Saturday, April 24, 2010


I am now a Boston Marathon finisher!  It wasn't easy.  In fact, those hills were harder than I expected, despite all the warnings.  But thanks to the support of the Front Runners and my parents on the course, all of you who encouraged me along the way, thousands and thousands of spectators, and some crazy Wellesley girls, I made it through all 26.2 miles of the 114th Boston Marathon.

First off, my time: 3:23:10--an average 7:45 pace.  I am very, very pleased with this.  It was nowhere near a PR (I've had five faster marathons), but considering the course, my limited training, my injury, and just the fact that it was BOSTON, I couldn't be happier.

Part of the reason I'm so pleased is that the entire experience was just so wonderful.  By the time I arrived in Boston, I knew I was ready.  I didn't have the mileage that I had before my prior marathons, but thanks to the FRNY long run group, and especially Mikey B and Matt who made sure I got out of bed every Saturday morning, despite bitter colds and harsh winter winds, for our scheduled 9am runs, I knew I could conquer 26.2 miles of Boston roads. When I made it to the expo, I felt charged.  It was so invigorating to look around and see runners who were among the best in the sport--only about 10% of marathoners qualify for Boston, even less in the most competitive 18-34 age group--to just be among them, feeling like I was one of them. Whatever happened on Monday, I knew I would always be a Boston Marathon qualifier.

The night before the race, 15 Front Runners got together for a pasta dinner at the lovely Antonio's of Beacon Hill.  There were actually only 5 of us at the dinner running the next day; the rest were Front Runner supporters.  The fact that it was mostly supporters I think calmed my nerves a bit, and I was able to step back and realize that the reason I run is because I love it, and the friends I've met through running, and that first and foremost I was running the marathon to have fun.  

The most memorable thing of the night (aside from Antonio's homemade cavatelli fra diavolo, below) was Koach Kelsey's pre-marathon pep talk.  Kelsey gives the same talk before every marathon, and I've heard it a million times, but it always gives me a bit of a chill when I hear it, and it definitely puts me in the right mindset to be ready to race.  This time, though, it brought some tears to my eyes as I realized how far I had gone and how hard I had worked to get here.  I just knew that I was going to run a great race.

After one (and only one) glass of wine to calm the nerves [thanks, Michael O!] Mikey, Matt and I were asleep by 11pm.  I actually slept very well that night, and when the alarm woke us up at 5am, I was ready to race!  The next 5 hours were spent getting ready, taking a loooooong bus ride out the 26.2 miles to the start in Hopkinton, and mentally preparing for the race.  We randomly ran into Ramon at the bus pickup area, so we all stayed together until the start.

Finally, the time came to head over to the corrals.  I was surprised at how calm I was feeling.  It felt great not feeling the pressure to get a particular time.  I think the fact that I was recovering from an injury actually helped me to relax for this race, not get too stressed out, and take the first few miles easy--which is what everyone says to do when running Boston.

I had decided to wear a 3:20 pace band, but I wasn't married to it.  It was only in the last week or so before the marathon that I decided I was going to wear a 3:20 band.  My first goal, of course, was just to finish (this was all the more important given that I had spent $250 at the expo buy bright blue Boston Marathon branded running gear that I wouldn't be able to wear if I didn't finish).  I would have been extremely happy with a 3:30 or 3:25, and I would have been ecstatic if I could do it without walking.  So as the start horn sounded, I was off to run the fun run of my life.

Somehow my watch only ever fails me in marathons, and it didn't record my last 9 miles.  But here's what I could piece together.

Mile 1: 7:22.  I think my pace band said I was supposed to do about a 7:36, so it was a little fast.  I vowed to slow down a bit for the next mile.  (I don't have the pace band any more because I threw it out at around mile 21 when I realized that I wasn't going to do a 3:20, and decided I just wanted to have fun rather than stress about how far behind I was).  About half a mile into the race, there's this little tiny hill.  Nothing serious, but it just made me realize, boy, these first 15 miles aren't really all downhill as I had maybe convinced myself they were.  

