Saturday, November 22, 2014

(Half) Live Photo Blog: 2014 Run Around Manhattan

Checkpoint 1: Queensborough Bridge (12:30pm)

Scenes so far:
The first glorious sight on Manhattan's perimeter comes at a bend just before 23rd St. It's a little hard to see in the distance because my picture isn't great, but if you look closely you can see the Queensborough Bridge.
At 25th Street, there is a bridge over the FDR. Just north of that on the side of the river is Waterside Plaza, which is a gorgeous outdoor plaza that overlooks the East River.
Unfortunately,  you can't run the entire length of the East Side of Manhattan right along the river. One of the stretches where you have to come a little inland begins here, at this pedestrian tunnel at the end of 38th Street.
Access to a path along the East River resumes here, if you run up a ramp on 60th Street. The scene is complete with this structure that resembles a roller coaster, which (sort of) covers a dog park.
Checkpoint 2: Macombs Avenue Bridge (1:40pm)

A little above the Queensborough Bridge, the Bobby Wagner Walk begins, and we see this lovely scene.
At 84th Street, Carl Schurz Park begins. Across the river from that, you can see Lighthouse Park, on the northern tip of Roosevelt Island. See the lighthouse?
Sometime in the 90's, you come by this place. It would seem to me that it used to be a pier of some sort. Now it's just a roosting place for seagulls.
Between about 120 and 155 is another stretch that can't be done along the river. It's a zig zag slog through an industrial area of Manhattan that is replete with bus depots and car dealerships. At some point, though, you make it to the Macombs Avenue Bridge, from which you can see Yankee Stadium.
As typically happens with this, battery and energy ran short on the second half, but here are a few more pictures I took before I couldn't anymore. Let's call this Checkpoint #3: Inwood.

10-20 blocks above the bridge, there is a small, barely noticeable entrance to a pedestrian and bike path that'll take you across a highway and back along the river. It provides breathtaking views of a number of bridges on the East side as well as the towering structure you can see here that is located in the Cloisters.

Bridge views from north of the same bridges. I love this area.
Ever so slightly north of the last picture, you'll see the Peter J. Sharpe Boathouse. A boathouse on the northeast side of Manhattan? You bet!
At the back end of Manhattan, there is this pretty little inlet. It's hard to see here, but it was actually frozen. The curved pathways you see in the picture were little rivers that had unfrozen. There are geese and ducks there, getting ready to take off in flocks.
Pretty sure this is exactly the furthest part north on the island. I took this particular bridge on a nice pathway that happened to be under a bridge.
I think this is one of the best views on the run. It's a small outlook point in the park. Look how far north you can see up the Hudson River!

Alas, I started running out of time, battery and energy after this checkpoint. I actually bypassed a sizable chunk, since I underestimated how long it would take and was meeting Jessica Sassy at 14th Street. So I cut a good 7-8 miles out, but also added a bit at the end between the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges that I haven't done the last couple of years. I think altogether it ended up being 27-28 miles. I learned some things for next year's run. As usual, it was a great experience. Hope you enjoyed the half live blog!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Race Report: The 2014 TCS New York City Marathon - Part 2

So there I was, borderline tearing up and crossing the start line of the marathon. I'd decided to set out with the 4:30 pace group because I was a little intimidated at the prospect of running with 4:15. I didn't feel that my training had been up to snuff and the idea of an overly ambitious start scared me a bit.

From the minute we started running the bridge, I could tell it would be a trying day for many people. The wind was much stronger than I remembered it in previous years. Abandoned clothing was whipping around on the ground and I saw multiple people trip and fall. Our pace leader apologized in advance and profusely, just in case she the wind blew the sign she was carrying into someone's face. As our small group made its way across the bridge, the pace group leader began chatting a bit. In my opinion, chat is a major benefit of running with pace groups. It makes the whole race seem like more of a team effort. Anyway, our pace group leader told us that NYC was her 124th marathon! And I thought I was getting up there in numbers.

I stuck with the group for about the length of the bridge before finding my own pace, which turned out to be a good bit faster. Somewhere between miles 2 and 3 in Bay Ridge, I started to get a little too warm and so abandoned my sweatshirt on a barricade. Hopefully, someone will make good use of it. Soon after that, we were on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, where I had my first on-course friend sighting at the 5k mile marker. It was Darian! He was helping on the course and I was able to wave to him as I ran by.

The next person I saw was my friend Emily, who had let me know a couple places where she'd be on the course. I got some high fives and was again on my way through downtown Brooklyn. My next friend target was Ali, with whom I used to play recreational basketball. I looked for her around the Brooklyn Academy of Music, but no dice. Onward!

Between miles 9 and 10 we entered Williamsburg, which is part of one of my favorite running routes. At some point, we turned onto Bedford Avenue and headed up toward Greenpoint, where I knew another friend, Tiffany, would be cheering at mile 12. As I approached, though, I realized I hadn't asked her which side she would be standing on. I took a gamble on the left side and found out five or ten minutes later that she had been on the other side. Alas!

The halfway point of the race came somewhere in the middle of the Pulaski Bridge. I checked my watch and saw that I was on pace for just about four hours, and so figured if I could at least mostly keep my pace up, I would finish just above that. I never have been a negative splitter.

The next person on my route was Tom and his fiancee, Carmen, who told me they would be cheering just before the Queensboro Bridge. Unfortunately, though, I missed them, too. No matter! I was feeling good as we made our way onto the Queensborough Bridge.

I think maybe 1 out of 10 people on the Queensborough were actually enjoying themselves at that point. I was one of those and I made every attempt to rally my fellow runners. At a few points, I tried the hoot and holler. For the most part, though, no one was having my crap. I think I might have gotten one enthusiastic response but otherwise my cheers were met with radio silence. Well, panting and heaving, if not silence. When we had almost reached the end of the bridge, I yelled "WOOOO! Manhattan!"

My words sat in the air for a bit and I tried running a little faster, figuring everyone around me had probably had enough. But finally, one girl turned to me and said, "this is my favorite part." I turned to her, incredulous, and said, "mine, too!" And it was glorious. Taking that turn is like running into New York City's open arms. The road exits the south end of the bridge and wraps around under a tunnel, leading runners north on First Avenue. For that entire portion and through the next five or ten blocks, spectators are four and five people deep and their energy and excitement is palpable. For however brief a moment, it's easy to forget that you're 16 miles into a marathon.

Ali had said she would be in that area as well, so I scanned the crowd as I ran by but didn't see her. The next people on my official list were Julia (92nd and 1st) and Monica and Helen (94th and 1st). As I passed 78th Street, I looked out for my friend Jorge, who had not explicitly said he'd be there but also lives in the area. No luck, though, so I continued on. In that stretch, we passed mile 18. I briefly considered taking a PowerGel that was being distributed, but decided against it, as I didn't actually feel like I needed it. Course volunteers were also handing out wet sponges, but it was way too cold for me to want any of that.

Finally, I reached the 90's. I missed Julia (my overall ratio of seen:missed friends was low) but saw Helen and Monica and came in for some high fives. The guy standing next to them even gave me a high five!

After that, the next two miles toward the Bronx was a bit of a slog. My hamstring was beginning to really bother me. It had started hurting earlier in the race, but I'd managed to put it away by telling myself that it was simply too early in the race (mile 6) to indulge it. 12-13 miles later, though, the tightness was back and it was much more difficult to ignore. I found myself having to stop and stretch it out at least once a mile starting at 19 or 20.

