Category Archives: general

A dream delayed

It’s certainly been a while since my last post here. Considering I should be towards the peak of marathon training, that means something must be wrong, right?

Unfortunately, yes. Without wanting to turn this into a long self-pitying post, Boston isn’t going to happen this year. My knees have failed me again, and a last-ditch plan of resting for six weeks followed by an abbreviated training schedule aimed at just finishing the marathon didn’t work out. The final straw was losing a week of training not to injury, but to a particularly aggressive cold virus that had me confined to the house for four days.

I had been prepared to go ahead and run Boston just as long as I could have a positive experience, which in my mind I’d defined as “slow but not too painful”. With four weeks to go I know that’s not possible, so it’s time to draw a line under this cycle and prepare for the future.

Any positive spin? Well, thanks to a few sessions with a physical therapist I have a better understanding of the biomechanical issues that affect my running. That should help me improve my cross-training regimen when I resume training.

The biggest positive by far is not having any pressure on me to go out and run in pain any more. A couple of weeks ago during a particularly terrible run I came up with the particularly self-wallowing phrase “I’m in a prison of my own making”. Which is completely overdramatic, but it is going to be good to relax, return to full fitness on my own schedule, mix up my activities, and hopefully run pain-free before too long.

Despite this setback, Boston is still top of my running goals, though given my experiences these last twelve months, I’m not making bold promises or guarantees of re-qualifying on the first try. But it will happen, eventually.

To my fellow Staten Islanders running Boston: I’ve so appreciated your support during the weeks I’ve tried to get ready for this race. I’m inspired by you all and wish you all the most wonderful experience next month. If there’s one thing I enjoy almost as much as running races, it’s tracking them, so you all KNOW that I’ll be urging you on all the way from Hopkinton to Copley Square.

And to my family too, thanks for supporting me through a winter of lurching mood swings. Between the harsh weather and my painful-one-day, ok-the-next legs, I’ve likely not been too easy to live with. Hopefully that improves now…

Where We’ve Been, and Where We’re Going

Today marks the 20 weeks to go point until Boston – expect me to start getting a whole lot chattier here!

But what’s been going on these last few months? Here’s a quick review.

August (155 training miles)

hotasblazes

I followed up my July track race with a 4-mile jaunt through the trails of Wolfe’s Pond Park in the Hot As Blazes Adventure Race. Tons of fun, despite coming out of it somewhat bloodied and beaten. Finished a solid if unspectacular 7th. Another step on the route to recovery.

The month ended with the Celic Run, a hilly 4 miler and one of Staten Island’s oldest road races, in and around Clove Lakes Park. However, despite the nudging of my team captains, this would be a race not for me, but for my eight-year old daughter Abby. Not since 2005 had an eight year old girl finished this tough race, but Abby shares my stubbornness and not even a nasty fall on concrete in the second mile would stop her reaching the line and claiming second place in the 14-and-under category. A proud moment.

celic trophy

September (175 miles)

As the month started, I had a decision to make on my fall racing plans. I had run plenty of miles in August, but nearly all of them were easy-pace efforts. With no specific speed training, I decided to pass on signing up for a half-marathon, despite it being my favourite distance. The chances of a satisfying outcome just weren’t good.

Instead I opted to register for the Richmond Rockets 6 Hour Ultramarathon, a particularly twisted slice of self-torture that would involve endless 1.67 mile loops of Silver Lake Park on Staten Island. Going into the race, I’d only run for two hours once all year. What could do wrong?

sixhourrace

For three hours, the answer was “nothing”. I was grooving along nicely, somewhere around third or fourth place. And then the pain started. Hips, quads, and eventually the rest of me came together to say “please stop this madness”. At 25 miles I allowed myself a change of socks and shoes and was horrified at what I saw of my toenails. Once I passed the 26.2 mile chalk marking after 3:44, I was pretty much done. Sure, I’d told my ultra-running brother that I was going to do 40 miles. And my boss. But this was no day for macho silliness. I half-jogged, half-walked one final lap, getting out my phone to check my email and find an invitation to hang out with friends in the city, which is all I needed to tell the scorers I was done and grant myself a merciful exit.

