Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Your Butt Is Much Stronger Now"

It's amazing what a few hours and a new medical opinion can do.  This morning, I was feeling pretty down about the prospect of not running through the summer and fall.  Over lunch, I went to my appointment with Dr. Jordan Metzl.  Those of you who are regular readers will remember that Dr. Metzl was the one who diagnosed me in November as having a "weak butt."  I was, at the time, disappointed with his seemingly cursory examination, and got a second opinion with Dr. Babiy.

Well, I went back to him today, this time armed with my three MRI results. After examining me, he told me I no longer have a weak butt.  But, based on the MRIs and his examination, he thinks I have piriformis syndrome, which is where the piriformis muscle impinges on the sciatic nerve in the leg.  I thought this was what I had in OCTOBER--but the various doctors had me convinced that, instead, I had  (in chronological order): a weak butt, a herniated disk, a tear in the hip labrum, and a tear in the hamstring by the ischial tuberosity.  I don't believe it's taken eight months of doctor examinations, MRIs, X-rays and physical therapy to to get me to what I thought I had before I even started seeing anyone.  This is beyond frustrating.

Dr. Metzl had some good news, though:

1.  It can be treated.  Dr. Metzl scheduled me for an ultrasound-guided steroid injection into the sciatic notch at HSS for July 2nd.  From some online research I've done (here and here), it seems that this injection is used to both diagnose and treat the piriformis syndrome.  If the pain goes away, then it'll confirm that an inflamed piriformis muscle was impinging on the nerve.  In some cases, the shot itself is all that is needed for the pain to go away permanently.  In other cases, however, the pain goes away and comes back, which may mean surgery is required to release the piriformis and decompress the nerve.  Hopefully that's not what I'll need.

2.  I can still run!  Dr. Metzl noted that in eight months, the pain hasn't really gotten any worse.  Because of that, he told me to "keep doing what you're doing"--which to me means I can still run, although I will stay away from speed and hill workouts, and not go crazy on the races.  I do still plan to do as much swimming and biking as I can, since those don't cause as much pain as running does.  But it's good to know that I now have a doctor's OK to keep running.  I think I may be able salvage a decent summer and fall running season after all.  :-)

Park to Park . . . to Park . . . to Pain

I'm starting to really feel like a multisporter.

On Saturday, I swam the Park-to-Park two miler.  It's a swimming race in the Hudson River from 125th Street to 165th Street.  The two mile swim was my longest open water swim ever, and probably longer than  most of my swim workouts in the pool, so I was pretty nervous about it.  Fortunately, I was able to talk Peter into doing it with me, which definitely calmed me down before the race.

Since it was so warm, I was thinking that I'd be the only person wearing a wetsuit, but a good number of people were swimming in them.  The water was 68 degrees, which is right at the cutoff for eligibility to win awards while in a wetsuit.  But I am more concerned about the buoyancy that the wetsuit adds rather than any warmth that it creates, so I was definitely wearing mine.

It was a treading-water start, which I hate since your arms and legs get all tired before the swim even begins.  But once I jumped into the water I could feel the effects of the wetsuit and the salt water keeping me afloat--I didn't have to work that hard to tread water.  This definitely helped to calm my nerves a bit, as I tried to convince myself that the wetsuit, the salt water, and the tidal assist would make the swim easier than swimming in the pool.

When they sounded the start horn, I had positioned myself towards the back of the swimmers to avoid getting trampled.  What I didn't think about was positioning myself away from the big buoy that marked the start.  Instead, I ended up having to swim around it, getting swept by the current and crashing into it, getting entangled with the rope that anchored it to the bottom of the river, and getting trampled by the few swimmers behind me.  Ugh, not a great way to start!

After that minor hiccup at the beginning, though, the rest of the swim pretty much occurred without incident.  I had made sure to listen to the pre-race announcements, when the race director said there would be eight buoys on the course; we were supposed to swim out to the first one, turn right, and then pass seven more buoys to the end of the course.

From that starting stretch out to the first buoy, I felt calm and collected.  I was able to focus on my stroke, my rotation and my glide.  Determined not to veer off course, I was sighting about every three or four strokes.  Every time I sighted, that first buoy was noticeably getting closer and closer.  I felt that I was making good progress, and I soon reached that buoy and made a right turn.