Mile 2:  7:08.  Uh, the pace band said 7:40ish, so this was way fast, oops.  I seemed to have gotten swept up in with all the runners around me.  I did a quick mental check to remind myself that everyone around me qualified with about a 3:09-3:10 and was probably aiming to run a good 20 seconds a mile faster than me.  I slowed down and tried to get comfortable with people passing me.

Mile 3:  7:29.  Better.  It was around time that I began to notice my butt/hamstring issue.  Nothing major, and it didn't cause any pain or alter my gait, but I did become cognizant of it, and for the entire rest of the race.

Mile 4:  7:21.  

Mile 5:  7:28.  

Mile 6:  7:30.  The course starts to level off a bit starting here, so I try to settle into an even pace.

Mile 7:  7:21

Mile 8:  7:27.  Derek Petti said he was gonna be here cheering.  I looked for him, and I didn't see him.  I hate him.

Mile 9:  7:33

Mile 10:  7:40

Mile 11:  7:49

Mile 12:  7:36.  As you enter each town, there's was a big Adidas banner on the course that says something like "Run Natick Better" and the like.  The "Run Wellesley Better" banner had a drawing of a couple of Wellesley girls screaming "Kiss me!"  I contemplated whether I would kiss any.

Miles 13-14:  15:16.  This is the scream tunnel!  I got distracted and forgot to press lap.  Everything they say about this is true.  You can hear the girls screaming from almost a mile away.  As I approached, and the screaming got louder and more intense, I felt chills run down my side.  I felt like I finally got to experience what people were raving about, and it felt even more amazing than I imagined.  I stopped to give one random girl a kiss on the cheek, and I ran off.  But the screams kept coming, it was like the tunnel that would never end, and I kept getting drawn into it.  What felt like a quarter mile after my first kiss, I kissed another Wellesley girl.  I was so giddy!

Mile 15:  7:50

Mile 16:  7:39.  This was my favorite mile!  First, I saw Sandi, Blossom, Katrina and Sharon.  Sandi was wearing her big gay rainbow cheerleader vest, so I noticed her right away and gave her a big hug and kiss.  In my rush, I failed to notice the poster Sharon was holding, which I think was awesome.

Then, less than a mile later, I saw another FRNY group.  This time it was Mike Terry, John MacConnell, Derek and Jim.  I almost missed them because I was on the right side of the street and they were cheering on the left.  So I cut across the street and gave them all hugs and kisses.  That was so fun!

Mile 17:  8:05.  The next four miles were not as much fun.  By the time I hit the first of four Newton hills, my pace had already slowed from the 7:20s to the 7:40s.  My legs were starting to get tired after the first 16 miles of downhill pounding.  My tactic was to look slightly down so I wouldn't see how far the top was, shorten my stride, and just keep friggin' running till I got there.  I kept telling myself that none of the hills were particularly long--maybe a half a mile at the most--and that it would soon be downhill again.

Mile 18:  (My stopwatch for some reason stopped recording the laps... but all the rest of the miles were in the 8:00-8:10 range).  Ugh, this second hill was steeper than the first one!  Don't look up, shorten that stride, run like the dickens.

Mile 19:  With the first two hills done, mile 19 provides a little bit of a respite.  At this point, I realized that I was probably gonna finish this thing.  So there was a bit of a boost during this nice downhill stretch.  However, I also knew that the extra minute that I had banked from running a faster first half had just about disappeared, and I wasn't going to be able to maintain what I needed to do to break 3:20.  So I took off the pace band, and decided to just run the last six or seven miles for fun.  It was actually quite liberating as I tossed the band to the street...I felt that I could run the race I wanted to run, instead of being tied the stupid mile splits.

Mile 20:  The third hill.  I told my parents to stand right at mile 20 so I could have their support before I headed up Heartbreak Hill (the fourth hill).  But knowing they were there waiting for me definitely pushed me up the third hill, which ended up not being too bad.  After I crested that hill, I started looking at the street signs, looking for the corner where I had told my parents to cheer for me. This little game that I was playing motivated me to make it to each successive sign, until I found Sumner Ave, where my parents were super excited to see me! 

