Saturday, October 7, 2017

Hello Hi

Just blowing the dust off over here. I am happy to report that I'm a lot less lost than I was in March! Hooray. I haven't even gone back to read that post because I sort of don't want to. Upon further reflection, I'm not gonna. Not right now.

I've been busy since then. I'm seven races into 9+1 for 2018, which will be (if all goes well) my tenth New York City Marathon. I've been biking a whole bunch, and I also completed my third Ironman. Look, here's a picture of my medal and bib.

It was a whole thing. Normally, I would attempt to put up a race report and inevitably I would be too ambitious and try to break it up into like five different parts and only get through three or four but I'm getting back into all of this very slowly, which maybe has been my saving grace.

I've also been trying to balance comedy and storytelling and switching careers (and trying to get into graduate school a little bit). It's been challenging, but in a necessary and good way. Tomorrow I'll run my 8th Staten Island Half Marathon. Maybe I'll write about it after and maybe I won't.

Hopefully I will.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Unlosing Myself

In the time since I first started running as an adult, I have never felt quite as lost as I have in the months since I last posted. In fact, that post maybe indicated better than anything else that I wasn't feeling the same about running as I always have. The runs I used to do (the marathon, the 60k, running around Manhattan) felt empty. I thought I would remember how I feel about running by just diving in and doing those things, but nearly 100 miles and a few weeks later I was scrambling to return to the mindset I had when I loved them.

I catch glimpses occasionally, so I know my love of running is still lurking somewhere under the surface of all my anxiety about everything. Running, like New York City, feels like an old friend who's giving me space to find my answers without disdain or judgment. I know it'll be waiting for me with open arms and happy trails when I'm ready.

Once, a few years ago, I went for a run on a perfectly chilly fall evening the weekend before the marathon. It was a group run that I joined on a whim, though apprehensive about the fact that I hadn't been training as hard as I should have been.

It was glorious and exhilarating, and I ran it hard and fast in that way that is joyfully reckless and impervious to physical pain. The effort was ecstasy, not toil. If you've experienced it, you know it's the sort of run that makes you revel in your abilities and the circumstances that allowed you those moments of complete fulfillment. I remember being so deeply in love with the world, and grateful to be able to recognize it.

So. I know what I'm looking for and that I'll find it again eventually, and that has to be enough for now.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I Hit a Triple

Not literally. I am well past my softball days and hitting much of anything with a bat or otherwise. Every fall since I moved to New York City has presented an opportunity for endurance greatness (or maybe just suffering? Nah. Little of both) in the form of near-consecutive or consecutive weeks of marathon distance runs. I ran my first New York City Marathon in 2009. Only a couple weeks later, I made the foolish decision to tackle the Knickerbocker 60k, which is an ultramarathon (defined loosely as anything longer than 26.2 miles). I was not well trained for it, but I did finish. Thus began my annual marathon + 60k tradition. A double.

In 2012, after reading a blog post by one of my favorite bloggers chronicling his run around Manhattan, I decided to take the plunge. The distance around Manhattan is significant, somewhere a bit above 30 miles. I knew this endeavor would require a whole day, and I used my day off on Veterans' Day to accomplish it. This would have started my annual marathon + Veterans' Day Run Around Manhattan + 60k, only the marathon was cancelled that year. Another double.

In 2013, I was signed up for my second Ironman, Beach2Battleship in North Carolina (not then a WTC production, but since purchased by it). Late in the summer, I realized with a great degree of horror (maybe joy? Little of both) that this would result in four consecutive weeks of marathon+ events, the order of which was:

  • Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) on October 26, 2013
  • ING New York City Marathon (26.2 miles) on November 3, 2013
  • Veterans' Day Run Around Manhattan (31-34 miles) on November 11, 2013
  • Knickerbocker 60k (37.2 miles) on November 16, 2013
A home run! The 60k was (understandably) miserable that year, but overall I just did these things and didn't think much of it. In the years since then, I am increasingly impressed with myself for it, which is why I'm writing today with a 2016 update. This year, I ran the New York City Marathon, Veterans' Day Run Around Manhattan, and New York 60k. That's my first ever triple. 

And it's so, so meaningful. The time I have to run is ever more squeezed by my comedic ambitions. In 2013, I thought relatively little of the home run, though I think a great deal of it (and me, for doing it) now. In 2016, the magnitude of the triple is, on an objective scale, less than the home run. But I appreciate it so much more and immediately. Hopefully for anything I've lost in performance, I've gained as much or more back in perspective.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Race Report: HITS Half Iron Distance Triathlon - Part 3!