After that, things got slightly more difficult.  I have not mastered bilateral breathing, especially in the open water.  I find it MUCH easier to breathe on my right side.  But the sun was on my right side.  And even though I just bought some nice tinted goggles to protect my eyes from the sun, it still felt like every time I breathed I was starting directly at it.  Also, the buoys seemed a lot further apart than that first one was.  I was having a little bit of difficulty swimming in a straight line.  And when I tried to make an adjustment to the direction I was swimming in, I think I overcompensated and got way off course in the other direction.

But I just stuck with it.  It wasn't about the time, but about just finishing the longest open water swim of my life.  It felt very tranquil, actually.  After about the second buoy, the field was pretty thinned out, so I just concentrated on my form and swam. Slowly, the buoys came and went, and eventually I made it to the end.  When I got out of the water, I felt exhilarated.  Peter and Tom Malcolm were there, along with Steve from TNYA, cheering me on.  I was so excited that I didn't even realize that I hadn't crossed the timing mat yet--Peter had to shout out to me to keep running, haha.

My finishing time was 56:23.  This was way faster than my stated goal of 1:12:00.  However, I guess there was a really substantial tidal assist this year, and I didn't quite make my other goal of being in the top 70%  (I was 123 out of 150 finishers, so 83rd percentile).  Oh well, I least I know I can swim two miles now.  The Avon Ocean Mile Swim on July 11th should be a breeze.

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On Sunday, I did the NYRR Father's Day Race Against Prostate Cancer 5-miler.  Not much to say here except that it was hot, humid and miserable.  The air had that feeling where you knew it was going to rain any second because it was so saturated with humidity, and you wished that it would just break and start pouring so that at least the rain would cool you down.  But instead, it stayed hot and gross through the whole race.

I didn't really have any expectations going into this race.  I'm obviously not training, and I'm still nursing this butt issue, so I just set out to do the best I could without feeling any pain or messing up my butt.  I was lined up with the same group of blue corral Front Runners I always line up with, which probably wasn't a good idea since they've all been doing workouts and running a lot more than me.

I knew pretty immediately that I had started out too fast and there was no way I could maintain it.  My first mile was 7:02, and it was pretty much all uphill from the West 69th Street start until 86th Street.  I haven't run a sub 7:00 anything since last year, and definitely wasn't going to do it today.  And honestly, I wanted the race to be over because there was no way I could see myself doing four additional miles feeling as bad as I did.

Mile two, from 87th Street to the 102nd Street transverse was 7:08.  I had slowed down, but still not as much as I thought I needed to, and really didn't think I could maintain this either.  After a half mile, a spectator shouted, "You're halfway there!"  This didn't help.  I didn't want to know that I just had to repeat those brutal 2.5 miles again.

Mile three: 7:20.  Ugh, didn't mean to slow down that much.  This wasn't even a hilly part of the race, I think I just lost focus.  For mile four, I try to regroup myself.  I became intent on breaking out of the group I had settled into, and see another runner in the distance who had been about 50 yards ahead of me the entire race.  So I ratcheted it up a bit, and set off to catch up to him.  I mile later, I made it, in 7:07.  One mile to go.

That last mile was tough.  But all I wanted to do was just get the race over with so I could stop running.  One by one, I pick people off, until I finally see the finish line.  I made a final push to the end, which I didn't realize I had in me.  Final mile was 6:48 for a total of 35:25 (7:05 pace).

I was actually very pleased with this time.  I am just not a very strong runner in the heat and humidity.  But I was able to run a strong second half of the race, and pass a bunch of people at the end.

Here's a picture taken by Ted Paszek, our team photographer.  I love it because I think it captures the one second during that whole race that I did not feel completely miserable and dying.  I'm even smiling.  Thanks, Ted!

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OK, I saved the bad news for last.  Yesterday, I went to see Dr. Degis about the MRI results.  He told me pretty much what I expected, that the MRI didn't show anything wrong with my hamstring at the ischial tuberosity (pelvic bone).  He also told me that the MRI went all the way from the hamstring's insertion point in the ischial tuberosity to the middle (or "belly") of the hamstring, and that there was no evidence of any kind of tear or anything.  Nor was there any edema anywhere (edema I guess is swelling caused by excess fluid, which would be present if there was some sort of tear).  So he gave me the following three options;

1.  Do nothing and live with my pain.  Not recommended, and not likely to either end the pain or make me a happier person.