I hung around for the rest of the race to admire the experienced ultra runners as they continued to effortlessly tick off laps, their running gaits just as smooth at 2pm as they’d been when I’d been pursuing them six hours earlier.

One day I might get the hang of running such distances, but to be positive, to complete 28.2 miles on legs that couldn’t run at all four months earlier was a big confidence boost.

October (171 miles)

A quiet month with no races, but starting to get serious about training now. The six hour ultra proved I can do distance, but what about speed? I started to hit the East River Track near my office in the city, and increased tempo work at home. Even including a number of runs with my daughter, this month’s mileage was clicked off at a 7:59 average pace, compared to 8:35 in September and 8:31 in August.

November (165 miles)

This month featured a big return to the trails to get ready for the Greenbelt Trail Festival 50k, the race that was my undoing last December. Three long runs of 2 to 3 hours, plus the experience of last year, should hopefully result in a less painful race this Saturday.

A major highlight of the month was my team, the Staten Island Athletic Club, putting on the first race at Freshkills Park, the city’s long-term landfill-to-park conversion project on Staten Island. I opted out of running this race, instead offering my volunteer services as event photographer, teaming up with our club’s tireless Publicity Director to document the event.

freshkills_pic

As selfless as this might seem, I can’t deny that I was proud and excited to see the Staten Island Advance run one of my photos in a story about the event that was published a week or two afterwards.

Having opted out of running this race, I laced up for a couple of others later in the month. First, again I acted as support runner for my intrepid daughter, who conquered the trails in the Fall Flat 5k, the race that first got me involved with the SI running community three years ago. Another race, another medal, this time 2nd in the 12-and-under category. We have big plans for next year!

fallflat

Finally, Thanksgiving Day saw me put on my racing flats for the 64th Annual Lou Marli Run, a three-miler that’s not-quite three miles, but it’s a traditional course and no-one complains too much. On a bitterly cold and windy day, I managed to shave off 19 seconds from the last time I ran (2011), with a nice negative split to boot. Everything’s coming together just at the right time…

And there you have it. Four months of until-now unblogged life events somewhat related to running.

Now it gets serious. 2 weeks until training begins. I can’t wait.

What This Is (And What It Isn’t)

Just what the world needs, another running blog…

I know. Sorry. I’ll be honest, part of the reason I’m putting this site together is to scratch an itch. I find myself with a lot to say on running topics, but there’s often a lack of a suitable outlet for it. My running friends are almost exclusively on Facebook, but then so are my non-running friends, and I’m sufficiently self-aware to know that we can be a little insufferable when we DON’T. STOP. TALKING. ABOUT. RUNNING.

But on a broader level, I think of how much valuable information I’ve read on running sites on the web. If I have something good to share, then it’s a shame to keep it locked up in the Facebook walled garden.

Here’s what you’ll get here:

  • The ups and downs of my preparations for the 2014 Boston Marathon. There’ll be stories about training runs and races and injuries and shoes (I love my shoes) and everything you’d expect from the blog of a semi-competitive runner.
  • But that’s not all! Because if this were all about my running, it would be boring. 17 months is a long time. A non-marathon year provides opportunities to try new experiences. Vary my training. Be a spectator and cheerleader, return some of the support that I’ve received in the past. I’ll write about that too.
  • Commentary on the pro running scene. I’m been a fan of the sport of track and field ever since I was a child, watching Coe, Ovett and Cram battling it out on the track, with David Coleman, Ron Pickering, Brendan Foster and company doing the BBC commentary.
  • A focus on the Staten Island scene. This is a great borough for running, with a number of long-standing road races, a thriving trail running community, and several active clubs with growing memberships. Yet despite this, the sport finds itself increasingly squeezed out of the local media coverage. I’d like to use this site to bring attention to the great opportunities we have as Staten Island runners.

What this won’t be:

  • A training advice manual. I’m not a certified trainer or coach. I’ve had some success as a new runner, I feel like I’ve learned a few secrets which I’m sure I’ll share, but I have no illusions about my level of experience. I’ll frequently link to those whose advice I respect and trust.
  • A reliable source of positive daily inspiration. There are many fine running blogs that have that area covered, but it’s not my natural personality. I’ll do my best to keep things light, but you’re probably not going to be thanking me for getting you out the door for your daily run.
  • All about me. I promise.