Seeing my parents was what I needed to get myself up Heartbreak Hill.  Honestly, the placement of that hill, the longest and steepest one of the marathon, 21 miles into the race is just plain wrong.  As I trudged up the hill, I felt like I was going at a snail's pace.  It was so tough.  And as I kept looking up to see when the hill would end, it seemed like I wasn't getting anywhere close to the top.  But I just kept going at it, step by step, absolutely refusing to stop or walk, and somehow I made it up there.

When I reached that top, I felt such exhilaration!  I stared Heartbreak Hill down and kicked it in the ass.  It wasn't fast, or pretty, but I had conquered it.  At this point, I knew that I was on my way to finishing the Boston Marathon.  Even though I still had five miles to go, I had just reached the pinnacle, and I was not giving up.

Mile 21:  OK, to be honest, I don't remember very much after Heartbreak Hill.  Around mile 22, I saw Rich standing there cheering.  I almost missed him since he wasn't wearing any FRNY gear, and it wasn't till I had run right by him that I realized it was him.  For a millisecond, I was so sad that I missed him, so I had to turn around and circle back to give him a proper hug and kiss.  I lost a few seconds there, but I was feeling so spent by that point, and when I saw Rich I got a big boost of energy to carry me through to the next mile.

Over the next couple of miles, I saw the Citgo sign off in the distance.  One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting in the back of the car with my brother when my parents drove to Boston's Chinatown, and watching the flashing red and white lights of the Citgo sign.  In high school, I spent many a late night at the IHOP that sat in its shadow, which has since been demolished and replaced with a boutique hotel.  My mind at this point was wandering, and I nearly missed Loren cheering for me around mile 24.  I was in such a zone that I also nearly missed a gaggle of FR men cheering me on at mile 25...Rob, Kelsey, Michael O, Peter and Todd.  They didn't get hugs and kisses, though--Kelsey would have wanted me to keep running.

As if everything I had gone through so far wasn't enough, the planners of the Boston Marathon make you run--at about mile 25.5--underneath the Mass Ave overpass, which means going up a little hill so close to the finish. Ugh.  But after a few turns, there I was, on Boylston Street, staring at the finish straight ahead of me.  It was about a half mile ahead of me, the longest half mile I've ever run.

I ran what seemed like my fastest pace all day to get to that line, and when I reached it, I had FINISHED the Boston Marathon!  I started tearing up immediately, realizing how tremendous this achievement was for me.  It was a good day.  In the end, I was very pleased with my time, thrilled that I didn't walk, and just ecstatic at the fact that I am now a Boston Marathon finisher.  

Thanks to my parents and some very good friends, I had an amazing time in Boston.  Thanks again to everyone who helped to get me to the finish, whether by cheering for me, training with me, or just encouraging and supporting me.  I couldn't have done it without you!

(Thanks to Ramon, Jim and Kieran for some excellent photos!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Four years and three months.

I am getting ready to go to Boston tomorrow.  On Monday, I will take part in the 114th running of the Boston Marathon.

These past few days I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how much I’ve developed as a runner since I started, and how much I’ve developed as a person through running.

I have never been athletic.  On the contrary, growing up in the Boston suburbs, I was always the fattest or second fattest kid in my class.  I was extremely insecure about my weight and fitness, dreaded gym class, and was always humiliated by being the last person picked or the last one to finish.  In fourth grade gym class, Mr. Driscoll made me sit out the class and watch because we were doing gymnastics and I couldn’t run fast enough to the stupid vault to propel fat ass over it.  I sat on the side crying in front of everyone in my class.

In middle school, my parents sent me to the Lexington Youth Soccer league.  And although I enjoyed the game, I was not any good at it, and I was never given any opportunity to try.  Although it was a noncompetitive league, there didn’t seem to be any room in  it for someone fat and slow.  While the fast kids got to play almost the entire game, and got the offensive positions where they received all the glory of scoring, I rarely got to play for more than 5 minutes before getting subbed out.