2.  Go to a physiatrist, which is a specialist in non-operative pain management, and see if I can get some sort of injection in my problem area anyway.  He did give me the numbers of two doctors at HSS who are apparently the most respected physiatrists in their field, Dr. Gregory Lutz, and Dr. Joseph Feinberg.  (I guess a number of physiatrists are quacks who deal mostly with no-fault insurance patients).  He said, however, that insurance may not cover an injection since there was no evidence of anything wrong in my MRI.  Also, any injection would just mean that the doctor would blindly poke around and shoot me somewhere hoping it's the right area.  I'm not sure how I feel about a doctor putting sh-t into me not knowing if it's even the right place where it should go.  

3.  Doing the one thing that I haven't tried yet.  Wayyyyy back in November/December, I took about a month off from running.  It didn't help.  Then I did several months worth of "passive" physical therapy, which included lots of stretching and ultrasound.  That didn't help.  Then I saw Dr. Degis and started doing lots of intensive "active" exercises to strengthen my butt muscles so that there would be less strain on my hamstring while running.  That didn't help either.  But, through all this time, I haven't combined complete rest with active physical therapy.  After Boston, I drastically cut my running down to 12-15 miles a week.  But he thinks that's still too much.  I really need to cut it down to zero, and do intensive exercises with him twice a week.  He thinks I should try this out for three weeks, and see if there's any improvement.  Oh, here's the kicker: he recommends also that I refrain from biking during this time.  One thing he said, though, was that I could wait until after the Metroman Triathlon (July 18th) before I embarked on this no-running-heavy-PT treatment.  However, obviously, the longer I wait, the longer it'll take to heal.

So I'm not really sure what to do now.  I'm starting to realize and accept that I will need to stop running at some point, and it will likely be much more than just three weeks.  I have so many races planned for this summer and the fall, and I'm feeling like they may all slip away.  I was excited to do my first Half Ironman in October.  I'm captaining a Reach the Beach Ultra team in September.  I already signed up for Metroman and another Tri in Asbury Park on August 7.  And Derek and I were talking about getting some people to do a 100-mile relay in his home town of Lockport, NY.  And am I going to have to skip what would be my fifth year doing the ING New York City Marathon?

This Saturday is the Front Runners New York Lesbian and Gay Pride Run.  The five-mile race is FRNY's biggest event of the year, with over 3600 runners last year.  There's no way I'm going to miss that.  But come Sunday, I will have to reassess my running for the summer and fall.  I'm trying to realize that although it sucks in the short term to have to take time off, this will ultimately make be a better, stronger, healthier runner.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New MRI and Front Eaters New York

I got another MRI yesterday, my fourth one since November.  You'll recall that my first three MRIs were on my ankle, my back and hip).  Yesterday's MRI was, believe it or not, the first MRI I've gotten in the actual location where I'm feeling my butt pain, that is, the "right proximal hamstring @ ischial tuberosity."  (The ischial tuberosity is the sit bone of the pelvis where the hamstring attaches itself to via a tendon).

Dr. Degis had me get this new MRI.  His plan is for me to get a steroid injection into my hamstring, and the MRI will pinpoint the exact spot of the tear where the steroid will be injected.  Once that is figured out, I will be working with Dr. Ronald Adler of Hospital for Special Surgery, who specializes in radiology and imaging, to perform an "ultrasound guided steroid injection."  I'm not sure what that means, but it sounded really promising.  I even did some research on my own and I found this article which recommends ultrasound guided steroid injections for "high hamstring tendinopathy in runners," which is what I think I have.

Well, I just got the results of the MRI back.  Apparently there is nothing f-cking wrong with my hamstring.  "No fracture, periosteal new bone formation, or marrow edema."  "No muscle tear, contusion, or hematoma."  "No associated marrow change."  Everything's frigging normal.  Yeah, that's why when I sit down for 10 minutes, it feels like my leg is getting attacked by a million pins and needles.  That's why I can't do a frigging speed workout without limping for the next week.  That's when when I stretch my hamstring after even an easy run, it feels like it's on fire.  Cuz everything's normal.