After an uneventful time in the Bronx, we entered Manhattan again on 5th Avenue and almost immediately saw the 21 mile marker. I knew my next stop would be my Hudson Duster friends just after mile 23. I could not have been happier to see all of them and ran down the line, giving high fives the whole time. I even got my own race beverage, which I very nearly coughed into someone's face. Ahhh…the marathon.

Soon after that stop, I saw Helen and Monica one more time. This time, I meant serious business and came in for a full-on hug. Helen was really thoughtful and brought me a banana. Unfortunately, eating a banana was not in the cards for me at that moment, so I had to refuse and I continued on my way. Next on my list was the Cornell water stop at mile 25. Honestly, I didn't even know anyone giving out water, but I still always look forward to that one.

Soon after that, I knew I only had a little over a mile left and decided to dig in and finish. To my surprise, Emily (whom I last saw around mile 7) was there right after the Mile 25 water stop for a last minute boost! I made the turn onto 59th Street and began the final stretch. I knew I had 3 more avenues and about two tenths of a mile to go after that, so I took it one at a time. 6th Avenue, then 7th (near where Monica, Jeremy and I used to live) and finally 8th. Somewhere between 7th and 8th I was pleasantly surprised by an 11th hour friend sighting when I saw Ali! I heard her cheer as I passed and saw her out of the corner of my eye and if I hadn't been so darn close to the finish, I would have swung around.

At that point, though, nothing was stopping me. I barreled on through Columbus Circle and into Central Park, knowing the finish was only a couple tenths of a mile away. At that point, I couldn't help but pick up the pace as I ran past burgeoning crowds and across the finish line.

5 down, hopefully at least a dozen more to go.
I know this post has already overstayed its welcome, but I want to emphasize how much I love this race and this day. This year and every year. It somehow manages to be both heavy with meaning and buoyant with hope and excitement. And people show themselves to be so, so good. All of the good adjectives you can use to describe people are applicable on this day. They are good, kind, true, generous, warm, gracious, brave and strong. And even if, in the grand scheme of things, it's just a foot race, it assures me that we can rise to even greater, more urgent occasions.

EDIT: After thinking about this a bit, I discovered the sentence in bold is probably a minor internalization of a Maya Angelou quote I love. It's not the same and doesn't explain the exact same sentiment, but it echoes her words and so I am including it here, primarily in the interest of transparency:

"One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

-Maya Angelou

Monday, November 10, 2014

Race Report: The 2014 TCS New York City Marathon - Part 1

I'm back! It's mostly been within the week so this counts. Last weekend, I ran my fifth NYC Marathon. It was as wonderful as it's been each of the last four times, with the added bonus of being my best NYC performance by a good margin.

This training season was unpredictable. It started out strong in terms of mileage, but I can't say it was predictably good in quality. I ran a few awful half marathons and an awful 18 miler and started losing confidence. At some point in the month prior to the race, I decided to make peace with it and not worry quite so much about what I anticipated would be a lousy marathon.

But, let's start at the beginning. I spent the week before the marathon refraining from doing too much running. My last run prior was a brisk 3 miler on Friday. On Saturday, I went to the expo and then attended a lovely pasta dinner hosted by Elana Sassypantsmagoo. It was a great pre-race meal and it was nice spending that time with so many friends who were also running the marathon.

As a quick aside, this marathon outstripped any other in friends I knew who were also running it. It was  a far cry from the first NYC Marathon I ran in 2009, in which I knew no one This time, I think I knew 10-12 other people also running! Many of the people I knew who were running were doing so for the very first time. I loved experiencing it with them and I can only hope they all enjoyed themselves as much as I did (and always do).

I got home at a reasonable hour and did manage to get to sleep around 12:30, which is not an awful pre-race bedtime for me. Plus, we all benefitted from the end of Daylight Savings Time. The marathon is one of two or three times in the year when living where I live is extremely convenient for purposes of running. I was able to wake up a little after 6:00am to catch the 6:41 bus and get to South Ferry at about 6:53. I was supposed to meet Jeremy, Nick and Amortya there to catch the 7am and we made sure to pick a specific meeting point, as Jeremy and Amortya had planned not to have their phones.

As 7 approached, Amortya had not yet arrived and we finally had to go inside to catch the ferry without him (he caught the next one) because Jeremy was in Wave 1, which was scheduled to start at 9:40am. Everything on the way to the race went very smoothly, although it did take quite some time to get from the bus to the start villages, presumably because of the increased security.

Once we arrived, we headed straight back into the Green village, since both Jeremy and Nick were assigned there. I was Orange, but much preferred their company to being lonely in the correct village. Jeremy didn't have much time there at all, as his corral closed at 8:55 and we arrived around 8:30. We had some coffee, Jeremy had a bathroom break, and then he was off. Nick's wave was up next, and his corral was set to close at 9:20. After some hanging out and another trip to the port-a-potty, Nick also departed. My corral was next, so I took my own trip to the bathroom (these things need to be appropriately timed) and started applying my anti-chafe spray and shedding the rest of the things I'd brought to the start. Well, except for my sweatshirt, which I wouldn't ditch until a little before mile 3.

Verrazano Selfie!

Once it was time for me to line up, I made my way to the corral and had the good fortune of finding two of the pace groups, which were exactly the ones I thought I might join. There was the 4:30 group and the 4:15 group. Anticipating running with the 4:15 group made me a little uncomfortable, so I decided to start with the 4:30 group. As the cannon went off and everyone in my wave began to cross the start line, Frank Sinatra's New York, New York played. It was enough to make anyone get a little emotional.

Well, this post is getting a little long so I think it calls for a two-parter. To be continued!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The NYC Marathon! 2014 Edition!

Hello! It's been so long! Life has really been at it since August. I don't have enough time for a full race report right now, but I wanted to check in because it's been far too long.

On Sunday, I ran my fifth New York City Marathon and for the first time was graced with the presence of many, many friends both racing AND watching! It was a far cry from 2009, when I knew no one else running. I'm happy to know so many people so enamored with the sport and with this city.

I will continue these thoughts in a proper race report. And I plan to write the race report sometime this week. We'll see, though. I'm never very good when I set myself blog deadlines. Congratulations to all NYC finishers and I'll catch you later this week.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Oatmeal Is My Celebrity Crush - Part 2

In my last post, I talked about my unrequited love for this guy. He runs and makes comics and sometimes makes comics about running. About a year ago he wrote the one I already talked about. More recently, though, he released another one called "The DOs and DO NOTs of running your first marathon" which is also hilarious. Choice screenshots:

Not to brag, but I have pretty much mastered the sprint-choke
"OMG, no big deal. This is just one loop of Central Park, one Brooklyn Bridge and twice the distance to the 39th Street Ferry Terminal!"

So, yes. I've decided The Oatmeal is some sort of running prophet. He gets it and somehow conveys it in such a way that the rest of us can totally relate. In fact, he wrote a book about it which you can bet I plan on purchasing, like any good super fan/stalker. Please note that all images I've reproduced here have been created by The Oatmeal.

EDIT: I had a conversation with my friend Helen about how maybe not everyone loves The Oatmeal as much as I do. We can still be friends if you don't also have a celebrity crush on him.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Oatmeal is My Celebrity Crush

Seriously, though. I love his story and his comics to death. Okay, fine, also I love him because he is funny and attractive. Imagine my delight, therefore, when I discovered a few years ago that he is also an ultramarathoner! A decent one, at that.