I started smoking in high school, at age 15.  I continued to smoke through college, law school and beyond, between 10-15 cigarettes a day.  During this time, I had no interest in being physically active, and would feel my heart pounding and be short of breath after climbing just a flight of stairs.

After law school, I lived in New Mexico for a year.  And although it was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, I ended up breaking my leg in a skiing accident.  I was immobile for several months, with few friends, nothing to do, and way too easy access to the Santa Fe drive thru Taco Bell.

When I came to New York, I knew I needed to make a change in my life.  For my 2006 New Year's resolution, I vowed to start running.  Having not run at all in many, many years I signed up for the Fred Lebow Classic 5-miler on January 8, 2006.  Waking up early Sunday morning was not something I was accustomed to, let alone to go out for a run.  But I wrested myself out of bed that day and made it over to Central Park.

That race was so hard.  I was dry heaving less than a mile into it, and it seemed like it would just never end.  But slowly, the miles ticked off, and 44:24 later, I was at the finish line (8:52 pace), with the biggest feeling of accomplishment ever.  I had never run that fast and that long in my life.  Right then and there, I knew I would love this sport.  I couldn't wait to run another race, and to get better and faster.

The following Saturday, I went to my very first Front Runners New York fun run.  Of course, I didn't know anyone.  I was insecure and shy all over again.  But through the great warmth and welcoming reception that I got from then-president Kelsey and all the other Front Runners, I soon felt like that's where I belonged.  Two months after I joined FRNY, I ran my first half, the Brooklyn Half (2:06:06, 9:37 pace), and by the end of the year I ran the ING New York City Marathon in 4:12:47 (9:38 pace).

During this time, it was just so amazing to me that people, many of whom I barely even knew, would congratulate me, support me or encourage me after my races.  I wasn't the fastest, or the cutest, or the most sociable, but I was made to feel welcomed.  I was so proud to be part of a community, a large family of gay runners.

Three days from now--four years and three months after my very first race--I will be running just a few miles away from where I grew up, following in the footsteps of some of the most elite runners in the world.  The Boston Marathon is the most legendary, venerable race in the world.  It is the only marathon, other than the Olympics and Olympic Trials, which requires its runners to meet strict qualifying standards.

Four years and three months ago, I never would have thought that I'd be a runner, let alone a marathon runner.  But three days from now, I will be at the start of the greatest marathon in the world.  To all of you who have helped me along the way--by running with me, encouraging me, coaching me, or just putting up with me when I was spending all my time running--thank you.  I will be running for you on Monday.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Taper, taper, taper. And a big hunk of beef.

I'm officially tapering now...  just six days left until the Boston Marathon!  There's a part of me that thinks it's a little bit ridiculous that I'm tapering, since my weekly mileage for the past couple of months has rarely gotten beyond 30.  But for this week, I've decided to cut out yoga, swimming and biking, and will just do a few easy runs at marathon pace.

Sunday was the NYRR TGL Run as One 4-Miler.  I had no intention of running this race.  But on Saturday, as I was doing my last longish run of the season, an 8-miler with Matt and Mikey B, Matt wore the race t-shirt, which was a fancy technical New Balance thing.  And later, Peter wanted company as he went to NYRR to pick up his bib, so I decided to go with him and sign up too to get my free t-shirt.

Nervous about running too fast a week before the marathon, I decided to just jog it, except for the last mile, where I stepped it up a bit.  My splits: 7:15, 7:13, 7:27, 6:42; 28:37 total.  This was my slowest 4-miler since April 2007.  But I felt pretty good, and I'm going into Boston feeling confident that I can finish it without messing up my butt/hamstring.

Tonight, I'm planning to go to the Armory to do mile repeats with Mikey at marathon pace.  I found it really helpful to do some miles at MP before Chicago because it gave me an idea of how much effort I should be expending at the start.  It's even more important to have proper pacing in Boston because the first half is downhill.