Ugh, all I want is for someone to figure out what I have, and for them to fix it.  This butt pain has been going on for eight months now, without any sign of it going away.  I'm starting to wonder if i should reconsider my fall running plans, maybe not doing a marathon or Reach the Beach...I feel like that would be devastating.  I can't begin to say how frustrated I am.
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Tomorrow I'm doing the Park to Park Swim.  It's a two-mile swim in the Hudson River, from 125th Street to 165th Street.  It'll be my longest open water swim ever (if I finish, haha).  I'm excited but nervous.  Last year, I did the Great Hudson River Swim, a 1.3-miler from Christopher Street to Battery Park City.  It seems a little odd that this time I'm swimming northward, but apparently the Hudson River Swim Series are all timed to have a tidal assist.  My goal tomorrow is first to finish without drowning, and second, to finish somewhere in the top 70%.  The 70% is kind of an arbitrary number, but it would qualify me to swim in the Liberty Island Swim on June 25th (I don't even want to swim it, it would just be nice to qualify).   Last year the 70% finisher completed the swim in 1:12.  My one-mile swim last week was 32:18.  So in theory, with a tidal assist, I think I can break 1:12.  We'll see.  At the Great Hudson River Swim, I was 140 out of 171, so that's 82%.  But that was before I learned how to swim.

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I've been skipping the outdoor speed workouts with Front Runners over the past several weeks.  On Thursdays and Sundays, the club does workouts on the outdoor track, and on Tuesdays it does hill workouts in Central Park.  I really like the Tuesday workouts, but I've been skipping them because of my butt.  One good thing to come out of having my Tuesdays free is that I've gotten a chance to eat with Front Runners, which is just as fun as running with Front Runners.

My friend Fatai, who often appears in this blog (see here and here), has started a new business venture.  Fatai is a Ph.D. candidate in Food Studies at NYU, so he's an expert in all things food-related.  His new business, Budding Taste, takes people on "Taste Excursions" in restaurants all over the city.  The excursions are based on a unifying theme, like Chinese food or spicy food, and we get to experience the city's diverse food flavors and learn how to taste critically.  Of course, that means we get to eat really tasty food!

I went on the Chinese tasting series, which took people to restaurants in Queens and Manhattan serving Sichuan, Cantonese, Northern Chinese, Fujianese, and Taiwanese food.  I've actually learned a lot about the different cuisines of China, and really enjoyed the chance to sample them all.  Here are some pics from the Northern Chinese place we went to in Queens.  (Sorry for the crappy Blackberry photos, they don't do justice to the food!)

Fatai's taking reservations now for his next series, which will be spicy foods.  We'll be sampling the food of Korean, the West Indies, Sichuan Province, Ethiopia and India.  I'm really excited.  If you let him know that you're a reader of Running to Dinner, I'm sure he will give you a discount!

PS: Like the Budding Taste website?  Fellow Front Runner John MacConnell designed it!

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I've been obsessed with flank steak lately.  Flank steak is usually what goes into fajitas and sometimes asian stir-fries.  I like it because it's a relatively inexpensive cut of beef, yet it's very lean, easy to make and flavorful when done correctly.  It also lets me break out my cast-iron skillet, which I like cooking with.  

Ideally it would be good to marinate a flank steak, but sometimes I get lazy and just rub some salt and pepper onto it, maybe some Worcestershire or soy sauce, a little mirin.  It's best to have it sit on the counter for a little while for it to reach room temperature so it cooks quicker.  The cooking part is easy, I just put it in a HOT cast iron skillet, for about 4-5 minutes a side, depending on the thickness.  It ends up getting my house super smoky, but I can live for a day or two with the smell of meat if it tastes good, which this definitely does.

After a 5-10 minute rest wrapped up in foil, I'll slice it up.  The key to flank steak is you have to slice it very thinly, across the grain.  The flank is pretty much the cow's abdominal muscle, so the grain runs the long way down the belly.  Just like the ab muscles of a runner are always engaged, the flank is always working for a cow too, and thus can be extremely tough if you cut it like a normal steak.  But, cooked quickly and cut thinly across the grain, flank steak is super tender and delicious.  Yummm.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Presidential Lakes Olympic Tri

Yesterday, I did the Presidential Lakes Olympic Challenge in Pemberton, NJ.  It was my first Olympic Tri of the year, and my third Olympic ever.  Any tri where I don't drown, don't fall off my bike, or don't have to walk during the run is one that I consider a success.  But I do feel good about my performance yesterday, although I now know that I really do need to work on the biking.

