Sunday, April 15, 2012

Boston tomorrow.

This is my first blog entry in about six months.  I kept telling myself I would update this, since I've actually been really busy running.  I've had some great runs during this time, but I think the thing that kept me from writing was just a string of rather disappointing races.  As I sit here writing this, though, one day before I run the Boston Marathon on what will be an 89 degree day, I am looking back on my last six months.  And while my running may not have been consistent, certain things have been constant: my love of the sport, the support I get from my friends, and the inspiration that so many of my teammates give me on a constant basis.  Because of these things, I am excited about the race tomorrow, and I know that no matter what my time is, no matter how hot it is, I will be guided by the thought of so many others rooting for me and helping me to lead the way.

Just a brief rundown of my running over the last few months:

In October, I ran the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon.  I really didn't know what to expect from this race.  I had done Reach the Beach three weeks before, and the 18-mile NYRR Marathon Tuneup two weeks before.  If it makes sense, I think I felt overtrained and undertrained at the same time.  I think I did not train enough early on in the process, and then tried to condense it as I got closer to the race.  As a result, I didn't feel like I was particularly fit, yet my legs and body felt worn out and never fully recovered.  On top of that, I hadn't done much racing in the few months leading up to the marathon (hadn't raced a single Half during my training).  I was left not really knowing how I was going to do, or what I should try for.

Peter, Matt and Michael were also doing the marathon, and they were all trying for a 3:05ish.  So I thought I would basically tag along with them.  This meant 7:00-7:05 pace.  To make a long story short, by mile 8, I was already feeling like it wasn't my race.  And though I hit the halfway point at around 1:32:30, just on target, I knew I wasn't going to be able to maintain it.  Mile 14 was 7:32, then came the 8 minute mile at Mile 16.  Around mile 18, Darin came zooming past me like he was riding a jet engine.  I was just doing what I could to make it to the finish.  My final time was about 3:19:08.  I was indeed very disappointed.

I spent the hour or so after the race feeling kind of bad for myself.  It was a day when Peter, Michael, Onesimo, and many others had great races.  And I was really happy for them, but I couldn't help but feel upset about my own performance.

It took Bernie to make me feel like I was being silly.  She also didn't have the race that she was hoping for.  We waited for her for awhile, and I think Sanderson and Cindy went back on the course to see if she was ok.  It turned out, she knew she wasn't having a good race, but just made the best out of it.  She walked, she chatted, and she laughed.  She ran in honor of her father, and was determined to enjoy herself.  When she came by us, waiting for her by the finish, she was in great spirits, happy to see us, and excited about the finish.  All of us there ran her through to the finish line together.  It was a truly inspirational moment and so exemplary of the enormously positive attitude and sportsmanship that so many of my Front Runner friends carry themselves with.  It made me really proud to be a member of the club and friends with such great people.

Unfortunately, that feeling of positive energy didn't really stick with me as long as it should have.  I spent the weeks following Mohawk Hudson feeling sorry about myself, feeling slow, undertrained and out of shape.  Although I had the New York City Marathon on my schedule three weeks afterwards, I did nothing to get my mind into running that race.  Instead, I spent three weeks basically sitting on the couch, depressed, and stuffing my face.  It wasn't pretty.

Needless to say, the NYC didn't go so well either.  To make matters worse, I got cocky at the start, and went out way too fast, faster than I had gone out at Mohawk.  Five of the first 8 miles were under a 7 minute pace.  But by Mile 11, I was running a 7:32.  By Mile 20, I was just hoping for under 9 minute miles.  Final time was 3:22:36.

To be honest, I don't remember much about that race.  But I do remember that after the race, Mikey, Waldon, Sanderson, Matt, Chris and some others met up for beers and burgers, and a little pool.  It made me realize that the reason I ran, and the reason I did all these marathons, wasn't so much about the finishing time.  It was about doing an activity that I enjoy, and getting to participate in a sport alongside my best friends.  While the race itself wasn't so great, the time I got to spend with my friends is what I will always remember about the experience.  The training, the ferry ride, the corrals, commiserating, the beers, that's what makes the marathon experience so amazing for me.  A time is just a number.  But the experiences will last forever.

Annnnndddd, sooooo, two weeks later, I did another marathon, this time in Philly.  By this point, I had resigned myself to the fact that no matter how many marathons I did, none of them were going to be as fast as I would have liked.  So, instead of boring you with the details, I'll just say that I did it in 3:18:20.  Not great, but whatever.

So, after doing three marathons in five weeks, what was next?  I don't remember exactly how it came to be, but somehow, somehow, I decided that it was a good idea for me to run an Ultra.  It turned out that Jonathan, Sanderson, Waldon and Jonathan were all registered to do the Lookout Mountain 50-miler in Georgia / Tennessee.  The idea intrigued me.  It's a trail race up a mountain.  I had never done an ultra before.  Nor had I ever done a trail race before.  So, what the hell, might as well kill two birds...

It was pretty brutal.  Daniel and I decided to run the whole thing together.  I'm really glad that we did.  I'm certain there was no way I would have finished it without him.  It was just a long-ass run.  50 miles, through river crossings, single-track trails, mud, thorns, darkness, wetness, misery.  By mile 15, I didn't think I'd be able to make it.  It was like a complete mind-fuck.  You couldn't think of how many miles you ran or have left because the number was so big.  Like, running 20 miles, and then thinking you have MORE than a whole marathon left.

