It was even more of an honor to have been included among a group of such great athletes. Here's the little blurb from the special Front Runner Gram announcing the award winners.
Lots of big developments this past week. The biggest news, I think, was that on Saturday I attended the Front Runners New York Annual Awards Night Dinner. Awards Night is one of the highlights of the year. It's the club's chance to dress up and recognize the runners who have had a great year, both in terms of running and in service to the club. We give out points awards for the various age groups, and also for middle and long distance runners, triathlete, newcomer, most improved (which I won in 2007), volunteer of the year, the lifetime award and Front Runner of the Year. As one of the Race Captains this year, Awards Night was especially exciting for me because I've spent the past year following the entire membership's racing performance and seeing how people have developed as runners.
Well, I am thrilled and honored to report that I was one of the five nominees for Front Runner of the Year!!! This was so, so exciting for me. This award goes to the member who has contributed the most to the club and has had the biggest positive impact on the club in the last calendar year, considering athletic achievement and performance as a runner first and also weighing in team spirit, camaraderie and volunteerism. I was pretty much in tears when they announced me as a nominee, and as my good friend Dane (the FRNY Men's VP) read about my performance this past year. It was especially moving since the award is based in large part on athletic achievement, and this year I've been dogged by my fair share of disappointments--such as my still-continuing butt injury, and my 3:59:07 Virginia Beach Marathon when I was trying for a 3:10. But I've realized that in running, there are good days and bad days, but the successes and achievements will always overshadow the disappointments.
We had five fabulous final nominees for Front Runner of the Year in 2009: Steve Vizena, who ran 14 NYRR races with 13 above the illustrious 80% age-graded percentile denoting national-level athlete; Dave Lin, who was not only a RTB ultra captain and Boston Marathon Qualifier but also race captain extraordinaire and election official; Sandi Rowe, who combined volunteerism, team enthusiasm and athletic determination throughout the year and also PR-ed all over the place; Rich, who won the award by capturing his fourth of the top ten all-time NYC marathon finishes by a club member as well as the top overall finish for any Front Runner at a NYRR race last year by coming in second out of more than 3500 racers at the 18-Mile Tune-Up for the NYC Marathon; and Tim Guscott, who raced in 28 NYRR races, competed abroad in an array of marathons, and achieved many PRs while supporting his teammates along the way.
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I've been making a lot of progress in my injury recovery, I think. I've have four sessions so far with Dr. Degis, the Strength Conditioning Specialist. My meetings with him are like everything that I think physical therapy should be (but wasn't with my previous PT). I see him three times a week for 45 minutes. Each visit is about half really, really intense stretching. I will just lay there, and he'll put my legs in different positions and stretch them in different directions. We'll also do resistance exercises/stretches, where he'll stretch my leg in one direction as I push in the other direction. The result is deeper stretches than I could possibly do on my own, and it feels really good.
The second half of my sessions are exercises that I do in order to strengthen my hip/hamstring/butt muscles. He says that the reason I developed this injury is because I have an imbalance in my muscle mechanics. So the exercises I'm doing are all focused on gaining stability/balance and core strengthening. One exercise involves standing on one foot on a wobble board while swinging my arms. It's really hard! The board can wobble front-and-back, left-and-right, and anywhere in between. And swinging my arms deliberately throws it off-balance, so I have to use my hips and core to keep from falling off. I'm still trying to get the hang of it.
I have a good feeling about my sessions with Dr. Degis, and I'm already starting to feel an improvement. Hopefully with a few more weeks of therapy, I'll be back to normal.
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In the meantime, I am running just twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Wednesdays I do 6 miles, and Saturdays I do a long run (less than 12 weeks to Boston!). I'm hoping to increase it to three times a week in the next week or two, and then by the end of February to be in full-on marathon training mode.
This past Saturday, I did about 13.5 miles, from Rutgers Church (where FRNY meets on W. 73rd Street) to the base of the GW Bridge and back. Compared to the 14-miler last week down to Battery Park, this one felt much better. I ran with Mikey B, Mike Terry, Peter and Matt, and cardiovascularly, I felt like I could go on for a few more miles. And coming back, we were more than four minutes faster than going out! We even decided to run the hills of Riverside Park for our last mile instead of the flat path next the the water. That was fun!