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Six Front Runners / Tritons went down for the race: Me, Jeff, Mike Terry, Kyle, Peter Lozito and Janice.  The boys and I went down on Saturday to stay overnight.  Jeff was able to find a motel within about 10 minutes from the start, the Executive Inn in Pemberton.  Initially, we thought it was odd that the motel was not listed on the race list of nearby motels, but we thought that the motel had a decent enough website, and it was cheap and close by.

Seriously, words cannot explain how sketchy this motel was.  Most of the rooms were occupied by day laborers or farm workers.  There were bugs flying all around when we walked in.  The water in the bathroom smelled like it was connected to a sewage line--we had to keep the bathroom door closed so the room wouldn't be permeated with the smell of rotten eggs.  We were all afraid to touch the remote control because that's supposedly the germiest part of a hotel room.  I tried to check for bed bugs, but Jeff convinced me that it was probably best not to know.  Fortunately, Peter brought a can of Lysol so he sprayed down the beds before we got into them.  It was gross.

The one good thing about where we were staying was that we were able to discover a dinner spot not to far away that was actually quite good: Charley's Other Brother in Mt. Holly, NJ.  We took it as a good sign that there was a half hour wait when we got there.  The place has a very long wine and beer list, and an even more  extensive dinner menu.  I got a blackened tuna steak, which came with a side of Cajun dirty rice.  It was very good, but as soon as I ordered it, I remembered that I generally try to avoid spicy foods the night before a big race, since sometimes I get stomach issues the next day.  Oh well, I enjoyed the meal anyway.

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The next morning we woke up around 5am and headed over to the start.  For breakfast I had about half a Clif bar and half a cinnamon raisin bagel, plus some Gatorade.  I regretted not having a banana, which Mike Terry offered me.  When we got to the start, we headed over to the transition area, which was pretty small since there were only about 120 people doing the race.  We were able to choose where we wanted to set up our bikes, so I picked a spot right along the main path to save time during transitions.  I set up right next to a former-lawyer-turned-military-guy from Texas who literally had done the Harriman State Park Triathlon the day before.  He looked pretty hardcore, but I don't ever want to be the guy who does two triathlons in a weekend, that's just insane.

After setting up, I put on my wetsuit and went for a dip in the lake.  Ever since my disastrous swim in the Metroman Triathlon in Asbury Park last year, I've made it a point to do a little swimming in the water before a race so I don't freak out at the race start (like I did at Metroman).  This was especially  necessary at this race, though, because the lake has this freakish reddish-brown color, like it was full of dead bodies leaching blood into the water (sorry about the imagery, but I've been watching a lot of Dexter lately).  It turns out the the water is red because of all of the cedar trees in the area, and that it's perfectly clean and typical of many South Jersey lakes.  But it's freaky nonetheless.

The swim was two half-mile loops in the lake.  After the first loop, we had to get out of the water and run on the beach for about 5 seconds.  It looked like a reaaaallly long swim when standing on the beach and seeing how far the buoys were.

When the announcer called the start, I was pretty much just in the middle of all of the swimmers in my wave.  At my last tri, I purposely stayed at the back of the pack in order not to get trampled, but I found that there were actually swimmers who were slower than me who just got in my way.  So this time I figured I would just go with the flow.  I actually found it OK swimming with the pack because it made it a little easier to figure out what direction I should be swimming in.  About a quarter of the way through the first loop, the swimmers end up facing east, which made it difficult to sight the buoys because the sun was in my eye (Is this why people wear tinted goggles?  Mine are clear only because I think it's kind of weird to be swimming in yellow pool water).  But I was able to follow the pack to figure out where I was going.  I finished the first loop in about 15:30.