Before we started swimming, a light drizzle had begun, and it had not stopped by the time I exited the water. I always like when there are volunteers who militantly order me onto my butt so that they can rip off my wetsuit...that sentence reads differently now that I can read it back to myself. Anyway, these guys make wetsuit removal easy, but I didn't see them when I got out of the water. Jessica said they were there, so I must have missed them. Getting a wetsuit off by yourself is difficult.

I succeeded eventually and I pulled on my bike shorts and running shirt over my wetsuit. Typically, I would wear triathlon clothes during a race, since you can swim, bike, and run in the same outfit, but the ones I have that fit are getting pretty worn. I think the shorts might be see-through at this point, so I was hesitant to use them as swim bottoms and then for another 6 hours after that.

I was finally all geared up when I wheeled my bike out past the timing mat and just at the start point. After ditching a bottle of water that was woefully small for my water bottle holder (sorry, kind volunteer who picked it up!), I was on my way.

I was one of the last ones out of the water for my distance, which is not unusual but was more pronounced on this day. Typically, the people who exit the water around the same time are either overall race stragglers, and therefore easy to pick off on the bike, or cycling dynamos who haven't learned to swim well yet who zoom past me from the start. That's pretty much how it broke down. The other people on the course at that time were racing the Olympic. It's sometimes obvious to see the difference between Olympic racers and sometimes not. Regardless, I was happy for the additional company while I had it.

The hilliest part of the course was the beginning (and end)! It seemed a little cruel to me, since that was the part shared by all distances. I don't know. I don't get paid to design race courses.

At the very end of that first 6 or so miles (the shared part), we climbed a steep hill. At the top of the hill, a woman told me something like "good for you". From what I could tell, it was completely genuine, but I was trying to figure out what she meant because we were both successfully climbing the hill. I like to think I did it with some style, even though I do almost nothing with style.

The ride was pleasant and not especially hilly except for the beginning and end. The only little thing that posed a tiny problem was that it poured torrentially for two thirds of the race. There were places where I went slower than I would have otherwise because I didn't want to fall. I was also wearing my sunglasses. It was a little bit like driving without windshield wipers.

The rain wasn't awful, though it certainly impacted my performance. I think worse than the rain itself was the fact that there were NO mile markers in the whole race. None. I was wearing my watch, so I had a good sense of how far I'd gone, but if it hadn't been for that I would have been extremely frustrated by this situation.

Additionally, there came a part of the race that felt like it was 5-10 miles long in which there were no signs and no volunteers, so I continually thought I was lost. There was no one visibly ahead of me and only one person occasionally behind. There would be stretches when I wouldn't see her for a long time and worry that I'd taken a wrong turn, so I would slow until she came into sight and then continue. At one point, I started to worry that both of us had taken a wrong turn and nearly came to a full stop to wait for her, when I finally saw a race vehicle waiting at an intersection ahead. None of this helped, either.

But finally I did return to the turnaround point, which was my signal that I was only 6-7 miles from the end. Unfortunately for me, this was also the hilly part and I appreciated it even less at the end of the 56 mile ride than I had at the beginning.

All that aside though, I was just happy to have made it to the run. The run is and will probably always be the most reliable part of any triathlon for me. I can always grind out a run.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Race Report: HITS Half Iron Distance Triathlon - Part 2!

When we left off, Moses and I had taken very different approaches to the pre-race routine. But we were finally ready, and Jessica and he got into their car and I got into mine and our tiny caravan started toward the race.

Jessica and I both wanted coffee and we stopped at 2 convenience stores before finding one that was open at 5am. We got our coffee and breakfast bars, and I got pretzel nuggets for my new during-race snack because, as you recall, my croissants were needed elsewhere and I'd tried pretzel nuggets during the Naked Bavarian in March.

When we reached the race, it was light outside, but the weather did not look promising and I was pessimistic based on the rain from the previous evening. Nevertheless, Moses and I were both very excited. He to be doing his first triathlon, and I to be just doing triathlon, which is something of a rarity because of its high cost in both money and time.

We unloaded the cars and walked over to the registration tent to pick up our packets. It's rare for a half or iron distance event to have morning-of packet pickup and it's something I appreciated here. After stuffing my envelope into my tri backpack, I did a tiny loop around the parking lot on my bike to make sure it was in working order, and then we went to the transition area to begin setting up.