What kept me going was the thought of the next aid station coming up.  Every 6-8 miles, they would have an aid station, will tons of goodies.  Pringles, Mountain Dew, potatoes/salt, fig newtons, M&Ms, and my favorite, ramen noodles.  I couldn't wait for the ramen noodles.  I had like three cupfuls of them at a few of the stations.  At the aid stations, I refilled my water bottle with half Mountain Dew, half Coca Cola.  It was disgusting.

But the whole time, Daniel and I were within about 50 feet of each other.  Sometimes he would be ahead, sometimes I would be.  Sometimes we chatted, sometimes we gossiped, sometimes we bitched.  It was like an 11-hour emotional roller coaster.  We'd pass the same people over and over again.  There was this guy in green; somehow we passed him like ten times, but he would always catch back up and pass us again.  I was so angry at him.  At the last aid station, he chugged a beer and we passed him, thinking, "Haha, we finally have you beat, sucker."  But then the sun set, and it got pitch black.  And we spent the last 6 miles trying to outrun his stupid headlamp.  I felt like I was in the Blair Witch Project, with him chasing us.

The last couple of miles, we were at like 10 hours and 45 minutes of running.  Daniel and I had a goal of finishing the race in under 11 hours.  At like 10:55, the guy in green passed us, and I also realized we weren't going to make it in under 11 hours.  With about a mile to go, I was about ready to give up; fuck it all.  Somehow Daniel helped me to pull it together, and we made it to the finish line, 11 hours and 11 minutes after we started.  Waldon, Sanderson and Jonathan were right there at the end, cheering us in.  They were so excited for us, and we were so happy to be done.  I had finished my first Ultra!  And I had an amazing experience running the whole way with Daniel!

As of right now, I don't really remember how we finished compared to everyone else in the race.  But this was truly a race where the time didn't matter.  What mattered was that I did my first Ultra, with a great friend, and we had the most wonderful time supporting and encouraging each other.  It was an experience I'll never forget, and I absolutely thank Daniel for being with me every step of the way.


So fast forward to now.  I've had a pretty good training season for tomorrow's race.  And I've been racing well too.  In March, I ran the Coogan's 5K in 18:43 (6:03 pace).  A new PR!!  And then, two weeks later, I ran the NYC Half in 1:27:11, a HUGE new PR (by over two minutes)!!  So, I've been really excited about Boston.

But, that being said, I think I had a very modest goal for myself.  I wasn't looking to PR.  All I really wanted was to BQ so I could join my friends next year.  Just a sub-3:10 would make me happy.  A 3:08 would be amazing.

Of course, tomorrow is supposed to be 89 degrees.  The BAA has given us three heat advisories, including:

  • We are now making the recommendation that if you are not highly fit or if you have any underlying medical conditions (for example-cardiac disease, pulmonary disease or any of a number of medical problems), you should NOT run this race. 
  • For the overwhelming majority of those who have entered to participate in the 2012 Boston Marathon, you should adopt the attitude that THIS IS NOT A RACE.
  • Speed can kill.

Soooo, we will see what the weather holds for me tomorrow.  All I can say is I will do my best, run smartly and responsibly, and know that I have the support of my friends, family and teammates no matter what happens tomorrow.  For those of you who are reading this: thank you for helping to lead the way for me.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reach the Beach 2011!!!

I'm writing this the Friday night before the Mohawk Hudson Marathon and I should be packing for it, but I'm so far behind in this blog, I felt like I just needed to post about Reach the Beach, which happened three weeks ago.  I still have another post about my August multisporting, but that one will have to wait until after the marathon post....

Anyways, so three weeks ago I did the Reach the Beach Relay again!!!  It was my third Ultra relay since May, and my third time doing the NH RTB Relay with team Front Runners NY Ultragays.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's almost gotten to the point where running 30ish miles over 24 hours is not that big of a deal.  Almost...

But it's still a TON of fun.  The most fun I've ever had doing any kind of running activity has been during these relay races.  Part of it is that I get to spend the weekend with some great friends.  There's the camaraderie and the friendly competition.  There's the support and encouragement that you get from your teammates.  There's also the gossip, the jokes, the wisecracks, and chatting.  And of course, the grogginess, sleeplessness, stinkyness and soooore-ness.  But through it all, I got to hang out with a wonderful group of people, and we all did some really great racing.

The Ultragays this year consisted of me, Mike Terry, Josh, Darin, Gabe and Peter.  I've done Ultra relays with all of them before (it was my 4th time with Josh and Mike!)  We had both a driver AND a den mother, so that was really nice.  Bryce took control of the van for the full 36 hours' worth of driving, and Ben was our cheerleader / Gatorade hander-outer / and Twitterer extraordinaire.

Gabe did some great work decorating the van!

 Polly's Pancake Parlor is always one of the highlights of the race!

My first leg was about 3.87 miles of uphill, but for some reason it didn't feel uphill at all.  I think I was just really pumped up on adrenaline that I felt like I was flying. I had my Garmin on so I knew I was going around 6:30-6:35 pace.  One of the other FRNY teams (there were SIX Front Runners teams--4 men's and 2 women's) was just a few minutes behind us and Mikey B was running my leg, so I think I felt a little pressure to not get passed by him.