The second loop ended up taking about a minute longer.  I think this was because the people in my wave had mostly long passed me, and I was left to sight on my own.  The sun was really in my eye, and I kind of got a little disoriented.  There was a straightaway with a bunch of buoys in a row, and we were supposed to turn left at the very last one.  Not seeing the last two buoys, I turned at the third to last one, thinking it was time to turn.  Fortunately, I figured out within a few seconds that there were still people going forward, and I realized that I turned too soon and had to get back on course.  But the same thing happened to me at the next buoy, which I figured was really the last, and I turned left.  Luckily the girl swimming next to me saw me kind of confused and shouted out "this way," pointing forward.  Ugh, one more buoy.  Fortunately, this was not like my experience at Metroman, where I turned too early, and ended up swimming almost back to shore by the time a kayaker told me that I skipped a buoy.  So now I've learned a valuable lesson: count the number of buoys before the race, so I'll know exactly when I should be turning.

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Transition #1 was pretty uneventful.  Seeing my four Gus laying on my towel (1 pre-race, 1 post-swim, 1 mid-bike, and 1 post-bike), I realized that I forgot to have my pre-race Gu.  Also, I think I lost valuable seconds putting on my biking gloves, which have an annoying velcro tab thing.

The bike ride took a looooong time.  It was a 24.8-mile route, from the transition area to the road, and then three times back-and-forth on a four-mile road, the name of which was Four Mile Road.  As soon as I got on the bike, I realized that I forgot to reset the odometer on my bike computer, which still had 10.7 miles on it left from my last tri.  I tried to reset it but couldn't figure out how and was too nervous doing it while on a moving bike, so I had to do math to figure out how far I had gone.  OK, it's a very minor annoyance, but it could have been completely preventable.

I liked the three times back-and-forth route.  It was helpful to be able to break down the bike course into three parts, and to say to myself I had gone a third of the way, or a half, or whatever.  It was also good to see all the other Front Runners / Tritons on the way.  I saw Jeff leave the transition about 90 seconds before me, and it was helpful to see him on the course coming in the opposite direction to know if I was closing the gap with him at all (I wasn't).

The one thing I didn't like about the course were the tight turnarounds.  We had to make all of our 180 degree turns on the street, which was not particularly wide.  This meant slowing down drastically for each turn.  One time I didn't slow down enough, and ended up not being able to stay on the asphalt for my turn, veering for a bit into the gravelly side of the road.  Fortunately, I steered my bike back on the road, but it was a bit scary.

Also, toward the end of the bike, my right foot started to feel a little tingly.  I didn't know if this was because my bike shoe was too small, or it it was the result of my right butt/hamstring issue, which sometimes radiates down my legs.  Regardless, it didn't become a problem that interfered with the biking or was particularly painful, but it was something that I was aware of and may have caused me to not push as hard as I could have.

Oh, halfway through the bike, I realized I forgot bring with me what was supposed to be my mid-bike Gu.  So then I was two Gus short of where I wanted to be.  Note to self: next time maybe tape a Gu to my bike.

I think the main problem with the bike for me was that it was just too damn hard to pedal faster.  My legs were pretty beat after the first loop; I was dreading doing two more.  And I felt like I was slowing down considerably with each loop.  Because the course was relatively flat, I didn't have much help from gravity giving me a boost downhill.

Part of me is wondering whether my bike is not properly fitted.  The other part of me knows that I rarely go out on bike rides and that the reason I'm not faster is because I hardly ever train on the bike.  But I feel that as runner, I should have leg muscles that put me well above the bottom 10% of bikers (My bike time of 1:30:21 placed me #100 out of 111 finishers.  Among the people who biked faster than me were Heysoon Lee, a 66 year old woman from Morristown, NJ).  Mike Terry said he brought his bike to a bike fitter who apparently worked wonders on the bike, so I think I'm going to give it a try.

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My run was miserable.  It seemed like I was running in slow motion.  It was so hot.  There was no breeze.  My timing chip was chafing my leg.  The first and last mile were on this sandy trail that was like running on the beach.  There were not enough water stations, and instead of Gatorade they handed out this nasty pink stuff that was like drinking liquid chalk.