Anyway, I didn't intend for this post to be a stalkerish homage to The Oatmeal, even though that's what it's turning into. What I meant to talk about was a couple of comics he's drawn in the past. This is the first one. It's called "The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances." It made the rounds on social media, but definitely read it if you haven't already. I found lots of things in there that I related to, including this:

Image courtesy of The Oatmeal

And this:

And some other stuff. But I don't want to screenshot the whole thing, so I leave it for you to check out. It's probably the most raw, honest and maybe even spiritual take on running that I've ever read. Matthew Inman gets me.

I guess I'll save talking about the other one for another day. That's what inspired this post in the first place.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Hills are Alive

With the sound of me, huffing and puffing. Actually, I exaggerate a little bit. Since Amortya had never done a hill workout before, he picked the easiest hill in Central Park and it was therefore not that big a deal. Don't get me wrong, it was a good workout, but it was no Harlem Hill.

We met up at Columbus Circle and began the trek to the chosen hill, which is just beyond the 72nd Street Transverse. In the future I guess it would probably be more productive to just meet at the hill but we hadn't made any firm decisions about the location going into it. We arrived at the bottom of the hill around 7:15 and saw a guy standing there, seemingly keeping guard over something.

He must have overheard our conversation about what format the workout should be and offered up some advice, saying the group he was watching was running up the hill and down, around and back to the bottom for recovery. This seemed like a reasonable plan to me and Morty seemed to agree so off we went.

We did 5 hill loops, took a short break and then did another five for a total of 4 miles. Mine were a little over 9 minutes per and I'm sure Amortya's were 8 minutes, at the most. It was very hot and humid and I was sweating a lot. It was a good thing the Jamba Juice credit card machine was working.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Runner Problems: Sweat Money

I watched the cashier's eyes as I handed him my soggy $10 bill. To my surprise, they remained averted as he slipped the bill, damp with the by-product of my just completed run, into the till. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the danger had passed.
"Is it raining outside?"
Well, crap.
 "No," I said hesitantly, expecting at least one of a number of potential follow up questions.
"Oh. Because your money is wet," he continued.
"Uh huh..."
"Was that…was that sweat?" 
There it was. The jig was up and there was no avoiding it now. If only the Jamba Juice credit card machine hadn't been broken I could have avoided this embarrassment and he could have avoided contact with my grimy currency. Or if only Amortya (who, thankfully, did not witness this debacle) and I didn't love post-run Jamba Juice so much. Or if it wasn't so hot outside. Alas!
"Yes." My reply was tinged with shame and I received ample side-eye.
"That's gross."
"Ok, thank you. Can I have an extra cup?" He disapprovingly granted my request and I slunk away to find a table.
I guess he got over it, though. We saw him again after today's workout and I saw no hint of recognition on his face. Also, the credit card machine was working this time. Runner problems.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Like a Girl

I'm trying this new thing where I blog about non-running and triathlon related things on a separate website ( I'm working out the kinks still and trying to figure out if I wouldn't be better off consolidating the two. For now, though, there's a topic that bridges my blog worlds.

On June 12, I wrote about being told I throw "like a girl" which, throughout my life, is one of the last things I ever wanted to hear because it always had such a derogatory connotation. When I wrote it, I focused on the message that was being conveyed and not the rhetoric used to convey it. Interestingly, a very timely and recent discussion about this phrase was opened up when Always released a commercial exploring it:

In my blog post, I stated that I didn't want to discuss the implications regarding gender and social impact of the phrase. In doing that, though, I guess I was buying into its use and giving it more meaning than it should probably have. So, let's talk about it.

It's a straightforward discussion, really, and I've already broken into the crux of it. Saying someone does something "like a girl" is tantamount to saying that person does it poorly and that is unacceptable. For the future, I will be more conscious of my own use of the phrase (believe me, I've used it) and how it's used by people around me.

No daughter of mine should grow up believing being a girl makes her inherently less able to achieve anything, especially as the result of careless words. It's my (our, really) responsibility to create an environment that reflects that conviction.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Runner's World Cover Contest

For those of you who have ever had aspirations of being a magazine cover model, this might be your chance! I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed today when I stumbled upon this post from Runner's World:

In case you can't see it, RW is doing a cover model casting call. Here's the link, in case you're inclined to apply. Who knows, maybe I'll apply. I don't think I've seen this before in an issue of RW, but it could also very well be that I wasn't paying attention. That happens a lot.

Runner's World has done "Runner's Body" issues in the past, in which they similarly put out a call for applicants to submit. The feel of that issue, I think, is similar to the ESPN Body Issue (which, as a matter of fact, recently came out). But while that issue tends to focus more on the physical look of the runner, I imagine this one will consider applicants' physical appearance in tandem with their goals, accomplishments and journeys as runners. It's an interesting opportunity and one I'd encourage anyone to pursue.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Facing a Fear

It might sound really silly, but I've begun facing one of the biggest, most consistent fears of my running career. I got a Garmin watch 4.5 years ago and have used it only sporadically since then because it has historically given me too much data. I know this sounds counterintuitive to almost everyone. How could there be too much data?

I've found that it's a real concern for me. Where many people are encouraged by knowing their pace and whether or not they're meeting their goal in real time, I am kind of intimidated by it and myself. If I see that I'm running way better than my goal pace, I get nervous that I won't be able to maintain (though I'm excellent at finding a pace that's both doable for the distance and sufficiently fast) it and sometimes I even slow down and fall into the same self sabotage habits that wrecked my Oakley Mini 10k.

So I've been avoiding using the watch on a regular basis. Over the last year, I've used it more regularly than ever before but still not enough. Finally, I decided to import all the data from it onto my computer a few weeks ago. I downloaded the training center, plugged in the unit and had all the data I've recorded on it since December 2009. It was that easy. And even though it wasn't very much data, it was enough to get me hooked. In any setting but running, I love data.

I don't think I've run without it since then. I also haven't downloaded anymore data, but the fact that I have it available to me whenever I want to look is very appealing. The idea of having a more complete picture of my progress is exciting and I'm a little embarrassed I haven't made use of this resource until now.

It still remains to be seen how I'll handle having it during races. I still don't care to know exactly how my race is progressing every step of the way, but I'm sure there's a solution. Maybe taping up the watch face until the end? I don't know, but I'll figure it out.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Speeds MacKenzie

Yay for puns and dated topical references! Since I've been trying to figure out the best approach to qualifying for Boston, one thing I've implemented into my training is speedwork. Now, if you've read a bit of the blog you might remember that I have done speedwork in the past. The type I've probably mentioned most of all is Yasso 800s, a training technique that involves half mile repeats at a pace in minutes that supposedly reflects the overall time you'd run in a marathon. This is worth discussing at length in a later post.

Over the last four or five weeks, Amortya and I have been doing at least one speed session per week. Instead of half mile repeats, we've been doing mile and two mile repeats. Another key difference between these workouts and the half mile repeats I've done in the past is that these have been outside. I've typically done my speed workouts on a treadmill. My logic has always been that I'm much better able to push myself hard on a treadmill than I am outside. Though this is true, the problem I then encounter is not being able to maintain those paces when I run outside for almost any length of time. Chalk it up to differences in terrain or weather, but I have never been able to do quite as well outside as on a treadmill.

