spoke about the physical joy of running the race you’d planned, of feeling the air in your lungs, the blood in your heart, your legs moving beneath you.  He spoke about the wonder and satisfaction in having nothing left when you cross the finish line.  I am paraphrasing, but I highly recommend you go download Phedippidations #131 yourself, so you can listen to how eloquently JD from Toronto explains why he trains so hard.

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Exciting news. Signed up for my second season of Team in Training! I’ll be running another Winter race, which is simply perfect for me because there’s nothing better than running in the crisp weather of Fall & early Winter. This time, though, I’ll be running Disney. But what I’m most excited about is being a mentor. As a mentor, I have the opportunity to help other TNT runners reach their fundraising goals. I am totally looking forward to this experience. When I did my first TNT event (Phoenix Rock & Roll 26.2m), it wasn’t until the marathon was over that I realized how huge, important and meaningful the fundraising was — and I was equally proud of myself for the fundrasing and for the marathon.

Have already been assigned three mentees, who I am so excited to meet & get to know. And I’m excited for them, too, because I know what they have ahead and it’s all good.

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I DID IT!  What an fantastic weekend, and what an amazing experience I had running the Phoenix Marathon!  I am still flying on a good mood, 48 hours later. 

I am going to skip the preamble about all the lead-up to the race, the events, my teammates, the coaches etc and save that for later.  I know you want to know how the race went, so I’ll get right to it.

I had so much fun!  The coaches kept saying, you only have one first marathon, so make sure you have fun.  And let me tell you, I had a blast.  I kept reminding myself to smile, and be in the moment, and just enjoy the miles I was running through. It was cold — at the start of the race, temperatures were freezing.  It took me until mile 13 to really be warmed up — half the race!  At one point (actually, around 9:47, the race started at 7:40) we ran by one of those big bank clocks, and it flashed 33 degreees.  It was the coldest day in the history of Phoenix in 16 years.  Insane.  My hands actually never warmed up, I had to rip open my GU’s with my teeth because my fingers had no mobility.

But anyway – I started the race with D, her boyfriend and our teammate C.  We didn’t cross the start line until 11 minutes after the gun because we all had to pee so incredibly bad.  So we peed.  I freaked out waiting for the port-a-potty; I yelled at some poor half-marathoner to “get in that empty stall!”  But, after that, all my pre-race tension past, and I relaxed into the race.  The good thing was there was NO ONE on the course when we started, so we didn’t have to fight the crowds and could set our pace right away, and also it felt great to be passing people right off the bat — we passed the walkers, and everyone running slower than ~11 minute miles.  We also passed a lot of our teammates from NYC, which was great since it gave us a chance to chat with them and check-in.  We passed a lot of purple singlets — there were thousands of TNT runners who raised over $5 million dollars for the LLS for this one marathon alone.  All the TNTers are very supportive; all race long I heard a lot of “Go Team!” 

My family (Husband, Brother, Mom and Dad) popped up around mile 3, they didn’t cheer at first and so I had to shout at them, “It’s me! It’s Me!”   Then around mile 4 I caught up with K, one of my teammates, and she said, I want to run with you.  I told her OK but that my pace was 11-minute miles and she wan’t speeding me up or slowing me down.  She agreed.  And off we went.  She was a great companion, as we didn’t have to chat the whole time, but she was into keeping the pace.  We always just concentrated on the mile we were running, maintaing the pace, holding ourselves in check, watching our breathing.  We stopped for the bathrooms a few times, we passed my family a few more times.  Their cheering improved.  We kept catching up with our teammates, it was great to see them and cheer them on.  The purple singlets were everywhere.  We kept our strategy of pace, pace, pace, and told each other that the race really began at mile 13.  When we passed 13.1 — the half way mark — we gave a cheer.  After that point, the distractions really became more and more important.  The people cheering, water stations, time for nutrition, we started looking for our coaches on the sidelines.  We’d say things to pep each other up like reminding each other how relaxed we were, that we were having fun.  Also, there were bands every mile, so we’d comment on them, enjoy the songs.  I was working too hard to sing along but the music still was a boost.

Around mile 19 we saw Coach Christine, who is amazing, a great coach.  She ran with us for a good half-mile, and gave us strategy for the next six miles.  She said, “it’s just one loop around Central Park, but without the hills.”  Which was exactly what K had said a moment earlier!  We felt so smart.  In fact, we had already run a very smart race up to that point, by maintaining our pace and conserving energy.  At mile 20, our race coordinator H saw us and started cheering like crazy, shouting out our names, with  pom poms and whatnot.  Then my brother scooted in, slapped me on the butt, and ran with us for two miles.  Wow, those miles really sped by like two seconds.  When he broke off to head back to the family, I got teary eyed, his support and belief in me really touched me.

The crowds were great when they were there.   There were many stretches where all you heard was our breathing and dozens of sneakers pounding the pavement.  But once I threw away my warmups and was running in my singlet (mile 13-ish), people started calling out my name (I’d put my name in White-Out across my shirt).  The first time I was like, “How did they know my name?” Duh.  A few people said to us, as we ran by, “Thank you, you helped save my life.”  Wow, those moments were intense. 