And for me especially, I think it's extremely important to go out at the proper pace.  In Chicago, I ran the entire race with the 3:10 pace group, and they helped to slow me down at the start and push me along towards the end.  There are no pace groups in Boston.  The idea, I think, is that because everyone is lined up according to their qualifying time, everyone around you will be running the same pace.  But I qualified with a 3:09 and have no plans to run anything near that...  which means I'll have to deliberately run slower than the people around me, and be OK with getting passed by everyone.  This is easier said than done.  And if I go out too fast to start, I'll have nothing left in me for the 5-6 miles of hills beginning at mile 16.

So my big question is what should my goal time and pace be?  I was originally thinking of letting Boston just be a totally "fun" marathon, and setting a pretty modest 3:30 goal.  But after my relatively successful final 20-miler last weekend, I think I can shoot for something a little more ambitious, in the 3:20 range.  That comes out to a 7:38 average pace, which I think is pretty doable for me right now, as long as I run smart.

*                              *                            *

This week is Mike Terry's birthday, so on Sunday I invited a few of the Front Runners over in my first post-new-kitchen dinner party.

On the menu:

*Iceberg lettuce wedge with homemade blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon
My first time making blue cheese dressing was a big success.  And it couldn't have been easier.  I don't know why anyone would buy it in a bottle if homemade is so much better, and literally only takes two minutes to make.  I just mixed together a quarter pound of blue cheese, about a cup of mayo, a few tablespoons of sour cream (left over from taco night on Thursday), some lemon juice (mom sent me a bunch of lemons from the tree in their yard in San Jose), and some grinds of black pepper.  That's it!

*Broiled sirloin steaks
I got a couple of 2-3 pound steaks at Fairway after the 4-miler.  I love broiling these steaks for a big group.  It's so easy, I just put sprinkled some salt and pepper on them and broiled for about 7-8 minutes a side (which was probably about one or two minutes too long in my new oven).  I then took the pan drippings, and added some half and half, whiskey, and about a tablespoon of ground pepper for a tasty au poivre sauce.  

* Mashed potatoes
Yummmm.....  I found a perfect use for all of that bacon grease I had from making bacon bits for the salad!

* Creamed spinach
This turned out good.  But it was looking a little too soupy, so I tried to thicken it up with a roux.      I was in a rush, and there was too much flour in the roux, and it didn't fully cook through in the oil, so when I added the roux to the spinach, I ended up getting big chunks of flour in it.  Yuck.  So then I had to pick out like a million little lumps of flour from the spinach, and a few people still ended up biting into a flourball.  Ugh.

Overall, I think the dinner was a big success.  We topped off everything with a delicious birthday ice cream cake that John brought from Baskin-Robbins.  I still have the left over 1/3 of a cake in my freezer.  But I plan to finish it by marathon weekend.  

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wurtsboro, Last 20-miler, Taper Time!

With about a week and a half until the Boston Marathon, I feel like the pre-race jitters have started to kick in.  I find myself in a bit of an emotional roller coaster, thinking, depending on the day, confident, or nervous, or seriously undertrained, or excited, or fearing that I will crash and burn, or hoping to get a certain time, or afraid that I may risk further injury.

The big confidence-destroyer was two weekends ago at the Wurtsboro Mountrain 30k.  As I stated in my last post, this is a really, really tough race, with the first 4.5 miles up a mountain, followed by a steep downhill and difficult rolling hills throughout the race.  Two years ago, I had a great race, and finished in 2:17:08 (7:21 pace).  This time did not go so well.

I knew early on that it wasn't going to be my day.  That first hill is soooo long, and sooooo steep.  Seriously, I can't even put into words how brutal it was.  Peter, IJ and I decided we were going to run together, but just about everyone else seemed to charge up that hill and leave us in the dust.  (There were 13 Front Runners doing the race, including Kevin the "Honorary Front Runner" who races with Urban Athletics.)  At first, I wanted to think, "See you in about 4 miles," thinking they may not be able to all sustain their fast pace up the hill.  But I soon realized that it was me, who, despite running my first two miles at 9 minute pace, would probably have to slow down.  Ugh.