That would be fine and good if I ran my races on a treadmill, but I don't. When it comes time to attempt a Boston qualifier, it'll do me little good to believe I can run a certain pace because I've gotten used to it on the treadmill. Instead, I figure I have to start emulating race conditions as well as possible. This is not to say I never run on the treadmill, I've just tried to do it a little more sparingly.

In terms of the paces we've been running during these workouts, Amortya is making much bigger strides than I am and frequently runs mile and two-mile repeats under 6:30 per mile. I've been running a little over 7:30s, which is not quite good enough, particularly considering I've held that pace for an entire 5 mile race before. Oh, well. It's still a work in progress.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My 2014 9+1 Blueprint

A couple weeks ago, I got into a lengthy email discussion about many, many things. One subject that came up was upcoming race schedules so I decided to check out the NYRR calendar and figure out the rest of my 9 + 1 plan. It's really going to be 12 + 1 because there are some races I like doing even after I've already hit the 9 race threshold. Without further ado, here are the races I have done and will be doing in the rest of 2014 to qualify for the 2015 NYC Marathon:

1. Manhattan Half - This perennial winter hellhole of a race is one I for which I always sign up and run, even though the temperature is reliably below 20 degrees and it consists of two laps of Central Park. I'm honestly not sure why I keep coming back. Habit, maybe? Anyway, I had the flu this year on the day of this race but decided to give it a try anyway. It was a terrible decision. After laboring through one lap of the park and averaging 11-12 minute miles, I decided to call it a day and DNF.

2. New York City Half Marathon - Love the race, love the course, hate the fact that it costs around $120. I could run 2.5 or so of the other borough races for the price of this one and, though I may be a little less cheap than I was when I started this blog, I'm still disgruntled by the price of this half marathon and have only done it this year and in 2012. 

3. Healthy Kidney 10k - I posted about this race a couple of weeks ago. The last time I ran it prior to this year was 2009. Last year, Amortya and I realized the prize purses were significantly different for men and women and so decided not to do it on principle. HOWEVER, this changed beginning in 2014, which is fortunate, because we had a more personal reason to run it this year. Make no mistake, I would have done it one way or the other, but it was comforting that the issue was resolved.

4. Brooklyn Half - I've sung this race's praises for years. This year did not disappoint and you can read all about it in my race report. 

5. Oakley Mini 10k - Last year was the first time I ran this race. I did so because the pace leader on a series of JackRabbit runs Amortya and I did in spring 2013 said it was one of her favorite races of the year. Indeed, it has a spectacular little vibe and is a unique experience because the field is all women. 

6. Queens 10k - As of this writing, I have not yet done the Queens 10k this year but will have by its publishing. This is one of those races I continue to do out of habit, since I've run it nearly every year since I began with NYRR in 2009. I liked it better when it was a half marathon, but considering the temperatures are usually in the 80's I guess it might not be such a bad thing that the distance was shortened. 

VOLUNTEERING - Percy Sutton 5k (8/23) - This will be my +1. I decided to volunteer for this race in particular because it was the earliest I could find that offered the option to volunteer as a bike marshal, which I quite enjoyed last year. I've never run this race, but did sign up for it in 2011 when it was cancelled because of Hurricane Irene.

7. Team Championships (8/2) - Another race that only popped onto my list of regulars in the last year. The reason for this is that I only just started running with the Hudson Dusters in the last year and so had no reason or even qualification to run it prior to that. A distinguishing feature of this race is that women and men compete separately and the fields for both are very fast. I also have a soft spot for this race because I had a breakout performance there last year, averaging 7:34 minutes per mile for the five mile course. 

8. Fifth Avenue Mile (9/13) - Habit race! I've done this every year since 2009. This is an aberration to my normal preference for longer, cheaper runs, especially for the price. It's ONE MILE and I think costs $50 to run? I guess you could call it a guilty pleasure race. In my defense, it's a cool experience to run the mile down Fifth Avenue. It's also really awesome to watch elites (even non-elites but people who are much, much faster than I am) run it. In probably half the years I've run it, it's occurred the same weekend as the Marathon Tuneup (see below). 

9. Marathon Tuneup (9/14) - Yay, 18 miles! Yay, 3 full laps of Central Park! In all seriousness, this is literally the only occasion when I will run 3 full laps of Central Park. "But Katie, what about the 9 laps of Central Park that you run as part of the 60k?" Shh! Tss…shhhh. I will address that shortly. And by the way, the keyword here is "full."

(No Greta's this year because I'm going to a wedding in Dallas) - I thought it worth noting because Greta's is another half marathon I try to run every year even though it is also two laps of Central Park. In its defense, at least the laps are clockwise for a change. NYRR has also typically had smoked salmon as part of the post-race food offerings although I think they stopped that last year. Alas.

10. Bronx 10 Mile (9/28) - The second to last race in the 5 Borough Series. I know, I keep saying it but it's really true. I liked it better when this race was a half marathon. These days, it starts and ends not far from Yankee Stadium. It's mostly an out and back to Lehman College but there's a tiny loop in between. This is also part of the series of races that I always consider to be part of my NYC Marathon training, starting with the Marathon Tuneup and ending with the Staten Island Half (up next). 

11. Staten Island Half (10/12) - The Staten Island Half Marathon typically takes place three weeks prior to the marathon and has a nice vibe for that reason. Many of its participants are running the marathon and in either the last week of their very long runs or the first of their taper period. Either way, everyone is in good spirits and excited that the goal race for which they've been working for months is almost at hand.

12. NYC 60k (11/15) - Formerly the Knickerbocker 60k (until 2012, as far as I know), this is the only ultra marathon I have run. And I've run it 4 times. I like to think of it as my pre-Thanksgiving Day tradition because it is typically the weekend before Thanksgiving. When Thanksgiving actually rolls around and I can quickly dispense with any feelings of guilt by remembering that I ran 37.2 miles the previous weekend. It's a nice feeling. I ran my PR for this race in 2012 probably because I had some pent up energy left after not running the NYC marathon. Last year, I finished about an hour slower but figured it was probably because I'd done an iron distance triathlon, NYC Marathon and a loop around Manhattan in the three previous weekends. 

13. Midnight Run (12/31) - As long as I've lived in New York City, I've never been anywhere except for Central Park when midnight strikes. When I got here five and a half years ago, the cool thing to do on New Year's Eve seemed to be to find a nice open bar, pay $100+ and spend the few hours before and after midnight fighting similar-minded crowds for the bartenders' attention. At least, that's how I understood it to be. I've only ever spent New Year's Eve on the 72nd Street Transverse, freezing my ass off with 5,000 other people who are eager and hopeful for the new year and ready to kick it off properly by running four miles. The electricity in the air is barely describable and made only more spectacular by the fireworks show that happens for a half hour at the start of the run. I get a little emotional thinking about it. Protip: This race is even better with someone to kiss as the gun goes off!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bad Runner Pickup Lines: "Let me guess your PR!" Edition

I'm going to share with you something important I have learned by both being a runner and an avid user of online dating websites. Let me start by saying I get my share of weird online dating experiences. While guys on dating websites can be intelligent, attractive and sweet, they can also be strange. I say this in an effort to garner sympathy before my big reveal. In this story, I am the weird culprit and I am guilty of appalling attempts at flirty chat.