The worst part was, about 30 seconds after I left the transition area, I felt the effects the the prior evening's blackened cajun tuna catching up with me.  Although I was fine for an hour and a half on the bike, as soon as I started jostling around my insides on the run, I knew I needed a porta potty, and stat!  I started going into panic mode, realizing that there'd be no porta potties on the course, and I wasn't going to pull a Paula Radcliffe or a Ginny (if you don't know what this refers to, I am not going to enlighten you).  Luckily, the first quarter mile of the run kind of circled around the transition area, and I was able to go back in (I had to tell everyone watching that I wasn't cheating, I was just going to use the porta potty), and do my business.  I figure I lost about 2 or 3 minutes doing so.

Despite the pit stop, I managed to eke out a sub-8 minute pace, which put my run at #30 out of 112 finishers.  I must have passed about 25 people on that run, so it was a good lift at the end of a race.  Considering how little I've been running lately, I think it was not too shabby.

Here are my final results:

Place:   72 / 111
Name:    David lin
Age:     33
Bib:     42

SwPlace: 84
Swim:    32:18
SwPace:  2:02

T1Place: 69
T1:      2:36

BkPlace: 100
Bike:    1:30:21
BiPace:  16.5

T2Place: 44
T2:      1:14

RuPlace: 30
Run:     49:10
RuPace:  7:56

Time:    2:55:36

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My next races are the Park-to-Park 2-Mile Swim in the Hudson River on Saturday, the Avon Ocean Swim on July 11, and the Metroman Asbury Park Triathlon on July 18.  It's not too late to sign up for them if you'd like to join me!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hot hot hot half.

My apologies, dear fans of Running to Dinner, for not updating you with my adventures in running and eating. I took a little time off from the blog after the Boston Marathon, but I've been doing plenty of running and eating over the past month.  I'm doing my first Olympic Triathlon of the year this weekend, so I wanted to finish this entry beforehand.  However, I didn't really succeed, and now I'm sitting in the Executive Inn in Pemberton, NJ the night before the Presidential Lakes Triathlon with a bunch of Front Runners who are about to go to sleep, so this is kind of an incomplete entry.  Anyway, the following are some of my latest running/multisport activities.

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About a month ago, I did the Long Branch Half Marathon in New Jersey.  It was two weeks after Boston, and my body was still tired from the marathon, so it was pretty much just a fun run.  The Half is just the first loop of the New Jersey Marathon, and I figured it would be good to cheer on the Front Runners doing the whole thing (Timmy, Alison, Jerry and Steve).  I went down to Jersey the night before the race with Kieran, who also did Boston two weeks prior.  Kieran and I were both experienced NJ Marathon runners--he did the full last year and I did the half last year.  This year, though, the weather was forecasted to be in the 80s, so I was nervous.

The start of the race was right along the Beach in Long Branch.  There was a cool ocean breeze, and it really felt like a pleasant, albeit slightly warm, day.  That didn't last long.  Less than half a mile into the race, the course turned inland and the breeze went away.  The temperature just started skyrocketing from there.  By mile 3 I was barely doing 8 minute miles and just wanted the whole thing to be over.  I was walking through the water stops (which had warm water and Gatorade, yuck!) and slowing down the go through garden sprinklers that residents along the route set up for the runners.  I was miserable.  And I felt like the entire world was passing me.  I don't remember much about the rest of the race, except that Jim McCarrick came down from Queens to cheer us on, and it seemed to take all of my might to muster up a wave to him as I hobbled by.  I must have looked like crap.

The next thing that I remember was around mile 11.5, when the course turned onto the boardwalk for the final stretch.  Ahhhh....  it's amazing how different the temperature was right by the ocean.  Somehow the light breeze helped me make a little bit of a kick towards the finish, and I ended up passing a few people along the way.  Still, it was ugly, and my final time was 1:42:43, my slowest half in years.  As I write this, though, a month after the race, I am just noticing that out of the 330 men in the 30-34 age group, I came in 19th, which means top 6%.  Not nearly as bad as I had thought...  I guess it helps to put everything in perspective.

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The following week, Jeff and I went on a bike ride.  Jeff mapped out a route from my place to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, about 25 miles each way.  I liked the idea of biking to the beach, so I was excited.  The ride started without a hitch, but then at around mile 8.5, just before getting on the Macombs Dam Bridge, I hit a pot hole and got a flat tire.  I remember hearing a "pop" as I hit the pot hole, but it didn't register to me that I got a flat.  It wasn't until a minute or two later when I had to get off my bike to walk it across the bridge that I realized my front wheel was completely flat.  D'oh!