We really picked up the pace starting at mile 20, and began running 10-minute miles more or less.  We felt great.  And, basically, we passed everyone who was in front of us.  By mile 23, there were a lot of people walking!  But K and I were focused on getting to the finish line.  We were working hard.  At mile 24, there was this insane freaking hill, it totally sucked, it wasn’t so long but it seemed steep as a cliff, and we only got through it by focusing on the crest and heading for it. Phew! At the 25-mile-marker, I turned to K, all choked up and said, “K—, we’re really going to finish!”  I think at that moment I finally allowed myself to believe it and project ahead.  Then we ran into our group mentor at the beginning of mile 25, which was a total surprise and a total boost, and she ran with us a maybe a quarter of a mile?  She’d run the half-marathon earlier that day so we were totally psyched to see her.  Then, before we knew it, there was a woman shouting, “Mile 26 is just around the corner!  You’re almost done!”  K started bawling (her brother has leukemia) we turned the corner, we saw our head coach R, who ran up to us to lead us to the finish line, and he ran with K, to sooth her and support her, and I took that chance to break away and run ahead just a tad.  I looked up and there was the finish line!!  There it was!!  My ears started ringing, I opened my stride, and broke into the biggest smile ever.  My body was tingling with joy. I started crying, these kind of breathless little weeps, I put my arms up like a champion, and ran right across that finish line. 

I kept crying a little, saying to myself, you did it you ran a marathon.  I was truly overcome.  Then K came over the line, we hugged and cried, we did it we did it!  Congratulations all around.  The rest is a whirl — we got out medals, we got our finisher photos taken, we got those cool mylar wraps (they really work!), we stood in line for food and water.  By the TNT tent, our families met us and we met other teammates and we all hugged and cheered a little.  I spoke to my sis-in-law and Nana on the phone, more pictures, I went and collected my bag from UPS and put on layers of warm clothes. 

I finished in 4:45:45.  I ran a negative split (the second half of my race was faster than my first), I didn’t stop to walk, I didn’t get injured, and I raised nearly $8,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I am so proud of myself!

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Send Off

On Wednesday, the TNT staff and coaches led the Phoenix team through our send off meeting.  They reviewed the itinerary, gave out fundraising awards (I raised the fourth-highest amount for our race in the city), listed what to pack and bring on race day, and went over how we are supposed to taper before the race.  What to eat, how to stretch, how much we’re supposed to be running (or rather, not running).  It was exciting, and the coach said something I’ll never forget.  He said it’s not just the race you’re running on January 14th, it’s everything you’ve done up until this point — all the training and fundraising.  The days you got up and went for a run in the cold, showed up for Group Training in the rain.  It’s all part of the experience.  As I am freaking out on a nightly basis now, I keep remembering these words, as they have a very soothing effect.

I got some good news.  My mom is 99% over her pleuresy pneumonia, which means she can take the flight to see me race next week!  But, mainly I’m just glad she’s better.

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The Cranks, Explained

And no, I do not have PMS.

Turns out, my coaches tell me, that we are officially in the taper.  Which means, our training is notching down; no more long runs (we went 12 miles today which is short compared with the 18-ers we were doing for a while there; I ran the 12 in 2 hours, I was psyched; I’ve never been this fast); and our weekly runs will be less mileage too.  So, apparently, since I’ll be running less, I’ll be crankier.  I know, I know: for most of you running less would make you happy.  But, since running has become a major form of stress release for me (not to mention the giddiness I get off the runner’s high) it only follows that less running = more cranky TK.

I’m a little sad for the taper.  On the one hand, it means we are so freaking close to race day! I am so excited to finally get to the event I’ve been preparing for since August (August, people).  But on the other hand, it means that my season with TNT is coming to a close, and I’ll no longer get to run with and cheer on all the fun, smart and bighearted people I spent hours (& hours) running with this Fall & Winter.

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Team in Training is getting more fun each week.  As my body gets adjusted to the running, I look forward to the practices and group runs, as well as my own runs around Sunnyside.  It felt so good to be at practice today, even though Coach tested us on our speed to have a baseline before we go into our hill repeats (six weeks of hill repeats).

On Saturday I ran eight miles with mentor B.  I couldn’t believe I ran 8 miles.  It’s the farthest I’ve ever gone, ever! Just the last half mile was tough, as I started to tighten up.  But we ran an easy 12-minute mile pace.

I have to say, I am just so pround of myself.  I am pleasantly surprised that I am enjoying this so much, that I am becoming an athlete, someone who looks forward to a workout and to working up a sweat.  TNT and my marathon goal makes all the daily (work) bullshit more bearable, and motivates me to maximize my time at hone even more.

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Aim High

Yesterday I did something — started something, really — that I anticipate will help me get rid of all the bullshit that crowds my days, evenings and fringes of my mind.  I signed up to train with Team in Training, to run the Phoenix Marathon on January 14, 2007. 

Why, you ask, would T want to run a marathon?  It sounds crazy, right?  Well, I am doing it for a lot of reasons, but the bottom line is I want to add some meaning to my life, and this is as good a way as any.   I mean really, who among us couldn’t stand to add a bit more value and purpose to our daily lives?  It’s all relative, but I’d say most of us.  I”m expecting that the time & energy it takes to train for a marathon, and raise the money necessary to get there, will hone my focus to the most important things, and give me the proper perspective on the aforementioned bullshit.  My reasons for running the marathon are as follows:

1.  I want to get back in shape, to get back into my running routine, and I think having the structure of a Team with set training schedules & goals will help me immeasurably to do that.
2.  I am 33, ok?  It’s about time I accomplish something momentous, something I can proudly say I did when I get old & gray.
3.  I get to help other people too — a major component of Team in Training is that the athletes raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  My goal is $3800, and 75% of that money goes towards finding a cure, while the other 25% goes towards the expenses incurred with training my lazy ass to run 26.2 miles!
4.  There are still people out there to meet, and friends to be made, and I suspect that the camraderie of training with 100 other like-minded runners will have positive results.

Now I freely admit that this is the most earnest post I’ve ever made to my blog (I can’t even find anything to be snarky about), so tease me & call me out if you need to.  I promise my blog won’t turn into “T’s TNT Amazing Jogging Adventure.”  But come on, admit it.  You want to know how sore I’ll be after training, and who gave me the cheapest donation, right?!  Ok, if there’s anything to dish, I’ll dish it.

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