This was definitely a low-cost event. I'm certainly not complaining because I am cheap, but it's worth mentioning that it showed. Typically, bikes are lined up on rails, but it looked like the race organizers had finagled some sort of system with particle board shelving units and folding footstools? It looked as strange as it sounds, plus it made knowing exactly where to park our bikes challenging. It took me a good five minutes just to find my number!

Once I did, I busied myself putting number stickers on everything (swim cap, helmet, bike) and putting all my gear in appropriate piles. Bike shorts, shoes, socks, sunglasses, and race bib belt made up the bike pile. Running shoes, running shorts (it was unusual for me to have two shorts-changes), and a running shirt (also unusual) made up the run pile and I always place my helmet on top of my aero bars. I stuffed some pretzel nuggets into the covered pocket of my saddle bag so they wouldn't get as wet.

When we first got there, almost no one was wearing or putting on a wetsuit, so I spent a good amount of time sussing out whether or not most people would wear theirs because the water was warm. 25-30 minutes until race time, the suits started to come out for half and iron triathletes (probably Olympic, too, but I didn't see them as much), so I put mine on. My wetsuit makes me look and feel like a sausage.

I chatted some with Jessica and Moses before realizing the pre-race talk was happening near the water's edge and I said goodbye and good luck as I walked off to listen and subsequently start the race. My swim would be two loops around the course. I knew this would be troublesome from the get-go. The more direction changes there are, the worse I swim because I can't swim in a straight line to save my life.

The gun went off and the swim started, ever a frenzy. I try to hang back as much as possible at the start, because I'm going to end up in the back anyway and want to minimize the number of times I get kicked and hit getting there. The water was warm. I knew it was supposed to be, but it was even warmer than I expected. This was the first time I'd felt too warm during the swim. The good news is that I'd actually remembered to bring lube for my neck, so didn't chafe the hell out of myself.

The actual swimming went even more poorly than I expected and I can't tell you how many times I had to change direction and overcorrect myself in some way. It was a mess and I think I did it in 1:02, which is abysmal.

Well, this has already turned into a novel, so I guess it's going to be a 4-parter. To be continued!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Race Report: HITS Half Iron Distance Triathlon - Part 1!

I really meant to get around to posting about this, but I forgot. A few weeks ago, I switched from the full distance to the half distance tri. I haven't been able to put in the time I needed for it and was getting nervous that I'd be stuck doing it and then not finish. I imagine there are few endurance-related things that are worse than spending over 12 hours trying to finish a race and being picked up from the course, which is what I was anticipating.

Now, all that implies that I wasn't ready in any way, shape, or form for this triathlon. In fact, if you'd asked me about it point blank before the race, I would have readily agreed.

But it was fantastic. I certainly didn't PR (I PWed, but by less than 2 minutes) but it felt good. Like, really, bizarrely good. I'm not sure what happened, but I think I was better prepared than I felt I was. Also, just as you can have a really awful day, you can have really good ones and I think Saturday I had an incredible day.

I drove up to Kingston on Friday night a little bit later than I'd planned because of some work follow up that took longer than I expected. The drive was mostly fine except for scattered torrential downpours, but it was all still fine. My only real complaint is that I got there too late to forage for any sort of dinner. I could have, but it was late and raining a lot and I didn't think it was worth the risk. Fortunately, I'd gotten croissants from Dunkin Donuts (I know, guys, I know. I wanted bagels too but that was the best breakfast pastry the Penn Station Dunkin had to offer). They became my dinner instead of my breakfast and during-race snack, as I'd originally planned.

When I arrived, my friends Jessica and Moses were already there and they were kind enough to bring a spacious air mattress along for me. We stayed up making and laughing at fart jokes for longer than we should have and finally went to sleep a little after midnight, planning to wake up at 4.

The alarm went off at 4, as we'd planned. Moses jumped up and started getting ready with a lot more fanfare than I did. I slept for another 15 minutes. After we were both ready to go, Moses did light calisthenics while I took a catnap. And thus, the adventure began!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Training Scorecard - Strategy Pivot

Looks like I maxed out on my desire to do a scorecard every day. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but other things started bubbling up that took priority. Plus, I know how lovely this could be if I invested enough time into it, and knowing that makes me less eager to do it in a way that doesn't accomplish what it could.

I'm going to try updating weekly instead, and still plan to do a Toronto race report.