By Leg 2, though, I started feeling the hills.  It was 5.19 miles, which I did around 6:40 pace.  I don't remember a whole lot about this leg.

Leg 3 was my hardest leg by far.  It was just past midnight when I started.  Josh was passing off to me, but I didn't see him coming until he was about 50 yards away.  I was still wearing my hoodie and sweatpants when he came up to give me the slap-band.  I was totally not ready for him.  And then, as soon as I left the transition area, I had to climb this enormous mountain.  I couldn't see anything and all I knew was that I had a steep, steep climb for over a mile.  That first mile came to about 8 minutes, with me running as fast as I possibly could.  It was so hard.

And then I had to come downhill, which was even scarier.  I was going so fast and it was so dark and so steep, I almost felt like I might not have been fully in control.  I couldn't see if there were any cracks or potholes in the road.  I remember thinking that if I stepped on a branch and got my legs entangled, I'd be in huge trouble.  I ran mile 3 in 6:10.  It was crazy.  And then I had another huge uphill followed by an steep downhill again.  It was just a brutal, brutal leg, and was my slowest.  About 6.5 miles at 7 minute pace.

Just to show how all over the place I was, here are my splits (in half-mile increments) for that leg.  Fastest 1/2 mile was 6:06 pace, and slowest was 8:09!  Ugh, it was so hard.

My last three legs were a little easier.  Leg 4 was 3.5 miles at a 6:37 pace.  By that time, I was probably a little delirious.  I really don't remember anything from that run.

With Leg 5, I was at the point where I was dreading having to go on my run.  My legs felt so sore, I could barely walk.  But at 5.6 miles, it was one of my longer legs.  So I had to pull it together.  Somehow I managed, with a 6:47 pace.

By Leg 6, I just couldn't wait for it to be over.  At the transition area, there was another team of Ultra runners (team Are We There Yet?) waiting for their runner as I was waiting for Josh.  They had started 20 minutes before us (so we were about 20 minutes faster than them), but we could tell they were competitive and wanted to pass us.  The guy running against me looked really fast, so I was nervous.  Josh came in first.  And when he gave me his slap band, I just booked it fast as I could go.  My legs were jello by then but I knew I just had four miles to go I so I pushed strong.

And then it happened.  The friggin stop light turned red and the traffic cop made me stand still while he let traffic through. He had the nerve to joke with me that I was "lucky to get a break."  I was so angry.  I had run so fast to get ahead of that guy from Are We There Yet, and then I had to stand there and wait for him to catch up to me.  For like eternity I was standing there.  Ugh.

I ended up getting to the transition a few seconds before the other guy, but not by much.  He definitely made a lot of time on me, since he was faster and didn't have to wait at the light.  I did my 4.03 miles at 6:55 pace.  If you deduct the 55 seconds I was waiting for the light, then a 6:41 pace, which sounds much better.  I was so, so, so glad to be done, though.

But then, there got to be a little bit of a race between us and team Are We There Yet.  Granted, they did start 20 minutes before us, so they weren't really our competition.  But their 5th runner ended up passing Peter on his last leg.  And as he came running into the transition before Peter, he shouted out to us, in the most obnoxious way, "Oooohhh, where's YOUR guy??"  Jerk.  I thought it was really unsportsmanlike.  So of course, I wanted to kick their ass.  Luckily, we had Darin as our anchor, and he just blew right past their 6th runner.  Take that, suckers.  How you like gettin' crushed by a a group of gays!  Hahhaahaa...

When we saw Darin coming in on the beach, I was so happy!  We all ran through the finish line with him, thrilled at being finished, and so excited about our excellent race!  We ended up finishing the 191.92 miles in 21:13:29, or a smoking 6:38 pace!  (I did my 28.67 miles in a 6:44 pace, which I was THRILLED about!).  We were 11th place overall out of 434 finishers, and 2nd in the Men's Ultra division, right behind the FRNY Mission Men.  I was so pleased with our performance, and so happy I got to do the race with some of my best friends, and also very glad that I got to see every other Front Runner team along the way.  Congratulations to the other FRNY Teams: Mission Men, The Clowns'll Get Me, the Real Front Runners of New York, the U-Haulers, and the Ultragays for Women.  And a HUGE congratulations and THANK YOU goes out to my team, the Front Runners New York Ultragays, for your amazing racing and for giving me an wonderful, wonderful experience that I'll never forget.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Busy Month!

Eeek, I've had a busy month of running and multisporting, but I haven't been updating my blog.  So here's a quick rundown of what I've been doing since my last post.

1. PRIDE RUN (June 25th)

The 30th Annual Front Runners New York Lesbian & Gay Pride Run was on June 25. This, of course, is my running club's premier event of the year.  It was made even more special this year because it was held the day after (in fact, less than 12 hours after) the New York State Legislature approved same-sex marriage. It was a huge time for celebration, among Front Runners, among New York's LGBT community, and among everyone who ran the Pride Run.

As is our club's annual custom, the night before the Pride Run, we gathered at the Stonewall Inn for an informal happy hour.  Except this year, all of New York City also came to Stonewall.  Christopher Street was lined with news trucks, and several Front Runners were interviewed on NY1 about their thoughts on the historic vote.  Mikey and John MacConnell's picture made the front page of the Daily News. Thousands had descended upon Christopher Street to celebrate gay marriage.