Around mile 4 or 5, Peter, IJ and I started to spread apart a little, with Peter up front, then me, then IJ.  For a while, I tried to keep Peter in my sight.  Mile 4 was particularly difficult, though.  Having studied the course elevation chart, I had thought that after mile 4, it would be smooth sailing.  But no, the hill keeps climbing for about another half mile.  And then, there's this steep, steep downhill, which some people were racing down, but I had to take easy because I was afraid that the pounding would affect my butt condition.  I was relieved, though, when I got to this part of the race, as several of the other runners around me were cheering the fact that the hills were over.  But no!  As we turned the friggin corner there was another friggin hill.

To make matters worse, it was about at this point that I realized I didn't dress properly for the weather conditions.  Being in the mountains, and being about 90 minutes north of NYC, the race started out around 30 degrees, but was forecasted to get to around 40.  I decided to wear shorts and my long sleeve FR jersey, with gloves and a headband.  Because running shorts have the built-in liner, there's no reason ever to wear underwear with them.  Well, that is, unless you're doing a long run and it's 30 degrees out.  In that case, failing to wear underwear means running into the bitter cold with nothing to protect the goods from the elements except skimpy running shorts with their even skimpier liner (which are meant to breathe, not retain body heat).  I didn't know what to do...  I still had to do like 12 more miles but my nuts were literally about to freeze off.  For a second, I pondered whether there was anything I could use to improvise some underwear...leaves, cups at the water station...whatever.  Then I realized that I had my headband, and decided it would be better for my ears to freeze off than for the other alternative, so I stuffed my headband into my shorts.  Ahhhh....  about a mile later, I was was so nice and toasty down there.

By this time, IJ had caught up to me.  I was happy to see him because I had already decided that this was just going to be a fun run for me, and it was nice to have the company.  We ended up spending the rest of the race running together while chatting and gossiping.  I was happy to get my mind off of the fact that we were running 8:30 miles.  Around mile 14, we were joined by Geraldine, a 40-something runner from Ireland but living in Jersey.  She was really giddy and proud of herself for running with two younger men who both qualified for Boston.  She was actually running pretty strong--a lot stronger than we were--and ended up pulling us with her for the last four miles.  But when IJ and I saw the finish line, we couldn't resist; both both ended up kicking hard, outsprinting Geraldine in the last half mile.  I felt kind of bad, since if it weren't for her, I would have been a few minutes slower.  But, it is a race, haha, and we had to do what we had to do to beat her.  :-)

So in the end, my time was 2:38:40 (8:30 pace), more than twenty minutes slower than my first time.  But I had a ton of fun, and am looking forward to doing the race again next year.  Congrats to all of the other FRs who made it out to Wurtsboro who had a great race as well: Michael W. (4th overall!), Chris (2nd age), Matt (1st age), Rachel (3rd age), Tim, Steve, Mikey B., Kenyon, Peter, IJ, and Michael O.  Sorry you overslept and missed everything, Jeff.  Special thanks to IJ for running with me, and to Mikey B. and Steve for joining me on the extra 1.36 miles to make it an even 20.

One final note: not that I'm making excuses, but I think part of the reason for the difficulty the race was the fact that the night before was Koach Kelsey's birthday party.  As I mentioned here, Kelsey works for Harlem United, so the party was held in their offices.  They put out quite a big spread for us, including four different kinds of wine, all of which I had to have a glass (or two) of.  And then, after the party, I went out with some of the bigger lushes in the club (I'm not naming any names, but you guys know who you are).  A drinking game was involved.  I got home after 2.  Chris gave me my wakeup call at 4:45.  I was not feeling like running 20 miles...  After the race, I vowed that for my next and final long run, there would be no drinking the night before.