At some point while using online dating sites, I began to think it was a great idea to strike up a conversation with a guy by guessing his half marathon PR. I know, I know. To be fair, if I think he couldn't run faster than 1:50 I don't guess so at least I have some sense of decency about it. Sort of. Okay, fine, it's still terrible. I imagine this is some bizarro world version of a guy trying to guess a girl's weight? Or maybe there are better metaphors.

One way or the other, it has not achieved the desired effect, historically. Every once in awhile I come close enough that he considers it a cool trick but more often than not I likely end up insulting him. They're usually too polite to say more than "1:45? Oh, no. I actually ran a 1:31 last fall."

Oopsie. Guess I'll go ahead and scratch that one off my list of conversation starters.

Katie's List of Conversation Starters

  • Potential cat names
  • Guess half marathon PR
  • Favorite gaming consoles of the 1990's
  • Best mid-run bathroom spots around NYC
  • Favorite Spice Girls song to sing at karaoke
  • Merits of dollar pizza

No worries, plenty more where that came from.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Triathlon in the Wall Street Journal! Discuss...

It's not actually that rare for triathlon and specifically Ironman to be featured in a Wall Street Journal article. The WSJ seems to have an affinity for Ironman coverage although I was unaware of this until I googled "Ironman Wall Street Journal" not five minutes ago. What led me to that particular Google search? Well, this particular article, which I saw posted in r/triathlon (the triathlon subreddit) a few days ago.

Take a read, if you can, though I'll go ahead and TL;DR for all you lazies. The article summarizes a struggle that's currently happening between Ironman branded races and independent long and ultra distance races. A long course triathlon is typically (and perhaps detrimentally) known as a half-Ironman. This entails a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. An ultra distance triathlon is traditionally known as an Ironman and entails double the aforementioned distances (2.4, 112, 26.2 miles, respectively).

For anyone I haven't lectured about this, it's important to know that Ironman is not a race distance, but a brand. Are all Ironman (or half Ironman) races ultra (or long course) distances? Yes. Are all ultra and long course races Ironmans? No. Much like all squares are parallelograms but not all parallelograms are squares.

The Ironman brand is owned and run by the World Triathlon Corporation and most people will recognize it as having a sort of (if not an actual) monopoly over the industry. As is stated in the article, many Ironman races sell out within minutes of registration opening. Independent races on the other hand, some most noticeably produced by HITS or Rev3, often struggle to register 100 participants despite the fact that fees are almost always lower than those of Ironman races.

That's the main takeaway, though there are a couple other good points made in the article. The fact that many finishers like getting a tattoo of the Ironman logo and that triathletes can only qualify for Kona (the holy grail of triathlon entries) by placing extremely well at an Ironman are two. Interestingly, the article does mention two independent ultra distance races that don't seem to hurt for registrants. These are Beach2Battlship, which I did last year, and Vineman. I think it is important to note, though, that both cap their registrations at around 700 participants versus the thousands that usually compete in Ironman events.

There is a really good quote at the end of the article that makes the point that after someone completes one or even a few Ironman events, the importance of the brand fades quite a bit. I related to this a lot. Once I'd done an Ironman, I didn't feel a particular need to pay the premiums for those events and looked to find something a little more affordable for my second. Although I think I might be able to qualify for Boston maybe, someday, I am infinitely less optimistic that I would ever be able to qualify for Kona. Therefore, it's not all that important to me if my long or ultra distance triathlons are independently run. On the other hand, one of my coaches at Everyday Triathlete was very intent on qualifying for Kona and it made sense for him to only compete in Ironman races to accomplish this.

I don't often get comments, but if anyone is so inclined, here are two discussion points:

1. If you have completed an Ironman or ever plan to, have or would you get an M Dot (the Ironman logo) tattoo? Why?

2. Would it be important to you that your first long course or ultra distance race be an Ironman event? Why?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Race Report: Queens 10k 2014

Note: this was written Sunday night after the race.

10k is not a distance I run very frequently, yet in the last six weeks or so I've run three! Today was the Queens 10k, the fourth of six borough races (now Fred Lebow, NYC, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island).

It was an interesting race in a number of different ways. First, was our journey out to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Last night I was talking to my friend Mark, who mentioned he was also doing the race and was hoping to take a cab. He proposed splitting a one to the race since I live relatively nearby. By the end of the evening, we had an additional two people along for the ride and things were looking good. More people = cheaper cab ride for everyone.

This morning, the plan started off without a hitch. I grabbed a cab from my place around 6:40, met Mark around 6:50, and we headed up to pick up Michelle and Angelique at 59 and Lex before heading into Queens.

Most of the ride to the park was uneventful but once we approached our exit, things started to get ugly. Traffic seemed backed up for probably a mile and was barely moving. We decided to continue to the next exit but one thing led to another and before we knew it, we'd missed four or five viable routes and exits and were sitting on an exit ramp with barely 15 minutes to spare before the start of the race. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that I'd picked up bibs for Michelle, Elana, Allison and Jessica and was supposed to meet them at 7:30 to distribute. Obviously, I was not there on time and at 7:45 it was looking like I might not get there at all before the race started.

Mark suggested we simply get out of the cab right there on the ramp. We were hesitant, because we couldn't see the end of the ramp from where we were and the only other option was climbing a high fence. But it was obvious we had little choice, so we paid the cabbie, exited and started running. It ended up being a really good decision because the entrance to the park was probably a tenth of a mile away.

Michelle was a little behind me and after waiting for her a bit, she waved me on because she'd already gotten her bib and I still had to find the others. I ran ahead and told Mark and Angelique that I'd meet them at the end (I had a bag to check and kept a few things in there). After much texting back and forth, I found the Sassies. Bibbed up and ready to go, we all headed toward the corrals just as the horn blew for the start of the race.

Corrals had obviously already collapsed by this point and the volunteer at my corral was being strict about it so I joined the race with Allison, two or three corrals behind. It was a crowded race, and I found myself weaving in and out of the pack in order to keep moving ahead. I ran my first two miles just under 8 minute per mile.

Somewhere between 2 and 3, though, I came across a familiar face. At least, I thought it was familiar. It was hard to tell because I only had his side profile visible to me. After a split second of debate about whether or not I should try to talk to him, I tapped his arm. He ignored it, thinking it was just collateral damage from someone making a pass. When I tapped him again, he turned his head and I saw that it was him! My friend Nick from Cornell. This was a very pleasant surprise, as I hadn't seen Nick since last September and didn't even realize he'd started running NYRR races.

I ran with Nick for the rest of the race and we were able to do some catching up. We even kept up a decent pace, with Nick maintaining an 8:40 average pace and I an 8:22. Remember, this was only a few seconds slower than my pace last week and I was talking the whole time. I ran just under 52 minutes but was actually much more okay with it than I was last week because the circumstances were totally different. If I can maintain that pace while having conversations almost the whole time, I'm certain I have a better race in me than last week's.

After the race, I met up with Amortya (who ran an average pace under 7 minutes per mile for the first time!) and the Sassies (Elana, Michelle, Jessica, Allison), Nick, Mark, Angelique and Amortya's friends Alice and Aron. Nick, Mark, Angelique, Elana and Michelle left after the race but the rest of us traveled a short distance to Flushing for dim sum. It was a tasty, tasty morning.

Thanks for the pic, Michelle!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Race Report: Oakley Mini 10k 2014

I decided to go ahead and write this while it's still fresh in my mind, even though I was not at all pleased with my performance.