Needless to say, I had a bit to drink that night (and by "bit" I mean "lot"), and was not in tip-top shape to run a five-miler.  But, I powered through it, and managed to run a 32:08, or 6:26 pace.  I think, technically, that counts as a PR.  But that has more to do with the lack of 5-milers in my race history than with how good that race was.  Since I have a 10k PR of 39:41 (6:24 pace at the 2007 Joe Kleinerman 10k), I feel like I can't have a real 5 Mile PR until it's at least at a 6:23 pace.  But, considering I was drinking and celebrating till the wee hours the night before, I was very, very pleased with my time.  Also, the course included Harlem Hill, so I think I would have done much better if it was just the normal NYRR 5-mile course.  Anyways, it was a great race, not just because of my time, but I got to run it with my club and in celebration of a historic event.


Over July 4th weekend, Mikey and Rachel and I headed down to the Jersey Shore for another crazy weekend full of multisporting fun.

On Friday, we all ducked out of work early and took the Seastreak Ferry to the Jersey Highlands, and then  biked the 7-8 miles down to the Long Branch Beach.

Once there, we joined up with the Sandy Hookers, who have a weekly Friday night swim in the ocean.  It's not a workout or a clinic, as I had originally thought, but a chance to just swim in the water for and hour or so with a lifeguard watching you.  I really enjoyed it. It was a good chance to swim in the ocean without the stress, crowding and competition of a race, but still be able to get in a good swim.  Hopefully I'll be able to make it out to some other ocean "fun" swims later in the summer.

Then on Saturday, Mike, Rachel, Alison, Tom, Cindy and I went to Bradley Beach to do the Jack Wright Ocean Mile swim.  I finished in about 33 minutes, which I was really happy about especially since I wasn't wearing a wetsuit. It was Cindy's very first ocean mile swim, and Rachel got an age group award.  So a good day was had by all!

Later that day, Mike, Rachel, Cindy and I joined up with Mike and Dave and George to go on a bike ride.  George took us on a nice (but hilly!) ride around the Navesink River.  Then I led the group up to the Henry Hudson Bike Path where we rode along the bayshore.  After that, we rode up to the tip of Sandy Hook, and I headed back down to Asbury, making for about 50 miles of riding for the day.  Then, of course, I had to go on a run, so I did eight miles to the end of Belmar, NJ on the boardwalk and back.  So, 1 mile swim, 50 miles bike and 8 miles run.  Not bad.

Sunday saw some torrential rains down on the shore, so my original plan to go on a 70-mile bike ride with Mike and Dave was thwarthed.  But instead, I went on an 18-mile run to look for a bike path that I knew to be in the area but hadn't yet discovered.  After getting a little lost, I did manage to find the Edgar Felix Bike Path, a 5.4-mile stretch from Manasquan, NJ to Allaire State Park.  I didn't get a chance to run very much of it, but I made a note to check it out the next time I was able to bike.

So, sure enough, the next day, Rachel and I checked it out.  And I really liked it!  It's about 8 miles south of Asbury, about a mile inland, so the ride there is mostly along Ocean Ave. Once you get on the bike path, you feel completely removed from the hustle and bustle of the Jersey Shore.  It's so tranquil and quiet.  A lot of the path is through farmlands. We even saw a couple of deer! My favorite part, though, is this rickety little wooden bridge that you go over. It's farms all around you, and then all of a sudden, as you're crossing this bridge, you're directly on top of the Garden State Parkway, with its many lanes of highway zooming underneath you. Really cool. It was a great bike ride, a really fun way to cap off a wonderful weekend of multisporting. Thanks to Rachel for joining me!


The following weekend, it was back down to the Jersey Shore for some more Front Runner multisport fun.

Saturday was the first ever Jersey Pride Triathlon.  It was organized by Doug and Moira of the Sandy Hookers Triathlon Club, and FRNY made it a targeted quarterly out-of-town race.  About 45 Front Runners participated in the race, which was a 300m swim, a 10 mile bike and a 3 mile run.

It was a good race for me! The swim was so short, it was over before I knew it.  I had a really fast bike ride for me, with an average 19.4 mph, and my run was 6th overall!  And, to my surprise, I ended up getting third in my age group!  Wooohoooo!  My first award in a triathlon!  (And yes, there were more than three people.)  So excited!!

Here are my splits:

Swim Rank  38
Swim Time  8:32.9
T1 Rank    26
T1 Time    1:17.8
Bike Rank  17
Bike Time  30:50.2
T2 Rank    37
T2 Time    50.2
Run Rank   6
Run Time   19:34.2

Total Time 1:01:05
O'all Rank 11/140
Age Rank   3/13 [although something seems sketchy about the guy who finished 1st in my age group (4th overall). Did he really do a 3 mile run in about 8 minutes?]

After the race (well, actually after breakfast which included a couple of complimentary beers at the Brickwall Tavern in Asbury Park), Rachel, AJ, Matt, Dave and I went on a 70-mile bike ride.

This was the ride that I had wanted to do the previous week with Mike and Dave.  It took us down the shore to Sea Girt, then West to Manasquan, through the Edgar Felix Bike Path to Allaire State Park, on a country road (Route 524) then a busy highway (Route 537, ugh, will have to avoid that next time), to the Henry Hudson Bike Path in Freehold, which we stayed on for 27 miles until we hit the Atlantic coast again, and then 12 more miles back to Asbury.  It was a great ride, except for that part on 537, and a great way to see some of the interesting scenery in Jersey.