*                               *                             *

The next morning, I decided to go on a recovery bike ride.  For the longest time, I had been wanting to go out to Nyack to the famed Runcible Spoon Bakery, which I've always heard was a haven for bikers.  From my apartment, it's exactly 60 miles round trip.  This is more than I've ever biked in a single day in my entire life.  But I figured it wouldn't be too bad if I just went at an easy pace and enjoyed the scenery.  I roughly followed the Fast & Fab cue sheet (see the map here), which just stays on Route 9W from the GW Bridge to Piermont, NJ, then goes on a scenic route along the Hudson River for the last four miles.  It was a very pleasant ride.  The first two or three miles off of the GW Bridge can be a little scary, though.  But most of 9W has a nice shoulder (and plenty of signs that tell drivers to watch for bikers).  The end of 9W is a bit hilly, but it's mostly downhill so I didn't mind too much.

I was starving when I got to the Runcible Spoon, and so excited that I made it.  It really is a perfect spot for bikers.  They have bike racks right in front of the window, so there's no need to even lock up your bike.  Inside, there's a bunch of other bikers, most of whom I'm guessing made the trek from Manhattan.  It's the only bakery I've ever been to that sells Clif Shots.  I had a very delectable turkey club, latte, and a raspberry rugelach and shortbread cookie for dessert.

Once again, I failed to dress properly for the weather.  It was in the 50s that day, but I didn't really understand that what you can wear in the 50s while running doesn't really work for biking.  Plus, it started drizzling towards the end of my ride out to Nyack.  I was a little concerned.  Luckily, the pharmacy in Nyack had some gardening gloves which I used cover my fingerless biking gloves.  And the rain didn't really get any worse than a moderate drizzle.

The ride back was a little bit more complicated.  In order to avoid the hills of 9W, the Fast & Fab cue sheet took me to Route 340 and a bunch of local streets that wound through the towns of Rockleigh, Demarast, Cresskill, Tenafly Englewood and Englewood Cliffs.  There are a lot of ugly, expensive-looking mansions in Englewood Cliffs.  

After 60 miles, it was good to be back home.  By the time I made it, I was wet, cold and exhausted, but I was so happy that I made it.  I can't wait for my next trip out there.

*                               *                             *

So after my two dismal twenty milers this season (Wurtsboro and this one) I was determined to not make my last long run before Boston suck.  Mikey, Matt and I decided to go on a 20-miler Sunday, the day after the Scotland Run 10k.  I purposely didn't push myself very hard for the Scotland Run because I felt it was more important to have a successful last long run going into Boston than to have a somewhat faster 10k.  And Saturday night, I was home by 11 and only had 2 beers (well, 3 if you count the 34 ounce Asahi as 2...).

Our run took us from Rutgers, up the Westside Highway, into Inwood (the Northernmost tip of Manhattan), across the Broadway Bridge into the Bronx, and up to the Tortoise and Hare Statue in Van Cortandt Park, then back the same way but stopping at 94th Street.  I have to say, I felt pretty good during this run.  Mikey and Matt both commented that I was pushing the pace a little bit.  Of course, I didn't just run a 39:38 10k like Matt did.  But I did feel like I had it in me to run faster and longer.  This was just the run that I needed to get me psyched up for the marathon.  Thanks, Mike and Matt!  Now...  it's taper time!

*                               *                             *

After more than two months of trying to cook dinner in my living room, my kitchen renovation is finally (mostly) done.  All that's left is touching up the paint in some places, and other minor odds and ends.  I'm generally very pleased with how it turned out.  And I figured I saved at least 50-60% by doing most of the work myself (with some friends).  And so far, no pipes have burst, and I haven't gotten electrocuted or had a gas explosion.  Here are some pics:

For the inaugural use of my oven, I made some barbecued chicken.  I seared it first in my cast-iron skillet, and then finished it off in the oven.  I cheated, and used sauce from a bottle.  But I'm not gonna lie, it was very tasty.  I served it with some beans and brown rice, and some zucchini and squash sautéed with just salt and pepper.'s good to be able to cook again!