Normally I try to leave bib pickup out of the summary unless I do it on the morning of the race, but I'm going to talk about it today because it was very exciting. I went to pick up bibs and shirts for myself and my friend Michelle on Friday afternoon. I climbed the stairs to the second floor of the NYRR building on 89th Street and got in the E line. As I got to the front, the person asked my name and began rifling through the bibs. I noticed the one at the back of the stack was blue and laughingly thought to myself "what if I got a blue bib?"


I got a blue bib. Guys, I don't think I can properly communicate to you how amazing it was to get one of these. Blue bibs are distributed to runners in the front corral. It's the fastest corral! I have always told people that whenever I see someone wearing a blue bib, I feel like going up to them and shaking their hand because…well, because! They're among the best in the city. If past-me had seen today-me, she would have wanted to shake today-me's hand.

Anyway, I'm skipping ahead. That was yesterday's pleasant surprise and only happened because this is a women only race so the crowd and distribution of its abilities are a little different from most races. This morning, I got up extra early to meet Elana in Queens so we could get a few extra miles in before the race. I didn't think this would impact my time that much, but I guess it's possible. Whatever the case was, it was not my best day. I can point to a number of different things that were not helping, but it won't accomplish much. The bottom line is that I could and should have done better.

I do want to mention the blue bib effect. Believe it or not, having the blue bib actually made the race worse for me. I got into my corral and it was a whole different experience from what I'm used to. I had a perfect view of the announcer stage and all the people they brought to the podium. These included Mary Wittenberg (of course), Kathrine Switzer, Desiree Davila, Nina Kuscik and Adrianne Haslet-Davis. I've never been so close to the start line in my life. A volunteer kept telling me to move forward but I didn't want to! I barely felt like I belonged in the corral, let alone the front of it.

And that is a problem. It was a problem today and it will continue to be a problem in the future if I don't try to fix it. Whatever the pace cutoff NYRR used to determine who was in which corral, I fell into the blue one.  I belonged there by virtue of that. But I found myself feeling very insecure. I was looking around, trying to see the paces of other people and worrying when I saw that they were all (all two that I managed to see before having to focus on the start of the race) faster than mine. I couldn't shake the "what am I doing here?" feeling. If I intend to qualify for Boston at any point, I need to be a lot more confident in my abilities.

Back to the race. As soon as the horn rang out, my corral moved forward. I've never crossed the start line so quickly at a Road Runners race. I knew I'd go out fast since I was surrounded by fast people, so I tried to be aware of that and not go out as quickly as I was inclined to. I ran my first mile in 7:32, which was probably a bit fast. But my biggest issue was that I was in my head about whether or not I could keep up with everyone else and internally deciding that I probably couldn't and constantly checking to reaffirm that self-defeating attitude. It was kind of a nightmare. And once I had sufficiently sunk my race to the point where I didn't need to check those things, it just became a slog. I had a tough race and ended up with a time of 51:36.

Elana and Michelle also had tough runs. Elana dropped off at mile 5 and headed home while Michelle continued on to the finish. Afterward, there was a post-race festival and we hung out there for a bit. We entered the raffle and got autographs from Desiree Linden, who was also cool enough to take a picture and chat briefly. We were in line to meet Lauren Fleshman, but she seemed to disappear before we made it to the front of the line.


It was not my best race performance, but there will be better.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Race Report: Midnight Half 2014

I'm pretty sure I didn't write a race report for last year's half marathon, but I should have. It's a race well worth a report. To be fair, though, there are many races worth reports that I don't get around to writing about.

Last year was the first time I did the Midnight Half marathon. The only reason I even knew it was happening was that someone posted in the Facebook group for the Hudson Dusters. When I signed up, I was one of the last registrants. I think they had about 120 participants and I was either 120 or 121. There was one other Duster also doing the race, Corrina.

She's the reason I was able to sign up on time this year. Although she unfortunately was unable to race due to a stress fracture (ugh), she sent me a message letting me know that registration was opening. I signed up right away in anticipation of a great race.

It took place on Saturday and began at 11pm as opposed to starting at midnight on Friday night like it did last year. On Saturday morning, Amortya and I still met for a long run but limited it to 10 miles, since I knew I'd have the race later in the evening. I picked up my bib around 10pm, which gave me plenty of time to run back home, change, use my own facilities and walk Phoebe. One major thing I like about this race is that headquarters has been only a couple blocks from home in both 2013 and 2014.

The night was much cooler this year than it was last year and that was a good thing. The route was slightly different, but still consisted of 5 or 6 checkpoints and a couple of out-and-backs. A little before 11pm, everyone gathered at race headquarters began heading down to the start, which took place right on the water just under the Manhattan Bridge. After about 10 minutes of milling around and waiting for stragglers, the race began.

One interesting part of this race is that participants can take liberties with the route. As long as runners reach all the checkpoints, it doesn't really matter how they get there. As a result, the group almost immediately thinned out, as different packs of runners separated to catch the route they thought would be the most expedient. At the end of the day, though, I'm not convinced there's much time to be saved in the distance between the start and the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge.

Once on the Manhattan Bridge, I was situated snugly within a pack of runners that probably numbered about 10. Toward the Brooklyn side of the bridge, a couple of runners in the group made a move and I followed. The danger with going out too fast in this race is that it's easy to get lost if you don't know the route and I don't know it well at all. My goal was to keep runners pretty well ahead of and behind me to decrease the chance that I'd get lost.

But I didn't do a very good job. Soon enough, I found myself trying to keep pace with a couple of people who were running together and doing so successfully at a rapid clip. I kept up with those guys (actually one guy and one woman) until we reached the Navy Yard but started dropping behind at that point. Fortunately, there were a couple of guys from the Front Runners who were also in front of me but whom I managed to keep within my sights. They would be my hares for the rest of the race.

On my way out to the second to last checkpoint, I realized I was doing decently in terms of placement. As I made my way to the checkpoint, I made a point to count all the women I saw who were running in the opposite direction. I counted that there couldn't have been many more than 10 women ahead of me in the race and I was encouraged to keep up the pace.

Finally, I finished the second out-and-back and made it back to the last checkpoint. I had reached the home stretch, and the only things standing between me and the end were the Manhattan Bridge and a little of the Lower East Side, which I know like the back of my hand. Once I returned to race HQ, I joined the after party, which is only so enjoyable when you don't really know anyone and aren't good at mingling. I stayed for a bit but went home after 15 or 20 minutes.

When all was said and done, I ran it in just over 1:50, which was almost the same time I had for the Brooklyn Half. I was 9th woman overall (according to the unofficial results)! I'm already looking forward to next year.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Stepping It Up

Alright, so after nearly half a year of lackadaisical, directionless training, I finally got to the point where I'd had enough. I reached this point a week before the Brooklyn Half Marathon and decided that the week leading up to the Brooklyn Half would be the last one in which I consumed alcohol, at least for the foreseeable future.

As you might know, this isn't the first time I've decided to cut booze out of my life for training purposes. In fact, the very first time I did it was just about five years ago, which is really hard to believe. I did it then for the New York City Marathon in both 2009 and 2010. In 2011, I signed up for my first Ironman and resolved not to drink for the entire year prior.