Fortunately, I brought a spare inner tube with me.  Unfortunately, I didn't bring a pump.  Nor did I have that little adapter thingy that fits a normal air pump to one of the skinny road bike wheel valves.  Ughhh.  Long story short, Jeff and I had to make a detour to Target where I bought an air pump.  Everyone at the store was staring at me when I ran inside because I had my biking shoes on and they were click-click-clicking so loud on the floor as I ran around the store.  But in the end, I got the pump, and figured out how to change the flat tire all by myself.   And it didn't take too long either.  And I learned a valuable lesson: always carry a portable little air pump, because an inner tube is not going to inflate itself.

So off we went again.  The rest of the route we had planned was adventurous, but not quite as fun as we had hoped.  There was a lot of biking in traffic, which was scary.  Then we were on Pelham Parkway, which despite what Google maps says is not very bike friendly, unless you enjoy dodging cars on a highway.  Then we got a little lost, and did some trail biking by the Pelham Bay golf course and horse stables.  Then we ended up in a really nice neighborhood which big houses and lush lawns, which I had no idea existed in the Bronx.  And then finally, after about 25 miles, we made it to the beach.  Of course, we dipped our feet in, and brrrrr the water was cold.  By this time, due to the flat tire, getting lost, and the non-bike-friendly trails that we took, we were already several hours into our bike ride.  It was exhausting.  So, understandably, we cheated on the way back.  About two miles away from the beach was the Pelham Bay subway station.  We took the 6 train back.  It felt good to sit down.  :-)

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The following week was my first triathlon of the season.  Jeff, Andrew, Timmy and I signed up for the Jersey Shore Kickoff Triathlon in Toms River, NJ.  It was a sprint distance, consisting of a 0.3 mile swim in the Barnegat, a flat 10 mile bike, and a 5k run on the picturesque Berkeley Island Point.  

Nothing too eventful to report here.  The swim was so short it seemed like it was over almost as soon as it started.  I didn't really get into a rhythm until 2/3 of the way into the swim, and by that time, I only had about 3 minutes of swimming left!  Funny, I almost wished that the swim was longer.

Here are my results (rank is out of 139 finishers):

Place: 63
Name: David Lin
Bib No: 115
Age: 34 [they record your age at 12/31/10... I'm still only 33!]
Swim Rnk: 83
Swim Tme: 9:25.5
Swim Rate:  1.91

T1 2:50.0
Bike Rnk: 72
Bike Tme: 35:35.0
Bike Rate:  17.2

T2: 0:55.1
Run Rnk: 22
Run Tme: 22:03.1
Run Pace: 7:07
Total Time: 1:10:48.7

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Here's a pic from the Brooklyn Half a few weeks ago.  I started it out with Mikey and Daniel, running it as a fun run.  Towards the end I started speeding up again.  1:40:08.

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So as I said up at the top, tomorrow morning I'm doing the Presidential Lakes Triathlon in New Jersey.  Jeff, Kyle, Peter and Mike are here with me.  I'm actually really nervous about this one...  I'm remembering how incredibly exhausted I felt after the Jersey Shore Sprint Tri last month, and realizing tomorrow will be twice the distance (triple the swim)!  We checked out the course today and the swim seems reaaaalllly long.  Plus, I literally have not biked a single mile since the last tri.  And to top it off, my butt has been acting up over the past two weeks...  I went to a hill workout with the club and have  been having discomfort in my butt/hamstring ever since.  

I'm also starting to wonder whether my exercises with Dr. Degis are possibly making things worse.  I decided to make another appointment with Dr. Jordan Metzl--who I saw way back in October and who told me I just had a "weak butt."  I've gotten a million medical opinions since then and I feel like nobody has been able to just tell me what's wrong and fix it.  So it's a little frustrating.  And so, I'm very concerned about the Tri tomorrow.  As of now, I'm trying to just calm my nerves a bit...we're all sitting around watching Law & Order on TV to wind the night down.  Hoping that tomorrow, I will have a good, safe, smart race.  I'll let you know how it goes (I promise it won't be another month before my next post!)