My favorite part of the ride happened around mile 15. As we were going through New Jersey farm country, I turned to Rachel and said, "Oh, we should stop if we see some blueberries."  Not 10 seconds later, she saw a little farmstand on the side of the road selling fresh blueberries! We all immediately pulled over. Not only did they have fresh blueberries, but peaches and nectarines and corn too! The corn was so sweet and fresh we were able to eat it raw!  We got some more to take with us for the rest of the trip. MUCH better fuel than Clif Bars!

But then we had a minor catastrophe.  Matt got a flat tire.  And he didn't have any spares with him.  And he was riding a hybrid bike so none of our spare tubes could fit his bike.  And we were about 28 miles away from Asbury. It was Saturday, at about 5:30 pm, and we had no idea where we were.  We were kind of kind of screwed. But fortunately, I was able to pull up a bike store on my phone, about three miles away, that was open until 6pm. So I made the trip and picked up a couple of tubes for Matt. Crises averted, and I think Matt learned a very important lesson that day.

Sunday, after the tri, Dave, Alison, Rachel, Mike, Holly, Cindy and I did the Avon Ocean Mile.  I think I did about 33 minutes again.  It's all kind of starting to blur together now. It was Holly's first ocean mile swim.  Woohoo!


I had missed signing up for the Run for Central Park 4-miler on July 16, so instead, I decided to do a 5k at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey with Michael O, Mikey B, Michael S and Steve.  It's a flat and fast race, on the runway of Teterboro Airport, but the temperature that day was HOT. Over 80 degrees, and a cloudless sky. Add to that the fact that there were no trees to provide shade on the runway, and I wasn't thinking it would be a particularly good race.  Plus, I had gone on a 10-mile run the day before with Jillian, so my legs weren't super fresh.

One thing I didn't like about the race was that there were no starting corrals, or even any signs to designate where people of a certain pace should stand.  So even though I was way up near the front, there were people all around me who clearly weren't going to be running very fast.  One guy, in this race with over 800 runners, stood ten feet from the front of the starting group with a baby stroller! Seriously?!?! That guy was an idiot. Both he and his kid would have gotten crushed and seriously injured had a race official not pulled him out about 30 seconds before the starting horn went off.

So, anyways, the start went off, and I spent about the first quarter mile or so trying to get settled in and work my way around all the slower people who were in front of me. Finally I did. The course is an out-and-back with one main turn near the start and a sharp turnaround at the halfway point. At mile 1, I saw that my time was 6:15. Ugh. I felt like Was running much faster. When I got to the turnaround, people started slowing down, drastically. I was picking people off one by one, all these people who just started going out way too fast. My split for the second mile was 5:45. REALLY? Holy crap, this meant that I has averaging a 6 minute pace! If I could just maintain the 5:45 for the next 1.1 mile, it would be a huge PR!

Needless to say, the mile markers were quite a bit off. But I did finish in 18:57.47 or 6:06 pace. A NEW PR and an all-time AG% high of 69.15!!! Wooohooo! The last time I PR'd in the 5k was in February 2009, with a 19:17, or 6:13 pace. And not only that, I ended up getting 3rd in my age group too (out of 50)!! And I got to score some nice bling.  :-)  Sanderson got 1st in his age (17:48), and Steve got 3rd as well (18:10). The two other Mikes also ran great races. So it was a super successful race by all!

Later that afternoon, Steve and I took the ferry down to the Atlantic Highlands again, and rode down to Asbury for the second installment of the Long Branch Sprint Tri series. It was to be Steve's first triathlon. And he was pretty nervous about the swim. So Saturday afternoon we hit the beach in Asbury and went for a quick swim in the ocean.  We went out as far as we could before the lifeguards started whistling at us to come back. I think it helped both of us... it's always good to play in the open water for a bit to get comfortable before a race.

I don't remember a whole lot about the tri.  The swim was pretty uneventful. I think I did pretty well on the bike, although I don't have my splits because (1) I messed up my stopwatch, (2) my bike computer died on me mid-race, and (3) the timing mat at the transition area for some reason wasn't turned on. Arrgh. Another annoyance is that I had to take a pee break after the bike ride, so I lost precious seconds then. And that must have been the exact moment when Steve came biking in because when I hit mile 1 of the run, I saw that he was only 45 seconds or so behind me.

I tried to hold him off for the next three miles, but he finally caught up to me in the last mile. I was able to stick with him, though, and in the end we both had the exact same finishing time of 1:50:58. It's kind of nice that we had the same time, though, considering our different strengths. I think we were able to work off of each other and push ourselves a little more knowing that the other was right there. So I was pretty pleased with that race.    Plus, I beat my time from June by almost 3 minutes.  :-)

After the race, an interesting thing happened on the way to ferry from Asbury. It's about a 14 mile bike ride, and Steve and I realized that we didn't really leave ourselves enough time to make it. But we had to get back to the city in order to make Rachel and Derek's birthday party, so we didn't really have a choice. So Steve and I started flying on our bikes, he was in front, and I was drafting off of him. For most of the ride, I was less than a foot away from his back tire. It was kind of scary to be going that fast and that close to him, but it really did make me feel like I was being sucked into his vortex of speed. It was pretty cool. We had two miles that were faster than 24 mph! The ride to the ferry was probably faster than my bike in the triathlon. Wow.

