Monday, June 30, 2014

27 Days Until San Francisco

The Hills of San Francisco are teeth waiting to chew me up and spit me out. 

It’s the last day of June and there are only 27 days until the San Francisco Marathon.  I’m not in an ideal spot to run that race.  I think that with my body type and previous wear and tear on my body, I can’t train in a way where I will ever feel comfortable walking into a marathon.  That’s ok, though.  I’ve run one, I can run another. 

Last year in September, I wasn’t feeling great about where my training for NYC was.  I had just run the 5th Avenue Mile race and was thinking I wouldn’t be ready for November.  The race isn’t really conducive to marathon training.  It’s only a mile, making it the shortest race on most people’s calendars, and isn’t really a run, it’s a sprint.  It’s the one race where everyone puts the pedal to the floor to see how fast they can really go.  I ran as hard as I could and didn’t stop running for the whole race.  The police did not make me wait while cars and pedestrians crossed 5th to get to Central Park.  Then we went to brunch.

I knew what my time was, 10:29, and thought it was pretty good although I didn’t hit the mark that I wanted, which was a sub 10 minute mile.  It wasn’t until later on when my perspective on the marathon changed.  I searched for my time for the 5th Avenue Mile the previous year.  12:53.  Lots of walking.  Every tourist and cab driver crossed my face while I waited at the cross-walk pretending to be outraged.  Then we went to brunch.

I did the math quickly and realized that I had shaved over two minutes and twenty seconds of my time.  I may not have been exactly where I wanted to be but I couldn’t overlook how far I had come.  Even though it wasn’t perfect, my training was working. 

I looked back at my last month of training and am somewhat disappointed with my results.  Looking at my calendar, I’ve averaged three workouts per week.  At first thought, that sucks.  On the other hand, there have been months where I haven’t worked out 3 times that month.  The good parts: in terms of racing, I’ve logged almost 30 miles this month.  I’ve logged a few hours on the elliptical and a few more on the bike.   The jogging path alongside the Bronx River Parkway is becoming my friend again.  The best part is that the knee pain that I’ve been experiencing has gone away and I’m only experiencing what I’ve come to understand as normal knee pain for a dude of my size. 

Here’s a brief recap of my last three races:
Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half: Only my second “Official” Half Marathon.  I got off on the wrong foot because I tied my shoes too tight before the race started.  Yup.  I cut off some of the circulation to my feet and started to feel a lot of tightness in my shins for the first 3 miles.  This has happened to me a couple of times before.  I don’t know why I decided I needed to tighten my shoes before the start but if you ever see me retying my shoes, kick me in the head, fart on me, whatever you need to do to stop me. 

Aside from the shoes, I ran a solid first 10 miles.  I was consistent in my per mile times and felt strong.  I didn’t cramp up the same way that I did during my other half, I think because I have been drinking a LOT of water.  Like 20 glasses a day.  The last 3.1 miles was a different race for me.  There was a woman I’d been passing and being passed by all morning who passed me and kept going.  When it was my turn to pass her, I just didn’t have enough giddy up to do it.  I ended up 9 minutes past my goal.

I had a couple of interesting experiences with other runners.  One of them will get mentioned in another column when I talk about training for the marathon from a mental aspect.  I will say, however, that that runner showed that just because you want to quit after the first 10 minutes, it doesn’t mean that you can’t complete a half marathon.

The second was a helpful older woman who asked if I was run this race before.  I said, No, if I had, do you think I’d sign up again?  It was at this point she said to me, You know, if you come back next year like 20 pounds lighter this will be much easier for you.  Just cut out one or two things and the weight will fall right off.  Otherwise, you’ll mess up your knees.  Then she said a version of the same thing everyone says after the say something offensive, I hope you don’t me saying this. 

Not at all.  I don’t mind you telling me I’m too fat to run here and that I’m risking the health of my knees.  I responded that my knees are already pretty beat up and that I have in fact run half-marathons before.  As a matter of fact, I ran two, back to back while finishing the New York City Marathon last November.  She wasn’t quite sure what to say about that.  I ran off with my bad knees and left her in the dust.

Front Runners LGBT Pride Run:
Another gorgeous day for a run in Central Park.  This is one of my favorite races and has one of the best two energies of any of the races I’ve participated in (Scotland is the other).  The course focuses on the North Half of the Park including the Harlem Hill.  I ran the entire first mile including said Hill and was feeling pretty good.  My second mile veered off in terms of time.  My third and fourth miles were great again, felt strong, not tired and was hitting my times.  The fifth mile slipped away from me and I ended up not quite making the time I was hoping for as the race went on.  I did finish about half a minute faster per mile than my last NYRR race. 

Achilles Hope and Possibility:
If you ever want to feel bad about how out of shape you are or how poorly your training is going, don’t go to this race.  You will be competing against a bunch of differently abled athletes.  A good number of them will be in better shape than you and will be running past you.  This race is always difficult to get a good time in because of the other athletes and because there are large groups of walkers around the course.  I got caught in the wash during the beginning of the race and was almost run over by a participant in a motorized wheelchair twice.  The same participant in the same wheelchair.  Seriously. 

I wasn’t mentally locked in and so the early parts of the race where I had a hard time finding my pace threw me off and I didn’t recover.  I had some good miles and finished better than I started.  As I was running down the road on the west side of the park near 90th Street, a man was running up the hill towards me wearing a bib.  He was yelling, Smile, guys!  I want to see smiles. 

Ordinarily, this kind of behavior annoys me but this man had lost his left arm and an eye.  His face was scarred.  My best guess is that he was in the military and had been too close to something that exploded.  He was high fiving us as we were running past him.  It was impossible to not run faster after this.

In the final straightaway, I saw another runner who had finished and was encouraging the rest of us who were still finishing up.  He was tall, muscular, athletic.  He looked at me and yelled, “You ran yesterday.  Great job!”  Thank you for noticing.

With 27 days left, I’m going super strict with the diet because I need to be as light as I can for this race.  I need to do two serious long runs and a few more “short” long runs as well.  I also need to do treadmill work to improve my speed and some elliptical work to make sure I still have some cartilage left in my knees when I start the marathon. 

Most importantly, I need to get my head together in the next few weeks.  I’m excited about the race and looking forward to running it but I need to improve my mental toughness for when things don’t go my way.  Luckily, the brain can be trained like a muscle so that’s what I’m going to do.  Then we’ll go to brunch.

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