My legs also felt pretty good afterwards. We had a speaker at the FRNY Bagel Breakfast right after the run, which meant a lot of sitting on the floor, so I had to do quite a bit of stretch and adjusting while listening to the speaker. But for the rest of the day I felt pretty good. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.
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This past week has also meant a lot of good cross-training for me. I've been going to the Monday night spinning classes that Front Runners is organizing in Long Island City, and the Tuesday night swim clinics that Tritons (the N.Y. gay triathlon club that used to be part of FRNY but is now its own club) organizes in Roosevelt Island. The spinning classes are really good for me, since the bike is my hardest part of the triathlon (it's also the longest part of the tri), I really don't like biking by myself, and even if I did, I wouldn't be able to bike outside in the cold. It's an intimate group (about 10-12 of us), but we all get along and are all really enjoying the workouts.
I also think my swimming form is vastly improving with the Tritons workouts. So much of swimming depends on having the right form--there's a right way to rotate the body, the entry of the hand has to be at the right angle, you can't turn your head too much when you breathe, you need to glide with each stroke but not for too long, kick with the hips not the knees, reach with your stroke, head down legs up--it's so complicated! But it's great that our Coaches Les and Claudia are there to make sure we're doing everything right.
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Winter is the time of year when I break out the induction cooker and hold my infamous Chinese hotpot dinner parties. For those of you who are unfamiliar with hotpot, it basically involves a bunch of people sitting around a table with a pot of boiling soup in the middle, into which various meats, veggies, tofu and seafood products are dunked in to cook briefly, then fished out by the eater and dipped into a tasty sauce. It's the same idea as Japanese shabu shabu.
Hotpot is believed to have originated in Sichuan province in China. Sichuan is a landlocked province that has hot, humid summers and chilly, foggy winters. Hotpot, like the spicy food that Sichuan is known for, has a way of warming the body on cool days, and cooling it on hot days.
I like my hotpot SPICY. I usually just buy a packet of "mala" (numbing and spicy) hotpot concentrate from Chinatown, which is full of Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers (and a healthy dose of oil so the spiciness adheres to the food). I have a "yin yang" hotpot, which includes a divider so I can make half the hotpot spicy and half non-spicy.
For the stuff to go into the hotpot, I got my usual list of favorites. A variety of sliced meats including beef, pork, and chicken. Veggies included taro root, nappa cabbage, snow pea shoots, and oyster and enoki mushrooms. Tofu in a million different stages of refinement: fresh tofu, frozen tofu (which becomes spongy and soaks up all the delicious soup), fried tofu (differently sponged), and tofu skin. Dumplings and wontons of different kinds (chicken, pork, veggie). And my favorite: a million different seafoods and seafood products. For some reason, processed seafood products (fish cakes, fish balls, imitation crab and the like) go really well in hotpot, and you can get all sorts of fun shapes, colors and sizes in Chinatown.
At my hotpot parties, people make their own dipping sauces. I'm a purist, so I just use shacha sauce, which is made from ground up garlic, shallots, chilies and dried shrimp (although I think the real purists mix in a raw egg so it coats the dipped food better). But people get creative with their sauces, mixing in korean bulgogi sauce, soy sauce, ponzu (a Japanese citrus-flavored soy sauce), mirin, rice wine, sriracha, and whatever else I have in my cupboard.
Here are some pics from the dinner. Hotpot is one of those meals where I pass on the Franzia and go instead for a nice cold beer. Delicious!
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One of the readers of this blog (yes, there actually ARE readers!) commented on my post about the Under Armour run that I didn't post any pictures of the free jersey that we got. I was so sad that I didn't have my camera that day, since it was such a cool sight to see 60-something Front Runners wearing their bright blue jerseys running en masse through Central Park. I did manage to have my Blackberry handy at a subsequent Wednesday night fun run, though, where Mikey B and Jeff both happened to be wearing their new jerseys. They were kind enough to model them for me.