Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Manhattan Half-Marathon: 2:18.58 PR

Watch the race video here

My first "long" race was the 2007 Manhattan Half-Marathon. My time was 2:30.03 and my pace was 11:27.

My time in the 2008 Manhattan Half-Marathon this morning was 2:18.58. My pace was 10:36. It was my fifth Half since I became a distance runner and it was a PR, surpassing 2:19 set twice last year (Brooklyn and Oklahoma City).

This morning there was no snow as had been forecast. It felt like 26 at race time. We made two full loops around Central Park plus an extra mile to make up the difference. For me it was technically my first long training run for the April 6 St. Louis Marathon, coming fast.

My legs felt strong, like my first week of strength training already was making a difference. I could feel it in my quads -- I had more leg drive than I ever had in one full loop around Central Park. The hills started to take a toll on me in the second lap and my goal is to reduce and eliminate the number of occasional walks between fluid stations. I lose about 5-10 minutes per race by walking.

I met my Big Cat teammate Roxygen from Long Island at the finish line, where I gave her her bib number/souvenir shirt that I had picked up for her at race registration on Thursday. The baggage check situation is a nightmare for the Manhattan Half, just like last year. This time you had to check your bag by 8 a.m. (8:30 start time) at 90th Street on the East Side of the park, and after that you had to check it 12 blocks to the north (102nd) at the finish line. So Roxy and I checked ours at the start line and then we had to run a full mile down to 84th Street (Metropolitan Museum of Art) for the start. While we were running, the starter's horn went off, and we watched the entire field of 6000-plus runners run toward us as we passed the full field just to hurry back to the start line.

The good thing about that frantic start, however, was that I was really warmed up for the start. It didn't matter, because you go by net time anyway. We started exactly 7 minutes after the starter's horn. It was kind of cool to see the lead runners coming right at us, too. The elite of the elite.

I walked the first fluid station and Roxygen headed off to the races at that point. I then put in my iPod earbuds and cranked my Shuffle for the rest of the Half by myself. I have John Mayer's last album on it and I have to say that those songs always are reliable for me -- I lose myself in them. I also wanted to repeat my favorite John Mayer lyrics here, from "Split Screen Sadness." They are:

It's only the air you took
And the breath you left

My friends, that says it all about this entire life we are leading.

I inhaled and exhaled hard for 13.1 miles, and I had a temporary "ah fuck it" moment around Mile 11 or wherever we got close to the Boathouse on East Drive. At that point I knew that the Cat Hill climb was coming. I allowed myself to think that I will have been much faster than this event one year ago, and that's good enough. Stop and walk. Then I wanted a PR. I just wanted to attack. Run. Lift your quads and just keep going. You did 26.2. This is nothing. Grit it out and get to the finish. I ran most of the remaining way.

Roxygen and I had actually waited to cross the starting chip mat at exactly 7:00, so that it would be really easy to just subtract and know our net splits at every mile. That was a big help at the finish. I was the clock and knew I could break 2:19, which is something I wanted to do, and so I sprinted the last kick and watched as it said 2:25.58. Subtract the 7, and that was my net time.

I am not happy with New York Road Runners now, because there were only apples and water at the finish. The bagels and Gatorade were gone. I'm sorry, but 2:18 is not an embarrassing time and I think I should have gotten more than a freakin apple. At the OK City Half, there were people from Hardee's handing out cheeseburgers, food everywhere, also medals. What is the deal with the Manhattan Half? Are we supposed to be so spoiled by the NYC Marathon treatment that this is just a warmup run that doesn't matter?

I had my chip removed from my shoelaces, and then saw another Big Cat teammate, George (Runner aka La Lynx), and Roxygen headed my way. They wanted to get our picture taken together. I was still in lala land at that point, amazed as I always am about finishing. I got my bag, and we started walking to the subway. I got a chocolate and orange scone and hot chocolate with Rox, and then she headed for LI to make strawberry pancakes for her crew.

It has been a terrific weekend overall. I spent the entire day Saturday in the famous main library branch on Fifth Avenue, working in the ornate Rose Main Reading Room on top of 5 million books below me. I had my laptop in front of me, a 2-inch stack of my printed manuscript, and several fragile books from the 1700s and 1800s that I had checked out. It was a honey hole for research on this day. My MS grew to 246 pages. A little more work on Chapter 5 and it is done, and I will be talking to agents I know. I also want to have my followup book concepts in order before making the full proposals.

Very big things are afoot in 2008. It is going to be the biggest year of my life. I wish everyone great racing and great happiness in whatever you are doing.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My 2008 Distance Running Calendar

Friday is exactly two months since I danced across the finish line of the ING New York City Marathon, my first 26.2 miler. This is a good time for me to put together a 2008 calendar of my expected long runs, starting at the scene of the crime: Central Park on Jan. 27 for the first of five Half-Marathons in the New York Road Runners' Grand Prix series in each NYC borough.