5.  SUNSET & SUDS 5K (JULY 21)

The following Thursday, a bunch of Front Runners showed up to Riverside Park to run the Sunset & Suds 5K, organized by Urban Athletics. I was pretty much just interested in the free beer afterwards. It was humid and gross. I stopped at the water station four times to pour water on myself. And I was about 50 seconds off of my 5k time from just five days earlier. Ugh. Not a great race.  But all things considering, I'll take my 19:48 and 11th overall (still 9 seconds faster than my time in Coogan's).


OK, so this past weekend, I went to California with a bunch of other Front Runners to run the San Francisco Marathon. This was definitely not a targeted race for me. In fact, I felt completely unprepared for it. Up until about a month ago, I was planning on doing the Half. But I figured it was silly to go to the other side of the country just to run a half. So I switched my registration and kind of just went for it. 

Because of all of the triathlons I've been doing, I think my marathon training has suffered a bit. So I kind of viewed the marathon as a way to jump-start my training for the Mohawk Hudson Marathon, on October 9. I had a goal of finishing somewhere between 3:20-3:30. Secretly, of course, I wanted to do a sub-3:20 and negative split. That, of course, did not happen.

I blame Jeff and Daniel. Friday night, we went out to town. We hit three gaybars (Badlands, The Cafe, and Trigger). I had way too many beers, and then vodkas. It was not good. Then Saturday, Jeff and I went on a three mile run with the San Francisco Frontrunners, and we did a lot of walking around town and standing on our feet. 

By Sunday morning, I was already worn out from the weekend. The race started at 5:30 am, so we had to wake up at 4:00, and walk the 1.8 miles to the start. We should have just taken a cab. By the time we got to the start, I had only about 10 minutes to spare, and I was running around looking for the bag check and getting stressed out with the disorganization of the race. 

So I made it into my corral with about two minutes to spare. I decided to run with the 3:20 pace group. From the very start, it seemed like it was a little fast for me. The group was doing 7:37 miles, but it felt just a bit more challenging than I thought it should have felt. But I hung in there. Pretty soon after the start, I saw Manja, who was also running with the 3:20 group, so we hung together for a while.

The first couple of miles were pretty flat. It surprised me but I don't think the roads were closed. There were a couple of people just, like, out for a jog in the middle of the marathon course and a random guy on a bike. So that was weird.

Mile 2.5 was the first big hill, at Fort Mason. I've run up this hill a number of times before when I've come to San Francisco to visit my brother, and it's a steep hill! Luckily it wasn't too long. And it was followed by a downhill too. That's when I figured out that the pacers were running even splits, since I fell way back going up the hill but caught up with them on the downhill.

Around Mile 4 I could see the Golden Gate Bridge, and it was really high up there. I was dreading climbing the big hill to reach the foot of the bridge. Miles 5-6.5 were just up, up, up.  First up to the foot of the bridge, and then uphill on the bridge. Ugh. As I going down the other side, though, I got to see the leaders. And in about 5th place, I saw Brad from FRNY. That was pretty cool to see him way up front. I shouted out to him and then felt very cool for knowing someone so fast.

So there was a turnaround at the end of the bridge, and I got to run uphill again. At this point, I was already getting sick of the hills. Not good at mile 8 of a notoriously hilly race. The run back was made a little easier as I got to see many other Front Runners coming in from the opposite direction. Cenk, Richard, Alex, Tomer, and then Jeff, Daniel and Anthony were all running together (they cheered pretty loudly for me, someone commented that I had a fan club).

So then we're off the Golden Gate Bridge, and going through the Presidio, and guess what... ANOTHER FRIGGIN HILL. This one was so long and so steep. I was starting to feel really discouraged. Thankfully, I made it over it and out of the park. But then miles 11-12.5 was another hill leading into Golden Gate Park. And then one you're int that park, it's really hilly inside, and and you have to run like all these loops in different directions and we're in there for seven long ass miles. Oh my god, I couldn't wait to get out of that damn park.  I started losing the 3:20 pace group around mile 16 or 17. And then at Mile 18 Manja flew past me, like he had this awesome shot of energy or something, and just left me in his dust. So, yeah, that was kind of discouraging.

By the time I exited the park at Mile 19, I had practically lost sight of Manja. And so I decided to take a bathroom break and try to refocus myself. Mile 20 was down Haight Street. It was really steep but downhill so it was pretty scary running on it. A ton of people were flying past me because I was to scared to run fast on it. You can see all the way down into Lower Haight and I couldn't stop thinking that if I tripped and fell, I would roll all the way down to the bottom. So I was treading lightly.

And then, at around Mile 22, came the most wonderful moment of the race. I was feeling like crap at this point. Running like 20-30 seconds off of my target pace. And all of a sudden I hear, "DAAAAVVEE LIIIINNNN!!!!" And there was Audra, in her Front Runners jersey, screaming her head off for me. And she was surrounded by people in clown wigs! And I was just completely overcome with emotion. It was really great to see her, and she came at the perfect time in the race for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you Audra, for being there!

After that point, the last four miles were brutal, but I powered through. At around Mile 24, I set my goal to finish in under 3:25. So I pushed really hard those last two miles. To be honest, I think I wanted to run faster just so I could finish and stop running sooner. I was so miserable. And then finally I saw the finish line, and I gave everything I had to get there, and I finished in 3:24:12. 