This time, I'm not sure what the time period is going to be. So far, it's been about three weeks and it hasn't been difficult. The thing I miss most is trying different kinds of beer. Now that I've spent a few weeks resetting my alcohol consumption, I'm trying to decide if I won't keep teetotaling for another month or two before relaxing my rules a bit, or if I'll continue on with total prohibition. This has yet to be decided.

Additionally, Amortya and I are making efforts to train harder and smarter. Our weekend runs have been long (18 miles two weeks ago, 15 miles on Sunday) considering the only marathon for which we've signed up is NYC, which is a full 7 months from now. We've also added speed sessions during the week, which have so far consisted of mile and 2-mile repeats. This week, I also had my own treadmill session in which I ran 5 half mile repeats at a 7:03min/mile pace.

The ultimate goal, and one I've been talking about for over a year, is eventually qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I consider this early stage to be more of a base building stage and I think we're off to a good start.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Race Report: Brooklyn Half 2014 - WARNING: Monstrously Texty

Ah, yes. The Brooklyn Half. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this race is one of my favorites of the year. It's true for a number of reasons, which I probably enumerate every year in a post just like this one. Nevertheless, I am going to do it again.

Obviously one reason is that it's my favorite race distance. I've spoken to many people at length about my race distance preferences and the half marathon is just the perfect number of miles. Not so many that you feel destroyed after finishing, but enough that it still feels like a feat and worthy of post race waffles (or beer, in this case). So there's that. Additionally, this race takes place at a pivotal time in the year, the beginning of summer. It's even more true this year than it has been in years past because the winter was brutal. I have been waiting for this weather for months and months and months, and it was in full force on May 18, the day of the Brooklyn Half.

In the last two years, NYRR has done a stellar job of stepping up the experience for the Brooklyn Half, transforming it from a friendly, local race to an iconic, enormous, still friendly, still local race. The size of it has also ballooned, going from around 10,000 in 2009 to 14,000 in 2012 to 21,000 in 2013 to a whopping 25,000 this year (these are years I ran it, explaining missing numbers from 2010 and 2011). In the last two years, they've begun holding a "Pre-Party" which I suppose is a cooler way of saying "expo." This was a fun affair in both 2013 and 2014, although the weather when we went this year was less than desirable.

I met Amortya and Jeremy at the pre-party this year on Friday, the day immediately before the race itself. I'd hoped to avoid this, but was unable to because my comedy group has its meetings on Thursday and I couldn't make it on Wednesday. No matter, it was fun even in spite of the rain. Jeremy and I enjoyed pre-party beers and Morty got pre-party whoopee pies. Afterward, I had dinner with Morty and our friend Shweta before heading home for my pre-race sleep.

As usual, I didn't get much sleep before the race. I think I went to sleep at 1 or 1:30 and had to wake up around 4:30 because my wave started at 7:00 on the dot and I wanted to make sure I got there with plenty of time, after my experience this year at the NYC Half. Mission accomplished on that front, I managed to get into the corrals by 6:20, which is some kind of record for me.

In terms of expectations, mine for this one were not great. I didn't do the training I'd hoped to do at all. I didn't even manage to do the very small amount of speedwork I did in preparation for the NYC Half in March. Having low expectations is always something of a self-fulfilling prophecy for me and this was no exception.

The race itself was fine. I struggled more than I should have for the time I ran (1:50 and change) but chalked it up to exactly the things I imagined would get in my way from the beginning. It took me longer than usual to find my pace for this race, though once I'd found it I kept it up until around mile 10, when I started to struggle. The day was warm and sunny, but I didn't consider that to be much of an issue.

I wasn't especially proud of my performance, but I was proud that I never completely gave up on the race. It would have been so easy to do, since my expectations were low and completely blowing the thing would have just fit right into the crummy way I felt about my training. See how it is? If I had given up, it would have been easy to explain away the terrible result. But I was determined to fight for whatever mediocre result I could. I feel like I'm not explaining this well. Bottom line: giving up and failing is an easier pill to swallow than trying really hard and failing (albeit less spectacularly).

After I finished, I met up with Amortya and Jeremy. We dilly-dallied for a bit because we were slightly apprehensive about drinking beer before 10:00am. At around 10:30, though, we caved and headed to a bar called Peggy O'Neil's for post race booze. I saw a number of people from my running team, the Hudson Dusters and also hoped to meet up with Michelle, Jessica, Jessica, Allison and Elana but we didn't end up getting together. At some point after Jeremy and I had consumed some large beers, Amortya left and my friends Monica, Dirk and Helen arrived. We hung out on the beach until about 4:30. All in all, it was a very good day.

Friday, June 6, 2014

We Heart Kidney Tom

This is my friend, Tom:

Tom, in all his handsome glory
A few months ago, Tom was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. The most basic layman's terms I can gather and communicate is that this disease causes scarring in the functional unit of the kidney, which can lead to a range of mild to severe kidney problems. It's chronic, but treatable over time and with some combination of good care and luck, symptoms will hopefully subside over time rather than getting worse.

Tom is a really awesome guy whom I've known since the end of 2009 when we started taking improv classes. Since then, we've been in the Chupacabra Conspiracy together and I can say with a high level of confidence that Tom is one of the wittiest comedians I know. I keep telling him to do stand up. Maybe one day he will!

At one of our Chupacabra shows

As you can imagine, Tom has many friends who love him a lot. We were all dismayed to hear about the diagnosis, even if we were also optimistic that it would respond to treatment. A few weeks after, my friend Michelle decided to run the NYRR Healthy Kidney 10K in Tom's honor and invited an even larger group to join her. We were all very much onboard with this idea.

But wait! There's more. It was decided that the participation of everyone but Michelle would be kept a secret from Tom. His girlfriend Carmen was in on the surprise and instrumental in maintaining the secret. The story was that Michelle was running the race in Tom's honor and would therefore have to come cheer her on. Carmen told him that, while she'd love to do the race, she would be busy with something else that morning but insisted that he go and spectate for Michelle.

Eight of us registered for the race and we decided to make t-shirts for ourselves and for Tom and his parents, who also planned to attend the race (unbeknownst to Tom). The night before, we all gathered at my friend Jessica G's apartment for a t-shirt making party. In attendance were Carmen, Jessica A, Elana, Allison, Michelle and myself. And obviously Jessica G.

Beautiful faces holding more beautiful faces
Tell me more!
Don't be fooled by her shy smile. Carmen was a kidney scheme mastermind.
It was getting late
After all the shirts were made, we went home for some pre-race sleep, woke up bright and early and headed to Central Park. Props to Elana, Jessica and Allison for running to the race from Queens! Once at the park, we were joined by Amortya. We made a special shirt just for him that we named the "Tom Bra." You'll see why shortly. We also got some last minute advice and encouragement from Mr. Speculum:

Michelle had instructed Tom to be waiting for us on the Central Park loop at 72nd Street. Despite the fact that many in our group run different paces, we decided to stick together until we saw Tom in order to maximize the surprise. The gun went off and we probably waited for 5 minutes before actually crossing the start line. After about half a mile, we saw Tom on the loop. The look on his face as we passed by was priceless. He even ran for a bit with us, which is really something if you know Tom.

After we saw him and all gave him hugs, we split up and ran the race in smaller groups. None of us was running for time, so we enjoyed ourselves and met up after the finish line for food and fun.

We all had an amazing time preparing for and running this race and we think Tom did, too, even though he professes a hatred of running. He's really just a big ol' softie on the inside. We love you, Tom!