One of the things I like best about being part of the Big Cats running group is seeing how so many veteran runners (I'm just a sophomore trying to have a healthy year!) schedule an event calendar way out. So here we go. This is a work in progress, and obviously I will be updating it like many of you do.

The St. Louis Marathon is on April 6 and will mark my second 26.2 voyage. There were others I wanted to run, including Napa Valley a month earlier, but this will be a way to see my boys and run a marathon at the same time. It will allow me to get my MLB work done for Opening Day and get the season going.

I don't have the NYRR calendar for March and beyond yet, but I can already see that I probably will have to scratch an event from this list. The Brooklyn Half was early last April, and if it's early in the month again, it will conflict with STL and I won't be able to run that. So probably scratch that Half from my list. I ran the Oklahoma City Half at the end of last April, and probably will find another late-April half if I don't run that one again.

I know of one other marathon for sure, and that is Nov. 2 in New York City. I will be totally driven in 2008 to obliterate the 6:08 time that I graciously accepted in my maiden and injury-plagued marathon in that event two months ago.

Last July, I started my own tradition by running 15 miles on a course that crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, the day after we worked the MLB All-Star Game at nearby AT&T Park in San Francisco. I made that run with our Detroit Tigers correspondent. I'll find out who's going to be part of our working crew for the 76th All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium, and then the following day I'll host a Half-Marathon at Central Park for those who like to run.

August is another likely conflict. I will be in Beijing from opening to closing ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics, as part of the USA baseball contingent. (Go us.) So that Nike Half through Times Square most likely is out, assuming they hold it again. I will be very happy to be an observer at the ultimate marathon: The Olympic Men's and Women's Marathons. I will do some kind of long run there, perhaps on the Great Wall since I miss the Great Wall Marathon by only a few months.

In addition to all of these long-distance events, I will again mix in lots and lots of other New York Road Runners events, 5Ks, 10Ks, 4-milers, 10-milers, etc. I will run a total of at least 25 overall events in 2008.

One event I definitely am looking forward to is the Big Cats Year-End Challenge, on Dec. 27 in the Huntington Beach, Calif., area -- staged by the leaders of the Big Cats running group to which I belong on myspace. I won't know for sure until the second half of the year, but that's a date I have circled, and if I go, I'll at least do the marathon...and maybe even try an ultra (31 miles+). I just need to learn how to really be a marathoner at this point. And most of all: Keep My Body Strong All Year Long!!! If any medical expert tells me to take off two weeks again, I will give him or her the...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Off to a running start in 2008!

Official Race Video | Photos | Soldiers in Iraq Video

I was in heaven last night. I can't recommend strongly enough to all my fellow Big Cat runners and others out there to ring in a future New Year by entering the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run at Central Park. It was 100,000 times more enjoyable than being in Times Square for the ball drop. And to make it even more special, it was preceded by U.S. Armed Forces soldiers running the "same" event in Iraq at their own midnight -- a joint effort that was off the hook.

This is a four-mile "fun run" that is perfectly organized, and from listening to other runners it just grew tremendously between last year and this year in terms of entries. Matt Dillon was among more than 4,700 runners in the event, wearing bib No. 4949, and I believe Ann Curry was right next to me at the start line. It is indescribably beautiful to watch fireworks explode over your head at the stroke of midnight for a new year -- your signal to start running. Going up Cat Hill on the east drive, I ran backwards so I could keep watching the fireworks.

I have no idea what my time is, and if you want to know in this event, you need to just use your watch. But truthfully, it's just a fun jog where you laugh your butt off at the costumes -- like the pair of runners dressed as Christmas presents, or the guys wearing business suits, etc. Costumes are unbelievable. So was the big blue sign that said "CHAMPAGNE" at the 2 Mile marker on the 102nd Street Transverse. To fully appreciate what my night was like, please click each of these youtube videos I posted below, because it took all day to get them uploaded:

I was going to carry my camera in my fuel belt along with juju juice. I had bought vodka and cranberry juice and grapefruit juice, and I filled up my four flasks of my Nathan fuel belt. But I decided to leave the juju juice and fuel belt at home, because I'm not in college anymore and I had a better time than I would have trying to run drunk. So I didn't take pictures/videos between the pre-race costume contest and the postrace dancing. Roxygen asked what it's like to run Central Park at midnight. Answer: PHENOMENAL. It is powerfully lit the entire way, and as I said there are thousands of runners. There are police who yell "Happy New Year" to you, there are volunteers galore. There are fans throughout the course who cheer you on, and you just giggle and laugh and run. It's awesome.

After I picked up my bag at the Baggage area, I walked home and popped open my bubbly and just enjoyed the night. Next time I'm not going it alone, though.

We're literally off and running in 2008. It was so cool to know that my first run of this calendar year was literally as the clock struck midnight. I am looking ahead to a big year in every way, including the Manhattan Half-Marathon later this month, the St. Louis Marathon in April, my second New York City Marathon in November, and many other big events to be scheduled along the way. I still have so much to learn from my fellow runners; I have strength training to dive into, weight to lose, big personal objectives to accomplish and am so excited.