Oh my god. That was hard, it was so hard. And I was so glad it was over. My body felt destroyed, but I was so happy I finished. And even though the time wasn't my "A" goal, it was in the range of what I wanted, so I was pleased.

Afterwards, the boys and I celebrated our victories with my favorite post-marathon treat: a nice, juicy cheeseburger and a beer. It was definitely well deserved.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Month of Multisporting Madness

I haven't updated this blog in ages. But during that time, I've been super busy with my multisporting adventures, I have so much to write about.  To spare all of you from having to read a million pages worth of me being on a bike and in the water, I will do my best to keep this short, heavy on the pictures, and light on the text.

Over Memorial Day Weekend, Mike, Rachel, Jeff, Joe, Aneesh and I did a repeat of last year's crazy bike ride from Newark to Asbury Park.  We took a slightly different route this year, but still, the 55-mile trip took us about 7 1/2 hours.  The route we took this year seemed a lot more rideable than the one last year, except for a 2-mile stretch in South Amboy on a busy road with no shoulder.  

Also, I did not get any flat tires this year (compared to three flats last year).  Jeff, however, did manage to get two flats on the way down.  And I had the privilege of teaching him how to change his very first flat tire.

You might recall that last year, Rachel, Mike and I were led astray by a by a friendly motorist; we were told to veer off of the Henry Hudson Bike Path onto Route 36, a scary, shoulderless, busy highway, with no streetlights in the middle of the night.  This year, we stayed on the bike path through the Highlands, and I was so happy that we did!  We were rewarded with a gorgeous and tranquil bike ride along Sandy Hook Bay, where we took the picture below:

A funny thing happened when we took that picture.  Well, actually, about 20 minutes after we took it.  As we were riding up biggest hill of the whole ride (Miller Street in the Highlands), after we were all struggling for about five hours of biking, just dying to get to the finish, Aneesh realized that he left his backpack at the scenic spot where we took the picture. Inside it was everything he needed for the weekend, his wallet, his phone, his non-biking shoes...  Meanwhile, Jeff and Joe seemed like they were miserable from all the riding, and I felt bad for dragging everyone on this disastrous trip.

Long story short, Mike biked back down to the spot where we took the picture, didn't find the bag, and kept biking, until he saw a guy literally walking away with the bag over his shoulder.  He got the bag back (minus the cash that was in the wallet), and met up with me and Aneesh somewhere in Long Branch (Rachel, Jeff and Joe had pulled ahead).

Anyways, we finally made it to Old Man Rafferty's in Asbury Park after 7 1/2 loooong hours of biking, where I rewarded myself with a nice big steak and some beers.  Yum.

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The next morning saw part two of our weekend of multisporting fun, as we all went to Rumson, NJ for the Nav-e-Sink-or-Swim in the Navesink River.  The swim was a 1.2-mile or 2.4-mile swim.  Mike, Rachel and I did the 2.4 (joined by Alison and Tom Malcolm), and Jeff and Aneesh did the 1.2, and we were cheered on by Joe and George.  I was a little nervous, since 2.4 miles is longer than I've ever swum in the open water before.  But the way the course was set up actually made it pretty easy.  The 2.4 mile swim was two 1.2 mile loops, and between each loop, you had to run a few yards on the beach (where I posed for the picture below).

Also, the turnaround point for the 1.2 mile loop was on a little sand bar, so you could actually stand up as you went around the buoy.  So the race almost felt like four 0.6-mile swims rather than a 2.4 miler.  Anyways, it wasn't too bad, and I ended up finishing in 1:20:40, which I was pretty happy with (even though I was in the bottom 15% of men.  Whatever.).

After the swim, George treated us to a lovely brunch at his home in Little Silver.  It was a great day.

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And the the next day, the five of us boys (Rachel had to leave early) took a nice 17-mile bike ride up to the northernmost point of Sandy Hook, where we took the Seastreak Ferry back into Manhattan.  That ferry ride (which only took 45 minutes) sure beat having to spend 4-5 hours biking through Newark and surrounding areas. I think I found my favorite way to get to and from Asbury!

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The following weekend, I had some more crazy sporting antics.  On Saturday, I joined some of the FRNY ladies (plus Aneesh and Giordano) to do the Spartan Race.  It was a three mile adventure race with military-style obstacles mixed in with running. We had to climb rope ladders, go across monkey bars, haul loads of rocks, scale walls, crawl through mud pits and under barbed wire, and jump through rings of fire.  The one challenge I hated the most was where we had to fill a 5-gallon bucket 3/4 of the way with gravel, and then haul it like a quarter mile up the ski mountain, and then bring it back down again.  It weighed like 100 pounds, it was hot and scary.  It was honestly pretty miserable.  But I ended up having a ton of fun hanging out with the gang (our team name was "FRNY Outdoor Carpet Munchers"...  I think the other teams might have been a little confused by our name...).  And when we finished, we all rewarded ourselves with lots of beer.  So worth it!