A big thanks to Moses G. and Jessica A. for contributing pictures!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Strange Year So Far

I don't think I've done such a poor job of posting since I got into this blog back in 2010. It's been an interesting year, to say the least. One of the worst parts about it so far is I haven't been able to train like I normally do and it's been getting me down. My hope is that it will end soon and I'll be able to create some regularity in my workouts. Also that I'll be able to spend some time evaluating how I'm going to salvage the year.

There have been a couple of bright spots. I've PRed two times so far this year. It befuddles me a little bit and I mostly attribute both to some sort of divine grace. I ran a 1:45:31 at the New York City Half Marathon in the middle of March and a 22:53 at a 5k a few weeks ago. I'm not sure how I accomplished this.
My unofficial half marathon time

I will say that the workouts I've had tend to be more intense and directed. I think the trouble with the way I've been doing things the last couple of years is that it has been entirely too much quantity and too little quality. I'm struggling to find my own golden mean.

This is Jeremy right after we did the JFK Runway Run.

Everyone (Me, Sho, Jeremy) at the Runway Run!
At the very least, the weather is finally warm. I can FINALLY wear shorts on a regular basis both running and cavorting around the city. Maybe it's the Texan in me, but I love shorts, I love the sun and I love hot weather versus cold. Bring it on. You will not find me complaining when it's 90+ degrees outside. I'll be too busy sweating out a nice little run down the West Side Highway.

Phoebe wearing sunglasses and a bowtie. Because corgis in sunglasses and bowties.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Guest Interview: Nathan Gonzalez

Happy Tuesday! If you’ll recall, earlier in the week I posted about a fundraiser for Nathan Gonzalez, who’s trying to raise money to get his iBot wheelchair fixed before the factory closes for good. 

The backstory here is that I saw this post on reddit last Monday. To summarize, Nathan is a former Marine who served two tours but was hit by a drunk driver and paralyzed on his return. He's done some great stuff and overcome a lot, but you'll read more about that in a bit. Nathan is trying to get some crucial repairs done on a special wheelchair he uses which has the ability to climb steps. Unfortunately, the company is going out of business and closing its doors on 3/31. The repairs, therefore, need to be done before that.

I caught up with Nathan and asked him a few questions about life, love and beer. Or more accurately, life, San Antonio, and beer.

K: Hey, Nathan! Great to meet you. Let’s talk hashing. What’s your hash name?

N: Porno Rican

K: Where’s your mother hash?

N: Okinawa, Japan. Started in 1998.

K: Home hash?

N: Cross between San Antonio H3, Kiss My H3, and Alamo City Humpin’ Hash. Basically, San Antonio.

K: In how many cities have you hashed?

N: 10+, mostly in the Pacific.

K: Did you have a favorite?

N: Okinawa, of course.

K: What made it so great?

N: The terrain varied so much and the trails and parks were amazing.  Shiggy, Shiggy, Shiggy! My favorite trail I ran and hared was a Lemming long trail, which was about 4 miles long. We ran the pack to a 25-foot cliff up against the ocean.  We had a safety swimmer in the water and the pack had to jump off into the water like lemmings and swim about 100 yards to an adjacent island where we had a huge bonfire going.  If anyone didn’t want to swim, they could walk 2 miles across a bridge instead.  It was my favorite hash.

K: Let’s go back to your home hash, which is currently San Antonio. Are you from there originally?

N: Yeah, I’m from SA.

K: Cool! I’m originally from San Antonio, too. Where did you go to high school?

N: I went to Jefferson High School. Class of 1996.

K: Are you a Spurs fan?

N: Haha, if you live in San Antonio, you are raised to be a Spurs fan. We’re only the best team in the league with the best records. I can’t even remember when we didn’t make the playoffs. Sucks about last year but I’m sure we’ll repeat this year.

K: Who’s your favorite player?

N: I’d say Manu Ginobili. Dude is versatile in and out of the paint. Although I also love [Danny] Green and his killer 3-pointers.

K: One of your pictures shows you making a Roadrunners sign with your hand, which is like the Longhorn equivalent for the University of Texas at San Antonio. Did you attend UTSA?

N: Yeah, I just graduated in December.

K: What was your major?

N: I received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Management with a concentration in Entrepreneurship.

K: Very nice. I read online that you were part of a project team that was nominated for an award. Tell me a little about that.

N: My Senior Project for my Entrepreneurship class was to work on a product that the engineering students had been working on during the prior semester, which was a mind-controlled wheelchair. It was our team’s job to take their product, build a business plan, model and market it.  Along with getting patents, FDA approvals, and companies to partner up with us it was a challenging process to finish in just a semester.

Essentially, you would take an EEG Headset, basically a head harness with leads on it, and this headset would pick up electrical signals.  These were then interpreted by an Arduino board, sent to a computer, and fed to the chair as commands.  It takes some training for the computer to recognize the thought commands but it was really cool to see the product in action.  

We competed with a wide range of other products in the competition for a $100,000 prize.  We came in 4th, which was pretty cool in its own right.  I had a good team though.  Who knows what they'll think of next.

K: Have you been able to attend many UTSA football games?

N: Unfortunately, I’ve only been to a couple.  I just didn't have time with studies.  I hope to go more now that I have the free time.

K: I also see you’re a Marine. Thank you for your service. How long did you serve?

N: I served just over 6 years before I was medically retired due to injuries. 

K: What’s your favorite beer?

N: Well, Lone Star is our hash beer but outside the hash I like pilsners or light beers. Stella, Carlsberg, DosXX.

K: What do you do for a living?

N: Currently, I handle billing and invoicing for my family’s business. It takes up 3-4 hours per week. I’m job hunting right now, so if you know anything…

K: So, you’re trying to get your iBot wheelchair fixed because the company is going out of business. What makes the iBot chair different from most?

N: Well, the main thing that separates the iBot from others is the stair climbing feature.  This chair is like a mini ATV.  It has the ability to climb a 8” curb.  This really is the only reason why I want to save my chair.  The little feature is invaluable to me to.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to use it to traverse something in my way.  I’ve been to parks that have a curb and no ramped walkway to get up onto the grass. I’ve gone to older restaurants that were grandfathered into the requirement for an ADA ramp and had to use that step climber to get in.  Also, not all sidewalks are wheelchair friendly. Sometimes, I have no choice but to jump the curb and drive on the street.  Without it I’d have to double back blocks and then take the street.  Both my parents’ and my brother’s homes have 5” steps.  Visiting them without this feature is difficult. 

Additionally, this chair has a lift feature that allows my seat to raise up to a bar level.  It makes a big difference in how people treat you and interact with you.  Being in a wheelchair people naturally look down on you all the time.  Being eye level people engage you more and treat you with more respect in my opinion.  Although other chairs have similar features, ibot can go higher.  I can up upright to just under 6’.  One of the best parts is that it balances on two wheels, which leaves a smaller foot print when moving around.  Lastly…it just looks cool. It’s a perfect Hash chair in and out of circle. 

K: Outside of hashing, do you have any other hobbies?

N: My Facebook shows it all mostly.  I’m a movie nut, I religiously follow most popular TV shows, I’m a hard core gamer. I’ve also enjoyed sky diving, scuba diving, and of course, I’m a hasher. 

K: Awesome! Thanks for taking the time and I hope you're able to get the repairs done for your chair.

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