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And then the next day, I ran the NYRR Celebrate Israel Run.  I had really wanted to get a good time on this race.  You might remember that I had skipped the Brooklyn Half in May in order to do Reach the Beach. Although I had loved being on the RTB Team, and I wouldn't have traded it for anything, I was disappointed that I didn't get a chance to post a fast time in the Brooklyn Half at a point when I felt I was in pretty good shape.  So I saw the Israel Run as possibly my last chance to run a fast race before the summer came and the heat slowed me down .

Anyways, I ended up having a great race.  Splits were 6:13, 6:19, 6:30, 6:10, for a total of 25:12 (6:18 pace).  Not quite a PR, but only 3 seconds off of it (and that PR was from over three years ago!).  I was really happy!  After a long year of being injured, and even though I'm three years older, I'm just about as fast as I was back in 2008.  The only thing I was annoyed about was Anthony C. passing me in mile 3. That was a tough mile. I tried and tried but just couldn't keep up with him, and he ended up finishing 6 seconds ahead of me.  FRNY was the second fastest men's team in the city for that race. But, alas, I was 6 seconds short of being in the top five, so no medal for me.  :-(

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And then the next weekend, Aneesh and I went back to Asbury to the the Asbury Park Triathlon (formerly the Metroman Triathlon).  I now, officially, hate this f-cking race.

Two years ago, I did it and it was a disaster.  I was the second to last swimmer. I got lost, got scared, freaked out, everything. It was my first ocean swim ever, and it was pretty much a failure.

And then last week happened, which was even worse.  I completely choked.  I don't know what happened, I just couldn't get into the water.

They had changed the course so that it was no longer an Olympic distance.  Whereas before, the swim was a mile long, this year it was only supposed to be 750 meters.  But then on the morning of the race, they shortened it again, to about 300 meters, because the current was too rough and they didn't want swimmers to be pushed into a jetty.  So the whole swim course just involved swimming out to a buoy and turning around back.  Only about 300 meters; barely even enough to get warmed up.

But as soon as they sounded the starting horn, it seemed like the waves became huge.  I tried to get into the water, but with the waves getting bigger and bigger, I found myself unable to get out past them.  I kept trying, but then this huge wave came in and it just seemed like it was gonna crush me, so I freaked out, and went back to shore.  I saw a group of maybe 15 other guys there, standing there, also trying to get into the water.  And then this guy next to me seemed like he was becoming delirious, yelling that he lost his goggles in the wave, but they were just hanging around his neck.

I thought about keeping at it, waiting for the waves to die down a little, but they weren't letting up.  Before I knew it, people were starting to come back in from the swim.  Everyone was finishing, and there I was, still standing on the friggin beach.  That's when I decided to just screw it. It wasn't worth it. The ocean will always be there, but if I'm not in a place where I felt comfortable swimming in it, it wasn't meant to be.

I went on to do the bike course, and then the run.  When I got to the finish line, I walked around the timing mat and handed in my chip. In my five and a half years of doing races, this would be the first time that I would not finish what I had set out to do. It was disappointing, and I was embarrassed.  But, my inability to do this one swim gave me the determination to conquer ocean swimming. I knew I was going to be back, and I was going to kick some ocean butt next time.

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So, this past week, I returned to the Jersey Shore, this time to do the Long Branch Sprint Triathlon.  It was a 600 yard ocean swim, 20 mile bike, and 5 mile run.  And, I'm happy to report, I finished the swim!!! 

Swim 600y: 10:53
Bike 20M:  1:05:03 (18.4 mph pace!)
Run 5M:  34:10 (6:50 pace...including a pee break)

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And...  since a tri with a 20-mile bike ride wasn't enough for AJ, Rachel and me, not only did we bike to and from the race from Asbury Park (12 miles round trip), but then later that day we embarked on a 70-mile bike ride down the Jersey shore.

It was a very nice ride. We basically just went as far south as we could go. It was fun going through all of the beach towns along the way. From Ocean Grove with its Victorian houses; to Spring Lake with its big stately mansions; to Point Pleasant, home of the Jenkinson's Boardwalk/Amusement Park; to Mantoloking, where we rode along the Barnegat Bay; and Seaside Heights of Jersey Shore fame.  At the end was Island Beach State Park, where we had nine miles of nice riding. There were some trafficky/scary parts, like the bridge from Brielle to Point Pleasant, and Point Pleasant itself.  And the entire stretch on Route 35 was on a shoulder that really, really needed to be repaved.

But in the end we were rewarded with a nice big beach and a great view of the Barnegat Lighthouse across the inlet on Long Beach Island.

Well...actually we couldn't find the lighthouse.  I had promised Rachel and AJ a great view of the lighthouse the whole weekend, and it was nowhere in sight.  Apparently, it was about a mile further down the beach, where you can't ride your bikes to. So we didn't get to see the lighthouse. That was a bit anti-climactic.  Next time I do this ride I'm gonna bring a cable to lock up my bike so I can see that damn lighthouse.

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So my big news of the month is that I decided to register for the 2012 Ironman NYC.  Eeek! 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and then 26.2 miles of running.  All under 17 hours, next August.  I'm a little bit terrified....  But I don't think I've yet fully registered how much of a huge commitment this is going to be. For the moment, I'm trying not to think about too much.  But I'm going to have to do a loootttttttt of training next year....

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PS: Tomorrow is my favorite race of the year, the 30th Annual FRNY Lesbian and Gay Pride Run, with my favorite people in the world, Front Runners New York. It's going to be a great day, and I'm really excited. HAPPY PRIDE!!!